Last week I focused on the role stake officers have in ministering effectively to LDS singles. Today I’m turning my attention to the wards.
Stakes often do little more than give the wards stewardship over ministering to singles. As we discussed last week, stakes which don’t provide accountability with that stewardship will often leave the needs of many singles unmet.
It’s easy to marginalize singles. After all, ward leaders are very busy. Balancing commitments to family, work, and their callings is a constant battle for time and other resources. When it comes to singles, many local leaders find it easier to let a group that doesn’t really fit into the family-centered culture of the Church anyway fend for themselves.
But given the choice to sink or swim, many LDS singles will sink simply because they lack the support they need. That’s not the plan for anyone. The plan is for adults to live with the support offered by marriage. Singles by definition don’t have that structure, nor can they completely substitute for that by themselves.
Small but meaningful acts
The thought of supporting singles while also supporting their other responsibilities may overwhelm some ward leaders. But just as we saw with stake leaders, many ward leaders can minister effectively to singles in the performance of their normal duties.
We should base every ministration to singles on the three main principles I discussed last week. Beyond these, ward leaders need to show a little initiative. The bishop, the elders’ quorum president, high priest group leader, and Relief Society president should interview each single adult under their stewardship regularly (bishops at least quarterly, other ward leaders at least monthly).
Leaders can delegate these interviews to counselors, but taking the initiative to invite singles to talk for 5-10 minutes can make a world of difference. It shows singles they aren’t forgotten but noticed. And being noticed brings with it the hope of being understood and loved.
In interviews, you can talk about the challenges of singles life, but it’s more important to focus on goals and dreams they themselves have made, looking for ways you can help realize them. You can also provide them with some gentle accountability. I would love for my leaders to ask me about my dating efforts and hold me accountable for working towards making essential sacred covenants I have not yet made. Like many singles, I don’t have that significant other to help keep me on course.
The real heavy lifting
Those small but regular conversations between LDS singles and their local leaders can change lives. They can also inform leaders in ward council, welfare, and other meetings where ward resources are marshaled. Beyond that, home and visiting teachers do the real heavy lifting.
Please understand we’re not talking here about the typical once-a-month, at-the-end-of-the-month get-together to read to us something we can very well read on our own so someone else can check an item off a to-do list and satiate ego at having done one’s duty. We’re talking here about a real relationship with a real friend, someone who’ll be there and walk with us singles when the times get tough.
And very often walking with someone means nothing more than doing the small but right things at the right times.
Elder Holland displayed that understanding of real home teaching. Was it just coincidence he started his last Conference address with a less effective example that involved a perfunctory visit to the home of a single sister? I don’t think so. Singles greatly need the support that home and visiting teachers are best positioned to supply.
Of course, this model means that home teachers must home teach and visiting teachers must visit teach, which often isn’t the case. Local leaders should work diligently to help home and visiting teachers of singles to be the home teachers or visiting teachers singles need them to be.
There’s many more details than any brief monologue can provide. But I’ve provided the general gist of how effective ministering to singles works. Local leaders can always seek revelation, which includes the guidance of the Spirit, to fill in the blanks in their own circumstances.
Throughout this process, we singles should exercise patience with our leaders, especially if they are sincerely trying. That means understanding and forgiving shortcomings. That also means accepting whatever time leaders take to get it right.
Stake and ward leaders can learn how to minister to singles more effectively. Singles can feel more accepted and supported when they do. When we all understand our roles and work to help each other fulfill those roles as best we can, life becomes better for everyone. And that will bring more joy in our journey.
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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