This semester, there were a few single women in my seminary class. I got to know one of them pretty well. We sat together during class times and we ate lunch together.
This woman, around thirty, I'd say, is certain she will always be single. Yet she has lots of ideas and dreams about what kind of things she could do in ministry, and no, not just to singles. As I talked to her, she shared with me some her frustrations about women's ministries. Whether it is the kind of events planned or the content of biblical teaching, it frustrated her that very often, everything gets reduced to a woman's relationship with a man.
There is a young woman who has been at my Sunday school class on a few occasions. I taught her as a teen, and she's all grown up now. And she's single. And she has similar frustrations. She doesn't want people always trying to fix her up with a friend of a friend. She simply wants to live her life in Christ, whatever that entails.
I have learned a lot from both of these women. I have learned that I need to think carefully about how I teach. Knowing my students is important. If I have a room of young mothers, then yes, referring to motherhood is probably okay. But what if I don't know all my students? What if I'm standing there in front of thirty women whom I don't know? I can't help but think of how difficult it must be to stand in front of two hundred women, not knowing where each lady is at the moment.
Lately, I have been trying harder to remember that we are all individuals who stand before God, regardless of whether we are wives and mothers. While I know my students well, I'm trying to resist applying the Scriptures for them. There is a need to bring the text to bear on our every day lives, but rather than telling, I ought to be asking. My professor this semester was very skilled at that. We covered the whole Bible in three months, and he was able to bring every assignment to bear on our every day life, and he did it by asking questions. Asking questions means distilling the teaching to its principles and reflecting on them. That can be hard work, but teaching is hard work.
I'm about as "traditional" as it gets: stay-at-home wife who raised her kids and makes her home her vocation (I've been a housewife theologian since 1989. I wasn't a good theologian in 1989, but I was a developing one). I encourage other women to stay at home if they want to and can manage it financially. Compared to my single friend, my life is completely different. Yet, I had more in common with her than I do with some of my fellow married mother friends. How can that be? Well, we have a mutual love of Christ and His Word, and a desire to learn more.
If we want to know how to minister to single women, I think we need to talk to them. Instead of assuming we know what they need, let's ask them. Let's get them involved in ministry that isn't confined to other single women. And let's not assume that their single life is merely to be endured until they get married. I sometimes wonder if the vast amount of marriage books, blogs, and counsel hasn't made us idolize marriage a little. Yes, marriage is important, but we are not redeemed through marriage, and it's an earthly relationship. The one we have with Christ will last for eternity. I wonder if single women have a better view of this reality.