Love One Another: Reaching Out to Singles in Quarantine
Story by Christmas Beeler
While some in quarantine may enjoy extra time with family, nearly half of all U.S. adults are single, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (2016). Three Calvary Chapel pastors share why it’s vital for the body of Christ to reach out to single brothers and sisters, and how those who live alone can stay connected to Jesus and their loved ones.
Blessing Widows & Widowers–Pastor Jerel Hagerman
Just as each single is unique, so are their struggles. Those who have lost a spouse are dealing with the dual pain of losing their spouse and their church family during this quarantine. Believers can make a difference in someone’s life just by reaching out. Because I delivered the poor who cried out, the fatherless and the one who had no helper … I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. Job 29:12-13b
Pastor Jerel Hagerman of Joshua Springs CC, CA, was single for a season after his wife of 30 years passed away. “When you lose a spouse that you had spent your whole life with, everything is suddenly different because you’re alone,” he said. “You really have to put your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.” Now remarried, he added, “This quarantine is so hard for those who live alone. That’s why I think church is so essential. Whether it’s drive-through church or online church, at least it gives a sense of being together.”
Nearly half of all U.S. adults are single, making the Coronavirus quarantine especially difficult for them. Photo by Christian Rodriguez
In addition to staying connected with church, Jerel urged singles: “Get outside to take walks, be part of a prayer group. If you’re struggling, reach out and let someone know. Or call someone who may also be lonely. When you reach out past yourself, then you also get healed.” He cited Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:25, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Also, he cautioned, “The worst thing a person can do is sit around and dwell on your loneliness. The best thing is to call someone else or pray for someone.”
Despite the quarantine, it’s still important and possible for the body of Christ to reach out to those who are alone. “With technology, we can reach out right now through social media. We can use online platforms or a simple text or a call,” Jerel said. “A phone call can mean a lot.” One could even drive by the home of a widow or mow her lawn if it’s needed. “Put on a mask and take them a bouquet of flowers or a card,” he added. “Any simple thing to show, ‘I was thinking of you,’ and ‘You’re not alone.’ That will mean the world to them.”
Even strong believers can become discouraged by isolation, Pastor Jerel acknowledged. “Look at John the Baptist—he was imprisoned in isolation in Matthew 11, and he struggled, asking Jesus, ‘Are You the One?’ It’s not abnormal to go through hard times. But we can be sure that through every fiery trial, the Lord is with us—just as He was in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (Daniel 3:25). If we allow Him to work in us, we can come out stronger on the other side.”
It is important for churches to reach out to isolated singles to help them stay connected with others.
Mindful of Millennials–Pastor Zak Shellabarger
Young Adults Pastor Zak Shellabarger of CC Santa Barbara, CA, noted that many millennials struggle with anxiety and depression—even before COVID-19. In fact, Blue Cross Blue Shield found that diagnoses of major depression had risen 47% for millennials between 2013 and 2018 (Health of America Depression Report, May 2018).
“It’s extremely important for churches to be mindful of how singles are affected during this quarantine,” Zak said. “This sense of isolation that only builds as time goes on. Young singles feel lonely or unwanted, so they don’t reach out for fellowship. They may find that they are not able to get out of that hole. The last thing we should say is, ‘Just cheer up,’ or ‘Just rejoice.’ That’s almost like Job’s friends trying to explain why he was suffering.”
For those who are struggling emotionally, he explained, “We try to help them walk through being able to process that. First, we encourage them: Bring the real you to the real Jesus. If you’re angry, anxious, lonely, doubting God’s goodness—whatever the real you is, bring that to God. Don’t feel like you have to pretend or make yourself more acceptable first. Acknowledge those negative emotions and bring them to God. He is our Abba Father, not our disappointed dad. Then take small steps toward victory, filling your time with things that are life-giving, like going for a walk while listening to praise music, or listening to a Bible teaching while you do the dishes. The next step is to get in your [time with the] Word, maybe starting with Psalms to help you connect with God. Even though the world is chaotic right now, you can find some stillness and peace in your relationship with Jesus.”
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Philippians 2:1-2
Many millenials, already struggling with depression before the pandemic, are now suffering in isolation.
For ministry leaders, Zak advised, “It’s important to bring community into [singles’] homes. There are so many platforms available. We need to rise to the occasion and use any available channel to reach them. This is a crucial time.” The college and young adults ministry at CC Santa Barbara offers four meetings a week on various platforms: “Some of those are Bible studies, praying for each other, catching up, even games like charades. These are opportunities to provide fun and fellowship in a time that seems especially dark.” He added, “And the fact that people are tuning in four nights a week tells us that there is an extra hunger for community right now, and this method is meeting their need.”
Leaders can divide up the work of checking on vulnerable members of the flock, making calls, sending texts or cards. “None of our ministries at the church have stopped,” Zak clarified, “they just look different.”
Though churches cannot meet inside a building, the leaders at CC Santa Barbara feel this Scripture is even more relevant right now: And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
Online platforms, phone calls, text messages, and cards can help those who feel alone during this critical time.
Zak reflected, “There is a mindset right now that church is on hold, or our walks with Jesus are paused. But there is a real call to not neglect meeting but to encourage each other, especially as we see these last days approaching. As the days are getting darker, why would we neglect gathering or reaching out to each other? Now more than ever we cannot neglect our brothers and sisters.”
Staying Connected—Pastor Dave Barber
Assistant Pastor Dave Barber of CC Rockingham, NH, has been in ministry for more than two decades as a single adult. In this season of intensified isolation, he urged other singles, “Whether as a church or among a circle of friends, do everything you can to stay in touch through technology so that you’re not completely shut out. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone. My 89-year-old mom is learning how to do video chats. She enjoys seeing people’s faces rather than just talking on the phone. It’s been very helpful.”
Some singles have intense needs now, such as the recent widow of an assistant pastor at CC Rockingham. “Suddenly, after all of these years of marriage, she was isolated at home alone. The last thing she needed was to be suddenly separated from the church body as well. We helped her with some resources—including a GriefShare group meeting via Zoom. She was so happy to find it.”
The intense needs of single people can be amplified by being separated from their church family.
Above all, Dave urged singles to be purposeful about staying close to Jesus. “Stay in the Word,” he encouraged. “Living alone, you have to be very disciplined and focused on making sure that you have your time with the Lord. Don’t think you can just go on your own strength.” He added, “God will be faithful to meet you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8a).”
Dave recommended, “Let Him speak to us and communicate with us. For those who are single, we need to remember that Jesus is our friend. There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother (Prov 18:24b). He is always there.”
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