Singles often feel they don’t fit in the family-focused churches that abound today. Despite the singles programs that many churches offer, singles often feel misunderstood and isolated from others in their congregations.
But through God’s design, singles should fit – and thrive – as a vital part of His family that is the church. It is possible for singles to connect with their fellow church members in authentic, loving relationships.
Here are some ways singles and church leaders can work together to make singles an authentic part of their congregational families:
Be proactive about changing. Church leaders should realize that they’re neglecting singles if they don’t make an effort to intentionally include them in all aspects of church life. Singles should realize that they should commit to a home church instead of skipping around, and decide to actively participate in the congregation, building relationships and serving in ministry.
Recognize that it’s okay to be single. Rather than viewing single people as second-class citizens to be pitied, married couples should understand that God has called some people to remain single and remember that Christ Himself was single. Couples should strive to accept singles just as they are, and refrain from trying to act as matchmakers for them. Single people should embrace the full lives God wants them to live while they’re single rather than just biding their time until (and if) a spouse comes along. Both married and single people should know that they can learn from each other and use their God-given gifts and different experiences to enhance the churches they share. No matter what their state in life, people in the same congregation should lay aside their assumptions about each other and seek to genuinely get to know each other.
Consider the ultimate marriage. Realize that everyone who goes to heaven will one day be married to the best spouse of all – Jesus Christ. Know that the church is the bride of Christ, and that all who love Him are destined to share an eternal, loving relationship with Him. Use your time on Earth to develop a close relationship with the Lord, knowing that you and other Christians will see Him face to face in heaven. Realize that true intimacy is not limited to sexuality, but includes community as well.
Recognize your primary family. Understand that your nuclear, biological family is not your most important place of belonging. Recognize that your spiritual family must always take priority, because that’s the only family that will last. Give your primary allegiance to God the Father and your brothers and sisters in Christ. Understand that blood ties aren’t nearly as important as your commitment to other believers. Embrace Christian singles as the siblings that they are.
Choose contribution instead of just consumption. Don’t look at the church as merely a place to find personal fulfillment. Instead, give up the illusion of independence and strive to build strong interdependent relationships with others in your church. Be willing to give your all by serving where God leads you, remembering that when you give you will be blessed in return. Know that, whether you’re married or single, God wants you to use your unique gifts to enrich the life of the church. Be willing to contribute your time, talent, and treasure to your church.
Broaden your perspective. Intentionally spend time with people whose circumstances differ from yours. For example, if you’re a young mother, you might befriend a widowed senior, or if you’re a single business executive, you might hang out with a married father of five. Seek to understand the ways you each complement each other, and what you can learn from each other. Understand that singles can teach married couples that God’s love is open to all, and that married couples can show singles how people can grow in intimate relationships.
Fix the simple things that often alienate singles in the church. Make sure that sermons and Bible study lessons apply to singles as well as married people. Invite singles to serve on church committees and planning teams. Design special events such as potluck meals to take the single lifestyle into account. If you offer discounts to any event, be sure that they’re not just for couples.
Seek to meet some of single people’s unique needs. Invite singles to celebrate holidays with you. Offer to help them with things like tax preparation and home and car maintenance and repair (these things could especially bless single parents). Strive to become a vital part of a single person’s network of friends. Know that single people want to celebrate important moments in their lives, just as married people celebrate their anniversaries and children’s birthdays. Help single people celebrate things like getting a new job, graduating from graduate school, or buying a new home.
Adapted from A Match Made in Heaven: How Singles and the Church Can Live Happily Ever After, copyright 2003 by Wendy Widder. Published by Kregel Publications, a division of Kregel, Inc., Grand Rapids, MI. Wendy Widder graduated from Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio, and is completing a Master of Divinity degree at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. She is the author of Living Whole Without a Better Half.