Here's a significant statistic every church leader should know about . . . Married couples are now a minority in the U.S. For the first time ever, less than 50% of American households are made up of married couples. Here is the money quote:

The numbers by no means suggest marriage is dead or necessarily that a tipping point has been reached. The total number of married couples is higher than ever, and most Americans eventually marry. But marriage has been facing more competition. A growing number of adults are spending more of their lives single or living unmarried with partners, and the potential social and economic implications are profound.

Consider these figures regarding the number of households headed by married couples:

1930: 84%
1990: 56%
2006: 49.7%

Think about what this means for local church ministry:

1) Most churches focus their ministries on married couples with children and relegate everyone else to what they call "singles ministry." The day may come when churches will focus on singles routinely and then have something on the side they call "married ministry."

2) Churches will increasingly find their pews filled with people who don't fit the two-parent family pattern. As the article suggests, we will see more single parents in our pews and more children from single parent homes.

3) Young people will continue to delay marriage until their late twenties and beyond.

4) The number of divorced adults in our congregations will increase.

5) Churches must understand that there really is no such thing as "singles ministry" as a monolithic block. Off the top of my head, I can think of these different groups:

College students
Post-college twentysomethings
Under-35 divorced singles
Single parents
Multi-divorced singles
Post-40 never married singles
Post-60 widows and widowers

A "one size fits all" approach to singles is bound to fail.

6) We will eventually see children raised by homosexual couples visiting our churches and the couples themselves may visit as well. This poses new challenges at the intersection of biblical truth and compassionate ministry.

7) Pastors must find ways to include singles in their preaching, especially in their illustrations.

8) Churches will be challenged to uphold the importance of marriage as the normal goal for our young people while at the same time honoring singles who use their singleness as an opportunity to serve the Lord. I can feel the tension even as I write that sentence. Not an easy thing to do, is it?

9) We will see more singles at all levels of church leadership. This needs to be done intentionally and not haphazardly.

10) Mostly we must face the fact that we no longer live in an Ozzie and Harriet world. American culture is closer to Seinfeld than to Leave It to Beaver. As I visit different churches, it seems to me that we're still catering to the minority two-parent family, which makes sense because that's what we understand, but it's not the world we live in. If the church intends to speak to this generation, we might as well fact the fact that we're speaking more to singles than to married couples.

What will we say to them?
And will they listen?

You can reach the author at  ray@keepbelieving.com. Click here to sign up for the free weekly email sermon.