Recently, an older couple in the congregation came up to me asking if they could start a class for 20 and 30 year olds. They cited the difficulties of that age range (being single, child-rearing, cultural pressures) and the need for camaraderie as reasons that a class like this needed to exist. They then used their children, who are single, in their mid-twenties, and recently started attending congregations with classes devoted to addressing their needs, as an example of why a young adult class should exist.
They are absolutely right.
As hard as churches might try to be a welcoming atmosphere for all, there are some groups that ultimately feel left out. Groups like young families, tend to be the evangelistic target of most churches while groups like singles and seniors are left on the sidelines.
Single Christians have a lot to offer the church, but are often overlooked or typecast because of their singleness. Don't just take my word for it. In preparing for this post I asked a few single Christian friends of mine to tell me what they could use more of and what they could do without in the church. Here are some of their thoughts on how we can view single Christians differently.
What Single Christians Do Not Need:
They Do Not Need to Be Reminded About Their Singleness
"A big one I don’t need is for everyone to treat my relationship status as a main topic of conversation. You hear statements like “we gotta find you a wife”, or "why aren’t you married"...I know only Jesus can really fulfill me, but feel incomplete when it’s brought up so often." - J
You have likely asked (or been asked) the question "so when are you gonna get married?" at some point in your life. Questions like this are perfectly fine questions, but they become grating reminders of singleness when repeated over and over. Try to place yourself in the shoes of the single Christian. They aren't just being asked this question by you, they are being asked this question by you, their family, their friends, and other members of the congregation constantly. That kind of repetition causes someone to feel as if that's all they are...single.
Take interest in the lives of your fellow Christians. Don't go for the low-hanging fruit, ask about their dreams and plans, ask about their work and ministry. Ask them about their day and what they like to do. Single Christians do not need you to set them up in a relationship, they need you to have a real relationship with them.
They Do Not Need to Be Pitied
"People speak about my singleness as if it’s a problem. They make it sound as if single people cannot possibly be fulfilled...This actually discourages single Christians more than they know, and encourages people to be desperate. I’ve seen this lead to wrong relationships." - J
To the single Christian, singleness often feels like a scarlet letter or millstone hanging around their neck. In many ways we hold marriage as a pinnacle of spiritual achievement and, as a result, feel sorry for those who have not or will not reach that apex. While marriage is certainly a blessing, it is not a sign of spiritual maturity or standing and those who are not married have no need to be maligned or pitied for their singleness.
What Single Christians Need:
Deep Relationships with the Church
"I need people to minister to me. Often I feel a lack of connection compared to others. I know my situation is different, I’m one of very few singles. People usually sit by their family in worship. Who does the single Christian sit by? It would mean a lot if people asked me to sit with them. I need people to ask me out to eat, be in their home. It’s meant a lot when I’ve had Christians have me over on holidays, birthdays, or just for meals even though I’m just a single guy. We need family, especially when we are away from ours." - J
We sometimes falsely equate marriage with intimacy. In truth, intimacy does not require marriage. In fact, the church was designed by God to be an intimate space for people of different backgrounds to enjoy and thrive in. Christians are to be so close that:
- They comfort one another in their pain (2 Cor. 1:3-5).
- Older Christians are able to teach the younger (Titus 2:1-10),
- Younger Christians can encourage through their example (1 Tim. 4:12),
- All Christians are encouraged by the presence of one another
(Heb. 10:24- 25)
- Every member of the church builds up their body through their personal ministry (Eph. 4:11-16).
There are plenty of other verses we could cite here, but the point has been sufficiently made. Single Christians don't need their fellow Christians to be matchmakers, but to be friends and family.
Encouragement to Stay Pure
"Singles need encouragement to stay pure in mind and body (it’s pretty tough to stay on the straight and narrow in this area when the world AND the church make you feel weird for it)." - E
It's no secret that our culture worships at the altar of sex. Sex has been devalued as nothing more than a pleasurable way to pass the time. It is easier now more than it's ever been to get sex on demand in some form or another. Pornography is free and easy to gain access to and lust is encouraged.
A common sentiment that has been shared with me in my conversations with porn-addicted men, is that married men do not understand the struggle as much because they have an outlet for their sexual desire. While I do not completely agree with the sentiment (marriage does not equal sex on demand), I do understand where they are coming from. We are surrounded by a culture that values sexual conquest and freedom more than anything else and in that culture accountability and encouragement from fellow Christians is a must.*
*Find out how you can better be accountable here.
Used in Ministry
"Single Christians very much need to be viewed as normal, complete brethren who want to be included, used in the church’s ministries, and not just seen as relevant to the singles group." - E
Singleness is not a deficiency. We seem to forget that Paul the Apostle was single. You remember Paul, the person whose story dominates our New Testament canon. Paul, the planter of churches all over the New Testament world and writer of most of our New Testament. Can you imagine asking Paul when he was going to finally get married? Paul was a man focused on his ministry. As a single man, Paul could travel a lot more freely. Paul was at an advantage by being single. That isn't to say that those who are married are solely disadvantaged, they aren't and neither are those who are single.
I wonder how many single Christians are hindered in their ministry because they are beaten down with questions about when they will get married. How much more would churches thrive if we focused on and encouraged members old and young, single and married to use the abilities God has given them to expand His kingdom? Christians, regardless of circumstance, are part of the body and expected to minister where they are (Eph. 4:11-16). Encourage single Christians to use their talents, instead of burying them with feelings of inadequacy because of their singleness.
"The reason we need to be ministered to in this way is that there is the long-standing stigma to overcome: the stigma that we aren’t complete, matured, and stable until marriage. In other words, many singles make the effort to be normal members and stay involved, but they need the encouragement of the church for it to feel seamless/natural." - E
I am thankful to those who shared with me their thoughts on what they need and do not need from the church as single Christians. Growth occurs when we listen to others and understand their perspective. We may not like everything they have suggested, but this insight should not be thrown away because of our discomfort. The church that grows is the church that takes care of each member of its body. Understanding this, let us take these suggestions and use them to grow and build up the body into what Jesus intends for it to be!