Theology of Singleness.
Last Monday, I went to a group discussion on the theology of singleness. As a single, mid-20something seminary student, theology and singleness are two prevalent parts of my life, so I was quite interested in the discussion.
We got the ball rolling by sharing the first thing that comes to mind when we hear “theology of marriage.” Some of the answers included love, unity, sex, and sacrament. When we switched the conversation to “theology of singleness,” most of the answers changed to nuns, monks, and monastic life.
Two of the ten people in our group had actually contemplated monastic life, and although this is something that has honestly never crossed my mind before, it was an interesting direction for the conversation to take. I was hoping to discuss the idea that singleness denotes incompletion, which I vehemently disagree with. Unfortunately, our conversation didn’t have enough time discuss this in great detail.
We did discuss, however, the idea that there may be no such thing as a theology of singleness at all; if we are truly in union with God, are we ever really single? If you take that line of thought, then when does singleness begin? How can you label singleness—at birth, or teenage years, or sometime in your 20’s? It certainly opened up a range of thoughts and ideas.
We then had a long discussion about single ministry in the church. [Please note: our group was very diverse and represented many different denominations.] The amount of struggle and frustration that many in the group have had with single ministry was not unexpected yet still discouraging. So many of us had experienced a single ministry similar to match.com for the church. Is this the point of single ministry? Why is there such a pressure to match singles up within the church? And when you do find a relationship, does that mean you’ve graduated from the single ministry? It’s a weird concept. I’m sure that there are some really awesome single ministries out there, but unfortunately it seemed like our group either had bad experiences or none at all in single ministry.
That being said, we talked about how we can improve this as a church. Are small groups that are homogenous by age (20-somethings, 30-somethings, etc.) the answer? For young 20-somethings who may only attend their home church on breaks from college, this may not be the best answer. But single ministry reaches beyond the 20-something age bracket, so it’s definitely something that needs to be considered.
If there is a theology of singleness, it would be best to know how the church defines it. We never were able to talk about what exactly being single means by the church’s standards. Does single mean unmarried? Unmarried by choice? And what about those of us who are still looking for Mr. (or Mrs.) Right? Does singleness even need to be defined at all? So many questions!
I’m turning the discussion over to you: Do you think there is such a thing as the theology of singleness? How would you define it? Also, have you had any experiences in single ministry? Great? Not so great? If not so great, how can we improve this in the church? I’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts in a comment.