Tuesday night at 6:30. That might could work. Wednesday at 8 A.M.? Out of the question. Oh, Thursday night at 7. That’s perfect.
As I picked up the pen and went to scrawl my name on the small group sign-up list, I saw the header on the top of the page: “Small Group for Married Couples.” I scanned the other sheets: Small Group for Engaged Couples. Small Group for Parents of Young Kids. Small Group for Empty Nesters.
That’s okay, I thought, I’m used to being the outlier. Resolved to attend regardless of the intended audience, I then saw my pastor walking over. “Oh, Pastor! Perfect. I was trying to figure out which small group to sign up for, but I can’t find one for young adults or even singles,” I said, giving him my most pointed stare.
My frustration over my church’s lack of intentional ministry toward single people had been growing; ironically, it was one of the reasons I felt led to stay at this particular church—there was no young adult ministry to speak of, and I knew that I could help launch one.
“These groups aren’t meant for you,” he said with a smile. “It seems like the perfect time to try and launch a group for singles though, doesn’t it?”
Starting a Group from Scratch
This is how I found myself stuck yet again. My well-intentioned pastor didn’t mean to offend me with his comments—he was just being honest. Those groups aren’t meant for single people, and the discussions they’d be having would probably center on concerns that I don’t share. But it now seemed like my only options were either to knowingly enter a group as the outsider, feeling even more conspicuous as I settle into a weekly rhythm as the ninth or eleventh wheel, or to start a group of my own, which wouldn’t be an easy task with only a handful of other people who linger in that no-man’s land nestled between graduating college and starting a family.
I’ve always been resourceful (another way of saying ridiculously stubborn), so after this conversation I tried to rise to the challenge. I reached out to the four other people about my age who I thought might come. I also tried to get a list from the church secretary of people registered with the church who might be interested in a group like this. I begged the pastor to let me make an announcement on a Sunday morning, feeling that maybe seeing an actual young, single adult advertising the group might help draw people in, but my request was placated with a small announcement in the bottom corner of the bulletin. So I prayed hard for wisdom on how to conjure up a thriving singles small group from scratch.
Sadly, the group never took off. We met a few times with dwindling numbers each week, and eventually we quit altogether, blaming it on busy schedules and a lack of free weeknights. But the truth was abundantly clear: starting a small group is incredibly difficult, and starting one without much support, resources, or help from the church is pretty much doomed to fail.
The Single Experience
What’s sad to me is that my experience is far from unique. When I tell this tale to other single people, they share their own horror stories. One woman signed up for a small group with four sets of parents and belatedly realized they expected her to babysit the kids each week. Another friend shared her frustration of being in a small group that initially welcomed her but does little to cater the study or discussion to anything but practical marriage advice. Worse, the group was jokingly referred to as “Pairs and Spares,” a jab that hurt my friend’s feelings immensely.