Family to the Family-less

By Danielle Hance

Christians are called to love widows and orphans. But there may be other metaphorical orphans within your church or just beyond your church doors.

08_Hance_Johnson2_JN1For instance, the university student who is from out of state. The young business professional starting her career in a new city. The foundering 20-something who moved out of his parent’s basement and is trying to make it on his own.

It may seem like single young adults have everything going for them. Life is full of possibilities. They are healthy and vibrant. Once you get past the “picture-perfect” exteriors, though, you may find individuals who are lonely, vulnerable, scared, and feeling altogether lost.

Young adulthood, or emerging adulthood, is now recognized by psychologists as a sort of extended adolescence. Relationships with parents may be strained, as young adults once again try to assert their independence and establish their identities. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need support or don’t want relationships with older adults and families (although it’s unlikely they would come up to you and admit it).

So what can you do to reach out to emerging adults in your church and community? Here are some dos and don’ts.

Do: Introduce Yourself.

When you see a single person walk into your church, don’t just greet her. Learn her name and her story. Introduce her to your family. Then remember to greet her personally the next time she visits.

Do: Sit Next to Them.

Unless your church is one that has a large young or singles crowd, it is easy for such a person to feel isolated—or at least to imagine he looks like a loner when seated in your sanctuary. Reward a person brave enough to go at it alone and take a seat next to him. Even if you don’t say a thing, there is reassurance in looking like you are not alone. Introduce yourself, and you may have a new “adopted” member of your family.

Do: Invite Them Over for a Meal.

Students and young professionals are often living on low-budget food and longing for a taste of home. Sharing a table with someone is also something that many young adults miss. Eating is a lot more enjoyable when you break bread together.

Do: Let Them Hang Out with Your Family

Students often see only their peers on a day-to-day basis. It is refreshing to hang out with people of other ages—and even their pets. Next time you take a trip to the zoo or hold a game night, invite some young adult orphans. You’ll be surprised at how much they enjoy themselves, and you might find role models for your kids in the process.

Don’t: Assume They Are Students

Some people assume that anyone who looks younger than 30 is a student. While this may be flattering for females in their 30s, it can also be frustrating for young professionals who are trying to establish themselves in their field or for those who feel they have fallen behind in their quest for marriage and a family.

Even students themselves may be tired of introducing themselves with their university and major, not to mention the “undecided” student who doesn’t want to advertise how clueless he feels, or the twentysomething who entered the working world straight out of high school.

Try leading with other questions like, “How long have you been living here?” and “What brought you to town?” to discover more about them.

Don’t: Single Them Out

While “singles” ministries can be well intentioned, the church often inadvertently sends the message that to be single is to be incomplete. Even though Paul includes some instructions for helping widows remarry, he also says it would be better if others were like him, unmarried. Make sure there are some open-to-everyone studies or groups just for men or women. Or even better, find out what they are gifted in and help them get involved in a ministry!

Don’t: Be a Dating Service

I once knew a very well-intentioned minister who tried to set up the same single guy with nearly every single gal in the church. After a while, we compared stories of our “anonymous” set-ups and realized the pastor’s plot. Fortunately, the young chap is now married. But just because two people are single and Christian, doesn’t mean they should get married. If you want to play matchmaker, make sure you really consider compatibility and don’t put pressure on either party to make it work.

So what are you waiting for? Take a look around you and notice the orphans. Invite them into your church and family. As you care for them, you just might find they are caring for you too.

Danielle Hance is a communications professional, writer, and editor living in Germany. Read her ministry blog at dmarieingermany.weebly.com

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