The Trouble With Singles Groups


Are singles groups boring? Are there any men there?

I got a call at my parish the other day. It was from a young woman who was very  enthused about launching a singles’ group at the parish. I told her we keep a list of interested singles and that we’d held a few meetings and were planning to do more in the future.

She was raring to go. Wanted to help. Wanted to take it and run with it. Wanted to do whatever she could. And then the conversation went like this:

 

Her: Could I ask you a question? Who’s on the list? Are there a lot of men or is it mostly women?

Me: It’s like most Catholic singles ministries: a lot more women than men.

Her: OK .Thank you for your time.

Click.

 

And she was gone, just like that. Hung up.

This, my friends, is why Catholic singles’ ministry is in trouble today.

Look, I understand it. I did it for years. We want to be married. We’re looking for a nice Catholic spouse. We hear Dr. Phil say we should spend our time in “target-rich environments” and we figure where better to find a nice single Catholic than at a nice Catholic singles’ group? Some helpful and well-meaning married friend (who, God bless them, generally seem to be the most likely to treat our single-ness as some kind of disease that needs to be cured), is probably saying “Well, if there is no group, get out there and start one! How else do you think you’re going to find a man?”

And so the elusive Catholic Singles’ Group becomes the Holy Grail, that one unattainable place where all of the eligible, attractive rosary-reciters congregate, just waiting for the likes of us to complete their hopes and dreams. It becomes the means to our end, our best hope of evading a lonely spinsterhood lived out in a house full of cats.

If it doesn’t exist, we’ll create it.

It could work, couldn’t it? 

In theory, yes. 

In practice, very rarely.

 

A difficult reality

You know that the world must just be teeming with attractive and faithful Catholic single persons. And yet, when you go, you find a very small group, none of whom fit your rather extensive criterion for wedded bliss.

And so, you never go back. Instead you press on, searching for the elusive group that he might belong to.

Meanwhile, in a few weeks or a few months, a handsome stranger will darken the door of that same singles’ group. He will scan the crowd, searching. He looks again and again – which doesn’t take long, because it’s still the same five people, who don’t notice him because they’re all friends and have long ago stopped acknowledging these newcomers who show up once and never return. He turns, sadly, and departs, moving on to the next church, the next group.

And he never finds you.

Alas, this is the fate of a young Catholic population who sees parish singles groups as simply stopping-off stations, useful only to the extent that they produce marriageable men and women on short notice.

“Isn’t that what a Catholic singles’ group is supposed to be?” I can hear (or read) the comments now. Sure, that’d be nice. But how’s it working out for you? If it is, great. If not, you might want to take a slightly different approach.

Look at CatholicMatch. Do you think this online community is thriving because single Catholics drop in, find a spouse and bolt? No, it’s thriving because it’s a really big room that’s impossible to scan in an evening. So people stick around. Many of them dive in and get involved. They chat in the forums. They get together with people in their area.  They make friends. And somewhere in the process, lo and behold, they might just encounter someone else who has done the same, someone they just might want to spend the rest of their lives with.

Try taking the same approach in your parish and see what happens.






25 Comments

  1. Stephen-725391 June 8, 2012 Reply

    Why is this even here – Get that Singles in the Catholic Church Report out, let’s look at what they found out and then DEMAND that the CHURCH acknowledge it failure and DEMAND it change or it will lose the next generation of Catholics!

    • Matthew-844074 June 10, 2012 Reply

      Your so right, please see my comments. I feel like some of the younger, more tech savvy priests who might be aware of this site and singles issues need to step up to the plate. Honestly I want to do something to help out but I don’t know where to start? How do we get the Vatican to here us?

  2. Cathy-620979 June 8, 2012 Reply

    Is the Singles in the Catholic Church Report available on-line?

    Church programs are very family-oriented and singles can feel left out, but I wouldn’t call this a “failure”. The church’s job is not to make singles feel welcome and it is certainly not to pair singles up so they get married.

    I do agree with the blogger that singles’ groups are pretty thin and weak.

    • Stephen-725391 June 8, 2012 Reply

      Cathy, Where do you think NEW Catholics come from. If you doubt the wisdom of my statement – check out the Religious Group known as the ‘Shakers’ – they didn’t practice sex and are like dinosaurs – EXTINCT!

      • Cathy-620979 June 9, 2012 Reply

        How did the Church survive for 1900+ years without singles groups?

        The Church has plenty to do. It doesn’t need to take on matchmaking, too.

        There are businesses like CatholicMatch that do that, and family and friends and workplaces and serendipity – all ways that people meet each other.

        • Stephen-725391 June 9, 2012 Reply

          Cathy, We’ll see what the report says and I have to wonder WHY a study would be done IF there wasn’t something to it. Just saying.

        • Catherine-135441 June 12, 2012 Reply

          In the previous 19 centuries the family wasn’t being attacked the way it is today. Just the other day I was reading a statement by Pope Benedict talking about the importance of the family in transforming the modern world. That being the case, one would think the Church would want to do the best job they can to prepare singles who are called to marriage. I have also been told that the vast majority of people, Catholic or otherwise, are called by God to the married state. The fact that singles outnumber married people in our country indicates God’s will not being accomplished. Again, one would think the Church would want to help people to follow God’s will in their lives.

          When I went to Catholic schools as a child, I was taught what a vocation was and that I needed to discern and answer God’s call. It seems odd that the Church in this country would then abandon the faithful in our attempt to do just that. I work as a teacher myself. I know full well that after teaching the lesson to my students, I need to be available to assist the children with the work that I assign after. Even after I think they have mastered the lesson and are ready for the homework assignment, it sometimes happens that a few students will come back the next day needing extra help. It is my job to provide such help. My job isn’t done until I have gotten my students where they need to be with any given concept, or at the very least to have given it my best. The Church is our mother and teacher. The best thing the Church in the U.S. could do for its single members, who now make up about 40% of the Church, is to offer prayers and encouragement. As busy as I know the clergy are, how time consuming would it be to include us in the prayers of the faithful at Mass? It is my understanding that there is actually a bigger vocations shortage to the married life than there is to the priesthood or religious life. When praying for an increase in vocations to the priesthood/religious life, why not include prayers for an increase in vocations to marriage? Small gestures such as this would go a long way with many of the faithful.

    • Kevin-761486 June 10, 2012 Reply

      I agree Cathy. We all need to be responsible and help the Church where we see a need. There is nothing stopping us from starting a group at our local parish. Other Catholic singles and the parish would most likely embrace it!

  3. Jim-397948 June 9, 2012 Reply

    They have Professional Singles, with amazing pick up lines….Sorry, I am not a Professional Single

  4. Matthew-844074 June 10, 2012 Reply

    The best way to go is Catholicmatch. We all no that a physical group is not practical for many a good reasons (limitations involving location etc..)… Having said that, Catholicmatch should be endorsed by every single Parish world-wide. Look I am a marketing-business grad/whiz. The price needs to be dropped. If not dropped then partially subsidized by the Vatican. The risk(cost)/reward ratio is too high for many Catholics. This will result in a flooding of desperate people who are willing to pay a large cost. The success rate is too low and the cost is too high. If the cost drops in half then you would have a large increase in subscriptions hence higher success rates. Also marketing through parishes is a no-brainer.

    • Marita-847688 June 10, 2012 Reply

      While you make some good points, I have to snicker because you opened my eyes to the fact that Catholic Match is not merely selling subscriptions but the thought of a possible happy marriage. It reminds me of commercials “t can all be yours at the low price of ……”

      • Matthew-844074 June 12, 2012 Reply

        lol yes this is true, there is a business side to everything. Its just one of those things, just like businesses profiting from funerals, only I suppose, that this is quite the opposite sort of business…. Having said that, if the price is too rich, then it will not work efficiently for everyone…

  5. Matthew-844074 June 10, 2012 Reply

    I am really interested in seeing the business plan and sensitivity analysis of the website. Honestly, the concept is awesome, but I feel the implementation needs a lot of work. If the Church wants to survive well into the distant future it needs to address the Catholic singles/dating issues so that us Catholics connect with a Catholic partner. The best way is through this site. Honestly, I am from a big city and there are less than 10 members on this site from here. I’ve never heard or seen any announcement in any bulletin and I am quite involved in a few parishes… How difficult is it to print a small add in every bulletin? Have priests promote it on there own merit. Product(A+) Price(B-) Promotion(D) for this website

    • Marita-847688 June 10, 2012 Reply

      Does your city catch Relevant Radio-a Catholic radio station? It’s advertised all the time on the station.

      • Matthew-844074 June 11, 2012 Reply

        yes but obviously it is not working if there are only < 10 members out of a city of more than 250000 people. Nothing is in the bulletin. CM is privately run, so they probably have to pay for adds. I am saying the Vatican should offer free advertising through their various outlets (ie. bulletins) because it is in their best future financial interest as well to have a successful CM.

        • Marita-847688 June 13, 2012 Reply

          Then you may want to try viewing profiles of individuals who do not live near you and take advantage of what the site has to offer that a Catholic singles group in your hometown does not.

  6. Joseph-669930 June 10, 2012 Reply

    Hi MaryBeth, I am not sure what point you are trying to make about Catholic singles groups. Sounds like you are saying model them after…..CM? Do you have any ideas on how to do that? Or is that the next blog? I have a suggestion – I am sure you are super busy, but it seems you know your way around such single groups….we should start an ‘advisory board’ made up of select individuals with knowledge and \ or experience or just plain great ideas about successful groups, what makes them a ‘success’, or how they can thrive, and then help various parishes \ dioceses to implement and maintain them…..or….other thoughts…? JD

  7. Lynn-189934 June 12, 2012 Reply

    MaryBeth, thank you for sharing. The “singles” Catholic groups even in small cities like Topeka are mostly people at least ten years older than I am looking for marriage number two. Thank goodness I am “take-action” and got myself involved in the parish; otherwise, there was NOTHING for me as a single, here, or in the area. Kansas City (90 minutes, but 120 minutes to the closest active younger singles) is the option suggested by priests. Too far with their week-night activities!

  8. Maureen-741455 June 13, 2012 Reply

    We had a singles group for a short time. It was a packed house when they put information in the surrounding parishes bulletins. But then the man who lead it was put in a role of helping make “strong marriages stronger” by the parish. After 5 years of nothing, I see they have one now for the under 30 crowd. I.hope it is going well. I think the one for older Catholics ended up.merging into a “single again” meet up group.

  9. Bill-403263 June 13, 2012 Reply

    I have met some really nice women on CatholicMatch.com and find it a valuable resource. I can’t count on any parish to meet my needs for meeting Catholic women, though some parishes do have active, successful singles groups. Yet the number of parishes with successful groups are minimal, or at least that’s my perception. Thank you, and God bless all singles!

  10. Stephen-725391 June 14, 2012 Reply

    The number of comments, while not scientific, seems to INDICATE a BIG problem in the CHURCH regarding SINGLES as well as the CHURCH’s lack of commitment (how well I know) to SUPPORT marriages under adverse conditions!

  11. Linda-862538 June 17, 2012 Reply

    As a wedow for six years and a grandma I don’t think I will make mistakes by just making friend s in this site . Is this a sinful steps.finding someone viewing your profile and writing a leter for me makes me feel I’m a winner .its up to a persons purpose .honesty to every one. Is what I’m expecting to find I this trial one month subscription.

  12. Lucia-551179 June 21, 2012 Reply

    I have to admit I see the sad situation locally of the lack of responsiveness of the church to the single person. There are no singles groups for my age bracket. Church activities are usually family-oriented. The ones that aren’t don’t exactly create an environment for singles to connect. It is a sad thing that the church which holds marriage and family in such high esteem doesn’t provide the means to help people meet this vocation. I have found someone through this site after much work, and hopefully with him I have found my vocation. The church can help this process by not only promoting this site but guiding members to make the best use of its resources.

  13. Rebecca-654746 June 27, 2012 Reply

    I think its a bad attitude that the only hope for a singles group is to meet a spouse… To be honestly I joined a Catholic group finally for community. When I moved back to my home town and decided to become Catholic my parish no young Catholics. I struggled with my faith, never made the effort. Then moved again, and finally after a year and getting things back on track I felt the Lord prodding me to look at this young adults meeting. I went and finally started meeting some people. Yes, I would love to meet a strong Catholic guy. But I am mainly thrilled to find this group, to find community. I’m thrilled to find some great Catholic girls and guys to become friends with and encourage me to walk closer with the Lord…Maybe eventually out of those friendships I’ll meet a husband, but I’m not going to push that. The main thing for me is to find people who will push me to serve the Lord…I will need that even if I get married.

  14. Rebecca-654746 June 27, 2012 Reply

    What I mean is I never made the effort to find community. I feel in general people need community, the Christian faith isn’t suppose to be lived alone…I think though everyone no matter what their age struggles with this…Trying to find community… I do think the Church needs to do more to promote Catholic marriages, but I think if we work on building communities, the marriages will come…

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