Woman: It made me feel like I wasn’t so marginalized. It made me feel like I had a place to belong. It – it capitalized on this concept of community. And like that was really cool for me! I was like (singing), “I’m not by myself, I have single friends, na-na-nah!”
End of Teaser
John Fuller: Well that reflects the enthusiasm that many young single adults have about a special outreach here at Focus on the Family that we’ve been hosting for 20 years.
Jim Daly: I think we should break into song there.
John: (Singing) Na, na, na!
Jim: (Singing) Na, na, na!
John: Well, I’m not single anymore. I can’t do this.
Jim: There you go, okay.
John: So I’ve lost that jive.
Jim: You have a different, uh, music.
John: I’m, uh, a little more subdued now, yeah. Boundless is our fantastic outreach to singles. And today, we’re going to hear more about it: the online community, the podcast, the radio broadcast, and how, for 20 years now, we’ve been encouraging and equipping 20 and 30-something singles in their relationships and their journeys with God. This is Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.
Jim: You know, John, I really do believe in this coming generation, the young adults or millennials, as they’re called, that post-college group of people who are just starting out in life. They are full of passion, full of potential, and ready to take on the world. And it’s fun to be around them. I’ve been to some of those gathering places, whether it was the Q conferences or Louie Giglio’s conference. And there’s a lot of energy. And it’s fun. And these are very committed believers. That’s what I love about that energy that we’re talking about. And it can also be a challenging stage of life. All your big decisions are going to happen, typically, in your 20s. You know, what are you going to do vocationally? Who’s gonna be that potential person that you might marry? Or will God call you to a little longer singleness? Or you know, you just don’t know. There are some big decisions in that decade.
Here at Focus on the Family, we want to cover it all. And today, we’re going to highlight one of our wonderful areas of ministry – Boundless. It’s a podcast. It’s a radio program. It’s a website. We’ve been doing the website, I think, for 20 years and the podcast for the last 10 years. There are something like 2 million people a year being served through Boundless, our single adult ministry. And our wonderful leader Lisa Anderson is going to be at the table with us today.
John: Yeah. She heads up Boundless, as you said. She’s an author. She’s a speaker. And she is a delight to have walking these halls.
Jim: (Singing) Na, na, na, na!
John: Yes. She brings that kind of energy to Focus and to the studio. And I’m really glad we have her here.
Jim: Hey, Lisa, welcome back to Focus.
Lisa Anderson: Great to be here, guys.
Jim: How’s Boundless going?
Lisa: Going very well. We’re excited. We are obviously celebrating our 20th anniversary, so that is quite a milestone. I haven’t been around here all 20, though. I, you know…
Jim: That’s true. We need to say that. There has been other leadership.
Lisa: There has. And I inherited great, great stuff with Boundless. And Boundless actually impacted me personally, which is why I am so passionate about what Boundless does. It is a space for single young adults that is not seen a lot elsewhere.
Jim: How long have you been heading it up?
Lisa: So just about eight years now.
Jim: Yeah. So, I mean, you’ve come a long way…
Lisa: I know.
Jim: …And you’ve been doing it. Hey, you’ve got this book that’s not about the title, so I want to ask you about that…
…The Dating Manifesto. She told us, “It’s not just about dating.” Okay. Explain it.
Lisa: It’s not. I say it starts out kind of for the – it’s more the kick in the pants on the front end of it. And it really does just outline you know, I say it’s everything I wish I’d been told in my 20s about navigating dating and singleness but just wasn’t. I heard crickets from the church, crickets from my friends. So the front end of it is more, like, “Come on guys, let’s figure out what this dating thing is and how do we do it biblically and intentionally.” The second half of the book is my arm around your shoulder saying, “Okay, so you’re still single. You have, I’m sure, tried everything.” These are all my friends. You know, “Lisa, I have done everything and I’m still single.” So it’s kind of like, how do you navigate the grief of singleness? What is awesome about singleness? And then just for good measure, the afterword is for married people, parents of young adults, pastors, church leaders, other people, just how do I understand the single adults in my life? How can I bless them? How can I encourage them? So there’s something for everyone.
Jim: Yeah. Well, let’s start here. Help us understand kind of the diverse group of single adults that you interact with on Boundless. And what’s the tempo? What’s the atmosphere like? If I look back at the church, you look at the Reformation. I mean, okay, this sounds real deep and theological…
John: That’s long ago, yeah.
Jim: …But Martin Luther really turned it from singleness being the highest calling in the church to being married is a good thing, too. And you know, we’ve tended to Ping-Pong between these two states of being in this life – married or not married. What’s the spiritual application with all this?
Lisa: Yeah. I think it’s a both-and. I mean, I think it is – obviously, marriage is the biblical default. And statistically, most people will get married at some point in their lifetime, which is super great, and obviously we support that. And so many of our audience is hopeful for marriage, and we want to get them there.
Jim: Although it’s happening later for people today.
Lisa: It is, yeah. And for many, I mean, some okay reasons, some not so great reasons for why a lot of young adults are delaying marriage. But, um, but we’re trying to say, you know what? We don’t know where you’re going to be tomorrow or what your season is going to be next year, in five years, but right now, God has you single. And what are you doing to maximize that season? And it is a great season. And there’s a lot that God wants you to accomplish in it. And so we have adults in our audience who are fresh out of college or in college, and they’re hopeful and they’re just – they’re not even thinking about relationships because they are just dealing with student loan debts and trying to figure out their lives.
And then we have folks who are further along the road and are like, “Hey, wait a minute, why am I not married yet? I thought I would be at this point.” And we have folks who are, you know, grew up on Focus on the Family and Adventures in Odyssey…
Lisa: …And just came into Boundless seamlessly. And we love them. And we have some in our audience who don’t even know Jesus yet, and they just want some great dating advice. And so we’re praying for them and wishing them well and rooting for them as they kind of navigate the faith questions of life.
Jim: Lisa, there’s so much tension in this area, especially in your 20s, and certainly, as time goes by, there’s more tension, internally, I mean, with that person who’s desperately wanting to meet somebody. I can remember counseling somebody years ago. We had played racquetball. We’re sitting out on the curb having, you know, a bottle of water or something. And I was already married to Jean at that point. And this person said, “No I, you know, I’ve given it over to the Lord. I’m single. But I’ve really laid it at the foot of the cross. And I’m good with single. But man, I really do want to meet a girl.” I remember saying to this guy, “It doesn’t sound like you’re really giving it over, if I could be blunt and honest with you.” Talk about that tension. And what does it mean to really be comfortable in your singleness and not striving?
Lisa: Well, I always tell single adults, I say, “You know, it’s easier” – and I heard this elsewhere – “It’s easier for God to steer a moving object.” And so what – what does it look like? You know, if we just sat around and waited for God to deliver everything on a silver platter, I think we would be frustrated because there are many things in my life, and you don’t have to be single to have things that you want that you haven’t gotten. That is just the – the experience that we have as humans in a fallen world. But I always say, you know, what does it look like to trust God with your singleness and with the stage that you’re in and with a future hope of marriage, but to also be proactive in the process?
You know, Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and finds favor with the Lord,” not “He who’s sitting around twiddling his thumbs, you know, hanging out with his buddies and then hoping that he’s going to lock eyes across a Starbucks with someone.” And I feel like that’s kind of where I was. I was very assumptive. I was doing a lot in my career. And then all of a sudden, you know, I just realized, “Oh, my goodness, maybe I should actually make marriage more than just a plan C. And maybe I should be prayerful about it, be intentional about it. Have open hands about would God have anyone for me?” And so I think that we can – we can trust God with the process and know that He’s ultimately sovereign and He’s got our backs and He has our story. But we can be about His business and about the pursuit of marriage just as we would a career or finding housing or whatever. Why are we so passive about other pursuits?
Jim: You know, I hadn’t thought about it in this way, but our culture is one of despair. We despair over everything. You know, I don’t have this. I don’t have that. I don’t have a husband. I don’t have a wife. For that single person that’s desperate in that regard. How do we get beyond that spiritually and say, “Okay, Lord, we know that you don’t want us to live in despair, that’s not the Christian, fruitful life.” How do you get on top of that emotionally, though, and say, “Okay, I’m gonna do the things that matter, I’m gonna live a life that accounts for something, and I’m not gonna be in despair over this area of my life?”
Lisa: Yeah. I had a season a little while ago where in the span of just over a year, I had 14 friends get married. And it was – I was in some of those weddings. I went to most of them. And I remember thinking like, “Oh, my goodness, I am going to celebrate another friend who has a story that I want, and why is it not my time, and whatever…”
Jim: I thought you were going to say, “Wow, I’m spending a lot of money on wedding presents.”
Lisa: Um, that is an entirely different show. We will do that at some point. It was nuts.
John: The economic impact of being single.
Lisa: Exactly. I feel like I should just throw myself a shower at some point and get payback.
Jim: Right. Get some of it back.
Lisa: Exactly. But it was so crazy because I remember God speaking to me during that season and saying, “Lisa, I am not limited,” you know. He was not, by giving my friends husbands, denying me one. He’s not, like, sitting up there going, “Oh, my goodness, I could find someone for everyone but Lisa. She’s my tough case. She’s just, you know, too much – too much for me.” Not true at all. And my – my realization in that is God knows exactly where my story is. Sure, the culture may tell me that I need to be married at X, Y, Z age, and it needs to happen in this way, and I need to, again, you know, it has to be some mystical experience or Hollywood ending. But God knows exactly what my story will be. And to rest in that, I can be okay with it, with what He has decided while still being, you know, like, hey, my friends, I’m open to them setting me up. I’m open to going out on dates. I have done online dating, shocker.
Um, so I think it’s just kind of wrestling with that tension of realizing that in the larger scheme of things, you know, God is crafting a story for us that really is only – what? 76.5 years now is the average lifespan. And then we have eternity after that. And I have to be okay with what is the best thing that He’s doing in my life right now that is going to grow me closer to Him? And it may be moving me toward marriage. It may be wrestling with singleness. It may be rocking out singleness. I just have to be okay with it – the here and now.
Jim: Right. You’re – you’re kind of touching on another area I wanted to get into. That’s that loneliness factor. The idea that, you know, it is lonely. You know, last night, Jean and I were able to take a hike and spend time together. It was fun. Single folks struggle finding a person to share life with. It’s just part of it. Describe that feeling. And in fact, I think you have a Facebook post from a young woman that really illustrates this well. Can you read it?
Lisa: Yeah. So we – we got this on our page back just after Memorial Day at the start of summer, and we were talking about just some of the hardships of being single. And she said, “A few tears may have been shed as I sat home alone cooking my own hot dog on Memorial Day wondering why I was yet again forgotten by everyone who was having parties and gatherings and then beating myself up for not being more vocal about wanting to be invited.”
And just the – the challenge that she had with feeling like, “Yeah, who was out there? You know, who could have invited me? Why am I sitting here alone?” But then also realizing her responsibility in it. Of so many single adults, we’re – we feel a lot of shame around singleness of like, “Oh, I should have more connections, or I shouldn’t be so desperate or so needy.” But that’s the whole role of the body of Christ. You know, I know a lot of people who are lonely in marriage. So I don’t think it’s unique to singleness, to “Oh, you’re single, so you have to be lonely.”
And I love, um, when God just kind of revealed to me, you know, I am called to singleness right now, but I’m not called to being alone. So you know, it doesn’t matter what your relationship status is. You are – we’re all called to relationship. And what does that look like? And for me it’s, right now, cultivating great friendships and mentorships and people in the church and establishing and growing the relationships even with my family. And I have to be proactive in that. And I have to be an initiator in that and not just wait around for people to serve me.
Jim: Well, for practical advice, what – you know, to the married couples and churches, what would you say to them about keeping an eye out for those single folks and what – how to handle that in a very healthy way?
Lisa: Yeah. You know, just…
Jim: Because everybody’s feeling awkward, to be honest. You know, you invite a single person over to your house for dinner as a married couple…
John: We all know who the single person is, right?
Jim: Right. Well, but – plus, it’s like, you know, it’s just a little odd to have that conversation because usually in a married couple setting, you talk about your differences, the things you like and dislike together as a couple, how he or she irritates me or what makes us tick well as a couple together. When a couple is with a single person, it’s almost like the lost art of when I was single, what was that like?
Lisa: Yeah. Well, and just a couple of months ago in June for Focus on the Family magazine, I wrote an article where I address this very thing. And it was for married adults to say, you know, there are so many that I talk to who are like, “I really want to incorporate and love and encourage the single people in my life, but I don’t know how to do it without being awkward or being patronizing or being weird,” you know or whatever. So…
Jim: So you found anybody yet?
Jim: It’s a famous question.
Lisa: So I gave some – some good tips there. But one thing that really resonated with so many people in what I said in the article was I made this statement and I made this in my book as well and reiterated it here, but this idea that the practicality and the reality of the situation is I’m functionally no one’s most important person. So in life – I have my siblings in my life, and they’ve enveloped me in their families, and they love me and I have great friends. But I have – when life happens and when I – you know, I use the example in my book about when my fence broke at my house, I didn’t have a husband to be like, “What are we going to do about this fence?” It was my responsibility and mine alone to fix this fence. And I had to call fence people. And I didn’t even know who fixes fences. I’m like, “Do you go to Lowe’s and walk down the fence aisle?” I don’t know…
Jim: Are there people? I should’ve called them. I had to fix my own fence.
Lisa: …So I had to do the little shout-out of like, “Who knows about fence repair and -” you know, whatever. And that’s just a fact of life. And it can be a hard thing. And it can be a lonely place. But the opportunity for marrieds in the church is so huge because what does it look like? You know, a lot of marrieds will say, “Okay, Thanksgiving’s coming around. I’m sure there’s some single people and let’s invite them.” Awesome. Super awesome. But also, just incorporate them and invite them into your lives throughout the year.
So marrieds, to just, you know, your family gatherings, your birthday parties, your celebrations, have that single person as the honorary aunt or uncle to – to your kids. Um, have them over for a game night. Have them over for a lunch after church. You know, we – we often see marrieds, especially young families, bless their hearts, you know, they’re just trying to load up the minivan after church and get those kids home and down for a nap because they are done. You know, but they can bring their single friends over, let their single friends help get the kids down and help do lunch and then they can sit around and chat. And it’s just doing life and not doing something spectacular or something amazing. We’re not asking you to entertain us. We’re asking you to include us and ask us to contribute as well.
John: Yeah. I appreciate that. And I’m watching, Jim, one of my daughters plug into a group of mostly married couples. She doesn’t have a lot of single friends…
Jim: That’s great.
John: …She has a lot of married couples. And they’re kind of doing life together. It’s fun to see them doing that. This is Focus on the Family with Jim Daly and our guest is Lisa Anderson. We’re talking about singleness and the Boundless outreach here at Focus on the Family. And if you’d like to follow up, we’ll link over to some of the Boundless resources and Lisa’s excellent book, which has advice for married couples as well, The Dating Manifesto. Stop by focusonthefamily.com/radio, or call 1-800-the letter A and the word FAMILY.
All right. So we said Boundless has been here for 20 years reaching out to singles. Lisa, I’m sure there’s a compendium somewhere of some of the top comments and some of the real heart tugging responses you’ve gotten from Boundless listeners and readers. Give us some examples?
Lisa: When people get engaged and oftentimes helped by Boundless in kind of pursuing that dating journey and heading towards marriage and even understanding the purpose of marriage, we write up a story on them, or we actually have them write their story and send in a photo and – and tell us how Boundless was instrumental in being part of that.
And so I remember hearing from Wendy, one of our – one of the members of our audience, and she said, “I’m so thankful to Boundless for encouraging my heart and helping me feel connected during my long season of singleness. I found Boundless when I was desperate for someone who could relate and understand my life. I would eagerly check the latest podcast each Thursday. And during the week, I would listen to previous episodes. The podcasts were like healing balm to my heart and gave me so much hope. This past year, I began dating the love of my life one month before my 37th birthday. We’re getting married just after my 38th birthday. He more than meets the only two requirements I ever had, that he’s hot and he’s godly.”
So I’m not sure – maybe I can’t speak to the priorities that we give at Boundless for a spouse but, you know, whatever.
Jim: At least godly got in there. So that’s important. One of the most profound podcasts you’ve recorded, according to you, I believe, was with an 83-year-old woman talking to singles. What did she say that really gripped you? Was it Fayrene I think her name was?
Lisa: Yep. I cannot even remember how we found her. But I am so glad we did because she was a hoot. She got married for the first time at 77. And five months into her marriage, her husband died.
Jim: You know, in fact, we have the clip from the podcast. So let’s all hear Fayrene.
Fayrene: All those years ago, I thought God had said no when I wanted to marry. But He had only said wait. And – and I waited all those years. And I – I wanted to say to God, and I did say to Him, “You know what, I was doing fine on my own. I figured out how to be alone and to be happy and contented. I was doing all right. Why did You interfere in my life? Why didn’t You just leave me alone, you know?” But I, you know, I’ve walked with – Lisa, I don’t know how to explain it, but I’ve walked with God for 75 years, 76 years. And I – and I know God. And knowing God, whether I like what He did or not, I have to trust Him.
Jim: Boy, you really hear the reconciliation in a very short time. You can hear that angst and then you hear her trust. That’s amazing.
Lisa: Yeah. And that’s why she’s such an encouragement to, you know, being that many steps ahead of most of our audience, to be able to look back and say, “Yeah, so much of my story has been lived and God has been good, even though it’s been hard.”
Jim: Well, and it’s balancing that desperation in your heart with being content in Christ, which Paul suggests strongly that we be.
Lisa: And I think God has just showed me much more, Jim, how there are just super, super great things about being single. I think the message that I crafted for myself and even heard some within the church was that singleness was this waiting room for marriage. And you just kinda like, tried to get spiritual enough and get mature enough so that you would be rewarded with marriage, and it was only for the awesome or the super godly or whatever. And now I’m like, you know what? There’re messed up people that get married every day. And there are messed up single people. And we’re all sinners walking this road of life and trusting Jesus in our circumstances. And I think that’s just a great, great place to be.
Jim: Well, and like Fayrene, as she described, going further and further down that path with Christ, knowing Him more deeply and more deeply, that’s where you get to that point where you can be contented in your singleness, in your married life, et cetera.
Jim: I mean, that is what this life is all about. Lisa, we want to continue the discussion. In a few minutes, we’re gonna keep going online. People can join us. And I’d love for you to do that. We’re gonna continue to talk about how singles feel they’ve made, maybe, mistakes that they can’t heal or can’t get over and that might be the reason they’re not finding a spouse, maybe promiscuity or divorce, previous divorce, other addictions. It’s prevalent in the culture today. So I want to talk to you about that and how that feeling of being disqualified can be overcome in Christ. And I know a lot of people live in that guilt-ridden place. So let’s continue about that.
I’d like to end today with words of advice that you have for single adults, kind of bundling that all together, Lisa, the emotions of 2 million people that have expressed different things to you. What would you say is the last word to be mindful of being single? What’s in front of you? I’d like, also, to talk about that idea of marrying earlier rather than later for some people, that you don’t have to wait until you have your finances in place, you bought your house. That’s good advice for young people as well. And I think it helps maybe eliminate or at least diminish those urges that can get you into trouble in the single life.
Lisa: Yeah. I mean, I know my parents married in their early 20s. And when they got married, they lived in the boiler room of a building in downtown Chicago. They were going to seminary. And some farmer in Wisconsin who was associated with the school had donated eggs to them. And my mom said they ate eggs for probably a month straight.
Jim: Oh, man!
Lisa: And sat on orange crates that had been, you know, salvaged out of some alley downtown. And mom said, “That’s just what you did.” You didn’t – I think now there’s this expectation with young adults that “I’m going to start out with the standard of living that I grew up with with my boomer parents, you know. And I’m gonna have all the Ethan Allen furniture. And I’m going to have this awesome car. And I’m going to buy a Georgian, you know, on some quiet – quiet street.” And it’s just not true.
And so if marriage is for you, now is the time to start preparing for it and to start pursuing it. And it is a good thing. The Bible begins with marriage. It ends with marriage. God is a big fan of marriage. And over 80 percent of folks will be married at least once in their lifetime. And so that is great. And marrying young is not a horrible thing. Marrying mature, you know, relatively mature is a good thing and pursuing all those things even now while you’re single is great. And Boundless helps you do that.
But – so that’s the first thing. But for folks who are kind of in that spot where they’re like, you know, “Oh, my goodness, well, I don’t know because I’m mad at God and whatever,” the first thing that singles can do is talk to God about it. I love the Psalms where God says pour out your complaint. God is able to handle it. And He’s actually able to do something about it, folks. I mean, this is, like, do not pour out your complaint to the guy that you want to be dating. That is not gonna go well for you. That is going to be unfortunate.
Jim: Save that for marriage.
Lisa: And you will be on the crazy, scary creeper list. Yeah. Do not do that. But talk to God about it. Do not dwell in bitterness. Do not let yourself live there. Do not be caught in the spiral of “God has not given me, God is not good to me.” That is a bad place to be. We can all count our blessings wherever we are.
I would also say you need community. We talked about that, this idea that we are not – none of us are meant to be alone. And singleness does not mean that you are alone. So plug into your church. Find people that you can pour into and that can pour into you on both sides of that spectrum. That is so important. You can experience deep healing, joy-giving friendships, but you have to cultivate them.
And then finally, don’t wait for life to begin. Get involved now, whether that’s in your church, whether that’s in the life of your family, whether that’s, you know, making friends, serving others. We have unique opportunities as single adults to do that in ways that a lot of marrieds, especially those with – with young kids can’t do in a specific season, and so find ways. You know, you are – single does not mean you are at the kids table. You are not a kid. You are a functioning adult who has skills, talents, gifts to give. So get in and use them and speak up.
Jim: And we’re kind of ending where we started, where you said it’s easier for God to steer something moving. And enjoy life, embrace it, and move and the Lord will work in your circumstances to guide and direct you. I like that piece of advice.
Lisa, this has been wonderful. Thank you so much for your vulnerability and where you have been in your singleness and how you embrace it and encourage others to pursue their passions and to trust the Lord in every way. You do that so well.
And I want to offer a challenge to our listeners. Prayerfully consider how you can better engage with single adults in your church and community. This has urged me to move in that direction as well. You know, Jean and I are pretty busy. But what a great thing to do for our boys, too, to have older single folks come over to the house and just engage all of us as a family. I can imagine some of those conversations around the dinner table will be quite fun and revealing. As we have heard today, it doesn’t have to be a big deal. It can be as simple as that meal or, you know, mending the fence for someone like Lisa. I wish you would’ve called me. I could have given you some advice and maybe a little elbow.
Lisa: I know. Next time.
Jim: Okay. The key is get involved. And one way you can do that is by certainly supporting the outreach here at Focus on the Family – Boundless as well. As you support Focus, that helps cover the expense for Boundless in reaching those 2 million singles. That’s a big number, by the way. And these are the future leaders of the church. And we want to be there to support them in their journey.
If you can send a financial gift to Focus today, I want to send you a copy of Lisa’s book called The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan For Pursuing Marriage With Purpose as our way of saying thank you for investing in the ministry of Focus and Boundless and everything that we’re doing. The book has great advice for singles, as well as for us married folks. So it’s good that you encourage us to read that as well, Lisa. Contact us today to get a copy and make a donation to Focus on the Family.
John: You can do that by calling 1-800, the letter A and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Lisa, as I said a moment ago, let’s continue the discussion online and hit some of those other issues. And if you, the listener, can come to focusonthefamily.com/radio, you can connect in to that further discussion that we’re having with Lisa.
Lisa, it has been great having you with us.
Lisa: Always great being here. Thanks, Jim.
John: And we certainly enjoy having Lisa here in the studio whenever we can, and hope you enjoyed the conversation and found it insightful and encouraging.
Well, coming up next time on this broadcast, Jim Daly hosts a panel of guests about something simple, yet vital to a happier relationship with your spouse.
Jim: Sharing household chores is the third highest ranked key to a successful marriage. That’s unbelievable. You would think communication – that’s probably one or two – but when it comes down to chores, really? The third highest ranked item in a marriage is “Help me?”