By Daryl Crouch
We make much of marriage, and rightly so. God designed marriage between a man and woman to reflect His glory, to offer companionship, and to multiply a godly heritage. The writer of Hebrews calls us to “honor marriage” (Hebrews 13:4).
Marriage is a beautiful picture of the gospel, and every healthy local church celebrates marriage, equips husbands and wives to love well, and champions the next generation.
The Bible, however, doesn’t limit our ministry to married adults and to their children. The apostle Paul, for example, said it was good for adults to remain single (1 Corinthians 7). He elevated and honored singleness as good.
It’s not only good in the sense that singleness frees Jesus followers from the constraints of marriage to serve the Kingdom without distraction, but it’s also good for the soul of the single adult. Singleness is not a punishment, but a blessing to be treasured and enjoyed.
So how can local churches create an environment where single adults can flourish in their relationship with God, with other members of the church, and in their ministry to people who are far from God?
Consider these three simple priorities.
1. Invite genuine friendships.
Not every church can or should have an official single adult ministry, but every church can encourage friendships between people from every marital status and background.
Segregating single adults may serve a purpose from time to time, but the body of Christ is naturally diverse.
It’s made up of many different kinds of people, and those differences are intended to compliment and encourage one another, and then to draw us to depend on one another in Christian friendship.
So healthy churches encourage friendships across lines of marital status. Married adults can invite singles into their home for meals and family celebrations.
Multi-generational ministry opportunities allow people from every life situation to build meaningful relationships as they serve Jesus together.
Small groups that function with intentionality can introduce all kinds of people to each other and create an environment where healthy friendships emerge.
2. Honor singleness and single adults.
As we teach people to honor marriage, we can unintentionally create a stigma toward unmarried adults. The apostle Paul was careful to avoid that tendency when he elevated singleness as “good.”
Single adults are not a monolithic group.
For example, some singles have never been married and do not intend to be married; some are unmarried, but desire marriage; some are unmarried with children; some are divorced once, or twice, or more; some are widowed and desire remarriage; some are widowed and have no expectation of remarriage.
Singleness may be a person’s life situation, but it is not a person’s identity.
Single adults are stamped with the Imago Dei, designed for a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and created for a unique purpose in life.
And God is at work in their lives in this important season of life. He is shaping their hearts. He is drawing them to himself. He is glorified in their giftedness and ministry.
From the pulpit, in the meeting rooms, and in the hallways, we honor both singleness and single adults because God elevates singleness, God loves single adults, and God is already doing a great work to make Jesus known through single adults in our churches.
3. Support singles looking for marriage.
Not all single adults are looking for marriage, but many are. Many singles believe singleness is a season and marriage is in their future, but finding a mate is a real challenge.
If your church is a large congregation in a metropolitan community or if it’s located in a college town, for example, there may be more available singles who hope to be married.
But most believers attend smaller to medium sized churches each week, which have fewer Jesus-loving single adults that are looking for marriage.
Most single adults work in the same setting with the same people every day, so if there are no prospective marriage partners in the workplace, that too is a barrier.
The bar scene isn’t a good option at all. Online dating sites can introduce singles to one another. While those offer some promise, they are also riddled with danger.
Very simply, single adults living on mission with Jesus face tremendous challenges in finding other single adults who are living on mission with Jesus.
This challenge, frankly, offers the church family an amazing opportunity to support singles who are looking toward marriage. In the context of genuine friendship, we can pray for our single friends. Rather than assuming we know what their hopes are, we should ask them.
We should engage them in meaningful conversation about these issues. Efforts of a busybody matchmaker are always inappropriate, but the loving interest of a fellow brother or sister in Christ reveals the best aspect of the body of Christ.
And as we get to know our single friends, as we pray with understanding for them, perhaps God will use us to introduce them to their future husband or wife. Perhaps God will use us to disciple and prepare young couples for marriage to build healthy families for the glory of God.
Daryl Crouch is the executive director of Everyone’s Wilson, a network of gospel-loving churches working together for the good of the community. Prior to this role, he pastored churches in Texas and Tennessee for 28 years. He and his wife Deborah have four children.