An overview of a thesis on singleness ... building a pastoral care model.
Presented by paul nipperess Date: 18 October 2007 :) Contents: Page: Thesis and Introduction ............................. 3 Needs and hopes of singles ............... 4 A control model for counselling singles ......... 5 Preventing singles problems .......... 7 Counselling on specific issues .......... 7 Summary ................................................... 8 References and Bibliography ..................... 9 Appendix 1 ..................... 10 Singleness by paul nipperess Thesis Statement: Develop a pastoral care model to help people, who struggle with singleness. Base answer on specific field research on the needs and hopes of singles. Introduction: Firstly, we look at the an overview of singleness, then investigate the needs and hopes of single people, then move on to developing a pastoral care model for counselling singles. An Overview of Singleness: Take 10 singles and there’s a good chance, that there will be 10 different and valid circumstances to consider, as part of their single status. Singleness may stem from a myriad of realities, including widowhood, lack of a suitable partner, lack of eligible people due to geographic location, time constraints due to a commitment to a primary care role for a family member, for example. Many people are not single by their own choice: Instead circumstances, may prevail, such as: Divorce, death of a spouse or never married, due to lack of a prospective partner or homosexuality. Even the Scriptures can put pressure on singles, as in Proverbs 18:22 KJV: ”Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.” Passages like Proverbs 18:22, may serve to put pressure on some Christian men to actively seek out a wife, to the detriment of living happily as a single. Other drivers, like fear of the unknown future, dissatisfied, anger, depression, isolation, sexual frustration and fear of living alone may also prompt singles to enter into unhealthy relationships. Comparing themselves to couples, singles may feel envious or cheated by God, that they have been doomed to eternal loneliness, facing life with a heavy heart. Loneliness is often a key issue, with singles and it is quite important to differentiate between “loneliness” and “being alone.” Singleness crosses all borders and cultures, too. Indian Prasanthi 2002 makes this distinction, in his statement: “Loneliness is something which is painful. To be alone, is feeling happy for such singleness. To say alone, means to enjoy the solitude. Loneliness is feeling sad to be one without anyone's company.” Counsellor Helen Benson-Harris emailed these comments, on some issues facing singles, in Appendix 1: “Problems of fundamental communication, self-image, CHILDHOOD WOUNDS, lack of self-faith, and fear of one thing or another, are obstacles that prevent people seeking out others. Some singles find it easier to live on their own, in the fear of ‘being hurt’ again, fear of ‘trusting’ because of patterns of betrayal.” Many Christian singles have overcome the challenges of singleness, by building a strong relationship with Christ and knowing themselves better, BEFORE finding a soulmate in marriage. For example, Stith 2006 states: “I began to see the benefits that singleness would reap for me – a fulfilling one-on-one relationship with God that would eventually lead to my soul mate.” Stith 2006 While Virden 2003 brings us, yet another angle, about being at peace with in our relationship with God, before venturing into ANY human relationship, especially those aimed at solutions for the shortcomings of singleness: “It's during those magical moments in ministry, when I see the Lord change hearts and lives right in front of my eyes, that I so badly want to be more like Mary (Luke 10:39-42) and consciously choose the better part.” Virden 2003 Whether we choose singleness or it is thrust upon us, Virden 2003 stresses the need to TRUST in Christ and allow Him to take the burden, whenever necessary: Although it appears to be a cross to bear, we all are called to pick up our cross and follow Christ daily . . . married or single. The comfort in this, is that the Lord promises that His yoke is easy, and His burden is light. So, when singleness becomes too heavy to bear, reflect on the point that perhaps you are carrying a load not intended for you. Stop. Lay it down, and reach for the arms of the Lord. The pleasure in basking in the Lord's presence is indisputable. When you can do it with singleness of heart, the fragrance is sweet, and all the bitterness of life fades away. Virden 2003 Needs and hopes of singles: We are all one in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26-28), yet singles in church congregations are often treated as impostors and their hopes and needs ignored, as the focus of church ministries lie, elsewhere. There are four primary singles groups and each with their own particular hopes and needs AOG (2007) : Never married youth. Never married older adults. Divorcees. Widowed adults. It is very difficult for any church, to cover the needs and aspirations of all these groups, so often the focus will be on only one or two of these groups, so some exclusion of other singles, may also be evident. We have already seen, how singleness knows no geographic, religious or cultural borders and age or gender presents no barrier to singleness, either. Then, if we add children of various age groups, the complexity of the singleness issue is compounded, greatly. Singles may also need to overcome other personal issues too, like low self-esteem, loneliness, lack of Christian faith, lack of family support, anger, depression, alcohol, drug dependency, distrust, dishonesty, hatred, grief and loss, anxiety, revenge, greed, lust, self-righteousness, smoking, health fears, unforgiveness, homosexuality and sins of many kinds. Living in modern societies compounds the complexities for singles, with further external pressures, as they address issues like employment, financial management, affordable housing and transport, educational expenses and more ... Paul gave us rules for living in Romans, Chapter 12. HOPE for Christian singles lies in acceptance of Jesus Christ, as Our Lord and Saviour and with that acceptance comes a harvest of God-given gifts, starting with our own self-worth. Collins (1988, p324) states: “..... Christians should learn, that we can love ourselves, because God loves us and has made us His children. We can acknowledge and accept our abilities, gifts and achievements, because they come from God and with His permission. We can experience the forgiveness of sins, because God forgives unconditionally ... ” Other hopes for singles, may include further development of positive personal traits and Christian virtues, that will help to address many hurdles, arising in their physical and spiritual journey, through life. Self-love, compassion, a strong Christian faith, companionship, trust, family support, a happy disposition, temperance, endurance, courage, honesty, patience, kindness, purity, sincerity, love for a spouse and children, as well as obedience to God are all personal traits, that singles may hope to achieve. More mundane hopes by singles, may be expressed in their desires for secure employment financial prospects, along with affordable housing, transport, food staples, water and education and so on 1 Peter 1:13 says, that we should fix our hope on the Grace of Christ. ----- Developing a pastoral model for counselling singles. Ongoing debates, between Christian singles and family groups, continue to rage within many churches and Christian online forums. For example: Watters (2007) says, “There needs to be clear, ongoing teaching about acceptable Christian dating and/or courtship in the church. Without this, singles will have many conflicts about what constitutes an acceptable Christian romantic relationship, including sexual boundaries.” Based on 2001 Australian Census data, over 40% of people 20-59 yrs had either never married, were separated, divorced or were widowed. Having already briefly discussed some of the reasons, that may result in singleness and the mountain of issues arising out of single status, we are now tasked, with developing a pastoral care model to embrace singleness. Collins (1988, pp361-372) gives us a generic overview, in 6 points for counselling Christian singles. While his approach may be good as a control model, SPECIFIC needs of individuals often require special attention, by using other PROVEN models to deal with certain issues. In counselling singles, we can paraphrase Collins’ basic overview, which we can use as our control model for counselling singles: 1. Evaluate our own attitudes towards singles and warns us about harbouring negative thoughts and feelings about singles. Instead, we should realize: “Each single, like every married person is a unique human being, with individual strengths and needs. Some have a lot of problems, because of singleness, most do not.” 2. Help with acceptance and often, it is simply the counsellor’s role to LISTEN, without condemning the client. Experiencing such acceptance may also bring the client into an important space, where they can meditate on the biblical concept, that singleness may be a “special calling” for some people, as they are called to do God’s work, in their spiritual journey. Being single may indeed have its own inherent problems, but in being single, the client avoids all the problems associated with being married. So, singleness is not all doom and gloom, as it does have some real benefits for many people. Collins reminds us here, that we walk alongside clients in their journey through life, as they solve their own problems. 3. Stimulate realistic life planning brings us to consider future plans for the both longer-term and shorter-term and focusing on making achievable goals ... this sees the counsellor, in a guiding role and encouraging clients, in the thinking process. Encouragement to develop God-given gifts and talents in the client and encouragement to deal with immediate problems, using a mentor or role model, if necessary. Praying to God and meditation on God’s Word and Guidance can be effectively used to help formulate future plans, according to God’s Will. Immediate problems are overcome first, then we can move towards helping others to be “single and satisfied”, as we walk with them, in their spiritual journey. 4. Guide Interpersonal Relationships to enable singles to feel comfortable ESTABLISHING and MAINTAINING some non-romantic relationships, with mutual acceptance, respect, sharing, spontaneity and feelings of comfort and enjoyment, in the presence of their friends. Romantic love may also retain those same traits, but here the relationship is dominated by mutual attraction and strong desire physical intimacy. Collins, G.R, (1988, p370) states: “Clearly it is possible to have good friendships without romantic love. Presumably the best marriages are those that have both.” 5. Give assistance to single parents in understanding and expressing their feelings, about coping with life without a partner. Practical guidance in making decisions may also be necessary for some clients. Clearly, there is a myriad of problems involved with raising children as a single parent, but clients should reinforce their confidence in God, in learning to raise children with love, discipline and understanding. 6. Help people wait under the Lordship of Christ, many Christians may need learn patience and deal with personal problems, unconfessed sins and changes in attitude toward other people. Counsellors are to encourage singles to trust in God’s goodness and plans, that will become apparent, according to His time. Singles are also encouraged to wait on the Lord daily in both prayer and service directed, towards other people in the community. In the church environment, Collins (1988, pp372-374) makes four suggestions for preventing singles problems, that we may also include in our control model for counselling singles. 7. Change church attitudes to avoid treating singles as misfits in the congregation, by developing programs to meet the needs of singles and also develop an understanding of the struggles, that singles face. Such struggles may be particularly difficult for divorced or widowed singles and ALL church members ... “should remember that single people are significant and equal members of the Body of Christ.” Singles should have full acceptance in our church communities. 8. Build stable marriages and families by using the church, to: • Restate its commitment to family and the institution of marriage • Teach strongly and clearly on marriage, family and singleness. • Encourage fathers to be active in parenting and marriage building. • Discourage child-centred marriages. • Discourage unrealistic ideals about marriage and family. • Teach communications and conflict resolution skills. 9. Encourage singles to make decisions and be active, yet lead a balanced lifestyle, in order to allocate time for work, rest, play and socializing. Prayer and meditation time is also important for singles to honestly address current issues and relationships, as well as instilling trust in God to guide us according to His plan for the future. 10. Stimulate ministries to singles by developing programs to meet their unique needs. While recognizing the difference in needs, between younger and older singles (students/widowed), singles programs must focus on teaching, discipling, worship, social activities and community service. Counselling on specific issues: We can expand on the 10 points in our counselling model above, to include very specific methods for dealing with particular life issues and personal problems, that may be faced by everybody. Such issues may include grief and loss, anger, depression, low self-esteem, loneliness, parenting, domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction, guilt, old age, sexual relations, homosexuality, gender issues, adolescence, smoking, mental disorders, vocation, education, finances, pregnancy and health, as well as spiritual issues, too ..... this list seems never-ending !~! For example, Jennings (2003), shows various models for grief and loss issues. Summary: Singleness is not a life-threatening condition and many people lead Christ-filled lives, addressing some issues that are common to married couples and singles, alike. However, singles do face some unique problems, as individuals and ministering to singles places responsibilities on the church, to more than entertain singles, with “feel-good, arm-waving worship songs.” Collins (1988, p373) states: “Singles have every potential for developing full, meaningful and Christ-centred lifestyles. The church and individual counsellors can make this possibility a reality.” ----- Reference books, weblinks and biblical texts: Web References: AOG - Assemblies of God (2007) “Celibacy and Singles” (article) http://www.ag.org/top/Beliefs/relations_10_celibacy.cfm Du’Gas, Phyllis V. (2005) “Change, Transform and Grow” (article) http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewarticle.asp?AuthorID=26104&id=20520 Du’Gas, Phyllis V. (2006) “Mastering Self Love” (article) http://www.authorsden.com/categories/article_top.asp?catid=57&id=20762 Jennings, Baxter (2003), “Kubler-Ross and other Approaches” (article) http://www.uky.edu/Classes/PHI/350/kr.htm Prasanthi, Lakshmi (2002) “HOW TO BE HAPPY ALONE?” (article) http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewarticle.asp?id=4869 Stith, Olivia (2006) “If God Is My Lover...Why Is My Bed So Cold?” (book) http://www.authorsden.com/visit/viewwork.asp?id=16797 Virden, Holly (2003) “Going it Alone” (article) http://www.crosswalk.com/singles/1236902/ Watters, Steve(2007) “Are Family-Friendly Churches on the Way Out?” http://www.boundlessline.org/2007/02/are_familyfrien.html (debate) ----- Books: Collins, G.R, (1988) “Christian Counselling” pp 324 and 361 – 374 ISBN 0-8499-3124-X Publisher: W Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennesee. USA. Adams, J.E, (1970) “Competent to Counsel” pp 220-231 ISBN 0-87552-017-0 Publisher: Presbyterian & Reformed, New Jersey, USA. .-.-.-.-.-. Crabb, Larry (1999) “The Safest Place on Earth” p16 ISBN 0-8449-1456-6 Publisher: W Publishing Group, Nashville, Tennesee. USA. Wilks, Frances (Feb 1999) “Intelligent Emotion” pp 153 -164 ISBN 13-978-0434004546 Publisher: William Heinemann Appendix 1: Part of an email discussion, with a Counsellor and Analytical Therapist: From: 'Counsellor' Sent: Tue Oct 16 19:02 To: paul’ Subject: Singles/couples Don’t forget people in couple situations can feel ‘single’, ‘alone’ and ‘lonely’. Maybe a point worth mentioning. Also, to change from being ‘single’ to opening up to a relationship, means making a DECISION! Sometimes single people get caught in the belief system supporting their singleness, - they may have a network of other singles to support them. But to enable the opportunity for relationship, they must decide that singledom no longer suits them, and that they want to change their circumstances, and that they can be available to meet someone, - as they would PREFER to be in Relationship, or Partnership with someone (capital R/P). It seems the ‘decision’ allows a turning point from one behaviour pattern to another. It appears to me there are many, many single people, living on their own. Problems of fundamental communication, self-image, CHILDHOOD WOUNDS, lack of self-faith, and Fear of one thing or another, are obstacles that prevent people seeking out others. Some singles find it easier to live on their own, in the fear of ‘being hurt’ again, fear of ‘trusting’ because of patterns of betrayal. It seems some people have a lack of moral structure and personal boundaries when it comes to relating to the opposite sex (or even same sex). Their need to feel ‘not rejected’ and ‘liked’ is so great! So fear of rejection, and fear of not being liked/loved are problematic issues. Some peoples ‘egos’ and ‘sense of self’ are so weak, that the ego part of another may be very satisfying, and consequently they allow themselves to be manipulated by the charm of another. On the other hand, personal dignity is a safe-guard for some.