My church’s young adult ministry says that it’s for those who are “married without kids or single.” As a single dad, I really appreciate the word order in that phrase. Had they gone with “single or married without kids,” the idea that the prepositional phrase “without kids” might apply to the adjective “single” would have left me wondering if I was invited.
Since my divorce, I’ve had to work a little harder to figure out where I fit in. During the divorce, I joined a small group at my church full of married people. I was, I think, the eleventh wheel in that small group. But I was a dad, so we had that in common. More importantly, those five Christian couples let God use them to minister to me during a very hard time. I’ll always be thankful for their love and support.
Being the eleventh wheel got old, however, so I started looking for a new set of friends.
According to the “married without kids or single” rule, I qualified for the young adult ministry, so I gave it a shot. We have some amazing young adults at my church, but, frankly, they were a little too young for me. Most were in their mid-to-late 20s, and that’s a season of life I left behind a long time ago. After ten years of marriage, two kids, and a divorce, I really didn’t have much in common with a 25-year-old just finding his or her feet in life.
I joined a small group just for single parents at my church. It’s hard to describe how much more comfortable I was with this group than with my previous small groups. I wasn’t the guy with kids who’s (strangely) not married anymore. I wasn’t the single guy with (that’s odd) kids. I was just a single parent like everyone else in the room. It’s not that people in those other groups looked down on me for being a single dad. No, they were super nice. It’s just they didn’t always get me. Kind of like I don’t always get Canadians.
As refreshing as it was to be among other single parents, it wasn’t a perfect match. Three of the group members had kids graduating from high school that spring. My oldest was wrapping up first grade. I had found my people, but they were all from the year 2022.
I’m single. I’m a parent. I’m in my 30s. When I look around my community, I don’t see other people who fit that profile. It seems I’m too young to be divorced. I know the statistics: One in two marriages will end in divorce. But my married friends are still married. I like to joke that I’m just an early adopter. Humor helps, but it doesn’t keep me from feeling like the odd man out everywhere I go.
What has God taught me through all this not-fitting-in?
I may be president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer of the single-dads-in-their-30s club at my church, but I can’t let that keep me from finding community. I have to be open to friendships with people who aren’t quite like me. But don’t we all? Isn’t the idea of a perfect peer group a pipe dream? Sure, it’s great when we meet people who have something in common with us, but there are always differences to figure out—and embrace.
I recently met another single dad in his 30s, one who goes to a different church. Finally, someone just like me! Except that he travels the competitive dirt bike circuit each week, racing his bike and preaching to the other racers on Sunday mornings. Seriously, the dude is a dirt bike preacher.
Let me go on record and say that there’s nothing in my life that would lead you to believe I am a dirt bike preacher. But you know what? I’ve learned a lot from my new friend, about living a Christian life and about being a dad.
“Many parts, but one body,” right? It’s not always easy to build relationships across differences, but it’s what God has called us and equipped us to do.
If you know someone who is struggling to find his/her place in the church, will you email them this post to encourage them?