In the midst of numerous happy couples, family-centered ministries, and super awkward singles groups, single adults often struggle to feel comfortable and at home in churches. The latest U.S. statistics show that, for the first time in our nation’s history, about half of adults are single. Now let me ask you something: Are we, as church-goers or church leaders, going to passively allow HALF of adults to feel out of place should they walk in our doors? Or will we actively formulate a game plan to help singles feel welcomed in our churches? My hope is for the second. My hope is that we will all play our part in keeping the single population from exiting the church as a whole.
From my own experiences as a single, and from the hearts and minds of other singles, I offer you five practical ways to keep singles from exiting your churches…
1. Connect singles with other people of similar ages and stages of life THE FIRST TIME THEY VISIT.
This means everyone, all hands on deck! You may not be an official greeter, but we are all unofficial members of the welcome committee in this family. Take the time to introduce yourself to that new person who is there alone. Go the extra mile to introduce them to others, especially others who are also single, around their age, or who share common interests. People can often “see themselves there” if they see others who are like them there.
The first time I visited the church at which I am now a member, someone did this for me. A woman a few decades older than I came and talked with me and then guided me over to where the singles and couples my age were congregated. She connected me to them. They invited me to join them for lunch and to their afternoon Bible study, and the rest is history. I can honestly say that this is why I stayed. I don’t necessarily remember the sermon or worship set list that day, but I remember the way they made me feel. I was not the invisible loner. People cared that I existed! I was welcomed.
2. Invite singles into your homes and into the lives of couples and families.
“I’m new to church. Please put me in the church basement for a Bible study with other awkward singles ONLY, so we can discuss sexual temptation and purity,” said no single person ever…
Newsflash—Singles do NOT want to socialize solely with other singles. It is refreshing to be around people whose lives look different than mine. I treasure the times I get to spend time with couples, families, and kids. I do not have a family of my own, so this opens up my world to new experiences, life lessons, and interactions I would not otherwise have. And there is something special about engaging with others in real, authentic activities that resemble family life—such as group dinners around a big dining room table, game nights or movie nights, or Sunday brunch by the lake after church. So if your singles are still isolated in the basement together reading Song of Solomon, it’s time to set them free.
3. Go the extra mile in helping singles to get involved and serve in the church as this greatly benefits both parties.
Many singles do not have kids, and they do not have spouses. Therefore, they do not get to lend strength, provide resources, and use their gifts to benefit others on a daily or weekly basis in the context of a family. They do not get to provide for or protect others as wives, husbands, mom, or dads. Therefore, it is crucial that they are given opportunities to use the talents God has given them to bless this family—the church. The church also benefits from their ministry and service because singles often have some flexibility and availability that people with families do not have right now.
4. Refrain from suspicion or judgement.
Sometimes in conservative or religious circles, there is a tendency to elevate (and even idolize) marriage and family while criticizing or undercutting singleness. Some people may think that something is wrong with single adults past a certain age. I have heard the assumptions from church people who claim we are single because we have a fear of commitment or an over-abundance of relationship issues.
Many singles in your churches are quality people with great potential for healthy relationships. For whatever reason, marriage just hasn’t happened for them. On the other hand, relational baggage or fear of commitment might be the issue occasionally. In which case, the commitment you and your church display toward them, and the healthy relationships they find there, can ultimately be used by God to heal their wounds. So if you discern this struggle in them, you just got tasked with praying for them, loving them well, and being Jesus to them! You have been promoted to be, not a judge, but part of the solution.
5. Encourage them in their season or state of living to be all that God has called them to be.
They likely already have enough societal and familial pressures to find someone and get married, so they don’t need it from their churches too. In fact, it is so refreshing when other Christians recognize that the Bible validates singleness, and they, therefore, validate and speak life into me.
Lend support to their dreams and lend help in their struggles and needs. Listen to their thoughts and concerns; it is not like they have a spouse to hear them out or to act as a sounding board. Let God use you as a powerful mouthpiece to confirm their callings, strengths, dignity, and potential—not just one day when they have families—but right here and now.
So whether you are a church-goer or church leader, don’t miss this: I just promoted each of you to be members of the welcome committee, the hospitality crew, the prayer team, and the family, to anyone in your church who may be single, and really to everyone who walks into your doors in general. Trust me, when singles see and experience churches like this, you will not be able to get rid of them. So simply stated, be a reflection of Jesus to people.