A Singles Ministry Finds
a Rainbow in Bookstore's Book Club
by Patricia Mitchell
A book club? It's not normally the first idea that comes to mind for
Singles Ministry format. Yet, there is a place where "singles
of all denominations may come share what they have in common," stated
Reverend Gregory F. Clark, Sr., the facilitator for a Singles Ministry
Book Club held every Thursday evening at 7:30pm at Rainbow Family Bookstore
in Maple Hts., Ohio. There is no fee or prerequisite to join. The book
club members select a book and then read a chapter prior to the weekly
group meetings as preparation for the group discussion. Complimentary coffee
and tea are served. Some of the book titles read by the group includes,
"Single, Married, Separated and Life after Divorce" by Myles
Munroe and "Can Men and Women Be Just Friends?" by Andy Bustanoby.
Currently, the members are reading, "Too Close Too Soon" by Jim
Talley and Bobbie Reed. All of the selected titles are written by Christian
authors. Rachelle Ware is the Christian Education Department Manager at
Rainbow Bookstore and oversees the Singles Ministry. Discussing the development
of the book club, Rachelle shared that two years ago there was a shift
within the singles ministry at Rainbow to do something more than banquets.
"I met and asked Rev. Clark to come and do a workshop as a Singles
Ministry lecturer. Then a year later, after talking to the owner, David
Wilson, we expanded into an outreach for singles, which grew into a book
club." Before she became involved in the singles ministry five years
ago, Rachelle expressed, "I took it for granted that every church
was ministering to the singles, but I discovered the church does not talk
about it often." She rejoices that "God is not hindered by time
and space. The book club helps stand in the gap to help encourage the singles."
She clarifies, "It is not a dating ministry, but Rainbow has become
a refuge for singles who may not be ministered to in their local church."
The book club is a diverse racially mixed group of women and men, at various
age ranges and maturity levels in Christ. "We started with 3-4 people
a week. People started telling their friends, who invited other friends
and now we have a core group of 40-50 people a week," smiled Rev.
Clark. He attributes the growth to the unusual format. "There are
people from different walks of life and backgrounds. Some people are never
married, single again, single suddenly or single with children. The book
club fosters an atmosphere of growth and as a result the singles are responding,"
he said. Gail E. Wright, a regular participant, expressed that one benefit
of the book club is the atmosphere. "I really enjoy the exchange.
I think that singles don't express the way they really feel inside. We
are told to have a stiff-upper lip basically and to go on with our lives."
But Gail points out, "There are issues that are very particular to
singles. A lot of issues we discuss are eye openers. It has helped me to
take a hard look at who I am and it makes you really probe why you think
what you think. There is a need to share openly in a mixed singles environment
and surprisingly people are really willing to share." Another member
of the book club, Ron Jackson agrees, "I look forward to the fellowship
with other singles and hearing their viewpoint in a very relaxed atmosphere."
Ron explains, "Being single again, I want to try and understand why
what happened in the past didn't work and I want avoid repeating mistakes.
It is an opportunity to hear other people's viewpoint on different subject
matters as the Lord opens up my understanding in relationship building
with someone of the opposite sex." With over 20 years of counseling
experience, as a facilitator, Rev. Clark understands. He is the founder
and Senior Pastor of 'On One Accord' in Streetsboro, Ohio. He is a noted
conference speaker in the areas of the Bible, youth, singles, terminal
illness, grief, administration, prison, personal development and team building.
Rachelle observed that Rev. Clark's presentation is poignant. "He
is very transparent with the class. He shares his testimony. He doesn't
mind being painfully honest because it is the truth that makes you free."
"The book is a tool and a point of reference to read and share viewpoints,"
Reverend Clark explains. As the facilitator, I train my ears and heart
to hear their pain, suffering and frustration. My role is to make them
feel safe and reassure them that they are not a cast out. The singles are
allowed to be vulnerable, take risk in sharing their thoughts and feeling
in an environment where they are not threatened." With compassion,
Rev. Clark's hope is to reassure singles "not to get in a hurry. God
knows what is going on." Seeing loneliness as a primary issue facing
today's Christian singles, Rev. Clark encourages singles to relax and feel
good about who they are because they are a child of God. "I want them
to go back to their first love in Christ and rediscover that love, joy,
excitement and enthusiasm about serving the Lord." Gail acknowledges,
"Rev. Clark is an excellent facilitator and group leader. His heart
for singles comes through." Rev. Clark concludes, "I am astonished
to see the people come because they can choose to go anywhere else, yet
they choose to come and keep coming back to the Book Club." New members
are always welcome.