The question of how does the local church love and serve singles is something I have been trying to pray through and think through for the past year. Around a year ago I reached out to several non-married friends of mine with the question:
“What has the church done well and not so well in serving you as a single?”
Within the group of those questioned were both men and women, some in large cities, some in rural cities, some that attend mega-churches and some that attend smaller churches. Now when I address this question, I am predominately thinking about those in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties, as this is the context I find myself in and ministering in. Asking myself the question, “How do we as the Church minister to singles well?” So that they are able to flourish as part of the Body of Christ and in their personal walk with Christ to see Him as the main object of their affection.
Conversations I have had with other non-marrieds I would say are always all over the place. Oftentimes I feel that singles make things hard on the church. We want to be apart of the Church like everyone else, but also want something separate for us. Plan something centered around families and we feel left out; yet plan something specifically for singles and we wonder if it will essentially be “speed-dating.” Oftentimes we are so focused on wanting to get married that we are not serving in the Church, and the Church as a whole is suffering because we have specific gifts the Lord has given us and placed us within our context for the flourishing of the Body that we are not using.
All that being said here are some ways I have observed as well as discussed with other singles that the Church has loved singles well and not so well:
Things I have seen the local church do well concerning the non-marrieds:
- Recognizing the gifts of the singles as a valuable part of the church. Seeking to use their gifts and allowing them to serve the church in a manner that grows their gifts and utilizes their gifts.
- Allowing the Singles to have a voice in the church. Essentially having an ear for the non-marrieds to have a voice. Whether by serving in leadership or by being part of focus groups as the church thinks through and prays through various issues facing the church.
- Reminding the non-marrieds that their identity is in Christ not in a relationship. By not looking down on the non-marrieds as “lesser members”
- I have seen Pastors do this from the pulpit by not only using family illustrations and being more mindful how the passage or point also applies to the non-married.
- Emphasizing the need of the non-marrieds to serve and volunteer within the body, and pointing them to ways to serve.
Ways I have seen the church do not so well concerning the non-marrieds:
- Making them feel like they are “lesser members” until they are married. Many singles I have talked to have discussed the frustration that they feel from their Church that until they get married their life will not be fulfilled.
- Have a singles ministry that is almost completely separate from the rest of the Church. This does not build up unity in the body. Non-marrieds have gifts and talents to serve the body that the marrieds need and vise versa.
- Placing singles into service areas that do not meet their specific giftings or talents. There is a tendency to sometimes take a single who wants to volunteer and immediately place them into Children’s Ministry to help out. Many singles love this and have passion for working with students and the children of their Church, but not all of them do. The end result is volunteers being frustrated in seeking to serve.
This topic is one I am continually trying to think through to better love and serve those the Lord has placed in my path. This is not complete, I am certain that we could definitely add to this list. Hopefully this helps us begin thinking through how we view and serve those non-marrieds around us.
Thanks for being so mindful about how to get singles more involved in the church family! I would love to shift the focus our society tends to fall into from lack of fulfillment for singles to living a fulfilled life as a son or daughter of Christ!
Each church is different – the ones that I have been to haven’t done very well by their singles. For the most part, singles are free babysitters or warm bodies to hit play on the DVD player or run the sound board. Few sermon illustrations reference singles other than to end with the fairy-tale like ending of “they got married and lived happily ever after, etc.” Marriage is still a pre-requisite to have a ministry or be in leadership, so they’re shut out and shut down completely. Given that so few tolerate this treatment, there’s usually not enough of them around to even bother with having a singles ministry. At this point, once kids graduate, they drop out of church and come back only when they have gotten married and started their own families – the church has nothing for them otherwise.