SAM Startup Series: The Basics of SAM
You see the need. Perhaps you are single yourself and long for a ministry that speaks to your situation specifically. You see other singles that could benefit from the fellowship too. Maybe you even dream about reaching lost singles in your community. But where do you start? Let’s talk a little about the basics of SAM (Single Adult Ministry).
The great news is that anyone can start a singles ministry. It doesn’t take a completely specialized set of skills that you have to develop for years and years. It begins with passion, burden, and desire. If you see a need for this ministry and want to do something to help it along, congratulations! You have the basics down. Chances are, you might be questioning if you are really the right person for the job. Do not fear! Even if there’s never been an organized Single Adult Ministry (SAM) in your church, you can do this!
In fact, if you are starting from scratch you’re in luck! Singles Ministry is best grown organically and over time. To be honest, I would encourage you to take some time before you attempt to launch an official “Singles Ministry”. As soon as you label it as such, you’ll have perceptions to overcome and I want to help you overcome this objection early on.
This will not be a step-by-step guide to start SAM in your church . I’ll cover some helpful hints but I’d like for us to peel back the layers of this ministry and examine what makes SAM effective. In doing so, I think you’ll discover the heart of a SAM leader already beats inside of you. I want to clear the clutter in your mind so let’s set aside everything we think we need to do and focus on the foundation the ministry should be built upon.
Connection: The Core of SAM
These are the three most important things you MUST do in Singles Ministry:
As you can see, connection is vital to the success of your SAM. In fact, ministry in any capacity is most effective when the leader is connecting on a personal level with those they are trying to reach. One of my favorite quotes says “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
You don’t have to be best friends with them all but they all need to know you care. This doesn’t have to require huge amounts of time and tons of money but is important that you establish at least a bit of a friendship with the single adults in your church. Try to implement some of these behaviors when you can:
- Ask about their week.
- Ask about their family.
- Find out what they do for a living.
- Let them know you missed them when they’re not at church.
- Where it’s appropriate, invite them out to eat.
- Pray for them.
- Ask for them to pray for you.
- When they go to the altar for prayer, pray with them.
Seek Out Single Visitors
Watch for visitors that may be single. Most visitors will not seek you out and so it is important that you watch out for them. Use wisdom in these situations. If the guest is of the opposite sex, get another single to go with you and make them feel welcome. If you have a group going out to eat after service, be sure and invite them to go too. Again, you are seeking to build friendships here.
This stage is all about building up relationships within your potential group. Your main focus should be on getting to know all the singles in your church on some level. As you do this, they will be more inclined to be involved when the ministry becomes official and you start planning events and asking for their help.
Talk to Your Pastor
At some point, while you’re getting to know the singles in your church, you will need to have a conversation about starting an official Singles Ministry with your pastor. Your pastor may need some time and more information before feeling comfortable about allowing this new ministry to happen.
There are a number of individuals who are still not aware of the purpose of SAM and they may be resistant at first. Be patient. Allow other singles in your church to help you in giving him insight into the special needs of singles and how having SAM can help minister to them. As you are getting ready to talk with your pastor, be sure to do the following:
- Educate yourself on what SAM is and how it can be beneficial to your church. Read “What Is Singles Ministry?” and “Why Should I Start a Singles Ministry?” to give you some ideas. This will help you in the event that your pastor has questions and/or concerns. It will also help to dispel any lingering stereotypes (the kinds of stereotypes that so many of us have as we get started in this ministry).
- Most importantly, prepare your heart ahead of time to follow the leadership of your pastor at all costs. He may feel that someone else should be the official leader. It might stop him from moving forward with the ministry because he doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. I urge you to let him know upfront that you want his direction and blessing and that you will help the ministry in whatever capacity he feels is right.
One of the hardest things to do in life is to be consistent. Sometimes people will promise to do things and will not come through. Sometimes they have fantastic reasons and sometimes their reasons are not so great. Sometimes you will have events where you will be full to capacity and other times it will just be you and one or two people. This is where consistency and faithfulness play a big part in the development and growth of your SAM. Life happens — I get it. But be acutely aware that many singles have been hurt and find it difficult to trust. Sometimes they will watch you from the sidelines for awhile before deciding to join. Be different from what they’ve experienced before. If you drop the ball, be honest but be quick to pick back up and move forward again.
Try to get together as much as you can realistically commit to. Once a month is plenty. When you are trying to maintain and build momentum, you will find that it is much easier to add activities and plans than it is to cancel things. You can always add an extra dinner or impromptu trip for ice cream here or there but whatever you plan to do, be sure to follow through.
Being consistent will strengthen your relationships. It will also show the other saints in the church and your pastor you are trustworthy and dependable. This is vital when you are trying to demonstrate to them that this is a legitimate ministry. When they see what you’re trying to do, you’ll find they’ll start talking to you about single family members and coworkers and will help you to meet single guests they bring to church.
Go Forth and Conquer!
Starting a new SAM doesn’t have to be overwhelming. These simple principles are the baseline for any successful Single Adult Ministry. And remember, as with anything we do for the Lord, most of us may feel unqualified and have doubts about our ability. I assure you, though, God is for you and will help you to grow along with your growing ministry! Let’s join together to reach those single adults in our churches, communities, and our world! You’ve got this.