Without singles, your church is missing part of the family—people God ordained to be single in this season and whose singleness He calls good.
By Ashley Chesnut
If all the single adults in your church were absent this coming Sunday, would you notice it? Would you notice it in the number of absent volunteers? Or would you notice it as you surveyed the worship room? Would you notice it in the Sunday School classes or small group meetings? Would the single adults in your church be missed?
Single Christians are part of the family of God
Family connotes a sense of belonging. If you’re part of a family, you have a place and a role. You’re someone’s sister, brother, auntie, uncle, mother, father, etc. And if a family member is missing from a family gathering, their absence is noted—and not just because of what that person contributes or does for the family.
In your church, what’s the culture? Do people feel more like a family or a group of spectators going to and from a weekly event? Does the culture indicate that church members have a place, not just in God’s kingdom, but in your local church? This sense of belonging, not just to God but to one another, is important for all believers. But it has a unique meaning for single adults. Singles need their churches to be families, arguably more so than married couples who already have a family.“The sense of belonging, not just to God but to one another, is important for all believers. But it has a unique meaning for single adults.” — Ashley Chesnut Click To Tweet
In Romans 8:12-17, Paul writes that we as Christians are God’s children, which implies that we’re brothers and sisters. And in 1 Timothy 3:15, Paul describes the church as “God’s household.” A local church is a faith family consisting of children, married couples, and single adults. Whether you’re single or married, the Great Commission isn’t optional for believers.
For parents, your top disciple-making relationships are within your immediate family—your children. But as a single adult without children, my disciple-making relationships occur outside of my home. Because I don’t have little ones I’m getting ready for school or taking to soccer practice, I have a greater capacity for disciple-making relationships in the church and community. I can direct my relational energy more to these relationships because I don’t have a spouse or children in whom I’m investing. This investment in discipleship contributes to the flourishing of the church and the advancement of the gospel.
Why single adults may not feel like they belong in the faith family
If you know one single adult in your church, you know just that—one single adult. The experience of singleness, desires for the future, struggles, needs, giftings, passions, and capacity to serve will vary from person to person as will the reason for their current singleness.
As part of the priesthood of all believers, Christian singles have a place in the body of Christ. But are they viewed and treated as though they have a place in your local church? Are they looked at as “younger” or not as mature because they’re unmarried? Is marriage or parenting talked about in ways that suggest a single will never truly know love or experience sanctification? Is their singleness viewed as a problem to be solved? Are singles incorporated not just in ministries of the church but in the lives of families in the church—whether that’s someone to sit with in a church service, a place to spend the holidays, or people to share a meal with (rather than just sitting in front of the TV with their takeout by themselves)?
Helping single adults feel like they belong in the faith family
According to a LifeWay Research survey, 45% of pastors expressed that their churches offer small-group Bible studies or classes specifically for single adults aged thirty and older, 43% plan social events for them, and 30% offer large-group Bible teaching times specifically for them. While churches with attendance of more than 250 are more likely to provide such opportunities for single adults, these options acknowledge a need that singles have for community and connection that differs from other demographics in the church.“As part of the priesthood of all believers, Christian singles have a place in the body of Christ. But are they viewed and treated as though they have a place in your local church?” — Ashley Chesnut Click To Tweet
Such opportunities signal that a church values single adults, but it’s not the only way a church, of any size, can indicate their value. Churches can also utilize the testimonies of single adults. And pastors and teachers can be mindful of teaching illustrations and applications that pertain to more than just marriage and parenting. In your conversations, do you talk about marriage as though it’s God’s “Plan A” for every person, or do you acknowledge that God does not promise marriage and singleness might also be His “Plan A”? With singles you know, you can also take the time to ask them what needs they have, what their concerns or desires are for the future, and what their experience of singleness is like, particularly in the church. Such things express care both individually and corporately for single adults who are part of the family of God.
What single adults offer the church
When Paul addressed the Corinthian believers on the topic of marriage and singleness, he emphasized the undivided devotion that singles can give to the things of the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32-35). This undivided devotion can manifest in nimbleness with time, in the mental energy one can direct to spiritual questions and issues, and in the wholeheartedness with which singles can invest in relationships and tasks.
In the local church, let’s celebrate this and encourage singles to maximize their singleness for the glory of God. In addition to using their gifts and skills to build up the body of Christ, invite the single adults in your church to think and pray with you about particular questions, needs, and ministries in the church. Ask them to brainstorm, problem-solve, and dream with you. By doing this, you’re valuing them and benefiting from the undivided attention they can give.
A picture of the gospel
In 7 Myths about Singleness, Sam Allberry writes about how marriage shows the shape of the gospel and singleness shows its sufficiency. Particularly for single adults who live alone, there’s no one sees the dailyness of their lives, debriefs with them at the end of the day, or shares household tasks. Who else sees, hears, and knows these things but Christ? Single adults who are faithfully following Christ can help the church grasp what it looks like to view Christ as sufficient.“Faithful single adults point to Christ being worthy of following—even if desires go unmet in this life—because He is our ultimate desire.” — Ashley Chesnut Click To Tweet
Furthermore, single adults who are obeying God with their sexuality, point the church and the world to how the things of this life are not ultimate; Christ is. As good as marriage, sex, and parenting are, they do not compare to the satisfaction that comes with knowing Christ. And faithful single adults point to Christ being worthy of following—even if desires go unmet in this life—because He is our ultimate desire.
If all the single adults in your church were suddenly absent, you’d miss the opportunity to receive ministry from them and to minister to them in turn. Their gifts and what they can contribute because of their singleness would affect the body of Christ the way a missing organ would affect the physical body. You’d be missing part of the family, people God has ordained to be single in this season and whose single state He sees as good.
Ashley serves as the Associate Young Adult Minister at The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama, and she’s the author of It’s Not Just You: Freeing Women to Talk about Sexual Sin and Fight It Well. She has a Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School, a Certificate of Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and is currently working on a Doctor of Ministry in Spiritual Formation at Denver Seminary.