the shape of leadership

What I Wish My Pastor Knew About Being Single

Welcome and value the unmarried adults in your church

Joy Qualls on September 14, 2018

One of the loneliest places for a single adult is church. Whether we realize it or not, we often send the message that unmarried people not only lack human connection but are also missing out on God’s design for their lives.

Adults may be single for a number of reasons. Some feel God has called them to a life of singleness. Others have gone through a divorce or experienced the death of a spouse. Still others are open to marriage but have yet to take that step.

Many single people are content in who God created them to be and where they are in life. To assume that every single person is searching for a marriage partner or is somehow unfulfilled is an error that can perpetuate stereotypes and lead to great woundedness.

As you prepare your messages and church activities, don’t overlook or underestimate those in your congregation who are single. Below are some ways to create an environment where everyone feels welcome, whether they are married or not.

Consider how often you use analogies, illustrations and metaphors that have to do with marriage and family. If most of your stories revolve around married life, you are missing out on opportunities to connect with the single adults in your audience. Highlight and honor singleness as a blessing rather than just a life stage leading up to marriage. The apostle Paul notes that while marriage is good, those who are single may have more time and resources to serve in ministry. Communicate this perspective to your congregation.

Be intentional about including single people in small groups. Married, divorced, widowed, intentionally single … the kingdom of God includes all kinds of people, and we need one another. We can benefit from coming together, walking the path of discipleship with one another, and hearing fresh perspectives. Marriage retreats and family ministries aside, try to avoid forming groups based on relationship status alone.

Highlight and honor singleness as a blessing rather than just a life stage leading up to marriage.

Don’t let groups for young adults become glorified dating games. Not every gathering needs to focus on the development of romantic relationships. Making friends is vital to flourishing as people. Healthy friendships are also strong examples to those who have been fed a steady cultural diet that the only good relationship is a romantic one. Too often the Church is as guilty as Hollywood of perpetuating this stereotype — and that is not healthy for people or the Church.

Create space for people to talk about what it means to them to be single — or not. Be willing to listen, but remain sensitive to the fact that they may or may not see singleness as a big part of their identity. Again, single adulthood is not an existence that is inherently lacking. Speak with and about single people simply as people — individuals who have a lot of creativity, insight, expertise and love to share with the body of Christ. Emphasize that God created us all in His image and called us to pursue the same mission of sharing the good news.

Recognize that single life is not simply a step on the marriage ladder. We shouldn’t treat single adults as projects, as if marriage is the end result of living a sold-out life in Christ. The messages we communicate about singleness often have more to do with our own uncomfortableness than with the single person or their unique situation. When we fail to recognize the perspectives, needs, and value of single people, we miss out on their rich, vibrant contributions to the Church. Many of the pillars of faith in Scripture were unmarried; yet sermons, teachings and curriculum rarely highlight that aspect of their lives.

Hire single people to be on your staff. Single ministers and leaders are not seeking positions in your church to find potential spouses. They are looking for places to use their gifts to serve the body of Christ. Having single people on staff is an example to your congregation that the highest calling of any Christian is to love and follow Jesus. Single staff members can enhance the life of your church, encourage the single adults in your congregation, and dispel stereotypes of singleness.

Pastor, what single people want you to know is that they need you and the church, but that you need them as well. Through intentional communication on the value of singleness, as well as the value of single people, you create space for healthy relationships, depth and breadth of perspective, and a vibrant community seeking God’s best for every person.


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