6 Hurtful Things to Stop Saying to Singles in Your Church
- Hope Bolinger Author
- 2021 17 May
No one quite understands how marginalized singles are in the church until they become one. My friend’s mom leads a small group, which the church has called, “The misfits.” The only reason they don’t fit in? They’re all women who happen to be single.
People leave singles out of discussion groups, thinking their insights are not of value because they don’t have a spouse. And everyone meets singles with some sort of pitiable expression, followed by something along the lines of, “Well, I’m sure God has someone for you."
As a single myself and a part of many Christian singles groups, we’ve heard some of the saddest and astonishing things said to us about our singleness. I’ve included some below, as phrases people should never say to Christian singles … but do.
Sometimes people have good intentions with what they say, but the words don’t translate. In fact, they have the opposite effect, feeling a lot more like a slap. I’ve also included a substitute phrase to convey the same empathetic meaning perhaps the speaker had intended.
Without further ado, let’s explore what you should never say to singles in your church.
“What did you do wrong?”
Sounds a little too blatant? Believe me, I’ve heard this first-hand. And boy, oh boy, did it feel like a punch in the gut.
Some variations of this include “What did you do?” and “What aren’t you doing?”
These phrases assume that it’s someone’s fault that they’re single. True, some people choose celibacy, as Paul encourages (1 Corinthians 7). But not every single person in the church has decided this path for themselves.
Perhaps a spouse divorced them or cheated on them. Maybe they’ve experienced trauma at the hands of another person and it has ruined their perception of relationships forever.
Implying that someone did something wrong, and therefore God has somehow “punished” them with singlehood is anti-biblical and can drive away singles from your church.
Alternative to say, if they’ve disclosed they did not enter singlehood voluntarily: I imagine that must be frustrating for you, and that you have possibly experienced some hurt in the past. I’d love to hear more about this if you feel comfortable sharing.
“God has someone for you; I just know it.”
No, no you don’t. Unless God has revealed to you in a vision, or you happen to have the highly debated spiritual gift of prophecy, you do not know this for certain. And by saying this, you give this person a false hope. Or worse, exasperate them. Because if you’re single, you’ve probably been told this by at least several married people.
I get why people say this. They feel uncomfortable about sitting with a single person discussing this topic. Especially because they have a spouse and the single person, who may really want a spouse, doesn’t have one.
But Scripture encourages empathy and sitting with a brother or sister in the pain (Galatians 6:2). So we ought to do so.
We also ought to keep in mind that some people choose to be single their whole lives deliberately. Jesus and Paul both praise this. So by saying the above statement, you assume they have not dedicated their lives to celibacy.
Alternative to say: I don’t know if God has someone for you, but I know he has a wonderful plan for your life that goes far beyond anything you could ask for or dream.
“You’re too picky.”
If you want a single person to punch you, this is the quickest way to do it. Let’s explore what too picky is and isn’t through an example.
Too picky: He has red hair. I like brown hair.
Not too picky: He doesn’t have a solid foundation in Christ, and if I want him to serve as the head of my family, I need someone to spur me on in the faith.
It sounds simple enough, but you would be surprised at the number of times married Christians have tried to push single Christians into relationships that will only end in hurt and division.
The church has some weird urge, nowadays, to get everyone possible married as quickly as possible. Although God has blessed the marriages of many young couples, this one-size-fits-all template does not work for everyone.
Alternative to say: What are some traits you really value in a godly man/woman?
“Are you trusting God enough?”
People who say this seem to imply that married people have the spiritual-moral high ground. That somehow, because they had more faith, they got married.
I can definitely say from personal experience that this isn’t the case. In fact, Jesus talks about how those in marriage have far more struggles than those who are single (Matthew 19).
So many churches exclude singles because they operate under the false impression that singles somehow didn’t have enough faith to get a spouse.
Alternative to say: We’d love to have you in our small group.
Seriously. Small groups should not be divided solely by married and unmarried.
“Singleness is a gift. Enjoy it!”
The first part of the statement isn’t wrong. God does give the gift of singleness. But most often people who say this are married. So it begs the question, “Then if you liked it so much, why did you get married?”
Churches should recognize singleness as a gift, rather than treating it like some plague. But I think single people would rather hear this sentiment from a seasoned single person rather than someone who got married after a very, very brief stint in singleness.
Alternative to say: The Bible does say that singleness is a gift, but I recognize that with the pressures the church puts on relationships that not everyone sees it that way. Know you are valued, and you bring something to the table that the rest of us cannot.
“I didn’t get married before I gave up on men/women. So you should give up.”
This statement implies that the single person idolizes relationships, and therefore, God has withheld a spouse from them until they surrender to God completely. Although this could apply to some singles in the church (and honestly, some married people as well), we cannot assume every single person has placed a spouse on a pedestal above God. Only God knows the heart. So let’s stop assuming that a person is single because they did something wrong or has something wrong with their heart.
Alternative to say: This is my story, but I recognize that it may not necessarily apply to you. Continue to trust in God, and I’m always here as a listening ear, as I know singlehood isn’t always an easy calling. Especially because the church doesn’t value it as it should.
These may seem ridiculous, but single people hear these statements on a weekly basis (if not daily). We’re tired, we feel left out, and this has created a fractured self-image in many of us because we have been told that we cannot find a spouse because we don’t deserve one.
Instead, moving forward, the church needs to embrace more empathy and inclusion of singles. We’ve grown in numbers over the past few years, and if the church continues to spurn them, the church may find its number of singles dwindling.
So let’s love, let’s care for one another, and let’s value the insight from one another—even if we don’t have a spouse.
Related Resource: Listen to our FREE podcast, Reframed: The Power of Perspective. In each episode, Carley provides practical techniques for identifying and reframing negative thinking patterns. Listen to an episode below, and check out all of our episodes on LifeAudio.com.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
Hope Bolinger is a multi-published novelist and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,200 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy is out with IlluminateYA. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. And her inspirational adult romance Picture Imperfect releases in November of 2021. Find out more about her on her website.