Loosening of Family Norms. We try to treat this particular subject delicately, but to be honest, the patterns evangelical singles have developed with divorce and childbearing outside of marriage make for profound complexities when it comes to mixing, say, career-driven never-marrieds/no-kids with single moms who’ve been abandoned by the father of their children. This means that a singles ministry that tries to be all things to all types of singles can become inefficient and ineffective quite quickly, and plenty of people can feel slighted or intimidated in the process.

Career Requirements. Unfortunately, our employment picture in North America has not only destabilized in recent years, it shows no signs of recovering anytime soon. This means that those of us who can get jobs – especially good jobs – feel like we need to work exceptionally hard to keep that employment. We work longer hours, take fewer vacations, and tend to give employers even more control over our schedules both on and off the clock – if we’re ever truly off the clock anymore. This isn’t just a singles-specific problem, but oftentimes, employers tend to take advantage of single employees who don’t have a family waiting at home, which means church events end up losing out to job demands.

Social Media. Duh – no surprise here! How many singles do you know who constantly check their smartphone and e-mail accounts – yes, plural – to see who’s doing what this evening or this weekend? How many of us hold our personal schedules in flux until we know how our social roster is shaping up? Sometimes an insignificant event can trump a major commitment if the right people will be attending the otherwise insignificant event. Indeed, waiting to gauge our best social opportunities is not only a dreadfully impolite habit, but for churches, this means that your singles programming is always competing against the next best offer via Twitter or Facebook.

It’s not that social media, your job, and even your move into a hip downtown loft are bad things, in and of themselves. In fact, as our demographics continue to shift, having more singles beginning to cluster in specific locales may provide the impetus some churches can use to more affirmingly incorporate unmarrieds into the life of their congregation.

But still, should the onus be on churches, or on us? Do churches exist for our benefit, or Hebrews 10:25?

For church leadership teams that shrug their shoulders at our cohort and simply let us fend for ourselves, perhaps we singles should challenge them on the legitimacy of intentionally ignoring a significant population in their church and community.

However, for church leadership teams that seek to balance the congregation’s ministry opportunities with genuine care for everyone regardless of their marital status, shouldn’t we singles be willing to participate in ways that honor our leaders and facilitates our collective service to God, even if they don’t really understand us?

If it helps, think about the many variables that are helping to defragment our growing yet diverse demographic. And even how things like social media, technology, and urbanization can be put to good use.

For our benefit, and our Lord’s glory.

From his smorgasboard of church experience, ranging from the Christian and Missionary Alliance to the Presbyterian Church in America, Tim Laitinen brings a range of observations to his perspective on how we Americans worship, fellowship, and minister among our communities of faith. As a one-time employee of a Bible church in suburban Fort Worth, Texas and a former volunteer director of the contemporary Christian music ministry at New York City's legendary Calvary Baptist, he's seen our church culture from the inside out. You can read about his unique viewpoints at o-l-i.blogspot.com.

Publication date: March 19, 2013