One of the most popular topics on WomenLeaders.com in the past year has been singleness, so we sat down with Joy Beth Smith, author of Party of One (Thomas Nelson, 2018) to learn how the church can better serve singles, and how her research applies to single women in ministry. —Amy Jackson
WomenLeaders.com: Who did you write this book for?
Joy Beth Smith: The book is written for single women in adulthood who are still longing for marriage. There are lots of women who aren’t in that place, women who are single and are happy there and don’t really see marriage in their future—and that is awesome—but this is for the people who say, “I really want to be married, and I’m not, and I’m struggling to find my place in the church and in the world.”
What prompted you to write the book?
I am an Enneagram two, and that means that I see needs and I want to meet them—and I really saw a need. Michael Hyatt describes the Sherpa, the sage, and the struggler in writing. The sage is the one who stands at the top of the mountain, and this is the guy with the PhD who’s writing books about statistics about singleness. The Sherpa is the one who’s done this route before, so this is the married person who’s writing about dating and singleness. The struggler is the one who’s struggling up the mountain with you.
Where I saw a need was for the voice of the struggler. There are lots of the sage, there are some of the Sherpa, and both of those can sometimes come off as condescending or out of touch, that they just don’t understand the struggler very well. So I wanted to be the struggler in this and say I totally understand weeping in your car at midnight with your 90s nostalgia music blaring because you just really like that boy and he won’t text you back and you’re still in this place at 30-years-old! We need the struggler to provide a place to talk about how out of teach we feel with the church and our communities.
As the struggler, you end up sharing a lot of personal stories.
Yes, much to my dad’s dismay!
There’s something beautiful about saying “I’m in the midst of this, and you can laugh with me and cry with me.”
Yes! I’m not on the other side of this. But that’s also what makes this terrifying. There’s no resolution. I could still be single for a long time. And that’s part of the message of this book—that’s not a bad life, and I think we need to stop painting that as a bad life. We need to build a culture that says that’s still a life worth living. It’s not a B+ life—it’s an A life. And we can create a culture in our churches and in our communities that brings respect and celebration to the single life. It’s hard enough to live with that unfulfilled longing, and it’s even worse when there are people making me feel like it’s a less-than life.