Dear fellow Christians:
We all know that many Christian churches are great places to grow in a community and develop deeper relationships with Christ and His followers. Churches are places for Christians to improve themselves and learn. Places where we are prepped for our greater mission, to spread Christ’s love to others. It’s difficult, however, to grow and develop in a healthy way when you belong to a less “traditional” Christian demographic. (I realize that this can apply to several different “non-traditional” Christian demographics, however for the purpose of this post, I’ll be specifically talking about singles).
The stereotypical Sunday morning church attender is usually married. Many will attend the services with their spouse. The traditional Christian married couple also, typically has children whom they will drop off at the children’s ministry/ Sunday school/ whatever your church calls it before heading into the adult church service. They will sit together and hold hands. They will place their hands on the small of the other’s back. They will hug and sometimes kiss each other on the cheek. The pastor will come up and promote the upcoming marriage retreat. They will talk about the kids programs that are available and the church wide family nights. The bulletin will promote the plethora of small groups and studies devoted to fostering a Godly marriage and raising Christ-like children. Meanwhile the single people and those people whose spouse may not join them at church sit behind them and feel left out. It can be difficult to watch all of the resources be put into helping others grow, when you don’t know where you fit.
As a single almost 35 year old with no children, I’m not quite sure where I fit in at church. I’m too old for the college group, too young for seniors and not married/ have no children to join in the marriage retreats/classes or the mom groups. I am blessed to have a lovely supportive co-ed, intermixed singles/marrieds small group, but I even have a hard time connecting there sometimes because most of the singles are much younger than me and the marrieds (who are my age) usually talk about their kids and families and husbands. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it can sometimes make it difficult to be fully open and honest with them when I am going through a period of struggling with my singleness. It’s difficult to ask them to pray for me when my prayer seems silly and petty compared to the struggles that they go through with parenting and maintaining their marriage relationships as well as other life struggles. I by no means think that they would judge me or love me any less, and yet my own insecurities continue. And part of me wonders if the climate of the church is somewhat to blame for furthering my insecurities.
When there aren’t any programs, sermons, or classes offered to help you grow in the life stage that you’re in (even if you someday hope to be in a different life stage), it seems like you are less important or that the church is promoting what you SHOULD be (i.e. married with children). It seems like you just aren’t measuring up. When the church offers a yearly marriage retreat, weekly small groups specifically for married couples, and puts in loads of resources and advertising for these programs, but there is nothing comparable for singles, it feels like being single isn’t something to be valued or encouraged. When they offer monthly marriage classes and “parent’s night out” events, but no classes or events to promote being successfully single or capitalizing on God’s timing right now, it can feel like you aren’t worth the resources that are available.
I know that churches don’t do this intentionally and would never want to alienate the single adults in their congregations. I believe that they just kind of forget us or, more likely, just don’t quite know what to do with us. It’s not that we don’t really matter, it’s just that they have more married people and children to tend to in the congregation than single people. But the caveat is that if they put more resources toward growing a successful single program and community for single people, there is a possibility that more single people who come to church and start to grow, while learning to follow and trust God in their current season of life and beyond.
If churches just acknowledged more often that marriage isn’t the best way to be, it’s merely another way to be, then single people may feel less alienated. Marriage is a second option that God gives us. That’s right, I said second. I’d argue that singleness is God’s first choice for us. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul talks about marriage and I’ve referenced him numerous times before in previous posts.
“Now for those who are not married and for the widows I say this: It is good for them to stay unmarried as I am.” 1 Corinthians 7:8
We are all born single, so it is our first way of being and Paul tells us that we should STAY single, thus implying that it’s the first choice, not the dejected, second option. Paul goes on in verse 9 to describe why marriage is an option.
“But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry. It is better to marry than to burn with sexual desire.” 1 Corinthians 7:9
So ideally, according to Paul, we would all be single (says it right there in black and white in my bible). However, God gives us another option, which is marriage. He wanted to give us a way to experience physical intimacy without sinning and taking our focus off of Him. That alternative option is to enter into a marriage. So if there are two equally important options (and singleness really is the first option in my opinion), why does the church focus so much on marriage and tend to ignore those of us who are single? Besides, many of the singles will be part of marriage groups in the future, so it would make sense to deepen their relationship with Jesus for their subsequent relationships.
Today’s church puts far too much emphasis on the idea of marriage being the “gold standard” of a Christian life, when singleness is equally as valuable (not just a miserable, last place finish in life). If the church as a whole could find a way to foster the lives of singles (whether they are single for a season or a lifetime), I believe that more singles would go to church, join congregations, and help the church to grow in a more diverse and complete way. If single people felt valued and empowered in the season of singleness, rather than just rushed to find a way to the alter, how would our churches change? How could they thrive? How many more people could we reach with the crazy love of Jesus?
So, please fellow Christians, let’s stop promoting the idea that marriage is the only way and stop focusing so much on one specific demographic within our church communities. Let’s make a genuine attempt to bring those of us who have not been able to find a spouse to the table in all areas of the church (ok, you can keep the marriage ministry). Once you start supporting your singles in a healthy way and help them to grow with God and in Christ, I promise you that your church family will flourish. We singles have so much value and so much insight to add, why would you want to miss out on what we have to offer?
Your Single Sister in Christ