“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.
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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