Preaching on Marriage to Singles
How to address this vital topic without alienating unmarried attendees
How do you preach on marriage when you have singles in the audience? Below are a few things to keep in mind.
When it comes to relevant topics, you will either hit the entire audience or a smaller target. If you’re speaking to a small group of Christian business owners, preaching on the leadership of Jesus will encompass everyone there. Likewise if you’re speaking just to parents about parenting, of course.
Nevertheless, some topics are so important that you should preach on them to your entire congregation. Small-group settings or focused retreats are great, but don’t neglect some of the most important topics on any given Sunday.
One of those topics you should address is marriage. Nearly every writer of the New Testament spoke on this subject. It’s important and relevant to your church, no matter its location. Marriage is the centerpiece of God’s design for families.
The problem arises when you consider the singles in your audience. Just as people without children at home may tune out during a parenting series, many in your church may not find immediate relevance in a sermon on marriage. The way I see it, most pastors either ignore that part of their audience or ignore the topic altogether.
However, there is a third option. It takes careful planning and research on the part of the pastor, but keeping in mind your single audience members as you prep will produce a better message. Here are some things to consider as you preach to singles in your church about marriage:
Know Your Audience
Who attends your church? What’s the demographic makeup of your congregation? How many singles or college students attend each week? How many of your married members are newlyweds, and how many have been wed 10 years, 20 years and so on?
If you don’t know the answer to these questions off the top of your head, you have some work to do. Get to know your audience. Find out what stage of life the average attender is in. Figure out some percentages for married versus single adults, and for married parents versus single parents. Knowing this before you start preparing your message will be vital.
Also, what do your attendees want from a marriage series? That answer is directly tied to what they want out of life. It is not true that all singles want to wait longer to get married, just as it’s not true that all of them are looking for a spouse all the time.
We hear about both of those ideas from some of the research taking place on the average age people get married today. But regardless of what statistic you read, you won’t know how to apply the information to your context until you ask some questions of your audience.
Marriage is the centerpiece of God’s design for families.
Before doing a message series on marriage, it may be helpful to do some listening first. Gather some married couples and singles together. Ask them what they think are the major obstacles to married life today.
Find out from them what expectations were met and which were not within the first year of marriage. Or inquire about their goal as a single person until they get married. Knowing these types of things beforehand will help you answer their most pressing needs.
Three Things to Keep in Mind About Singles
Once you have a good handle on the needs of your congregation, it’s time to put your messages together. That begins with the Bible passages you’ll be preaching from. But as you read and study, keep these things in mind if you want to engage with the singles in your audience:
First, remember that singles who plan on getting married will be listening. And taking notes. They may be the most interested in this series, so make sure to provide practical application they can use later on.
It may be a good idea to use illustrations from early in your marriage — that is, if you yourself are married. If you aren’t married, you can be open about your own quest for a mate, what you hope to find in a future spouse and how you’re personally preparing for your married life.
Also keep in mind that not all singles plan on getting married. Don’t assume that every single person is spending all his or her free time looking for a mate. That’s just not the case. And a sermon that focuses too heavily on that will turn them off.
When we make the assumption that all singles plan on getting married, we run the risk of making them feel less than a whole person until that happens. You may have good intentions in advertising the benefits of married life. Don’t let that override your need to reassure each person, regardless of their relationship status.
Third, keep in mind that the message of marriage is not just about married people for married people but goes far deeper than that. The one person in the Bible who penned the most impactful passages about marriage was himself unmarried: the apostle Paul.
And Paul made the point that marriage is a picture of something much more important than the union between a man and woman. In Ephesians 5, Paul lays out the pattern of mutual submission within marriage. His advice is great, but the dynamic is spiritual. “This is a profound mystery — but I am talking about Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).
Marriage is a reflection of Jesus’ relationship with us. When you put that front and center in any marriage series, you will be sure to hit your entire audience. Marriage is a topic I hope every pastor preaches on regularly.
If you have a large segment of singles in your church, it doesn’t help to ignore it. Instead, be conscious of their particular circumstances, address their individual needs, and emphasize the spiritual truths behind it all. When we preach about Jesus at the center of every aspect of our lives, we can never go wrong.