Sue and Jacqui

Take inspiration from Susan Ashman and Jacqui Wright

Here two women who have successfully set up singles groups share their experiences.

Interview with Susan Ashman

Susan Ashman served in singles ministry for over ten years, including time running Network Christians and running a social group in the West Midlands. She talks about her life and faith as a single woman.

Susan ashman

How did you get involved with singles ministry?

I first got involved with Network Christians, a national Christian singles organisation, as a guest over 15 years ago. I had been single for some time and was aware that I was not meeting other single people in my workplace and church. It took me a while to build up my courage but once I took the plunge I never looked back.

It was great to meet so many fun, interesting people from all over the UK. The experience helped me to come out of my shell a bit and gave me opportunities to see wonderful places with like-minded people. It certainly enriched my life and brought new possibilities for friendships, relationships and travel.

Why did you start your own singles group?

I realised the difference it had made in my own life and wanted to be a part of sharing it with other single Christians. Consequently, I set up a Network Christians West Midlands based local group that ran day events across four counties. It was hard work but very gratifying to see numbers grow and receive good feedback.

I was very aware that most of the UK did not have any groups for single Christians and had a real desire to change this. So, on discovering that our national organisation needed new leadership I offered my support and then found myself becoming director of Network Christians.

The 10 years with Network Christians was challenging and rewarding. It was been a privilege to meet Christians from so many different backgrounds and churches – both Protestant and Catholic. I have listened to some wonderful and heart-breaking stories but above all, I have been impressed with the faithfulness and positivity of those concerned.

What have you learned during your ministry?

To multi-task: from making strategic decisions to making the tea and counting pencils.

To keep going: when I am knocked down or feel overwhelmed to keep getting back on my feet.

To see a situation from a number of perspectives: we are a very diverse group of people of different ages, backgrounds, and churches. The old Native American proverb applies: “Never criticize a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins.”

To be sensitive: We are all fragile no matter how up-beat we appear to be. Some of us are struggling with loss and disappointment. It’s important that I take this into account when planning the shape of an event and the hosting.

To focus on the positive: It’s great to meet other people who can understand our situation and life experiences. Having a bit of a whinge together can make us feel understood and supported (I indulge in this myself from time to time!) - however, getting stuck in that mode is damaging to all concerned. Once we have shown empathy to each other we need to help one another move on and move up.

What’s your manifesto for the church - to better include and serve our growing single population?

Be open minded, listen and understand us. Empty your heads of the numerous negative stereotypes of single people and see us for what we are – committed, intelligent people with a wealth of life experience and having much to offer the local and wider church. Ask our opinions and seek our involvement.

Change your viewpoint. If leaders have married young and have families it is natural that they perceive needs that are similar to their own. However, with the growing number of single people in all age groups it’s important that leaders seek to understand the church as experienced by people without partners or family.

Offer an affirming environment where we are valued, trusted and appreciated. Remind the church that Jesus was single and that our faith has spread across the globe through the work of many single people. Seek to create equality with marrieds, singles and families by regularly referring to all in sermons.

Offer a straightforward and non-cringe approach to dating and marriage. Seek to provide a natural setting for single people to meet and mix – social events and Sunday pub lunch groups etc.

What’s your favourite Bible verse?

“I run in the path of your commandments, for you have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

This is something that I aspire to! This verse brings to mind the sensation of running down a meadow slope at full pelt as a little girl. The wind in my hair, my knees moving faster through long grass than I thought possible, laughing at the wonder of the scenery and my own speed!

Susan Ashman lives in rural Shropshire, and has worked nationally with single Christians over 10 years. After a decade of giving, she is now taking a break from this work.  She enjoys socialising, Ceroc dancing and travelling.

Interview with Jacqui Wright 

Singles ministry leader Jacqui Wright runs the Bedford Christian Singles group, a social friendship and fellowship group that meets for meals, day trips and social events and is open to all adults. There are more than 300 people on the mailing list. She continues to be involved though now happily married. 

Why did you set up Bedford Christian Singles?

I set up BCS in 2004, 2 years after I returned to the UK from South Africa. I had left this country originally as a young child and I knew no one my age here. I realised the needs of Christian singles that I met, (indeed, I felt my own loneliness as I had left all my close friends behind), and my heart was moved to help. So, the idea of a friendship and fellowship group for Christian Singles came to mind.

What have you learned during this ministry?

I have learned to serve God by serving his people even through the darkest of times, and that in the serving and pouring out of myself, that he has refilled me with a greater joy and greater blessings than I could ever have imagined. It has been tough going at times with some difficult challenges but because I dedicated the group to The Lord for his glory whenever it was hard, it was left it in his hands and he chose to bring us through.

As a single person yourself for many years, how would you encourage other singles in their walk through life?

Keep looking to the Lord Jesus Christ to satisfy your deepest desires, and give thanks every day in all small things. As John Newton says ‘Everything is needful that he sends; nothing can be needful that he withholds’

Remain hopeful as God is always at work even though we can't see it. He hasn't forgotten you. He orchestrates the Universe and we trust him for that. Behind the sciences he is orchestrating every tiny detail of your life for your greatest good and for his glory. However it is in his way, and his will and his time. It can take a lot of waiting patiently and often not knowing until his right time comes. Keep on hoping against hope! God's goodness and mercy follows us all the days of our lives.

I enjoy listening to Pastor Tim Keller’s podcasts and reading material or watching videos by writer Ann Voskamp for my own encouragement.

What are the most popular events at Bedford Christian Singles?

The most popular events have been the Valentine's meal in February, the Barn dance in May, the Summer BBQ in late June, and the Christmas Party in early December.

What would you most like to see change in the British church for single people?

For single people to be embraced as whole and healthy people in Christ, just as they are. They are not second class citizens in the church nor merely waiting in the aisle to get married.

How can we better support and minister to people who are divorced in the church, or who are single parents?

It would be helpful for church leaders to go on courses to understand the pain of divorce, the healing process, and how to manage single parenting. Once there is better understanding then there will be better support and grace to minister to all aspects of this group of people’s need. Let’s create a culture of ‘divorcee/single parent friendly’ churches.

What have been the most important lessons in learning to serve single people?

The model we have used is to have a Leader or Chair under the oversight of godly Ministers or Pastors or Elders in the church who are sympathetic to singles. The Chair can call on these overseers for pastoral wisdom if required. The Chair is supported by committee members and all share the load of running events in pairs over the year. These roles are voluntary. We invite people from the group to come to our planning meetings twice a year. The committee members have a servant heart to minister to other singles.

Jacqui Wright has been involved with Christian ministry all her life. She did not foresee becoming a single parent of five for the last 16 years following an unwilling divorce. She works as an Independent Speech and Language therapist.