- My neighbor recently attended the funeral of a friend who’d died of ALS after three years of abject misery for him and his family. The neighbor mentioned that his friend’s wife has been a rock. “She exemplifies the kind of commitment that most of us don’t consider when we promise to share our lives with another person.” (Note: I also have a friend who could be described as a rock in that she “lost” her husband years ago to a brain disease. He is still alive but is in no way is he the person she married. I marvel at her sanity.)
- Did you read this article about college hook-ups in Monday’s New York Times? Both men and women – but increasingly women – have no time to commit emotionally what with all the resume-building, etc. As one striving young woman at Penn explained, “We are very aware of cost-benefit issues and trading up and trading down, so no one wants to be too tied to someone that, you know, may not be the person they want to be with in a couple of months.”
Two very different perspectives on relationships. Or are they? It is really all about timing? Some want to “settle down” later than others?
As churches wonder where the 20-30 somethings are, I’m wondering:
If people are going to connect with a spiritual community, are they most likely to do it after they’ve “settled down”? So what happens if they don’t settle down, at least in the traditional way?
Over the past hundred years or so, both men and women have found gratification in partnering up in their early twenties. Now the average age for marriage in the United States is 27 for women and 29 for men, according to this article by Stephanie Coontz. But here’s a kicker: “The average age for childbearing is now younger than the average age for marriage” Check this out.
It’s not that nobody is getting married anymore. It’s just that people are:
- delaying marriage (but not childbirth)
- cohabitating more than ever
- marrying after establishing themselves in their careers rather than marrying to launch their adult lives.
All this impacts spiritual communities too. I wonder if 20-30 somethings who have spiritual longings – which would be most of them – stay away from institutional church because their very lifestyles (cohabitation, having children before marriage, etc.) has been frowned upon – if not condemned – by church people.
How many cohabitating-but-not-married people are part of your church?
How many single parents or coupled but unwed parents?
Do they stay away from spiritual communities because they expect that we will basically condemn them, much less fail to welcome them? Or are we flinging open the doors of our churches to welcome the ones we once accused (and perhaps still do) of “living in sin”? Thoughts?
This post is written in thanksgiving for my friends A & J who got married last weekend. They’ve been living together for 5+ years and have three daughters.