The Hidden Dangers of Serving as a Single...

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seoulsearch

OutWrite Trouble
May 23, 2009
12,882
3,135
113
#1
Hi Everyone,

I didn't want to take anything away from Lynx's "How I Won At Life" thread, so I decided to write a separate thread here. I've written about this topic before, so I apologize to anyone who's already read my stories.

While of course, I agree that serving is an ideal way to meet people and find your purpose, I also wanted to talk about the serious reality of having to set boundaries and limits in all things. I started out just wanting to serve, but I had no idea how challenging that can actually be.

As a single especially, I would like to say that it is VERY important to protect yourself at all costs, because no one else is going to look out for you. As much as we all want to believe that a Christian atmosphere alone is safe, we also have to do our part to secure our own reputations and well-being.

Here are a few of the problems I've ran into personally or have heard from others (I'm sorry for the very long post, but I feel this is important):

1. I quickly found out that people will sometimes attach themselves to you a little too closely.

As a single person, I felt it was my Christian duty to be available whenever people needed prayer or to talk, and so I would give out my home number. This resulted in a woman calling me night and day (to the point where an elder had to intervene on my behalf), and a man who was addicted to pornography asking if I could meet to pray with him--by myself.

Please note, I am NOT AT ALL saying that these were bad people or necessarily had wrong intentions, but, I had to learn boundaries with which to protect myself. I no longer give out my number, and if someone of the opposite gender wants me to pray with them, I insist that I have a prayer partner with me during that time.

2. People have often used Scripture to try to manipulate me into doing things for them or in a way that benefits them.

This has included asking me to buy things for them, donate to their cause, or change something (beyond reasonable limits) to their benefit.

Sometimes when I have hesitated, people have told me things such as, "You don't have the love of God," "How is it that you've let Satan fill your heart?" and, "You're being stubborn and rebellious and are not listening to the Word of the Lord."

I went through a time of asking God how I could discern whether or not someone's criticism was valid, and, for me personally, I believe that God told me if that person someone had shown that they were just as willing to bleed WITH me as they were to cut me open, I should listen to what they were saying.

I tend to make friends with people who have no qualms about telling me when they disagree with me, so having enough reasonable correction in my life has never been in short supply.

3. You have to look out for yourself, because no one else will.

I have a guy friend who, much like Lynx, used to drive the church van to pick up and drop off kids for the youth ministry. He loved working with kids, but when it got to a point where he was expected to drive several preteen girls to their homes--by himself--he obviously became uncomfortable with it.

The pastors leading this group were young and had a family of their own--their main concern after these events was getting home to their own family, which was understandable--but they also shoved all the after-hours work, along with its risks, onto the single guy with no kids, because after all-- surely he had the time to do it, right?

My friend tried to talk to them multiple times about this, but each time, he was ignored--and wound up quitting a ministry he loved because no one cared about protecting his reputation. Securing your own safety should be a must for everyone, male or female, most especially in our #MeToo-driven world.

I am all for justice for victims, but I also feel just as strongly about people protecting themselves from any false or unjust accusations.

4. People will assume you have nothing better to do as a single, and will try to take advantage of that.

A long time ago, I read a post here in Singles about a woman who wanted to be part of a Women's Retreat at her church. Instead, she was told that all the other women in the group had decided that since this was the only woman who didn't have kids or a husband, she had been unanimously volunteered to stay behind and babysit everyone else's children while they all went to the retreat.

Serving is indeed a wonderful privilege. But, it is VERY important to learn boundaries and discernment so that people will not use you or even put you in harm's way.

Over the years, I was given two raw, honest pieces of advice from those in the ministry that I have found invaluable:

1. You are not called to everyone.

Find out who God is calling you to and what your limits are, and stick to those boundaries as best as you can.

This was truly life-changing for me, because as a Christian, I thought I had to be available to anyone at any time. It took me many years to learn my boundaries, but it has most definitely improved the quality of my life, and of my service.

2. People in pain will bleed you dry, so set limits and stick to them.

Understandably, a hurting person's primary concern is relieving their own pain, and of course, it's our job as Christians to try to help

However, a pastor once taught me that it's also a lot like rescuing a drowning person--in a state of panic, the drowning person might accidentally drown you-- so you must do what you can to ensure that you won't drown first, or you won't be able to help anyone else.

One of the most helpful things I have learned it to always work under some sort of accountability or authority, because this also gives you back-up--and protection--if someone tries to overwhelm you or accuse you of doing something wrong.


What kinds of experiences have you had, and what lessons would you like to share?

I would love to hear your stories and thoughts.

Serving can be wonderful, but I'm also hoping that maybe we can spare a few others some of the grief that others have gone through along the way.
 
Aug 2, 2009
23,937
3,615
113
#2
2. People in pain will bleed you dry, so set limits and stick to them.

Understandably, a hurting person's primary concern is relieving their own pain, and of course, it's our job as Christians to try to help

However, a pastor once taught me that it's also a lot like rescuing a drowning person--in a state of panic, the drowning person might accidentally drown you-- so you must do what you can to ensure that you won't drown first, or you won't be able to help anyone else.
Not all people in pain are that way. There are certainly people like that, but there are also people who keep their pain inside and try to act like everything's fine, and there's people like me who don't like asking people for help, I don't even like asking for prayer.
 

VincentG

Prodigal son
Aug 25, 2018
1,755
920
113
#3
Hi Everyone,

I didn't want to take anything away from Lynx's "How I Won At Life" thread, so I decided to write a separate thread here. I've written about this topic before, so I apologize to anyone who's already read my stories.

While of course, I agree that serving is an ideal way to meet people and find your purpose, I also wanted to talk about the serious reality of having to set boundaries and limits in all things. I started out just wanting to serve, but I had no idea how challenging that can actually be.

As a single especially, I would like to say that it is VERY important to protect yourself at all costs, because no one else is going to look out for you. As much as we all want to believe that a Christian atmosphere alone is safe, we also have to do our part to secure our own reputations and well-being.

Here are a few of the problems I've ran into personally or have heard from others (I'm sorry for the very long post, but I feel this is important):

1. I quickly found out that people will sometimes attach themselves to you a little too closely.

As a single person, I felt it was my Christian duty to be available whenever people needed prayer or to talk, and so I would give out my home number. This resulted in a woman calling me night and day (to the point where an elder had to intervene on my behalf), and a man who was addicted to pornography asking if I could meet to pray with him--by myself.

Please note, I am NOT AT ALL saying that these were bad people or necessarily had wrong intentions, but, I had to learn boundaries with which to protect myself. I no longer give out my number, and if someone of the opposite gender wants me to pray with them, I insist that I have a prayer partner with me during that time.

2. People have often used Scripture to try to manipulate me into doing things for them or in a way that benefits them.

This has included asking me to buy things for them, donate to their cause, or change something (beyond reasonable limits) to their benefit.

Sometimes when I have hesitated, people have told me things such as, "You don't have the love of God," "How is it that you've let Satan fill your heart?" and, "You're being stubborn and rebellious and are not listening to the Word of the Lord."

I went through a time of asking God how I could discern whether or not someone's criticism was valid, and, for me personally, I believe that God told me if that person someone had shown that they were just as willing to bleed WITH me as they were to cut me open, I should listen to what they were saying.

I tend to make friends with people who have no qualms about telling me when they disagree with me, so having enough reasonable correction in my life has never been in short supply.

3. You have to look out for yourself, because no one else will.

I have a guy friend who, much like Lynx, used to drive the church van to pick up and drop off kids for the youth ministry. He loved working with kids, but when it got to a point where he was expected to drive several preteen girls to their homes--by himself--he obviously became uncomfortable with it.

The pastors leading this group were young and had a family of their own--their main concern after these events was getting home to their own family, which was understandable--but they also shoved all the after-hours work, along with its risks, onto the single guy with no kids, because after all-- surely he had the time to do it, right?

My friend tried to talk to them multiple times about this, but each time, he was ignored--and wound up quitting a ministry he loved because no one cared about protecting his reputation. Securing your own safety should be a must for everyone, male or female, most especially in our #MeToo-driven world.

I am all for justice for victims, but I also feel just as strongly about people protecting themselves from any false or unjust accusations.

4. People will assume you have nothing better to do as a single, and will try to take advantage of that.

A long time ago, I read a post here in Singles about a woman who wanted to be part of a Women's Retreat at her church. Instead, she was told that all the other women in the group had decided that since this was the only woman who didn't have kids or a husband, she had been unanimously volunteered to stay behind and babysit everyone else's children while they all went to the retreat.

Serving is indeed a wonderful privilege. But, it is VERY important to learn boundaries and discernment so that people will not use you or even put you in harm's way.

Over the years, I was given two raw, honest pieces of advice from those in the ministry that I have found invaluable:

1. You are not called to everyone.

Find out who God is calling you to and what your limits are, and stick to those boundaries as best as you can.

This was truly life-changing for me, because as a Christian, I thought I had to be available to anyone at any time. It took me many years to learn my boundaries, but it has most definitely improved the quality of my life, and of my service.

2. People in pain will bleed you dry, so set limits and stick to them.

Understandably, a hurting person's primary concern is relieving their own pain, and of course, it's our job as Christians to try to help

However, a pastor once taught me that it's also a lot like rescuing a drowning person--in a state of panic, the drowning person might accidentally drown you-- so you must do what you can to ensure that you won't drown first, or you won't be able to help anyone else.

One of the most helpful things I have learned it to always work under some sort of accountability or authority, because this also gives you back-up--and protection--if someone tries to overwhelm you or accuse you of doing something wrong.


What kinds of experiences have you had, and what lessons would you like to share?

I would love to hear your stories and thoughts.

Serving can be wonderful, but I'm also hoping that maybe we can spare a few others some of the grief that others have gone through along the way.
I think in order to do all those things..so they won't bleed you dry...you need to be apart of a ministry, I think you can break what you wrote into two parts 1) what your suppose to do as an individual 2) what you can do with the help of other people a ministry..such as If your going to help the homeless you can't do it yourself there's too much to do ..you'll drain yourself and people will run you dry...they will think your at their disposal..when if your part of a ministry you will do your part..what ever it might be..maybe get their attention then hand them over to next person ..and when their job is completed .. the next..next until one day they are doing the same as you are. I do think that you need to have accountability when helping people... like the opposite sex, to be safe. I think what your suppose to do as an individual ..(2)... Is listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling you God won't give you more than we can handle..we are not all going to be like Moses or Apostle Paul...We just keep the fruits of the spirit...That alone will give you an opportunity to witness to people and tell them about God...but if they need an abundance of help "I" would tell them where they can get further help..and I don't advise anyone to do this, but sometimes I will even give them a ride to the next step. I am not saying you shouldn't give your neighbor a ride..I am more of talking about someone I have never met....that needs the Lord if I feel he is sincere I will take him to that next step...but I can't take him through the whole 9 yards. It's kinda late ..and I didn't search for any typos so please excuse me if I did type something wrong. let me know and I will try and correct it Thanks and goodnite! :sleep:
 

Lynx

Folksy yet erudite
Aug 13, 2014
17,267
4,311
113
#4
Safeguards for the workers do need to be in place, for sure, from the individuals to the corporate church as a whole.

INDIVIDUAL: I am definitely familiar with "professional users," needy people who have become expert at using other people. You have to learn when people really need help and when they are just using you. (Protip: If they are poor because they can't afford to pay the internet bill, that is not really poor.) And when you decline to help them further, their "I'm so hurt" act is not really an act. They are actually hurt that you would refuse to help them, much as I would be hurt if my computer refused to work right, because they have become accustomed to this being the way the world works. "I will use this line on these people and they will give me what I want."

INDIVIDUAL: What you said Kim about the bus driver, I have run into that situation myself. Thank God the leaders at my church LISTENED when I mentioned the potential danger. You have to protect yourself in this society where everybody is thinking about how they can sue somebody for some quick cash. I got an adult lady to ride shotgun on the church bus, to reduce the chance of anybody trying to make up a story about me and sue me for inappropriate conduct. I called her duty "Indemnity Patrol."

CORPORATE: To prevent professional users from going from church to church and draining each church in turn, the churches in our community actually have a group fund that all the churches pay into. If somebody needs financial help, the church the person applied to for help refers the person to the community financial aid fund. This way truly needy people get the help they need, and professional users only drain a little before being IDed as professional users and turned away. This is such a good idea that I don't know why all towns don't do this.
 

seoulsearch

OutWrite Trouble
May 23, 2009
12,882
3,135
113
#5
Hi Everyone,

Thank you for bringing up some excellent points, and I hope people will continue to share.

i should clarify that I am certainly NOT trying to picture all people in pain, which is pretty much everyone these days, as soul-sucking vampires. Not at all!

Everyone I worked with in ministries was dealing with someone, so I know everyone deals with pain differently, and many channel it into helping other people.

I certainly wasn't trying to paint a picture of all hurting people as being vicious users, and I apologize if that's how I came across.

But sometimes even just trying to talk to several hurting people, one after the other, will put you in a place of needing to make sure you take time to restore your reserves.

I read about some people's schedules (like Lynx) and know I could never keep up with that anymore. I am truly in awe of people who do, but something very important I've learned is that everyone has their own pace.

I went through a few years where I was spending 4-5 nights at the church along with Sunday service, and I burned out so badly that I backed away from any kind of service for several years. I look at what other people are doing and feel like a total slacker, but at the same time, I try to remember and ask God for help in doing what I can.

Lynx--I really like your church's use of a community fund. I've actually never even heard of that before, although I know every church I went to had something set aside for similar purposes. The next time I run into someone who is asking for something, I'm going to find out how much church officially handles such needs and direct them there.
 

Lynx

Folksy yet erudite
Aug 13, 2014
17,267
4,311
113
#6
i should clarify that I am certainly NOT trying to picture all people in pain, which is pretty much everyone these days, as soul-sucking vampires. Not at all!
That's one thing you have to look out for, and thanks for mentioning that. Though discernment is a much overused word these days (especially in a christian forum) you do have to be a bit discerning when helping people because there are so many professional users who give truly needy people a bad rep. To rephrase, we are so accustomed to the people who take and take and take, that when we meet a person who really needs help it is easy to label him as "one of those needy people who suck the life out of you." Some people really do need help, and some people need more help than others. That doesn't make them professional users, they are just in bad situations.

I read about some people's schedules (like Lynx) and know I could never keep up with that anymore. I am truly in awe of people who do, but something very important I've learned is that everyone has their own pace.
Yeah, about that... I have learned I can't compare myself to anybody else, because everybody has different resources. I can't compare myself to my pastor because I am not my pastor. He has different strengths and weaknesses. If I compared myself to our senior (retired) pastor I would get depressed because I'll never measure up to all he has done. Then again if I compare myself to certain people who don't seem to do anything at all for God I might get too high an opinion of myself, because I don't know what they are dealing with in their own lives. If you measure yourself against other people you'll always get a misleading measurement.

It's like if I gave one person a $10 restaurant gift card and another person a $100 Lowe's gift card. Should the person with $100 be proud that he was able to buy more? Should the person with $10 feel ashamed of not being able to buy as much? Should one feel bad because he can't buy somebody a meal with his Lowe's gift card, or the other be ashamed of not being able to help with home construction on his restaurant card?

God deals the cards and some cards are not equal, but God knows which cards He gave which people. God is not a FAIR God - some got more than others - but God is a JUST God and will hold all of us accountable for what we did with what we got.
 

melita916

Senior Member
Aug 12, 2011
10,159
2,351
113
#7
There was a season in my life where I was doing something with church almost every day except thursdays. But even then, Thursdays would be used if we had some kind of leaders meeting. I enjoyed that season very much though.

Then I chose to stop going to prayer on tuesdays because I wanted to be home alone. At first, I felt a bit guilty, but I needed that time to myself.

As for setting boundaries, I think I did pretty well as a single. There was one time someone asked me for a favor (this happened in the season of doing something every day), and I mentioned I would try if I had the time. That person’s response was, “you’re single. What else do you have to do?” And I kindly said Im busy! Lol.
 

VincentG

Prodigal son
Aug 25, 2018
1,755
920
113
#8
That's one thing you have to look out for, and thanks for mentioning that. Though discernment is a much overused word these days (especially in a christian forum) you do have to be a bit discerning when helping people because there are so many professional users who give truly needy people a bad rep. To rephrase, we are so accustomed to the people who take and take and take, that when we meet a person who really needs help it is easy to label him as "one of those needy people who suck the life out of you." Some people really do need help, and some people need more help than others. That doesn't make them professional users, they are just in bad situations.


Yeah, about that... I have learned I can't compare myself to anybody else, because everybody has different resources. I can't compare myself to my pastor because I am not my pastor. He has different strengths and weaknesses. If I compared myself to our senior (retired) pastor I would get depressed because I'll never measure up to all he has done. Then again if I compare myself to certain people who don't seem to do anything at all for God I might get too high an opinion of myself, because I don't know what they are dealing with in their own lives. If you measure yourself against other people you'll always get a misleading measurement.

It's like if I gave one person a $10 restaurant gift card and another person a $100 Lowe's gift card. Should the person with $100 be proud that he was able to buy more? Should the person with $10 feel ashamed of not being able to buy as much? Should one feel bad because he can't buy somebody a meal with his Lowe's gift card, or the other be ashamed of not being able to help with home construction on his restaurant card?

God deals the cards and some cards are not equal, but God knows which cards He gave which people. God is not a FAIR God - some got more than others - but God is a JUST God and will hold all of us accountable for what we did with what we got.
I don't think you should get depressed if you can't measure up to someone else such as your pastor. You can read all of 1 Corinthians 12...but here's a little that I pulled out.....27 You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it. 28 First, God has placed apostles in the church. Second, he has placed prophets in the church. Third, he has placed teachers in the church. Then he has given to the church miracles and gifts of healing. He also has given the gift of helping others and the gift of guiding the church. God also has given the gift of speaking in different kinds of languages. 29 Is everyone an apostle? Is everyone a prophet? Is everyone a teacher? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in languages they had not known before
 

CharliRenee

Member
Staff member
Nov 4, 2014
6,199
6,771
113
#9
I must say it has been so rewarding reading you and lynx today. I couldn't agree more with both of you. Yes serving others is His design, it gives us off ourselves and onto how our lives can bless others.

However, like you pointed out, we must maintain healthy and loving boundaries to enable efficient efforts and their sustainable longevity. I think the best way besides prayer, of course, is like you mentioned, being tied into a system that has implemented such safeguards into the service industry. When I was serving at an interfaith community service, I was helping in the food bank, at the front desk, as well as administratively, doing data input. In addition to my normal hours, I also started filling in for others. I was having so much fun but it was just too much, so I stepped back. I still have my foot in that door, serving in different capacities but definitely can see the point you are making. If we establish clear boundaries, letting folks know, right off the bat what you do have to offer, and maybe your limitations, it can serve all concerned.
 
Aug 2, 2009
23,937
3,615
113
#10
Any type of ministry or
Hi Everyone,

Thank you for bringing up some excellent points, and I hope people will continue to share.

i should clarify that I am certainly NOT trying to picture all people in pain, which is pretty much everyone these days, as soul-sucking vampires. Not at all!
I know. I was just saying that not all people in pain are like that. Your pastor's advice sounded like he meant that anyone who is in pain has the potential to suck the life out of you.
 
W

Wild

Guest
#11
You know yourself better than anyone. If something seems off it usually is. It takes atleast a month to get to know someone well enough to trust them on a limited basis. Its different for everyone of course. I'd say just go with your gut and if something seems too good to be true it usually is. Stay safe out there people .
 

Subhumanoidal

Well-known member
Sep 17, 2018
2,543
2,110
113
#12
I've not had but very few of the issues most other singles complain about in dealing with others. And this is one of them, though admittedly it's been a while since I've put myself out there in a church setting. But in my own ways i do attempt to help people, and i have learned to pace myself. I used to believe i had to be available all the time, and respond to everything with immediacy. And if i didn't i felt guilty. No one made me feel like that, it was simply a natural, internal reaction.
But it also burned me out and made me start losing my desire to help others. Finally i had to recognize that when something is draining, i need to slow down. Whether I'm helping another, or they're helping me, to pace myself. So now, unless there is a genuine need for immediacy (and, really, that's not very common) i respond when ready, not when i feel i 'should'. It helps a lot.
 

Solemateleft

Honor, Courage, Commitment
Jun 25, 2017
2,548
1,991
113
#13
Thanks seoulsearch - I always enjoy your deep-sharing posts...
Always filled with thought provoking and insightful nuggets.
Always genuine, candid, open minded and heartfilled real life lessons.
I can relate and empathize with your initial #1 & #3; and will heed caution for #2 & #4 and the 'invaluable pieces of advice in #1 & #2...
Thanks for sharing and being such a useful cog in the cc forum...
BTW, I always enjoy and admire your polling inquiries and skills... God Bless