The following was included in the report on the National LCMS Church Worker Family Needs Assessment Pilot Report.
Single Life households Today do not look like those of generations past.
In generations past, the image of a typical unmarried church worker was some young Concordia graduate, serving in their first call working with the children’s ministry in the parish setting or teaching in the school setting as commissioned ministers. And as married church workers model the mystery of Christ’s love for the church—so too, does finding joy in God, without a spouse benefit from models and mentors.
With 12% of our respondents from the three districts self-identifying as “currently unmarried”, we have been blessed with a true representative sample of single life church workers who help us better grasp single life in the parish, too. The HomeLife Profile view below offers a quick snapshot of today’s single life households.
Clearly our young life (age 39 and younger) image represents 40% of our sample, but we also see 33% in middle life (age 40-59), and 27% in older life (age 60+) with 12% who are juggling single/solo parenting with church work. Of this group, 14% have experienced the loss of their spouse to death, and 25% have experience the loss of their spouse by divorce—that’s 39% who had walking through the valley of loss as their form of the “third-shift”—all this, with children.
Of this group, 5 % are currently engaged to be married, with 9% in developing, committed relationships sorting out their future—or 14% possibly entering married life. Add to this the 1% who used to be part of this group who have remarried after the death of their spouse and 4% who have remarried after their divorce—alumni, so 16% of our study aggregate (83% being the commissioned worker) have experience church work from the perspective of single life.
All that said, 53% of our single life sample have never been married. Clearly we have three categories of adult singles to consider, as care consideration move forward.
When asked, “While one is a whole number, living as one often means waking up in the middle of the night with one or more of the following questions…” the most notable responses were: 33% “Whom will I ever marry?” & “Will I someday have a family of my own?”; 38% “Will I ever be loved?”; 36% “What am I going to do with my life?”, and 32% “Do I fit anywhere?”, by the 107 of 120 currently unmarried respondents. When given four statements regarding biblical singleness the top selections were, 61% “A stage parallel to marriage that is rich and full on its own”, 24% “A stage of undivided devotion to the Lord” and 13% “A temporary stage prior to marriage”
While married couples wrestle with each other regarding finances—single adults wrestle with the problems of the world in which they live. A more telling measure of the pressures of finances is to look at a household’s average monthly budget—that is, what they have established as financial commitments that must be paid, being more helpful than looking at their earnings. We either adjust what we spend or what we earn—when finances are tight.
With the median monthly budget near the very beginning of the $2,500-$3,750 per month category, 22% of unmarried and 15% of engaged (as compared to 14% of married) indicated that their current level of compensation “most of the time” or “always” causes them to worry over adequately providing for household needs. [Note: a large number of respondents left this question blank or ticked “does not apply” requiring further investigation in the future.]
When asked about education debt as a source on ongoing stress, 13% of unmarried and 23% of engaged indicated “most of the time” or “always” compared to 10% for those who are married.
For commissioned workers, the parish setting offers far less opportunities for models and mentors than the school setting by virtue of the uniqueness of role and the constituency exercising supervision. The care thought is that two groups of models/mentors be considered, rather than one.
Felt Needs: Single Life
A strength of the CNA has been the inquiry of the presence (or absence) of current unmet needs in the respondent’s life. The 31 issue (see in Appendix 9.2) options are clues to the sorts of problems people are facing and the forms of family life education or restorative care connected to the felt need.
To read the table, first look at Rank (listed in descending order). The most common “current unmet need in my life” sets the order of the listing of the actual needs, with the additional columns offering further insights for that list. The middle column lists the percentage of those with the current need who also are open to District help. The higher the percentage—the great receptiveness to help. Conversely, the lower the percentage—the more creative the help might need to come. The last column ranks the current unmet needs in terms of having been ticked when asked, “if you could only list three needs, which is most important to you, second most important and third most important”.
The listing of the Top 10 Needs in no way diminishes the remaining 21, and the impact they have on those wresting with them daily, in their lives. Rather, these items lend themselves to-one-to-many and/or one-to-some forms of family life education due to the easier to establish “you too factor.” When you can say that 38% of our single life respondents said that “pursuing healthy lifestyle habits (eating, sleeping, exercise, etc.) indicated this a current unmet need in their life, and 23% identified it as their top priority need—it easier to say, “gee—I’m not the only one!” Other people struggle with this—too.
That’s the care barrier we have to overcome.
When asked about interest in Single Life family life education resources: "Church worker-oriented singles conferences or retreats" were seen as favorable by 44% of those identifying as unmarried (note drop in interest by those engaged); "Practical biblical small group studies or Bible studies on single life topics" were seen as favorable by 41% of unmarried & 38% of engaged (note married with single adult children saw this as favorable by 19%); and "Premarital mentoring" was seen as favorable by 54% of those identifying as engaged (yet only by 10% of those identifying as currently unmarried--a concern to explore further.