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Tuesday, 02 September 2014 09:51

Things LDS Mid Singles Want to Tell Their Family Wards

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Public Service Announcement Ahead: 
Having spent a few years now in the wonderfully diverse world of LDS Mid Singles, I've learned that there is no such thing as an "average" or "typical" mid single. Sure, many of our challenges are "similar" (kind of like a Ferrari and a Pinto are both "cars"), but our personalities, backgrounds, goals and individual situations in life are as varied as the sands on the seashore. 

That being said, I feel like there are some big divides (some intentional, some through ignorance) between mid singles and everyone else in their family wards. And while I say this with love ("bless your hearts"), I have to be honest: it's usually not the mid singles' fault. These problems often come from the members of their family wards themselves. 

"We try to include everyone in our ward family!"  you cry. Ok, when was the last time you made an effort to reach out to a single person in your ward or neighborhood? If you're in a family ward (indicating the relationship majority) I'm willing to bet that all your activities, lessons and efforts are focused on the traditionally married families. Yes, the family unit is central to God's plan, but have you considered that you could be making the mid singles in your ward feel ostracized, forgotten, belittled and like failures?

Let me put this as lovingly and clearly as possible: please stop making your mid singles neighbors feel like they have a big scarlet letter on their chest. Whether divorced with kids, divorced with no kids, widowed, never married with kids or never married with no kids, here are things you are doing or saying that make mid singles feel UN-welcome.  

Bless your hearts. 

1. Don't Withhold Your Fellowship Because We're a "Temptation" 

I get it; you want to protect the sanctity of your marriage with your last breath and have heard the horror stories about cheating. But guess what? We don't go to Church to steal someone else's spouse. We go because we have faith, because we love the Lord and because we want to strengthen our testimonies in the "household of God" (Galatians 6:10).

When you avoid us at Church or at Ward activities or fail to invite us to neighborhood social events, ask yourself what we have done to deserve this ostracizing? Is it because of our actions or your fears that you act like that? So many mid singles tell me that they felt like adult members of their ward ignored them, as if they were some sort of threat. News flash: we are not "menaces to society" just because we don't have a ring on! By the way, I just checked the website for the World Health Organization and I failed to find any mention of singleness being a plague you should avoid.

Ask us to sit with you during Sacrament. Ask us to participate in your Family Home Evening. We're free babysitters! Maybe ask us to have dinner with your family on the weeks we don't have our kids. We are not leprous. We need your fellowship, especially if we are just coming back to church after inactivity or a divorce or are trying to teach our kids the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a single parent. 

2. Stop Saying That Happiness Can Only Be Found in a Home That Has Mommy & Daddy

No, I'm not talking about the modern movement of LGBT marriage. No, what I'm speaking about is all the talks, Primary lessons and even Firesides that only mention a nuclear family. Do you know what it is like to have your child sit through a lesson like that and then come home and say, "Mommy/Daddy, does God not like our family because we live in two homes?" or "So-and-so in my class said that their family is better than ours."

Single parent homes can still be amazing and fun homes (case in point, Stormtrooper dad). So please, be sensitive to our situation. Our children live in two homes, they may even have two sets of parents; your words may give them the impression that this is a bad thing. It's not; its just not ideal either.

You don't have to change your lesson or talk entirely; maybe just try throwing in a simple testimony that "if your mommy and daddy live in your home or different places, God loves your families!"   

Bishops, here's a thought: maybe try asking the mid singles in your ward to give a talk on eternal marriage that includes dating advice for the youth, young single adults (YSA) AND mid single adults (MSA) in your ward. I bet even the married "majority" in your ward could use some dating advice. 

And another thing, if you invite the kids in the ward to come over and their parents to socialize, please pause to think of if there are any single parents or even mid singles in your ward you can invite. Whether or not we have kids, we need your strength, compassion and support. 

3. Don't Give Us Dating Advice

For this one, see my other post about advice people try to give mid singles. Suffice it to say, we are not "too picky", being punished by God, "not spiritual enough", "too lazy", and no, we do not want to hear that "there will be no one to look after (us) in (our) old age." Hi Captain Obvious, we know we are single and your jokes don't help. We wake up alone, eat dinner alone, and very often we go to church alone. In fact, if you'd like an introductory lesson on how hard it is to be single in our modern world and the joys of dating at this age, give me one hour and you'll drive straight home and literally thank God for your spouse. We do know that usually you mean well, but instead of criticism or advice, try giving us support, prayers, and friendship instead.   

We’re doing our best to constantly ignore the ache and loneliness in our lives. Please don't remind us of them. Sure, you could say that we should change our attitude about lessons on marriage and the family because we'll "need it someday." Honest question: why do you (nuclear family members) get so many lessons focused on what you need right now, but we the singles don't?

4. Stop Judging Us Based On Our Facebook Status

"Thou shalt not judge." That's a simple one for any Christian, but you'd be surprised how often mid singles are at the receiving end of judgement...from other disciples of Christ. We are not lazy or selfish, we are not avoiding marriage (ok, yes, some MSAs are). Don't pity us, don't frown on our singleness and please do not assume that just because we are single that we are also breaking the commandments in big ways. And even if we are, you might want to check for beams in your own eyes before pointing out the motes in ours (Mathew 7:3-5). We deal with rejection all the time in the mid singles dating world, please don't ask us to deal with it at Church.    

Blaming a single for being single is about as productive as blaming your car for breaking down. THERE'S NOTHING WRONG WITH US. Build us up, point out our strengths, give us callings, ask us to serve and be part of the ward family. We don't have all the answers to the really painful question of why our marriages failed or why we are still single. It is a weight we carry every day, so please, help us carry it or stay out of our way. Just don't add to it.

Conclusion:

Raising a family in this day and age is absolutely a challenge and the families in our wards need support...but so do the singles and the single parents. Try to imagine what is is like to hear "family, family, family, marriage, marriage, marriage" every Sunday when every day we are reminded that we don't have those things at this time. On top of that, we are trying to lead good lives, faithful lives, obedient lives in an increasingly wicked world that challenges us beyond belief.

Please, take an honest moment and ask yourself these question:

  • Are mid singles invited into the life of the ward/neighborhood?
  • Or, do you leave mid singles to take care of themselves, like some outskirt gang quarantined on the cold plains of society? 
  • Is there support for mid singles who might occasionally need extra help like there is for the elderly or widowed?
  • Do you have single friends in the ward?

 

In her book Quitting Church, journalist Julia Duin noted that singles leave their churches because, “Many would do anything for some support. . . . The culture tells them they have missed out on life’s greatest experience, while at the same time at church, not one word of encouragement comes from the pulpit or even their friends.”

In a church that focuses on the family, please, with Christlike love make sure you are not pushing those of us who don't "fit the mold" to the outskirts. Find ways to include us. Ask us about our lives. Reach out to us. The mid singles demographic has the highest rate of inactivity in the church. Please, help us change that. Help us feel welcome, accepted, and most of all, like we have a place in the ward.

We are not a problem to be solved; we are people to be loved. 

Jeremy C. Holm

Author & American athlete Jeremy C. Holm has spent over half his life in the fast-paced winter sport of bobsled, including as the Head Coach for the US Adaptive Bobsled Team. He has a degree in Journalism and is pursuing a degree in Military History at the American Military University. In addition to motivational speaking and corporate appearances around the world, Jeremy is the author of three books and spends his time camping, hiking, writing and trying to make history, one day at a time.

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