Singleness on the Field: A Word to the Church
Editor’s Note: This article is the second of a three-part series on the topic of missions and singleness. Read the other posts here and here.
Some churches aren’t sure how to value singles, particularly singles in ministry. Thankfully, that’s not been my experience. I’m beyond grateful for my church’s love and care for me both at home and on the field.
Based on my experience, I want to share some counsel to churches as they care for single missionaries on the field, particularly those who desire marriage.
1. Don’t assume they have all the “free time” in the world.
I’ve heard it said that single people must have much more free time because our interests aren’t divided (1 Cor. 7:34). In some sense, that’s true. But we also have obligations of our time. We tend to fill our free time and, just like married couples with kids, we can get so busy that we neglect ourselves and our time with God.
Churches can care for their single missionaries by reminding them to prioritize the main thing, their relationship with Christ. Don’t assume they have so much free time that it’s impossible for them not to be spending time with the Lord. None of us can serve on empty. So walk alongside your single missionary. Encourage them in love and good deeds (Heb 10:24). Confess your sins to one another, and spend time in prayer with them (James 5:16). Serve them in love (Galatians 5:13).
In other words, don’t treat your single missionary as a part-time cook, a built-in babysitter, and a constant host. Instead, treat them as a person who can point you and your children to Christ. Invite them into your home; seek to know them and even learn from them.
I’m grateful for my church both overseas and back home, and the many families who have welcomed me as an auntie to their children. I’m also grateful for how they’ve pushed me to pour into others in ways that may be more difficult for those who are married.
2. Reach out.
I spend a lot of time pursuing people, from fellow church members to those I’m sharing the gospel with. This indeed is my joy. And yet, the feeling isn’t always reciprocated.
So churches, make sure to reach out to your missionary often. A simple text message or email of encouragement will go a long way. And care packages, too! However you reach out to your single missionaries, make sure to send reminders of biblical truth. Many of us are called to super dark places, so any encouragement goes a long way.
I’m so grateful for our elders here and for the many others who regularly and pointedly ask how I am really doing. Because they’ve gotten to know me, I can tell them when I’m struggling.
It’s not always been that way for me on the field. What’s made the difference? In short, I’m known and pursued because I’m a member of a church. Life overseas is difficult. There can be a tendency for many missionaries to do life on their own, to resist accountability from their sending church.
Churches, don’t let your single missionaries fall into that trap. Do everything you can to combat that impulse by pursuing and knowing your single members. The demands of the sending agency, the church, and the ministry constantly pull at single missionaries. I know this from experience. Unlike my married co-laborers, I don’t have a spouse to help me carry the load. Sometimes, this lack makes the desire for marriage even stronger, which in turn can make the grief even stronger. Especially in these moments, I need my church. I need to be reminded that Christ has given me fellow brothers and sisters to care for me, to help me shoulder the burden of ministry overseas as a single person who isn’t married, yet wants to be.
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