Listen: Tania Harris chats to Emma Mullings about singleness.
It’s a well-known fact that most churches spend far more time teaching about how to build a good marriage, than how to succeed at singleness.
Marriage courses are common, and many couples are the better for it, but it would be a rare church that hosts a course on how to flourish as a single, divorced or widowed person. And it’s an imbalance that needs to be corrected according to single pastor and Bible teacher Tania Harris—especially given the rising number of singles in Australia.
“It’s an unusual and perhaps surprising statistic that now in Australia the number of singles outnumbers the number of marrieds,” Tania told Hope 103.2’s Emma Mullings. “And that’s a real shift in our population. It’s happened in the US as well. Particularly in the last 10 years or so we’ve seen the rise of singles.
“It’s much more common now. People are delaying marriage, and single-person households have increased remarkably. So it’s become a real issue I think, and I think it’s one we need to talk about a little bit more.”
Single Women can be Pastors and Church Planters Too
As an ordained minister in the Australian Christian Churches, Tania planted a church in Melbourne, filling the role of leading pastor, in her early 30s.
“It’s an unusual story,” she said. “I think, like everybody else, I expected to get married and my hope was to get married young. And then it didn’t happen.”
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It was a shock to Tania when she realised God was prompting her to start a church, without a husband by her side.
“And I was like, ‘You can’t ask me to do that, I need a man! I can’t do it without him.'”
“Where I was raised, in a very conservative household, my idea was the only way for me to really fulfil the fullness of God’s plan for my life and destiny was to get married,” she said. “And it was the only model I’d ever seen. I had a call to ministry at the time, and to be a pastor I thought that meant you needed to be married.
“God spoke to me about starting a new church and I said, ‘Oh, great, that means my husband’s going to come along any minute now’, and He said, ‘No, I want you to do it as a single woman’.
“And I was like, ‘That can’t be, you can’t ask me to do that, I need a man! I can’t do it without him’.
“Even a text book at the college where I lectured said to start a new church you have to have a husband—it was directed at ‘the pastor and his wife’. But God didn’t seem to have read the text book!”
You Don’t Need Marriage To Fulfil Your Potential
Now a speaker and blogger at God Conversations, Tania said the experience taught her that she didn’t need the status of ‘married’ to fulfil her potential as a person,
“When I was pioneering my church God brought people into my life, amazing people who supported me through that process, and I learnt that I actually didn’t need a husband. I still would like one, it’s still a desire that I have, but I actually don’t need that to fulfil my destiny,” she said. “I learnt that God had called and gifted me in who I was.
“I think it’s a real challenge in life today for people, because we want to be partnered up. Nearly everyone wants to have someone who loves them. But actually, you don’t need to wait for that in order to have a fabulous life and fulfil God’s best for your life.”
Friendships Will Help You Live Your Singleness Well
The key to flourish as a single is great friendships, says Tania.
“Just because you’re not married, doesn’t mean you don’t need to invest time in healthy friendships and relationships,” she said. “I think that’s been a real key for me. God has provided good friends. If you’re a part of a church, often there’s marriage seminars, relationship seminars, and they talk to you about how to negotiate that, but the truth is, everyone needs healthy relationships.”
She believes single people shouldn’t put their lives on hold ‘waiting for a partner’.
“We may be looking for someone [to marry], but at the same time we need to be very much grounded in some great friendships that are healthy, where we can actually be growing as a person, and getting those needs met in a healthy way.”
Echoes of our Marriage-Centric Past
While today’s society offers a lot more equality for women than in generations gone by, Tania believes many women, especially in Christian circles, still struggle to shake off our historical reliance on marriage.
“This has been built into our society for years,” she said. “In English common law there was a law called ‘coverture’, where as a woman you couldn’t own property, or earn money for yourself, or work, unless you had a husband – unless you had that covering over you. And he would be the one that would enable you to have those things.
“So we come from a history that’s dictated that we have needed a man, to live a full life as a woman. Those laws are no longer in existence, but God’s heart was always that men and women would live in the fullness of all that God has together, and that one person doesn’t have prominence over the other.
“It’s something I think we all need to embrace: Single, married, whatever position we’re in.”
Tania believes married people need to hear about the perspective and experience of single people too, saying, “I think it’s really good for us to understand other peoples’ positions so that as a community together we can help one another.”
Hear Tania Speak
Tania will speak on ‘What Singleness Teaches Us About Gender Equality’ – on Saturday, November 5, 10am, at Stanmore House, Stanmore. The event is being hosted by Christians for Biblical Equality, Sydney, and both singles and couples are welcome.
For more info on Tania’s speaking engagements see her latest itinerary.