Mormon ward is meant to attract, match singles
November 13, 2012
By Sarah Gerdes
Being single on a Sunday is hard — just ask anyone of the 60 or so singles that will soon be traveling from around the Eastside area to join the Tiger Mountain Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“We were hearing the same thing from all parts of the country,” explained Robert Johnson, president of the Bellevue South Stake. “It’s hard to concentrate on the message when there you are, single, alone and feeling completely at odds with the families on either side.”
Over the past 30 years, the LDS church has sought different ways to address the growing number of individuals who are divorced, as well as the rising number of individuals that simply choose not to marry. In the early 1980s, congregations were established for “young singles,” 21- to 31-year-olds on the Eastside and in Seattle, and have been operating ever since.
“This was a natural evolution around colleges,” Johnson said.
Outside church, the activities of these congregations focused on social events, designed for the dating group of graduates and professionals.
However, there were few options for singles over age 30. With the average age of those marrying increasing, a new category of singles emerged, the “mid-singles,” those from 31-45. Today, this is the fastest growing category of the LDS church. Johnson and other leaders of the church recognized that the current structure didn’t take into consideration the unique requirements of this group.
“We had to evolve our thinking to align with the changing demographics of our membership.”
Thus, the invitation for mid-singles to be invited to and be made part of the Tiger Mountain Ward.
A new structure
According to a recent study, the average American spends the majority of his or her life unmarried. A 2006 Gallup poll reported that nearly 70 percent of divorced or widowed Americans plan to remain unmarried and that nearly 40 percent of singles who have never been married lack the desire to get married at all.
“That’s a lot of people who want nothing more than friendship,” Johnson observed.
The Issaquah congregation was specifically selected because its make-up is predominantly middle-aged empty-nesters, according to Johnson. Unlike sister congregations comprised of 80-100 families and hundreds of members, the Tiger Mountain Ward is half that.
“It’s like being surrounded by a lot of parents and grandparents,” Johnson said.
This makes for an inviting and safe atmosphere where all are needed, wanted and included.
To make the transition official, “member records,” will be transferred in from as far away as North Bellevue and Renton, Mercer Island to North Bend, drawing people from seven surrounding cities.
Tiger Mountain Ward Bishop Scott Gordon is excited about the change that was officially announced Oct. 14.
“As much as they need us, we need them,” Gordon said pointedly. “A big emphasis of the church is to take care of each other as Jesus would do. In the past, we have done this geographically. With this change, we can expand our service to a much larger demographic.”
Gordon said nonmembers are invited to Sunday services that begin at 9 a.m. or any activity, including weekly family home evenings and monthly events.
“The ward is excited about the energy and diversity this new group will bring to our congregation, and for us to get outside of ourselves and serve,” he said.