parish is trying to launch (or, rather, "re-launch") a singles group. We had a group for a while, then it died, and
now new organizers have stepped up to the plate and are struggling to resurrect
all has me thinking about how difficult parish singles' groups can be.
difficult to start, for starters.
Singles tend to sit in the back of the church. We're the last to arrive and the first to
leave. We often "church-hop", and rarely
register in a parish. How, then, is a
parish supposed to reach out to us?
Bulletin announcements rarely get our attention. And even if we do read the bulletin, how
inclined are we to actually show up at a parish singles' event? "I'm not going to know anybody." "What if it's lame?"
can be tough for single people to showing up a random meetings and events by
themselves. Meetings aren't terribly
difficult. They're held in a defined
place, and once you arrive you get to sit down and listen to the
proceedings. But social events are a
different story. I can't tell you how
many singles' happy hours I have attended, only to walk around the bar a couple
of times and then turn around and head home because I couldn't for the life of
me figure out which group of people I was supposed to be meeting.
the single Catholics of a parish together can be a little bit like herding
then, happens once they're together?
What does a parish singles' group look like? The stereotype is that it looks like the
church basement equivalent of a singles' bar. People are there to meet attractive members of
the opposite sex. They're looking to
pair off so they can go join the families upstairs in the Big Church. Or something like that.
doesn't lead to a particularly cohesive group.
Couples pair off and leave. Other
spouse-seekers show up once, scan the crowd, and never return again because
they didn't see any potential candidates.
Then, the next week, different spouse-seekers show up to give the group
the once over and then disappear. I've
always said that if you could corral all of the people who attended a singles'
group one time, and put them all in a room together, you'd get a very different
the way the system works now, what's left is often a small group of people who
don't find each other particularly attractive.
what do these people do? Frequently,
they socialize. They go to bars. They host Super Bowl parties. Which is fine, really. Single Catholics are often hungry for the
companionship of other single Catholics, and parish singles' groups offer
that. But I have found that the more
that these groups rely on social activities, the less cohesive they are and the
sooner they implode. The problem is that
social groups are only attractive as long as they're fun. And it's tough to sustain "fun" with so much
amusing competition in the world.
Members are likely to wander off as soon as more entertaining options
cross their paths.
the problem as I see it. Catholic
singles are craving more than fun.
They're craving substance.
They're craving spirituality.
They're craving Christ. And they
don't know where to turn.
seen successful parish singles' groups all over the country. And every one I've seen shares one common
trait — they all offer singles
something more substantial than just a social life. They're based in spirituality. They pray together. They reach out into the community to share
the love of Christ.
social, to be sure. That happens
naturally. After an evening of prayer or
a day of building houses for the homeless, it's natural to get together for
dinner or a drink. Friendships develop –
friendships based on shared values and mutual prayer. And yes, people even fall in love and get
married. But I suspect their friendships
with others in the group tend to last even when they're no longer single,
because those friendships were built on something more substantial than sharing
a martini at happy hour.
tend to be isolated in parishes. And, as
I've said before, I don't think the answer to that isolation is to be found solely in singles' groups. Single Catholics need to be incorporated into
the life of the parish. That being said,
I do believe there is in important place in parish life for singles'
groups. I think there is a spirituality
that is unique to singles, and there is great benefit to bringing them together
to pray and to explore that spirituality.
That will help hold a singles' group