Singleness in the church — is it easy?
I love the church. I enjoy serving, worshipping, and being with God’s people week-in and week-out, through the ups and downs, amid the highs and lows. There’s nothing like it.
But something struck me the other day: In over 10 years of church-going, I can only ever remember hearing one or two sermons on singleness. How many have you heard?
At first I just let it slide. “It’s probably just my experience. It’s not that big of a deal. I’ll just move on.” Then I became curious. So I reached out to some twitter friends, and asked this:
Christians from various denominations across the world replied. Here are some of the responses:
@DavidQaoud do bad ones count? Maybe 1?
— Austin McGrath (@AustinMC877) October 24, 2015
Do you think this is a problem?
Let’s be clear: The pulpit is for exulting Christ by preaching the Bible verse-by-verse, book-by-book, week-by-week, every single Sunday.
But no words to the singles?
Hmm. I think we could do better.
Consider These Statistics:
- More than 4 out of every 10 adults in the US is not married.
- The singles population is larger than the total national population of all but 11 nations.
- America has upwards of 82 million single adults.
- 4 out of 5 single adults consider themselves to be Christian.
Sure, not everyone on the list is a Christian, and certainly not everyone is in the church. But with so many singles, how come there isn’t more emphasis on reaching and helping singles?
I’d like this blog post to help solve some of the problems. But I can’t do it my own. So in order to find some answers, I reached out to dozens of single Christians, and asked them two questions:
1) What are some truths about singleness you won’t hear in church?
2) What are some things that married Christians and churches can do to help?
The rest of this post consists of the answers to those questions.
Singleness in the church: Six Truths You Won’t Hear
1) Singleness can be a very lonely time.
Almost every Christian single I spoke with mentioned the loneliness of singleness. “Singleness can be lonely and difficult,” said one girl. “The loneliness,” replied one guy, when I asked what’s true about being single.
Whether it’s living with an unfulfilled desire, or just being alone a lot, singleness seems to be a lonely season for many Christians.
2) Singleness provides great gospel opportunities.
Many Christian singles feel lonely, but not all. A few singles quickly mentioned the blessings and opportunities that singleness brings. “I think the fact that singleness can be an advantage is hardly ever addressed in the church,” said one friend. “Some of us [singles] may actually want to be single if that means more leverage for the gospel.”
Yes, singleness can be painful, but it doesn’t have to be joyless. Whether it’s overseas missions, serving the church, or more time for evangelism, singleness offers a lot advantages that married people don’t have — don’t waste this time.
3) Both single guys and single girls battle sexual temptation.
It’s often assumed that single guys struggle with sexual temptation. As a result, many blogs, books, and blurbs are created to help men defeat sexual temptation. This is needed. But what about the girls?
“I’ve never once heard the topic of masturbation discussed,” commented one girl, who has been in the church for multiple years. “How am I supposed to handle my sex drive?” asked another girl.
Many single Christian women have unanswered questions about sexuality. If they can’t go to church to get them answered, where should they go?
4) Being single in your 20’s is far different from your 30’s and beyond.
When we think of singles, we think of teens and college kids. But it’s far more than that. Churches all across the world are filled with singles who are divorced, widowed, or over the age of 29. “Being single in your 30’s is so different from your twenties,” one person said. Sometimes, I feel lost.”
“Total transparency: Being single into my 40’s has felt devastating and at times super awkward. There has been a painful dread that has come along with being single,” added someone else. As the years go by, the feelings, attitudes, and perspectives toward singleness changes.
5) Many single Christians have turned marriage into an idol — and this is a problem.
One woman was blunt about the situation: “What truly should be addressed in church is the idolatry of marriage. So many singles (well, for women) feel as if they can’t be on mission until they get married.”
I could be wrong. But as I spoke with many singles, examined my own heart, and reflected on the past five years of hundreds of conversations with singles, it seems that many singles have turned marriage into an idol. The expectations of sex, date nights, and romance are way, way too high. Lots of the girls feel bitter at God because they’re not yet married; lots of the guys are far too picky. Both sexes need help.
6) Not every desire gets fulfilled.
If you have a deep desire to be married one day you will probably get married . . . or you may not. The big wedding day, honeymoon, and family that you envision for your life may come . . . or it may not. You have no idea what’s going to happen to you tomorrow let alone your future. Instead of placing your ultimate hope in a spouse, place your ultimate hope in the perfect life, death, and resurrection of our Savior.
Where Do You Go From Here?
Those are some things you (probably) won’t hear in church.
But let’s not end there.
My intention is not to just reveal a problem, but create a solution. I don’t want to throw a punch and then run away.
So back to the second question: “What are some things that church and married couples can do to help singles?” Here’s what they said.
What Married Couples Can Do To Help
Watch your social media posts. Not every single social media update has to be about your spouse. Admittedly, this is probably more to fault the singles over the married couples, but constant posts about your spouse are annoying and can create envy.
Watch your words closely (and listen). “Stop saying, ‘just be content in Christ,’” one girl screamed. When you rush into truthful statements, without listening and getting to the heart, you make singles feel like you don’t care. Give the truth. But first listen.
Don’t try to play “Match-Maker.” This is a BIG one. Introducing a godly guy to a godly gal is fine, but constantly trying to hook singles up in your church is exasperating. Most singles (girls and guys) said that they hate this.
Intentionally purse friendships with singles. Married people, single Christians want to hang out with you. Have singles over for dinner, for breakfast, for coffee and chat about singleness, dating, marriage and life. Just because you’re married doesn’t mean we can’t hang out anymore.
What Churches Can Do To Help
Provide gospel-centered content on singleness. Very few singles said they desire a “singles ministry.” Instead, most of them said they desired more gospel-centered content addressing singles.
Create an atmosphere of intentional relationships. Churches can help by facilitating an atmosphere of intentional relationships. That is, set things up to where married folks hang out with single folks more often.
Answer the questions singles are asking. Many singles have questions on sex, dating, singleness, and life that aren’t being answered by their churches. Churches can help by answering those questions
Foster the talent of talented single Christians. Many churches are “run” by married folks. We must adhere to the biblical guidelines of church leadership found in 1 Tim. 3 and other places, but let’s not forget about singles when it comes to small group leaders, giving announcements, and other such roles.
Singleness might be a waiting season, but it doesn’t need to be a wasted season. What singles need, more than anything, is a deeply fulfilling relationship with Jesus. He’s the only one that can satisfy the deepest cravings of your heart. As Tim Keller says, “If single Christians don’t develop a deeply fulfilling love relationship with Jesus, then they will put too much pressure on their dream of marriage.”