“The more things change the more they stay the same” seems true in just about everything. Singles leadership is no exception.
Singles committees often do little beyond planning poorly attended activities. If you think their whole purpose is to plan activities, then you’ve got huge issues. But we can tackle that another time.
Today I want to address something separate but related. Singles leaders often wonder why more people don’t attend their activities. Throughout my service on several of these “councils,” it amazes me how frequently the same answer is offered. “We need to reactive some less actives.”
Bad idea. OK, let me back up. Really bad idea.
Why it doesn't work
Watching leadership beat their heads against the wall while reaching out for ineffective solutions would be fun if it weren’t so sad. And it really is sad, almost depressing. After all, most people who advocate this direction don’t see the bigger picture.
Going after less actives first typically produces lots of work and little result. Why? There’s two main reasons:
1. You’re inviting them into something that isn’t really there. You may think you’re reaching out to bring others into the light. But the truth is that light won’t shine much if you aren’t living it. And if your singles group is not a support network, you aren’t living it.
Most singles groups aren’t support networks. Instead, singles attend activities with their own agendas. Many see singles activities as a dating forum. Tired of dating, others attend with the activity club perspective. As I’ve posted previously, both of these attitudes prevent us from ministering effectively to singles and result in many singles living with unfulfilled needs.
2. People want to be loved, not part of an agenda. They can generally sense when your interest in them in not genuine. And they don’t want to be a number or a project. They want to be loved.
When they see you have activities “because the Handbook told you to” with attendees each following their own agenda, people conclude that you want them there not because you love them but so that you can get stroke your ego with bigger attendance numbers. That doesn’t really offer any benefit for them, especially if they don’t feel the love and support that we all need. Ergo, they split.
It's about people, not numbers
How about we embrace approaches that actually work? Accept the world as you find it, not as you would wish it to be. Be in the place where you are. When you focus on being where you are and doing what you can inside that space, things tend to turn around much more easily.
So start first with what you have in the place where you are. Minister effectively to the people who come of their own accord, without any prodding from you. Greet them by name when they show up. Get to know them as real people. Look for and take opportunities to serve them. If they ever don’t show up, make sure you reach out to them and let them know that you missed them and inquire after them.
Finally, help them to see, one by one, that this example is what they should be doing, too. Ministering, especially in singles groups, is not just for leadership but for everyone! In this way, you can build a support network that will bring people back to your activities time after time. And you’ll also build the something that less actives will want to join. When you invite them to be a part of you, and they sense the love that you have for one another, they’ll want it too.
That’s why you have to go after the less actives last. You need to create something into which you can invite them, something that they would want to join. Otherwise, you’re just spinning your wheels and not getting anywhere, because you don’t have any traction.
Admittedly, this approach takes longer. There are few short-term gains, especially at the beginning of your effort. But like beautiful flowers that brighten any garden, if you diligently provide consistent nourishment, blossoms will bloom bringing bliss for all.
It isn’t about the numbers. It’s about the people. When you focus on people and truly providing for their needs, you’ll not only “do what the Handbook says” but also bring true light and love into the hearts of others. And that can’t help but bring true light and love into your own.
So go after the less actives last. Build your singles group into a network of support. Together we can make a difference in the lives of others that the angels will record and recount forever.
Today I’m on the road returning from a trip to help my brother. He asked me to be with him during his surgery and then to stay afterwards to help with his kids. So I looked at my travel options, decided that driving my own car was the best option, and then spent two days hitting the road. It was great to have some quality time with my niece as well as to hold my newborn nephew. I’m now in the midst of the return journey.
Getting out of town often gives you a new perspective on your world. And, for thinking people like me, new perspectives can lead to revelation. My recent trip was no exception.
I’ve been posting lately about singles and marrieds coming together into a unity of the faith. And I’ve posted previously about the need for singles to take the initiative to change the culture that prevents us from having that unity. Looking back, especially to some of my most recent posts, I wonder if perhaps I’ve been a bit too self-absorbed. A higher vision involves us helping both ourselves and others.
Own your life
LDS singles frequently look to a program to meet their needs. It’s mostly from upbringing. We start out in the Primary program, then move to the youth program, then move to the YSA program. We’ve been programmed to look to programs to supply our needs. And that programming constitutes a habit.
Instead of living life on autopilot, make conscious choices for yourself, including how you meet your own individual needs. Quit looking to a program or to your leaders to meet your needs. Many of them simply don’t have the vision needed to guide them in meeting your needs, and they never will have it until you show it to them by example. Start looking to yourself. Own your life.
I’ve posted before about owning your life. My life has changed considerably since my first such post (January 2014). I’m finding new opportunities and looking forward to the future. That always happens when you own your life. Why? Because taking responsibility for how your life results puts you in a place to see more readily opportunities to improve yourself and your life. And when you look for those opportunities, you tend to find them because the Lord is so anxious to bless each one of us that He has placed lots of them around all of us. We need only look to live a life of joy and happiness.
Don’t wait for circumstances to bend to your favor. Get on the happy train now. Own your life.
Spread the joy
But as I said before, it’s not just about us as individuals but about everyone coming together as a broader community. That’s another result of owning your life. And sometimes those opportunities you find can really rock your world.
Take, for instance, something that has rocked mine. I posted last month about attending RootsTech, the world’s largest genealogy conference. It was a great event. One of the sessions focused on using Internet radio to promote family history. The format of broadcasting online intrigued me, so I added the session to my schedule.
All during the session, I couldn’t get out of my head the thought of using online radio as another platform for unfolding my vision for singles and creating a greater unity of faith. And that has continued for the past month since attending that session. In addition to my upcoming book and this blog, an online radio show can provide an interactive level of support since singles can call in and ask questions or talk about whatever is on their mind. That forum can combine with this blog and almost complete book to support more and more singles.
I’m not waiting on my leaders to do what they will likely never do on their own. I’m taking action to support those of us who aren’t getting our needs met. Keep your eyes fixed here for more details on my online radio show. I’m going to spread the joy that God wants all of us to have here and now. I’m going viral with it. And I invite you to join me.
What can you do spread joy in the community of Latter-day Saints where you live? Whatever that is, go viral with it. Own your life and become everything that God wants you to be.
1. Don't let us sit alone
A common complaint from singles is loneliness. It’s not hard to understand why we feel that way if we’re sitting all by ourselves and no one really talks to us beyond simple greetings.
I’ve posted before about how singles need to reach out to marrieds. But marrieds can also take initiative. One of the easiest things marrieds can do is invite us to sit with us in church. When you come into church, don’t just look for the place to sit your family. Look for a place to sit your family plus one — the one single you invite to join you. Or look for a place to sit your family where a single is already seated.
Sitting with us takes so little effort on your part. Yet it would mean the world to many of us singles.
3. Give us a meaningful calling
Anyone would feel marginalized without meaningful involvement in the larger community. Marrieds can help us immensely by extending meaningful callings.
Meaningful means that we’re using our talents to contribute to the lives of others frequently. If I have a talent for teaching, don’t ask me to manage the hymnals. Ask me to teach. And ask me to do it not once a month but every week.
It’s not that managing the hymnals isn’t important. There are no unimportant jobs in the Church. But when my contribution falls below my talents, I’ll never feel like I’m being all I can be. And those feelings very easily bleed into feelings of inferiority and marginalization.
The same goes when our callings don’t require us to interact with other ward members on a regular basis. Frequency plays a part of making a meaningful contribution. We all feel more useful with a weekly contribution of our talents versus the monthly one.
Everyone needs to feel useful. Help us feel that way with a meaningful calling.
4. Walk with us
To feel supported, we need your constant involvement. I’ve posted before about how we singles need marrieds to be involved in our eternal progression. Having someone to walk with us as we face our challenges can make worlds of difference for good.
Missionaries will do anything within the bounds of righteousness to help investigators remove obstacles to receive the ordinance of baptism. Why should it be any different for those trying to receive the ordinance of eternal marriage?
What a world of difference marrieds can make in supporting the family by helping us singles to create our own! I’m not talking about matchmaking so much as I am talking about counseling with us, asking after our latest dating efforts, providing encouragement, offering new ideas to consider for moving forward, and often just listening. Knowing that someone has our back can bolster us to keep trying. And when it comes to dating, we’ll never succeed if we quit trying. Marrieds can help us make the journey by walking with us along our road.
We're not that different
Considering that this list can help anyone, we’re not that different. Life is challenging for everyone. We’re all here to have an experience that will prepare us for the next step in our journey to our heavenly home.
And it’s the same home we’re all trying to reach. Marriage is designed to fill needs we all have as human beings. Those who don’t have the blessings of that institution will live with needs unmet unless others step in to help.
We’re not that different from one another when we really examine it. So let’s come together and journey joyfully together to our heavenly home.
Why was there no poor in Zion? Because everyone ministered to everyone around them. This is how Zion is built. It’s also how to build the most effective singles groups and the wards and stakes where God’s Kingdom advances most readily. After all, how could a people in which everyone ministers to everyone not be of one heart and one mind?
Contrast this vision with the reality in far too many places. Many single members feel like second class citizens in the Church of Mormon Families. Many married members, busy with their families, easily embrace an attitude in which singles can do their own thing “over there.” Once singles get married, they can join their married friends in the “main group.”
Other married members, particularly those in leadership, want to do more but don’t really know how and have little if any time to investigate that question. Their schedules of family, work, and Church callings are full enough without having to concern themselves with the singles.
Still other leaders (single and married) content themselves with merely planning activities, as though another helping of Sunday School (more commonly called a fireside) or another dance served with a little fat and sugar (in various forms ranging from punch to candy to cookies) is all the singles really need.
Hello? Does this look like Zion to anybody?
But that dream doesn’t unfold into reality simply because it plays in our minds. If singles and marrieds each continue to associate mostly with others like them, then we’ll never live the dream. We must work together to make that dream a reality.
So let’s do that. Let’s reach out to others, especially those different than us, and work to meet their needs. Zion really can be only a helping hand away.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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