If there’s one thing I’ve found being a single in the church today, especially with the direction most churches are taking, it’s that it honestly feels like there’s no place for us. This isn’t about selfish preferences like worship style, carpet color, or whether we’re doing a Francis Chan or David Platt study – this is a community and discipleship issue. It’s awkward, and quite honestly it’s painful.
After talking with many other single friends and non-single friends who genuinely want to know how to help, I decided that we really do need to have an open and honest conversation about this epidemic. So, here’s a few pointers to start leading us in what I pray is a better direction.
- It feels like you don’t have a place for us.
Think about the way the church is structured: You basically go from youth group to young families. If you’re fortunate enough, you may have a “College and Career” or “Young Adults” group. And even if you do have one of these ministries, it often feels like the person who’s leading it is someone who’s already maxed out but felt obligated (or was asked by other church staff) to have an organized, concerted effort towards “us” so that we don’t all walk out the church door at the same time.
While I am still young and single, I do have friends that are “older”, some nearly twice my age, and single, and I can tell you right now, they are not comfortable in a “young” adults group with the 22 year old who’s complaining because she feels like she’s doomed to singleness forever.
Churches place so much emphasis on kids ministries, student ministries, and young families. This isn’t bad and I don’t think we should change it. What’s bad is that there really isn’t a place for any of us who fall outside of those parameters, which makes us feel like we’re not important unless we get married and have kids.
Solution: Intentionally find ways to include us in your personal lives, even beyond the church. We could talk about designing discipleship ministries with older women pouring into younger women (or men pouring into men), etc. But really it’s just doing life together. That’s what church is. It’s not a building or a structure or a strategy. It’s people. We are longing to serve and be plugged in, but we need you to create that opportunity by inviting us into your world.
- Stop telling me “Your time will come.” without finishing the sentence.
First of all, if we’re being honest, you don’t know that’s the will of God for my life. Yes, the most likely chance is if you are currently single you will find someone, fall in love, and get married. Yes, it is extremely encouraging to hear this and I truly appreciate when people tell me this in faith. There have been many times that it’s been a huge comfort to me. But God’s plan for everyone is different and I need to know how to be fully satisfied in life even if I don’t get everything I want. If I’m not content with Jesus now, I won’t be when I’m married. If I’m living for the moment that my “time comes”, I’m going to be incredibly disappointed to find that a husband won’t actually fulfill all my desires because a husband isn’t the point of this life. There is a bigger issue here:
When you say this, while you probably feel as though you are communicating hope, you are also communicating the message that I am currently missing something. Which leads me to my next point:
- Don’t ask if there’s “a guy” or if I’m “talking to anyone”.
If I am and I wanted to share it with you, I would find a way to bring it up. If I’m not, you’ve just completely discouraged me by pointing out that once again, I’m not meeting the expectations of happiness and fulfillment that everybody wants for me. It feels as though I’m not only missing out, but letting you down. This is a reminder of what I don’t have instead of you engaging me about what God has given me for today. Instead, pose the question, “What is God doing in your life?”
- Stop assuming that single people don’t want to be single.
I spent my afternoon talking with a friend who has been married over a decade, has kids, and is a pastor’s wife. Her life is so rich and full and she is so grateful, but every time we’re together, she talks about the dreams that she’s had to put on the back burner because her priority is being a wife and a mom.
Here’s the thing: I dream of the day I get the privilege of being a wife and a mom, truly believing that is what the Lord has for me. (Yet not failing to acknowledge that I could be wrong.) But I could not possibly be more full of joy in this season. For the selfish reasons: I get to travel wherever I want, whenever I want, however I want. I don’t have to compare schedules. I get to spend money without getting anyone’s permission. But also for the God honoring ones: I get to go to school and really focus on what I’m studying. I can pursue my career without being concerned over how it affects anyone else. I can randomly meet up with a high school girl to grab coffee without worrying about dinner being cooked. If I want to publish another book, I can do that.
I’m not saying marriage and family are a dream-crusher. I know that so many aspects of life become so much richer and when it is the right time and that is your calling, there is no higher calling for you in that moment. But right now, my callings are just as important as being a wife or a mom because I’m not there yet, I’m here. It’s only Jesus and me. And He is everything. I don’t feel like I’m missing out. I’m not desperate to rush into anything. Regardless of what season I’m in, if I have Jesus, I will always be complete. I can always be satisfied. There will always be joy and hope. Purpose will always run deep. Love will always abound.
Jesus is always the calling, it’s just a matter of how we’re currently being called to share Him.
One day, it might be as a wife and a mom. And I will need a ministry in the church to support me in that. But today, it’s as a single. And unfortunately, I don’t know that most of us feel like we have the community or leadership we long for.
I’m thankful for the individuals God has placed in my life to help cover this gaping hole left by the Americanized church.
How can we, as a family, do this better?