For the past couple of weeks I’ve been talking about local LDS leaders who fail to understand how to minister effectively to singles. No one was intended to do life alone, and yet that’s the reality for many LDS singles everywhere.
I really like President Nelson’s perspective in his latest Conference address. It offers more hope than any other answer I’ve encountered. And it’s Christ-centered, which probably explains why it offers the most hope.
Some might interpret that answer to mean we LDS singles can fulfill all of our needs by ourselves simply by changing the way we think. That’s far from true. I can’t meet all of my needs by myself. No one can. We all need others to be involved in our lives while we journey the bumpy road that is mortality.
I’ve discussed before how our greatest need as singles is to have others walk with us. That need is our greatest in part because it remains unmet for so many of us. Yet I’m convinced that many local leaders neglect singles not because they don’t want to help but because they don’t know how.
Today I’d like to tackle that issue directly.
Adopting a more effective approach
In my recent “conversations” with my stake president, I found his description of simply passing the buck for ministering to singles over to the wards as “more effective” especially annoying. How is a model that produces zero results more effective?
I get why the stake does that. They think the wards are better suited to interact with singles on an individual level. And generally that’s true. The problem comes with its attendant assumption. Just because you say the wards are responsible doesn’t mean they’ll follow through.
I wish a lot were that easy. But the universe doesn’t work that way. God was able to speak the words of creation and it was so because when He spoke workers followed instructions. In like manner, we need to say the words we want to make reality, and then we need to work to make them reality.
My years of experience as a ward and stake rep as well as working with singles issues through my blog and now my radio program suggest a different approach. Ministering more effectively to singles involves a partnership between the stake and the wards. Everyone has a part to play.
Stakes provide accountability
Stakes must provide accountability. Without accountability, the wards aren’t likely to do anything.
Ward leaders are usually busy people. Between the demands of just work, family, and their calling, they’ve got a lot on their plate. Expecting them to do more without following up is wishful thinking. In a family-centered culture, those without families are very easily overlooked.
Fortunately, stakes can easily provide accountability. Every stake president has regular interviews with the bishops in his stake. He can provide sufficient accountability by asking two questions in each successive interview:
1) How are the singles in your ward? (Be sure to insist on names and details in an answer.)
2) How is your ward council organizing to help them?
These questions take only a few minutes. The key is to ask these same two questions interview after interview after interview. Hearing that repetition, most bishops will get moving because they’ll want to have good answers for the questions they know they’ll be asked.
The stake can offer training to those who say they don’t know what to do. In addition, the stake performs about 20% of the groundwork, providing activities so singles from different wards can interact and support each other. I’ve no space here to delve into further detail, but anyone who says stakes can’t minister effectively to singles doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
Wards supply action
Once bishops understand their stake president will ask them two key questions in their next interview, they do what they should’ve been doing all along — counseling with their ward council on how best to meet the needs of individual singles in their ward.
Bishops should have regular interviews with every active single in the ward. He counsels with those interested in obtaining their next essential ordinance. Regular interviews can communicate a sense of support, provide valuable insight that can aid ward council deliberations, and allow pivotal teaching moments that can help singles make the changes they need to make.
Singles also need real home teachers, but Elder Holland already pretty much said it all on that count.
In the end, singles wants results when it comes to meeting their needs. Ministering to singles is very easy once everyone understands and plays their part. Working together we can all walk together, arriving at our heavenly home. And what a glorious day that will be.
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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