Michael, a single’s pastor invited me to lunch. He was concerned because he had two groups of single adults at his church. He called the singles in their early 20’s Singles One, and the singles in their late 40’s Singles Two. But the church had a lot of singles in an age bracket between these two groups. Mike referred to them as the Singles 1.5’s. He had been trying for months to get Sarah and her friends to start a class for their age group. But they wouldn’t do it, and he was frustrated. So, my job at lunch was to convince her it was a good idea to start a class for the 1.5’s at their church. (Hey, he was buying lunch so I figured I should at least try. Right?)
Over lunch I asked Sarah, “Sarah, I understand you are one of the Singles 1.5’s at your church?” She laughed and said, “Yeah, that is what Mike calls us!” I said, “Well, Mike tells me there are a good number of you at the church, is that true?” She said, “Yes, there are.” I said, “Well, why don’t you all start a class for singles that age?” She said, “We don’t want to.” I could tell she was not at all happy about my questions so I dropped the subject. At least I’d tried–or had I?
A few minutes later I said, “Sarah, if you could do anything for God in your church or community, what would you do?” She replied, “What are you talking about?” I said, “You know: if you could get involved in some ministry what would it be?” She responded, “Really?” I said, “Yeah, anything!” She said, “Well, some of my friends and I have been talking about getting involved in a literacy program, just down the street from our church.” I continued, “You said, you and some of your friends, what friends?” She said, “You know the 1.5’s.” I blurted out, “Oh that’s great! Listen on Monday Mike will call them and set up an appointment for you all to go there and discuss getting involved.” She said, “Really!” I replied, “Yeah!” She was delighted. However, Mike looked a little confused.
A few minutes later, I asked Sarah, “If you could do anything for God in the whole world, what would you do?” What would you do if money, education or time were not an issue? What is your dream?” She began to talk about the desire she and some of her friends had to go on a short-term mission trip to Romania to work with babies who have aids. I was excited for her. I said, “Sarah, what I want you to do is get your friends together for a meeting to begin to plan going on that trip.” She laughed and said, “I like this kind of ministry.” I looked at Mike and said, “Well, I guess you have your Singles 1.5’s ministry.” He said, “Not quite what I had in mind.” We all laughed.
Mike and Sarah took our meeting seriously, and within the next year over 20 singles got involved in a literacy ministry, plus they went on their mission trip. Mike wanted a class, because he thought that is what “real ministry” is. That’s the way people think in a closed system. Sarah didn’t feel called to start a class. She was, however, primed to live out her dream for God. We just needed to ask the right question and create the right environment. (Oh, by the way, I saw Mike and Sarah a year later and she said, “Rich, you will never believe this but we just recently decided we wanted a class for single 1.5’s and we started last week.”)
I wasn’t against Mike starting a new single’s class. He was doing what he was hired to do. But unfortunately he was part of a larger system that victimizes everyone in it–including him. The system assumes a few people—missionaries and pastors—are the ministers and everyone else in the church is their supporting cast. The system believes that the best way that cast can support the ministers is to do a program designed by the minister. New ministries are waiting to be birthed in your church—if you’re ready to ask the right questions.