One of the most commonly quoted passages on singles and singleness is in 1 Corinthians 7:7-8, written by the Apostle Paul:
“Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I.”
We all to often gloss over the fact that singleness itself is a high calling that everyone is called to (at least for a portion of our lives). AND marriage isn’t a higher calling than singleness.
A Gap to Bridge
It seems that even though there are some churches that are working to bridge the gap, all too often singles are overlooked in the midst of the large number of married couples and families attending the church.
Most of the leadership positions in the church are filled by married people. Even small groups often segregate according to age categories: young adults, older singles, young marrieds, empty nesters, etc.
Think about your own church.
However, spending time with only people just like us does not benefit the body of Christ. We won’t grow or learn from each other. “There is always the need for someone to teach someone else for the purpose of building up the body and honoring God.”
Think about the messages coming from the pulpit of your church.
Do you hear many sermons that provide tangible applications for those married and parenting, but only tack on an afterthought for those not in either category? Maybe the sermons in your church do apply to a more general audience. But let’s move on from the sermons.
Let’s think about how single adults should fit it to the body of Christ.
Are there not older single men and women who, with their life experiences alone, are a great asset and would be great to have as a mentor, or filling a leadership position? Since pastors and other elected leaders tend to be married – how can they fully understand or empathize with what’s going on in a single’s life?
Many singles are left to wonder:
- What can I contribute to the church body?
- Am I really as important to the church?
- Is there something wrong with me?
- Am I as valuable (to God, to the church) as married people?
4 TIPS on How the Church Can Embrace Single Adults
1. Address the difference
Singleness isn’t just the tryouts before joining a team. It’s an entirely different sport – and you might know about it, but if you haven’t regularly been practicing that sport, then you certainly haven’t mastered it.
We teach a lot about how to master married life, but do we let leaders who are single teach us about single life? The average marrying age is 29.8 years for men and 26.9 for women.
My husband and I got married at 29 and 27 respectively, so while we do know something about being single, we don’t know what it is like to be single in our 30s or 40s and beyond. We can’t consider ourselves to be experts in singleness.
Those of us who are married should treat singleness like we would treat any other cross-cultural exploration. We should seek to really listen. Read some books. Realize that the challenges and joys of singleness are different than the challenges and joys of marriage – find out what they are!Singleness is NOT just a step before marriage. #ministry Click To Tweet
2. Recognize that as a married person, you are privileged
Plus, just for getting married, friends and family members buy married people expensive gifts. What occasion does a single adult have to celebrate that compares with a wedding?
For the married adults, they have a spouse to help out with the chores, bills, and work. Those who are single don’t have that, so they may look to their community of friends and family, they may not!
In any case, the church should be one of the first resources they can turn to. Sadly, for too many, the local church is not there in the way they need.
3. Don’t offer a prescription for singleness
Single adults might want to get married or they might not. They are single for a host of different reasons. Many of the unmarried haven’t met the right person yet and have chosen not to settle.
Instead, encourage single adults to step up into the leadership roles they are gifted or skilled to do. Match older single women to mentor younger single women and older single men to mentor younger single men. Have groups that have a mix of both, where singles and married people come together to encourage and learn from each other.
Celebrate single people. Since single adults don’t walk down the aisle, or are showered with gifts, we need to look for other opportunities to bless the single adults in our lives.Choose a mindset of contribution instead of just consumption. #church Click To Tweet
4. Include singles into our day to day lives
Not only do we need to think about singleness when it comes to sermon topics or analogies, but we need to think about how to include those who are single themselves. The church tends to address singleness when Christians are in youth group or college groups, but neglects other singles in their 20s, 30s, and beyond.
Maybe we should be promoting healthy relationships all across the board no matter a person’s age or relationship status. It would be great for singles and marrieds to come together to learn and work together as the body of Christ!
We often have our peer groups over for dinner, but why don’t we include others? Why doesn’t a single person invite a couple over, or vice versa? It would be great for us to invite each other into our homes for a meal, a get together, or a family outing.
The church culture needs to promote unity within the body of Christ, not unity within your stage of life. How can we, as the church, do this?
NOTE: let me just say, as an aside – I would encourage all of us to choose a mindset of contribution instead of just consumption, but singles especially.
Ask yourself – how can I serve in a unique role within the church and how can I care for the married people in my life? That is NOT to say singles should be the worker bees in the church. But, it should be a mutually beneficial relationship.
If someone in the church chooses to remain single, then how will the church promote the unity in the church and how will the church mentor the singles so they can thrive and not just survive?
If this article intrigued you, check out more on amothersroad.com on Living with a Family of Families (hint – the church), The Need to Gather as Women, and The Heart of Hospitality. Expect to see more from me in the future on The Borough!