How does the church treat singles? Every church is obviously unique. Some churches help singles a lot and some . . . not so much.
The church is not perfect. We all make mistakes. But we can’t ever improve if we don’t diagnose the problem. So my goal in this article is not to complain about how bad the church is for Christian singles. Rather, I believe the church can better help singles if these 7 areas were improved upon.
Again, articles like this must make generalizations. These 7 themes are just common problems I have noticed Christian singles experiencing in the church.
- Churches Mistreat Christian Singles By Assuming They Are All Sad if They Are Not in a Relationship
One common mistake churches make when dealing with Christian singles is that they assume everyone who’s not married is sad about it. Some people want to be married and are sad. Some people want to be married while simultaneously being able to enjoy their singleness. And other Christians in the church are happy to stay single for the rest of their lives.
Each person is different. Churches that assume everyone should be married and that everyone wants to be married mistreat those Christian singles in their church who do not fit that description. When you try to fit a square peg into a round hole, it hurts the square peg. In other words, when churches treat every Christian single the same, it hurts them. (1 Corinthians 7:6-7)
- Churches Can Help Christian Singles By Not Neglecting Them from the Pulpit and in Discipleship
In America, it seems the church is tailor made for a married couple. The pastor is usually married, the elders are usually married, those in leadership are usually married, and it seems most of the people who attend are already married.
I understand why a church with a lot of married people in it might preach about marriage a lot and cater to this group in their discipleship methods. However, church is never supposed to be a couple’s club. For every sermon on marriage their needs to be one on singleness too. For every small group on marriage there needs to be one focused on Christian singles as well.
Ideally a church values the Bible and expositional preaching. When you just go through the Scriptures, everyone gets the opportunity to study the same truths and learns how to apply those truths to their individual lives. Topical preaching runs the risk of focusing too much or too little on certain types of life situations like marriage and singleness.
Singles are mistreated when their church caters to the married from the pulpit and in discipleship.
- Christian Singles Are Treated Poorly When the Church Diminishes Their Struggles
Have you ever had a friend who is a “one upper”? Anytime you tell a story they always tell a better story. Anytime you have a problem, they always have a worse problem. Anytime you share some knowledge, they must share even more knowledge.
Sadly, this can often happen in churches too when Christian singles share their experiences. If a Christian single says, “Man, I’ve been so busy and tired lately,” and then all the married people jump on that statement and scoff, “Oh, just wait until you are married and have kids. You have no idea how much time you actually have right now.” Or if a Christian single expresses their confusion about a guy or girl they like, and then a married person quips, “Just wait until you are married and you have real problems. You will wish you had little problems like you do now.”
Just because someone is not married and does not have kids does not mean their problems are less real than someone who is in that season of life. Just because they do not have the same types of responsibilities as a parent, it doesn’t mean their life is not busy or stressful. Each season of life presents unique challenges that can be more or less difficult for each individual person.
Therefore, if a church really wants to help all people, including Christian singles, they will make an effort not to diminish anyone’s personal struggles.
- The Church Mistreats Singles By Always Telling Them Their Desire for Marriage Is a Sign They Are Discontent with Jesus
Can a desire for marriage be a sign that a Christian single is discontent with Jesus? Sure, it can be; but it doesn’t always mean this. Nowhere in the Bible does it say it is a sin to want something good. Sin occurs only when we want something evil or when we want something good more than we want Jesus.
You can be discontent with singleness and be completely content in Christ. Oftentimes the church mishandles the desires of Christian singles my preaching contentment more than anything else to them. A desire for marriage is not always a sign of discontentment in God. When a church shames people for wanting to be married, this is a problem.
- The Church Can Help Singles By Giving Them Better Relationship Advice than “Just Wait on the Lord”
Waiting on the Lord is great relationship advice, but it is not the only relationship advice. It is not biblical to tell people that the only thing they can do if they want a relationship is to wait on the Lord. Is that what we tell people when they want a job? When they are hungry? When they are falling to temptation? When they want to discover and use their spiritual gifts?
No, in situations like these we give people biblical and practical advice. Why is “Just wait on the Lord” the only thing some churches say to Christian singles who want to be married? If churches really want to help Christian singles who want to be married, they need to offer better, more biblical relationship advice.
(For more on this, see Christian Dating, Waiting, and Actually Following the Lord.)
- Churches Can Treat Singles Better By Giving Them Important Ministry Roles and By Not Using Them Like a Cheap, Unskilled Labor Force
One Christian single woman recently emailed in and said she felt like her church completely neglected Christian singles unless there was a volunteer need. Churches have an obligation to put qualified people in positions of leadership and in important roles. However, singles should not be looked over just because they are younger or just because they have less experience in marriage or parenting.
Christian maturity is different than your age. If a Christian single is mature enough and has the gifting to accomplish a certain role in the church, he or she should not be overlooked just because of singleness.
Paul said to the younger Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul said this to Timothy because age discrimination actually happens. Don’t think this never happens in your church. Paul would not have said this to Timothy if Timothy was never looked down on because of his age.
- A Church Is Mistreating Singles By Assuming They Must Be Doing Something Wrong If They Are Getting a Little Older and Are Still Unmarried
Sometimes a single person is really doing something that is prolonging their singleness. Our choices really do matter in relationships. However, you can do everything “right” and still be single. Prolonged, unwanted singleness is not an automatic sign that someone is doing something wrong.
While Christian dating tips for older singles might be helpful to someone, you should not automatically assume a single person wants your tips or does not already know what you know. A church can treat a Christian single person better who is in a season of unwanted singleness by walking alongside this person rather than judging them and assuming that they must be doing something wrong.
How Can the Church Help Singles?
The best way the church can help all people is by treating them as individual people who need maturity in Christ. No one wants to be defined by their seasons of life, struggles, or by just one part of their human experience. Single people are simply people who want the church to treat them like individuals. They want to serve and be served just as all Christians do.
Married people do not want to be defined by their marriage and single people do not want to be defined by their singleness. We are Christians first and foremost, therefore the deep desire of all our hearts is to have more of Christ. And that’s what the church should be helping everyone with, including singles.