Baker Books, 2017. 240pp.
One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church by Gina Dalfonzo provides an insider’s view into the lives of many single adults – mainly never married single adults, since Dalfonzo herself falls into that group – to pastors, church leaders, and lay leaders for the purpose of educating the church on the needs of singles and enabling them to become integral parts of a church’s overall ministry. Helpful bonuses Dalfonzo uses in this resource to justify her findings and make suggestions for churches are quotes from single adults, gained from interviews with them, who have or had been single for a long period of time.
Part one of the book explores the stigmas, stereotypes, and shame that many single adults feel in churches as a result of not being married. With most church programs built to serve the needs of families (a husband and wife or a husband, wife and children), single adults find they do not fit into that model. Some churches and church members even see singles as problems, pariahs, and projects. In light of this, Dalfonzo encourages churches to begin seeing single adults as whole people and she shares some steps church members can take to begin viewing single adults differently. She reminds readers that singles, like married adults, are also members of the body of Christ.
In the second section of the book, Dalfonzo digs deeper into factors and influences over the last 20-30 years that contributed to many single adults remaining unmarried, ultimately helping readers understand how those factors and influences led many church leaders and married adults in churches to the thinking that single adults indeed do have stigmas. She reviews several of the dating movements that occurred in church culture during that time and since, while also looking at how societal changes during those years contributed to a growing single adult population.
The final part of One by One challenges churches to begin rethinking how they view single adults. The author believes that many churches have positioned being married and having a family as the greatest goal for adults, to find our identity in other people instead of finding our identity in Christ. Building relationships – not just romantic relationships – with others is important to singles, so Dalfonzo suggests a few steps church members can take to understand how single adults can be included in the ministry of the church as a whole.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
Some researchers suggest that 50% of the adult population in the United States is now made up of single adults. And the number of single adults in our country continues to grow, with millennials choosing to wed later in life and with the number of divorced, separated, and widowed adults continuing to increase. This trend can either 1) be scary for a church that is used to focusing on married adults with or without children, or 2) provide that same type of church with additional opportunities for growth.
Churches who desire growth should learn more about single adults, give great consideration into how to meet their spiritual needs, and incorporate them into their entire church body. Reading Gina Dalfonzo’s book One by One book would be a solid first step into learning the needs of single adults mainly aged from their twenties into the mid forties. The quotes from single adults that she incorporates into her treatise will especially help married adults understand how many single adults feel about their singleness and how they wish they were looked at as whole people, capable of contributing more to a church body (which they are able to do).
Part one of One by One excels in addressing the feelings many single adults have in regard to how the church views them and how many churches limit singles from being part of the complete body of Christ. Part two of the book well explains why and how, unfortunately, many churches arrived to the point of not incorporating singles into the overall ministry of the church. But part three of Dalfonzo’s work – addressing where churches go from here – is where things begin to get encouraging. The author offers several steps church leaders and church members can take to rethink how single adults are viewed, along with some easy action items to begin assimilating singles into the church body.
As mentioned above, One by One seems to focus on single adults aged from their twenties into the mid forties. While it would have been helpful for readers to have been taken deeper into a few of the issues older singles – aged from their early forties and beyond – face (such as 1. learning to make new friends after single friends get married or move away or pass, and 2. the increasing demands work and aging parents require and how those demands decrease the time and energy singles have to build a community), One by One by Gina Dalfonzo will be a very helpful initial resource to assist church leaders and members with learning the needs of many single adults, to enable themselves to begin welcoming singles into their overall church’s ministry.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
This review was written by Lifeway’s David O’Brien.