Nearly half the adult population in America is single, yet singles comprise
only one-third of adults in churches. This fastest growing household type in
America represents what a veteran of singles ministry calls the most unchurched
population in America and one of the greatest mission fields in the world.
Evangelizing and integrating singles requires that the church be exactly
what God created it to bea family.
A family is a place to belong, be valued and have enduring
relationshipsuniversal needs of singles. Most church bulletins, however, reveal
what singles already know: the church is focused on families with kids
programs, moms studies, father-son retreats, baby showers and mother-daughter
If churches are going to reach singles they need to shed their indifference
toward singleness and realize that couples are not better than singles, just
Watching what you say
We can tell singles that they are valued or we can reaffirm their suspicions
that they arent. Examples of comments that subtly tell singles they are not
valued as they are:
Youre a nice girlwhy arent you married? What singles hear:
Perhaps Im not really as nice as everyone thinks.
Its time for him to settle down and get married. What singles
hear: I am not a full-fledged adult if Im not married.
God has someone really special for you. What singles hear:
If I dont get married, God has let me down.
I hope you meet someoneI really want you to be happy. Whatsingles hear: I cant be happy without a relationship.
Although still crucial, the biological family is no longer the marrow of
identity and purpose. Instead, our significance is rooted in a relationship
with Jesus and membership in His family. No longer is our personhood and
character most significantly determined by the blood of the biological family,
but by the blood of Christ.
Jesus formed a new family where each member matters equallythe church. He
gave significance where there hadnt been any, dignity where it was missing and
belonging for those cast aside. He made the standard for acceptability
contingent on Him, not us. We can make singles feel welcome in the family of
God by accepting them and loving them as they are.
For years in the church singles have either been overlooked or somewhat
ostracized. If people werent married, it was because something was wrong with
them. We need to embrace singles and make them feel like part of the family
instead of treating them like they have two heads or just ignoring them.
The church could take a cue from the entertainment industry which not only
recognizes singleness but practically celebrates it. There are a growing number
of popular TV shows and films that focus on strong, career-minded single men
and women. Gone are the days when singles were considered either damaged,
broken or incomplete. The church needs to see them as vibrant, hard working and
ready to change the world.
The first step to making singles feel at home is to recognize that this
group has different categoriesnever married, divorced, widowedand their needs
are different. By recognizing these needs, the church can begin to
strategically minister to this growing and often-overlooked group.
The church also needs to nurture this group through Bible study, small
groups and fellowship. And don't forget involvement. The church can help
singles find ways to use their gifts within the church family.
Involving them in ministry, missions, evangelism and leadership roles will
help them feel like they belong. Pages 38-40 provide some ways you can help
singles feel at home.
Meeting practical needs
Meeting the needs of singles begins with a recognition of their diversity.
Singles are a demographic group that includes the never-married, the separated,
the divorced and the widowed. Each group has unique needs and each community
has its unique capabilities. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Car maintenance and repairA church that provides regular car services for
singles who need it lifts a huge weight off the mind of someone going it
Home maintenance and repairA team of men and boys from my church recently
helped a widowed mom remodel her bedrooma task she never could have
accomplished on her own. Not only did the team help her, but the men modeled to
a younger generation lessons about what it means to care for one another.
Taxes and money mattersFor younger singles and others who have never had
good financial counseling, the opportunity to learn some simple spending and
investing principles is a valuable service that the church can often
Holiday invitationsEven if you think single people have plans for the
holiday, dont let that stop you from issuing your invitation. Even if they cant
attend, they know you cared enough to include them.
Caring for single missionaries on furloughWhen a single comes home on
furlough, it can be easy for the church to assume that the single will stay
with his or her parents. It can be frustrating and hurtful when the church
assumes that singles do not have the same basic needs as a family.
BridgingWelcoming singles into the church takes
ongoing work. My church accomplished it through bridging. From the moment new
singles walked in the door alone, we wanted to bridge them from being painfully
new to belonging. If I spotted a new woman, I immediately adopted her, assuming
full responsibility for her initial experiences. Sometimes it meant not sitting
by my friends so she wouldnt sit alone. Sometimes it meant inviting her to
lunch or an activity during the weekan activity I would attend in order to
befriend her. For those initial days, I became her best friend at church,
walking those first tenuous steps together. During that time I introduced her
to as many people as possible, initiating conversations on her behalf and
trying to bridge her to others who could be her friend.
Adult Bible classesMost churches structure adult
classes around an age-and-stage-of- life format. Young marrieds meet with young
marrieds, parents of teens fellowship with other parents of teens, and so on,
each according to their own kind. This kind of arrangement has advantages, but
it also has costly disadvantages. When we segregate into age groups, we
struggle to learn from those who have done life ahead of us and to teach those
who are coming after us. At best, we dance around Pauls instructions for the
older members to instruct and encourage the younger (Titus 2) and at worst, we
disobey it. Also, when we spend most of our time with people like us, we begin
thinking everyone is like usor should be. We develop myopic views of life and
What rich blessings we miss by staying in our peer groups, and what precious
resources we waste by not interacting with those unlike us! Spending time with
newlyweds and newly widowed, childless and child weary, first-time parents and
empty nesters opens my eyes to the beauty of the church bodyand the way we can
fit together and minister to each other.
If your church doesnt have intergenerational classes, you must create other
regular and meaningful opportunities for singles to be part of such
relationships. And when you do, be careful in your scheduling. A weekday
women's Bible study alienates most single women who work full time.
A mens retreat that focuses just on fathering tells single men without kids
that they dont belong.
Needed: nursery workers?
Most singles I know dont mind taking their turn working in the church
nursery, but when were the ones always contacted for childcare because people
assume were dying to spend time with children or that we have nothing else to
do, not only do we begin to feel a bit abused, but the church loses out on the
unique contributions singles can make to the Family.
Singleness for those without children doesnt necessarily provide more time
in a schedule, but the single lifestyle can provide more flexibility in
Mentorship: Just as singles need to learn from those who have gone before
them, they also need to contribute to the growth of those coming up after them.
My single friend Becky disciples two teen-aged girls, and her singleness gives
her the flexibility to do life with themattending their athletic events, going
out for lunch, catching the latest movie, or just hanging out. They learn from
her life and example, regardless of what she teaches.
Missions Trips: Because of the logistics of scheduling time away, singles
make perfect team members for mission trips. At one point in my life, the
annual summer highlight was participating in whatever mission trip was on the
calendar. Singles also can make ideal sponsors on mission trips for teens or
young adults, providing further opportunities for mentorship.
Leadership: Paul sings the praises of singleness in 1 Corinthians 7 because
it allows for more focused ministry in the Family and in the larger mission of
the church. Because interests are not divided by a spouse or family, singles
can bring a higher level of commitment and involvement. Although singles have a
reputation for not committing, much of it is because the church has undervalued
their contributions; when they know they are valued and needed, they can turn
the world upside-down. Furthermore, the life situation of many singles enables
them to develop their own skills through extra training and educationthey
comprise a talented, educated and growing workforce to the Family.
MentoringMy single peers and I hunger to learn the
secrets of living from older women. We arent looking for another Bible studywe
are looking for friends who will share their lives with us.
This dynamic between older and younger is crucial to passing on the faith.
Fred Wevodau of the Navigators says, Many have never seen someone whose life
demonstrates that Christianity is desirable, let alone doable. Theyre waiting
for living examples of kingdom life that will call forth the best in them.
Singles dont need to be adopted as projects but to be loved as Family
members. Be authentic with them, spend time with them, help them look in the
mirror, encourage their spiritual growth. These are the makings of long-term
Family relationships, and mentoring the singles in your church can be as simple
Dos and donts
Don't play matchmaker on your ownWithout the singles
approval, playing Cupid tells singles they arent valued just as they are by
implying they cant be complete without a spouse. It raises the familiar and
haunting questions of whats wrong with me? and why cant people just accept me
as I am?
Matchmaking can also foster discontentment much like going to the mall does
for me. When I left home, my wardrobe looked just fine as it bulged out of the
closet (except for the wrinkles), but before I finish walking one level of the
mall, I realize how out-dated my clothes really are. Focusing on what I dont
have makes what I do have seem inadequate. Matchmaking can do the same for
Do sweat the small stuff
Sermons and lessonsDo the illustrations and applications used in your
churchs teaching include the single life, or are they all about families? You
can talk about someone's roommate instead of a spouse.
Church-wide/food-related eventsSuch celebrations often alienate singles who
come alone to a family-dominated function. My church tells members to bring a
dish to pass for 15 to a potluck. I dont have a budget or a pan this big! One
of my male friends avoids potlucks, because, as a single guy who doesnt cook,
hes stuck showing up with a telltale bag of chips or looking like a leech. How
does your church communicate that everyone is welcome at church-wide
Discounts for couplesWhen special-event registration for singles is $10 and
couples pay $15, I wonder why we cant all pay $7.50 or even $8.
Church literatureOne church promotes its women's ministry with a picture of
a baby and the phrase fearfully and wonderfully made. This ministry has
communicated that singles (or those without children) dont belong.
Opening the Doors
For many singles, stepping inside the church doors means sacrificing their
identity. In their careers, they likely stand on equal footing with all other
employees and are valued for their significant contributionsmarital status is
inconsequential. But when they come to church, singles often find themselves
second-class citizens who dont fit into the mainstream of church life.
If the church is going to reach singles, it will have
to expand its message to include the exploding population of Christian and
not-yet-Christian singles. This will happen as the church rethinks what it
means to be the family of God, communicates in simple ways that singles are
welcome in the family, and becomes more and more a group where singles are
fully-functioning members. Singles will beat a path to the door of a church
like this because theyll know its home.
Wendy Widder is a writer living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her
book, A Match Made in Heaven: Fitting Singles into the Family of God
was published by Kregal in 2003.
1 Rich Hurst, quoted in "A Singular Mission Field," Christianity
Today, 6 June 2001, 33, by Margaret Feinberg.
By Dave Arnold
Being single in a relationship-driven world is not easy, especially when you
are in your twenties, unmarried and out of college. One of my key leaders in
our 20-something ministry said, I cant stand being placed in a singles group
with the sole purpose of meeting someone. Im fine being single!
In light of the fact that I work predominantly with singles each week, I see
these struggles and labels that our society, and even our churches, place on
singles. However, though society may single them out, God has called them to
Himself for special purposes.
The need to reach this age group with the gospel is a necessity.
Unfortunately, many of the classes or groups that are available in churches
today are composed of singles who are 10 or even 20 years older than these
So, how are we to reach this all-important age group of 20-something singles
with the gospel? Lets look at three basic principles.
Relational drivenFirst, we must realize what makes
20-something singles tick. What I have found in working with this age group is
that they need and thrive in relationships. Im not talking about a couple of
acquaintances whom they hang out with on occasion, but true, in-depth
relationships that are built on trust, accountability and authenticity. Thats
why a singles group from 18 to... well, 80-something, does not work for this
group. They need people who are in their life-stage to relate to and experience
Second, in working with this group, I have found that they prefer an
environment thats laid back and very relational, not one thats overly churchy
and feels like a Sunday school class.
An example of this is when we did an all-worship event at Oxygen (our
20-something ministry) at one of our Saturday night gatherings. As people
walked into the room, they were given a pillow and encouraged to sit on the
floor. This created a very relaxed, yet intimate, feel for our worship night.
Afterward, a young single who was impressed with the night and touched by the
worship said to me, So, what is this whole God thing about anyway?
I had the wonderful opportunity to share the gospel with him and invited him
to come back to our ministry.
It is imperative to understand that this age group doesnt want to be in a
stuffy religious environment where someone preaches at them. They want to be in
a place where they feel comfortable and free to be themselves.
Seeing it lived out in someones life is what matters, not being preached at,
says Paul, a 26-year-old single. We dont care if its proven by apologetics, we
want proof that being a Christian works in this day and age.
This is a third important principle to keep in mind: This age group does not
want proof of it works, but of it works for me! They wont see their need or
recognize their own thirst unless they see us as genuine, open and loving
Twenty-something singles are just like you and me they need Jesus. Too many
people feel sorry for them for being single, as if they were less of a person.
And, too many churches place these singles with other singles who are much
older, thinking this will suffice. However, to be on mission we must approach
them with genuine love, authenticity and as their own separate mission
So, lets share with singles that they are not singled out, but were bought
with a price.
Dave Arnold is a writer and singles minister living in Plymouth,
Additional resources for being a place where singles
A Match Made in Heaven: Fitting Singles into the Family of God by
Wendy Widder. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2003.
Families at the Crossroads by Rodney Clapp. Downers Grove:
InterVarsity Press, 1993.
Singles at the Crossroads: A Fresh Perspective on Christian
Singleness by Albert Y. Hsu. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1997.
Single, Not Separate: How to Make the Church a Family by Virginia
McInerney. Lake Mary, Florida: Charisma House, 2003.
Does Single Have to Mean Alone? by Diane Langberg in Urban Mission,
Solitary Refinement, by Lauren F. Winner in Christianity Today, 11
Connecting: A Radical New Vision by Larry Crabb. Nashville: Word,
Connecting the Generations by Drew Zahn in Leadership, Spring
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC