Four Ways the Church Must Better Serve SinglesMay 19, 2016
In the U.S., singles now outnumber married adults, but you would hardly know it by walking into most churches today. Church life often revolves around marriage: preparing for marriage, living in marriage, and parenting children as married adults. As a result, the Church can communicate being single means being a “second class” church member, where your relationships status determines your place.
Look around at what is happening: our culture preaches sexual fulfillment as preeminent and the right to marriage as life’s ultimate culmination. This is an opportunity for the Church to shine — if we don’t miss it.
In stark comparison to the culture, the Bible preaches that, as Christians we must testify to finding our identity in one thing: our relationship with Christ.
With this understanding in mind, let’s consider four ways the Church must better serve Singles:
1. Celebrate the Unique Outworking of the Gospel in Singles
Put simply, if the Bible celebrates singleness, then why wouldn’t our churches? We need to stop treating singleness as a temporary life phase one “matures” beyond. The call to singleness correlates with the high call to purity and a focus on things of God. Just read 1 Corinthians 7– the call to singleness requires a unique dependence upon God.
Christena Cleveland notes singles can show us an aspect of the resurrection we would miss otherwise. She quotes Rodney Clapp here:
‘Without children, the Israelite fears the single’s name will burn out, sift to ashes and be scattered and forgotten in the winds of time. But Paul has seen the arrival of a new hope. Jesus has risen from the land of death and forgetfulness, and so someday shall all who have died. And Jesus has inaugurated the kingdom, a kingdom most fundamentally known and seen not among brothers and sisters in kin, but among brothers and sisters in Christ. Thus Hauerwas says of singles, ‘There can be no more radical act than [singleness], as it is the clearest institutional expression that one’s future is not guaranteed by the family, but by the church. The church, the harbinger of the Kingdom of God is now the source of our primary loyalty.’
2. Reclaim the Truth that Celibacy is not a Dirty Word
Our culture has sold us a lie that our lives – our identity, our minds, our bodies, our destiny – are matters of our own choosing. Put simply, that is idolatry of the self and nothing could be further from the real truth. But as Christians, we hold to a completely counter-culture Truth. We are not our own, we have been bought with a price. Our minds, our bodies, our destiny and our day to day living now belongs to God.
This includes sex. And the Bible is clear God’s design for sex is within marriage between one man and one woman. If we skirk back from this truth because it seems “old-fashioned” we are not just doing our single brothers and sisters a grave disservice, we are sinning against God and ignoring His call to be a Holy people.
On The Reconnect, we spoke more about this topic:
3. Admit you don’t know what you don’t know
If you are a married person, and have been married since your 20’s, you may have no idea what it is like to be single today. Take the time to listen to singles in your church and admit with humility that you may not know the types of challenges they are experiencing.
Additionally, we must be aware of the fact that the “single” population is not uniform. The Barna Group elaborates:
There are three major groups which must be studied separately to truly understand singles,” Barna explained. “The never-been-married group, which is the largest singles subset, is the youngest, most active and most optimistic of the three segments. Divorced adults are typically middle-aged and have completely different needs, goals, expectations and issues. Widowed adults tend to be primarily female, are generally in their sixties and beyond, and possess an entirely different view on the future than do their younger, single counterparts. All three groups are single, but the route to singlehood and their perspectives and lifestyles suggest that it is inappropriate to think of or to treat all singles alike.
Put simply, this means just creating a young adult group is not the same as a singles ministry.
Again Christena Cleveland points out, the vast majority of those serving in leadership positions in the church are married. Consider how church leaders can reach out and incorporate singles’ diverse perspectives in ministry.
4. Step up to Be the Family of God
This may seem simple and straightforward, but how often it goes unmentioned. Spend time and invest in single Christians. If you are married, it is natural and good to have other married friends within the Church. But the Church family was never supposed to be made up of only people who look like us. That means seeking out relationships with those who are different than you– and I would argue that includes marriage status!
Invite single Christians into your social circle and actually make them feel welcome. Listen to what is going on in their lives and don’t belittle their experiences. Resist the urge to “fix” them by glorifying marriage as the answer or assume their lives are simple and straightforward without the challenges of marriage or children.
We need to radically shift our mindset – Christian hospitality is more than entertaining. It involves being the Family of God. If there is a single mother in your Church, consider inviting their family to be part of your family- whatever that looks like. It could be assisting with finances or filling the role of an absentee parent. How much more can we beautify the Church by embracing what it means to be a Family?