Singleness and the Church: Not overlooking the overlooked in our midst

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Singleness and the Church: Not overlooking the overlooked in our midst

Singles

Photo by Bryan Minear on Unsplash

 In this classic episode, Dr. Darrell Bock, Dr. Abraham Kuruvilla and Kari Stainback discuss singleness, focusing on how the church can better minister to singles.

Timecodes:

00:16 Kuruvilla and Stainback share their stories of singleness
04:50 the church’s struggle to minister to singles
08:16 Singleness comes in different forms and different circumstances
15:30 1 Corinthians 7 and practical implications in the local church
21:57 Advice for pastors and church leaders in ministering to singles
28:40 Singleness and small group ministries
31:45 Experiencing community as a single person
38:25 Advice to singles for gaining greater community
41:00 Ministering to those who have reentered singleness through death or divorce
47:45 Singleness and dealing with loneliness


TRANSCRIPT BELOW

Darrell Bock

Welcome to the table where we discuss issues of God and culture and our topic today is singleness, singleness in the church. It’s a very neglected topic in my view. It’s an important topic especially with how much discussion rotates around issues of gender and sexuality, so I have to two very, how can I say, admired guests in my presence. I’ve known both of these people for a while and I’m really please that they are able to be here. Abe Kuruvilla teaches in our Homiletic Department in Pastoral ministries and has been here at the seminary for eight years full-time and ten years if you count part-time. So he’s a veteran of foreign wars here on the campus and please to have you with us Abe.

Abraham Kuruvilla

Thank you.

Darrell Bock

And then Kari Stainback is here and she’s in ministry at Park City’s Presbyterian Church, is that right?

Kari Stainback

That’s right.

Darrell Bock

And how long have you been there?

Kari Stainback

You know if you count the part-time, 16 years.

Darrell Bock

16 years. That’s a long time. And if I remember correctly, early, early on very involved with the spiritual formation effort that we did here at the seminary back in the formative days when we were just getting launched is that right?

Kari Stainback

That’s right. I helped lead the arm that began the Women’s Spiritual Formation groups.

Darrell Bock

So Kari is also a veteran of foreign wars on the campus. So I really appreciate you all being here with us to discuss a topic that I think actually is often neglected, under-discussed, under-appreciated. I don’t know how many descriptors I can put around this and that is the issue of being single and being in the Lord. So Abe, why don’t you start us off and tell us about singleness as you see it in particularly your own choice with regard to being single.

Abraham Kuruvilla

I think I know exactly when I decided to become single. I was with my friend Rick who was married to Jen told me once, “Abe, I didn’t know what the secret of happiness was until I got married and then it was too late.”

singleness

Photo by Nicolas Lobos on Unsplash

Darrell Bock

Now we’d have to do another podcast on marriage and it’s not that bad but go ahead [laughs].

Abraham Kuruvilla

Many years ago about 20-25 years ago I was serendipitously thrown into a church plant situation in Houston where I was working on medical training. And I ended up being the teacher and the interim pastor for that organization without any theological training whatsoever.

Darrell Bock

Now that sounds like an exciting prospect.

Abraham Kuruvilla

It was exciting. It was being thrown into the deep end of the pool but that forced me to sit back and throw myself into an intense study of scripture just because I had to preach it weekly and I realized that this was a lot of fun. My heart was in it, my passion was to totally throw myself into scripture and that’s when I started thinking about singleness as a lifelong choice. I looked back at what God had done in my life, his fingerprints, personality-wise, I was very content with solitude and didn’t need to be around people. My passion was to have undistracted focus on ministry and it was bearing fruit. So that’s what led me to thinking along these lines.

Darrell Bock

And Kari what about you? What’s your story in terms of how this has emerged in your life?

Kari Stainback

Well it’s probably just the opposite. I have a twin brother and grew up playing dolls and thinking that I would get married and have kids. In fact when my parents had us twins, they knew a week before we were born they were going to have twins. And I don’t know if it was because they just couldn’t come up with four names but I only got two and I remember my mother saying, “Well girls really don’t need their middle names because they’ll get married and they’ll drop that.” So for God’s sovereignty and his love for me that hasn’t been given but I always thought it would. And dated and loved that and in fact was engaged here while I was a student and had a broken engagement. But for whatever reason in God’s mysterious ways that are good. It hasn’t been given.

Darrell Bock

So, two very different stories, two very different approaches. Let’s talk a little bit about singleness in the church. And I really think the church struggles with people being single in some ways. I’m reading that as a married person. So, now I get the chance to ask two singles, is that really true? Does the church struggle with presence of single people in its community?

Abraham Kuruvilla

I think the Protestant church does. I think when that German monk ran away with a Catholic nun I think we Protestants generally threw the baby out with the bath water and forgot the importance of celibacy to the church. And I think we’ve been living in that shadow ever since. And yes I think you’re right. I don’t know if I want to call it a bias against singleness but I think there is a certain amount of naivety as to what constitutes celibacy and singleness. Maybe not over it bias but it’s probably coming out of a sense of ignorance, “I don’t know what to do with these people” kind of thing.

Darrell Bock

And you almost sense sometimes at least in regards to ministry and almost I would say almost a fear of the single person and the risk of having a single person on staff. I know a lot of churches when they post for a position will say, almost assume, that the person should be married to go into certain positions in the church. It’s almost a throw off in terms of the way someone is viewed as a single person.

Abraham Kuruvilla

I think my own students experience validates that. Whenever they have applied, many of them, if they are single are immediately struck off the list for that matter. I’m not sure what the fear is. Though I had a conversation with a friend of mine many years ago who doubted whether single men in particular could remain content. I wasn’t very happy with his remark. Ever since that time, whenever there has been a fall for moral reasons in the pastorate, I email him a link to that article and I ask him, “Was that person married or single?” 99 percent of the time the person was married.

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