I’m 24 years old (and yes, I realize that’s not very old). I’m a Christian. I’m single. And I’m tired of it. No, I’m not tired of being single. And of course I’m not tired of being a Christian…but put them together, and it just wears me out. I’m gonna try not to be cynical here, because quite frankly it’s against my nature, and I’m kind of anti-critical. But…the church is deeply failing the singles population. That’s just the plain truth.
I got so into this topic, I decided to do some research, Look at what I found:
- 41% of the US population is single (US Census 2005).
- 51% (yes, over half) of all US women live without a spouse (NY Times 2007).
- If I’m doing the math right, over 46% of 20-40 year olds in America have never been married (US Census 2008).
Right away, we realize: 1) There are more of us than you think. 2) Singles cover a wide range of ages. 3) Just because you’re older and single doesn’t mean you’re divorced. And yet, when you’re single in the church, what are your options? Staying up late with the lively college group, going to “singles” events that translate into dating services, recovering with the older, single and divorced population… All great ministries, but is that really what most singles are looking for? I’m just one person, but if I’m anything like other singles, there are a couple things that need to be cleared up…
Just because I’m single, it doesn’t mean I want to hang out with single people all the time. In fact, it probably means the opposite. At least for me, being single makes me crave stability all the more. And yet, we’re placed in these “singles only” groups with a revolving door of people who move, or get married, or get bored. We’re only invited to families’ homes on holidays, when family is what we long for. I know it’s awkward for single people to hang out with married people, but have you ever wondered if it’s just because we’re not used to it?
Marriage is not the solution. Yes, marriage is good, and who wants it? We all do. But, it’s condescending and disrespectful to the singles population when we’re expected to swim around, disconnected from the church body until we get married and “graduate” into the regular world of families. It seems more like people feel sorry for us all the time, instead of believing that we, too, have something to offer the church.
What’s funny, the Barna research group finds that four out of five single adults would say they are Christian (2005). And yet, how many thriving and successful singles ministries can you think of?
Maybe it’s about time we try something new and rethink the church’s strategy (or non-strategy) in reaching the singles population. I mean, when I read about the New Testament church, I don’t see anything about dividing the single and married people up. I don’t see anything that says it’s better to be married. In fact, many of the greatest early church leaders were single (and Paul even advocated for it). And the early church was all about community. It didn’t matter if you were single, or married, or anything. If you were a believer, you were cared for and had a place to belong and serve.
I know that is still the message the church hopes to give singles. I know there’s no one to blame for this failure and that all of this has come about by accident.
But it’s time people do something.
So, singles, don’t give up on the church. And married people, don’t give up on singles. May it begin with us.