When I was in my twenties, almost every small group I was part of consisted of single people also in their twenties or early thirties. While this was a fun stage of life to walk through with other singles, it was also a season with a lot of transition. Every month or so, a big life changes seemed to affect members of our group: job changes, break ups, engagements, job losses, graduations, new dating relationships, relocations for work, and weddings. Someone was always going through a major transition, and this translated into a high turnover rate in group members. As I entered my thirties, more and more of my friends were married and I found myself trying to balance relationships with both married and single friends.
Then it was my turn to change jobs. Because I was leaving to work at another church, it also meant connecting with a new small group. Rather than landing in a small group of other singles, I found myself as a 33-year-old single woman in a small group with two married couples with kids. As it turns out, I love being in a small group with married people. Here's why:
1. Single people have a lot to learn from married people.
I love the fun and freedom I experience as a single person. It’s a season where nothing holds me back from chasing my dreams, and my schedule and finances truly are my own to do whatever I want. As much as popular culture wants to tell me that I’m living the dream, though, wisdom tells me there’s more to life. Narcissism and hedonism are two very real temptations for this stage of life. Being grounded in healthy relationships with the married people in my small group brings much needed stability, balance, and perspective I might otherwise miss in this stage of life.
Whether it’s a gaining a window into a healthy marriage, or watching how others parent their kids, more is caught than taught in small groups. The gift of catching these life lessons from my small group is priceless, and it sets me up to have healthier family relationships of my own one day.
It’s easy for single people to sit around with other single people and give dating advice, but there’s a reason Jesus warns against the blind leading the blind. I’ve come to treasure the dating advice from the married members of my small group. Not only have they successfully found, dated, and married their spouse, but they also share both the male and female perspective—something I miss when I’m only around other single women.
Being invited into a family is also an incredible gift to singles, particularly if they live far from their own family. My parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews live far away, and when my small group invites me to kid birthday parties, it’s an invitation to experience a beautiful slice of life that I often miss. The New Testament uses family as the primary image when talking about church for good reason. Humans are made to live in family systems, but sometimes career, education, or other opportunities cause us to move away from family. This provides a unique opportunity for small groups to step in and integrate singles into a new kind of family.
2. Married people have a lot to learn from single people.
Have you ever considered that a significant portion of the teaching that you’ve built your life upon has come from people who would check “single” for their marital status? Jesus and Paul were both single, and between the life and teachings of Jesus (all four Gospels), and the life and teachings of Paul (half of Acts and the majority of the epistles), most of the New Testament comes from people who were never married. That includes some of the powerhouse passages about marriage like Matthew 19, 1 Corinthians 7 and 13, Ephesians 5, and Colossians 3. Just because someone isn’t married doesn’t mean they can’t offer wisdom and speak into the life of a married person.