Thursday, August 25, 2011

Who gets the pew in church after a break-up?!?

I'll never forget an excited phone call I received from a good friend several years ago. She had given her life over to Christ and convinced her boyfriend at the time to do the same. Several months later, they were engaged. She was excited and so was her new church family. They became the "it" couple. They joined the same ministries, attended the same church functions together and even sat in the same pew together Sunday after Sunday.

However, before the relationship evolved into marriage, the two split up and it was not amicable. Now, my friend, who had now built her life, both social and spiritual in their church, was devastated, almost embarrassed. Her life had become the church and so had her former fiance's. Determined to not let the incident deter her from her Christian life, she continued to attend the church. And so did he. Which ultimately became a HUGE problem. Not just for the former couple, but for the friends, associates and family members as well. Were her friends STILL his friends and was the opposite true? Were they still serving jointly in their respective ministries and more importantly, who gets the pew?!?

When deciding who gets what and goes where in a break-up that involves where you worship there are 3 things I advise prior:

1) Have a church/synagogue/temple/mosque home no matter where you live that you can call your own.

2) I advise you not to date within your religious place of worship. This is my opinion. I know everyone knows of couples who met and married in church, but based upon my experience and the many experiences of others, I am convinced these person are exceptions rather than the rule. There far too many churches and singles ministries for you to have to date within your own.

3) Keep your dating life and spiritual life separate in terms of where and who you worship with. I personally consider bringing someone to my church like bringing someone to meet my family or my parents. I'm not saying I wouldn't worship with the person I'm dating I would, will and do. I'm saying I wouldn't bring them "home" to my church until I felt we were solid and felt confident they would continue to be around.


Now let's say you do meet someone in church, meet someone and start attending church together or bring someone into your home church and unfortunately, it doesn't work out. Asking about "Who gets the pew?" may seem like a silly, comical question unless you have or are currently going through it. Regardless, it is a very valid conversation that needs to take place, especially if you are a spiritual person. Here are the 3 most important questions that will decide who gets what and where when it comes to the place of worship:

1) Is the place of worship the church of home or either or both of the partners?

 If you both got "saved" or re-introduced to your faith and became members of the same place of worship, although it's difficult, both of you have every right to stay there. However, be sensitive to each other following the break-up and make sure to give each other the space one would need to heal and move forward in the future.

If one part of the couple is simply attending the other's home church and has not become a member, it may not be comfortable to continue attending the church immediately following the break-up. I'm not saying your banned. If you enjoyed the services, I definitely encourage you to continue attending, but give your ex some time to get over the loss of your relationship and consider his/her feelings in the matter.

2)Is your social/spiritual/business networks tied to the place of worship?

Church, especially in the minority community, is the epicenter of our social life. If you grew up in the South like me, you know that it is especially true. Not going to church cut yo off socially and somewhat economically. Church goers support church goers businesses. The congregation is also a rich resource of social and business networking and therefore cutting through every fabric of our lives. Once established at a particular church, curtailing membership can be much like cutting off an arm. And let's be real: socially, church circles are hard to penetrate and be a part of. Once you're blessed to be let into the church "inner circles" it is a prized possession that one must not take lightly.

If it is so in your case with the church you attended with your ex, you must tread lightly and carefully as to not disturb your relationships there. Believe me, many churches have sen "super couples" and not so super couples come and go, so you will find understanding and empathy to move forward and continue to worship.

3)Both of you are card-carrying members of the church and continue to attend and be involved in church. Who gets the pew?

Whew! The tough question to answer! But here go: Life takes us on all kinds of twists and turns and believe me, 0% of us are EXACTLY where and with (or without) whom we'd thought we'd be. Here's the deal with changes: you've gotta roll with them or they will roll right over you. Same with the pew. What it meant to sit in a particular place with your significant other versus what it would mean to sit in that one particular spot now are 2 different things. The pew becomes....just a pew. You can receive the Lord anywhere in the sanctuary and that is why you're there,right? So no one gets the pew! It belongs to everyone who worships there anyway.

Now, let me be clear, DO NOT start showing out in the sanctuary by staking your "claim" to a certain pew, service or annual church event. It always starts of innocently enough, you show up with your support group and your significant shows up with theirs and then there's the square-off. As difficult as it may be to do so, go out of your way to be gracious and then make whatever new pew, service or annual event you go to the hot place to be.

Now that your single, make sure you check out secular and non-secular singles events when you're ready, but don't let a broken heart or relationship keep you from worship wherever and however you choose to do it. Remember, faith led you thus far. And I'm OUT....but.....

Have you ever considered leaving your place of worship after a break-up? How did you handle it?