330 Responses

  1. editann
    editann December 2, 2013 at 5:56 AM |

    Married church members–all too often–do this, too. Become widowed or divorced and you become invisible to them without your partner.

  2. steel magnoliari (@aripiphany)
    steel magnoliari (@aripiphany) December 2, 2013 at 7:54 AM |

    This is absolutely perfect, Christena. I needed to read this, certainly affirms a lot of what I’ve been going through as a single adult. I will keep this post close to my heart. It’s so encouraging. Thanks for opening this angle of discussion on unity.

    1. Darla Dobbs
      Darla Dobbs December 4, 2013 at 12:46 PM |

      Ditto to your response.

  3. Liz Renee (@LizRenee88)
    Liz Renee (@LizRenee88) December 2, 2013 at 9:44 AM |

    “Well, marriage isn’t a fruit of the Spirit either.” YES! I know most if not all of my single friends are struggling finding a place to “plug into” in our churches. It’s about we started talking about this.

  4. K
    K December 2, 2013 at 9:46 AM |

    Great article. One of the most balanced I have ever read on the Church and singleness. A few points I really liked:

    “A lot of people seem to think that singleness is to marriage as junior varsity is to varsity.” Perfect example. I’d also like to add that married people many times don’t think singles have graduated from JV to Varsity until they get married.

    “Well, marriage isn’t a fruit of the Spirit either.” How many times have I been told that the perfecting work in my life can be better accomplished through marriage? Iron sharpening iron, the difficulty of marriage forces you to rely on God more, marriage is a picture of God and the church…..

    ” Research shows that humans intuitively trust people who share their life experiences.” Helps me feel better about the church’s exclusion of singles, since most church leadership/members are married.

    “The singles-marrieds divide in many churches is just as powerful as other cultural divides.” GREAT statement- if the church could understand this and embrace it like cultural diversity (at least in my church)…

    “Just for getting married, friends and family members buy married people expensive gifts like Kitchen Aid mixers (a mark of privilege if there ever was one).” I was always waiting until I got married to get a Kitchen Aid mixer- but this year I bought one for myself. And I love it! :-)

    1. Darla Dobbs
      Darla Dobbs December 4, 2013 at 12:58 PM |

      I appreciate and share your response. I do feel the division in churches I have belonged to which I can count on one hand, however I have felt the loved in the Evangelical Church I currently am a member.

  5. jenniferellen14
    jenniferellen14 December 2, 2013 at 9:57 AM |

    Thanks so much for this, Christina! There are so many deep assumptions in the church today about how life works best, and it’s based on the needs of those married and with kids. I’d love to be married and have kids, but as that’s not something I have a lot of control over, I put a lot of energy into constructing the fullest, most flourishing life I can. It’s remarkable how much the church doesn’t help (and to often works against) that.

    (On a more positive note – after a few friends had heard me give the “have to get married to get a kitchen aid” gripe more than once, my small group surprised me with a beautiful red one for my last birthday. It was one of the best icons of love I’ve ever received. :-) )

    1. Christine
      Christine December 3, 2013 at 9:12 AM |

      jenniferellen14…My single women’s small group once had roses delivered to me at work, when they knew I was going through a painful season: It meant as much to me as a Kitchen-Aid or a bridal shower! I felt so loved by that simple act, and it was great not to feel unworthy or unloved simply because no man has ever sent me roses. Funny, how the smallest things can express true love, and how true love can come from a group of Sisters (not just a spouse). As singles, let’s keep showing love to each other! Thanks Christena, Jenniferellen14, and all the other awesome singles who are posting!

  6. Anna
    Anna December 2, 2013 at 10:50 AM |

    This is fantastic. Thanks so much! If you’ve yet to see it, you should read this guy’s work:
    http://www.critiquebycreating.com/2011/04/the-most-eligible-christian-bachelor/
    http://www.critiquebycreating.com/2012/08/faq-why-are-you-single/
    You should write a book together!

  7. Marcia Bosscher
    Marcia Bosscher December 2, 2013 at 10:51 AM |

    Wonderful piece. The Kitchenaid does seem to have become such a mark for marriage. I love that Jennifer’s small group bought one for her–what a lovely statement of their care and the “family” relationship that group must have. Thank you, Christena!

    (For more about singleness and the mixer, see Grace Chiu’s piece at The Well, “Buying the Mixer,” http://thewell.intervarsity.org/reflections/buying-mixer.)

  8. jeffreyheidkamp
    jeffreyheidkamp December 2, 2013 at 12:01 PM |

    I was 22, not 21. 21 makes me sound a little creepier.

  9. Rebecca Ligtenberg
    Rebecca Ligtenberg December 2, 2013 at 1:29 PM |

    This article is spot on. Especially the Varsity/Junior Varsity analogy, which is so deeply ingrained in church culture and attitudes, I’m pretty sure no one realizes it’s even there. In fact, it was only recently that I realized that this attitude was affecting my view of of myself! Now if I can just find a small group that wants to give me a Kitchen Aid….
    (For the record, that last bit is a joke.)

  10. beccyjoy
    beccyjoy December 2, 2013 at 1:35 PM |

    I like the idea of celebrating single people more often. You’re right… it’s not right that we reserve all of our extravagant parties and generosity for married people. Just curious… how was your book release celebrated?

  11. Mike C.
    Mike C. December 2, 2013 at 1:36 PM |

    Great post!

    As a ministry leader (who happens to be black, male & over 30) in a “this-is-what-heaven-will-look-like” church in Los Angeles, I realized what a blessing & rarity it is to be planted in a church that “gets it” on every tip you outlined.

    I’ll continue to pray that more people are plugged into local churches that reflect the ideas you’ve outlined here.

    The only issue I have with your post is calling the Holy Spirit an “it”… he’s a “he”… but that’s another topic for another day. :)

    1. Mike C.
      Mike C. December 2, 2013 at 1:38 PM |

      oh yeah, I’m single too. Forgot to mention that.

    2. steel magnoliari (@aripiphany)
      steel magnoliari (@aripiphany) December 3, 2013 at 10:59 AM |

      “this-is-what-heaven-will-look-like” church <— LOL. That's real.

    3. Unknown
      Unknown December 6, 2013 at 12:58 AM |

      Hi Mike C,

      The Spirit of God isn’t necessarily a person. Greek pronouns must have the same gender as their nouns. Since ‘paraklete’ is masculine its pronoun must be masculine too, hence ‘He’. This is due to grammar and not theology. In Hebrew the word ‘ruach’ is feminine, whilst in Greek the word ‘pneuma’ is neuter. If we were basing our theology on the gender of nouns then it would appear that the Holy Spirit changes gender/sex from a ‘She’ to a ‘He’ and even an ‘It’. Due to this being the case we should therefore not use the gender of these words as a deciding hermeneutic within our pneumatology.

  12. ebonyjohanna
    ebonyjohanna December 2, 2013 at 1:43 PM |

    Another great piece!

    So my pastor preached a pretty good sermon on family and marriage a few weeks ago. But I couldn’t help but wonder what single parents in the church were supposed to do with the message who don’t have a spouse to balance out the craziness of raising children. Given the fact that there are many single parents (for whatever reason) in our churches, we should also think about ways of including them in our message without (1) demonizing them for their singleness (2) condemning them for having children outside of marriage (3) including them only as an afterthought – as you so eloquently described.

    1. Aubree
      Aubree December 5, 2013 at 11:56 AM |

      I finally see a post related to single parents-thank goodness! I am a single parent. I don’t fit in with the singles, I don’t fit in with the parents and I don’t fit in with the married couples. I’m on my own island of misfits. The stereotyps of being “less Godly/Holy/mature” and the idolatry of marriage only intensify when you’re a single parent, especially one in their mid 20s with a child out of wedlock. I look and ask around in a church of 500+ people and I find maybe 5 other people that actually understand my perspective. We’re so few that the only ones who really see us are us. The single parent group happened because I started it and there were 4 of us total. I’ve been the resident single mom for 2.5 years, but it takes one to see one and see a need to unite even 4 people together. If you’re single, or even if you get married (and THEN have kids) you have large handfuls of people around you in the same boat in the church. What does it say about the church when I have to look outside of it to find someone who can actually relate with me? It’s honestly the last place I’d go to find support. The few boats that come to shore end up venturing back out into the ocean, the dock won’t keep us anchored.

  13. Teresa Ulrich
    Teresa Ulrich December 2, 2013 at 1:50 PM |

    As a single woman….thank you. You have put a voice to what I have wanted to say for a long time.

    I have one thing on which I want to comment: “Married people are much more likely to get hired as pastors.” I believe this happens for good reasons. While Paul writes in Corinthians that single people can be more single-minded in their devotion to the Lord and don’t have to focus on pleasing a spouse, Paul also writes in Timothy and Titus that overseers and deacons should be the husband of one wife and be able to manage his children and household well. Whether he means this as a literal requirement or as a matter of principle (meaning, someone can oversee that is really good at managing other things), I’m not sure, but since he writes it in both places, I am guessing that he means it pretty literally. Not trying to open a can of worms here…I’m not saying that single people shouldn’t be in leadership positions in the church; I don’t think that’s what Paul is saying, either. I think he means the very senior leadership in the church, like the Senior Pastor and Elders.

    Paul also tells Titus that older women should teach younger women to love their husbands and children. Marriage and family is good. Really good. And it should be encouraged. I hope to be married and a mother someday. But the church falls WAY short when it comes to ministering to single adults. Minister to me as I am; help me to be content as I am. Don’t make me feel as if I am stuck waiting for something.

    And don’t tell me Jesus was single, either. Jesus didn’t need to be married while on earth. Jesus has a bride.

    Thank you, again, so much. I am crying after reading this.

    1. Nathalie
      Nathalie December 5, 2013 at 8:48 AM |

      Hey Teresa, when Paul says that a deacon should be married to one wife, etc. I think he rather means, that a man shouldn’t have more than one wife, as it occurred quite often back then and still does in some other cultures nowadays… It doesn’t mean, that one has to be married…

  14. Leigh Kramer
    Leigh Kramer December 2, 2013 at 1:58 PM |

    A big YES to all this! Well done, Christena. It makes me wish we lived closer so we could hash it all out. Thank you for linking to my book recommendations. I wrote a post last summer about how the church can care for singles, too, in case you want to take a look: http://www.leighkramer.com/blog/2012/06/church-and-singleness.html

    This topic is very near and dear to my heart. I’ll have to tell you more soon.

  15. Jenna
    Jenna December 2, 2013 at 2:35 PM |

    This is an awesome post.

    Personally, I don’t need a big celebration (though I do love parties) or expensive gifts, but I do need your time. Whether you are a fellow single person who can be a peer/mentor for this lifestyle or a married person with a family, I know you are super busy and I am super not. I get that your family is your first priority, whether that’s living with your parents or being a parent. But don’t forget about us singles who don’t have that. Even if it’s just asking me to go grocery shopping with you alone or work a fundraiser or attend your kid’s event or lunch while Junior plays on the playplace, it doesn’t have to be long or planned out or a special occasion to be quality time. I just want to be welcome in your life (as more than a babysitter).

    1. Princess L
      Princess L December 6, 2013 at 7:31 PM |

      As a single, never-married 40-something I appreciate this article. As a single, never-married 40-something who loves children I especially appreciate this reply about not always being the babysitter. While I believe that God has given me a gift to love other people’s children (and it took awhile to see this as a gift) and a believer in it “taking a village” it hurts to only be invited to the party as the babysitter because I’m not married.
      I have a very full and rewarding life and am content in my singleness, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have needs of companionship and being loved.
      And yes, I’d love to hang out with you while you go grocery shopping!

      1. Lynn McKnight
        Lynn McKnight December 10, 2013 at 11:21 PM |

        Babysitting! A long time ago I was in a church business meeting where one of the leaders suggested that the single women should offer to babysit for the married ones, as they miss out on a lot of evening meetings. His usually quiet and traditional wife (mother of 4 adult children) spoke up “Oh no dear, these young women have CHOSEN to get married and have children, it’s not the single womens responsibilty to look after their children. The single women need to be here and enjoy worship and time with other Christians.” Well! With one sentence she cut through the unspoken image of the single woman and the expectations of the whole church, and set the single women free. She became a role model for me that day. And I never did baybysit for any one.

        1. Michelle
          Michelle December 11, 2013 at 6:20 AM |

          I understand where you’re coming from if you feel you’re only asked into a family’s life to be a babysitter. However…

          … as a mom, that breaks my heart. I thought we were to serve each other in the church (in many ways, not just this one)… I wouldn’t ever assume that a single woman (or man) would WANT to babysit my kids, but realistically… no one probably wants to! Moms (single or married!) are so blessed when someone volunteeres to serve in that way. Many moms are in situations that they did NOT choose. To say, well, you’ve CHOSEN to have kids so don’t expect someone who doesn’t have kids to give you a break, just doesn’t sound like a spirit of service to me.

          If everyone looked at helping with kids in this way, no one would ever help out… because empty-nesters have “put their time in” so shouldn’t be asked, singles “didn’t choose to have kids” so shouldn’t be asked, and “active” moms of any age, “never get a break” and so shouldn’t be asked either. Do you think as a mom of 4 kids, I really WANT to be in the nursery with a dozen more? To be brutally honest…not especially (after all, I didn’t chose to have a dozen kids that aren’t mine, either)… I like to worship too, and have a complete-sentence conversation with another adult. But in our church, thankfully, we all help out (teens, singles, young marrieds, empty-nesters, and “active” moms) so that none of us “misses out on worship” on a regular basis. Not that serving isn’t a form of worship anyway….

          1. Amber
            Amber December 12, 2013 at 3:03 AM |

            I think that your misunderstanding the context behind the babysitter comment Michelle.
            As a single person I have friends that I babysit for on a fairly regular basis, I love hanging out with their kids and I’m Auntie Amber to them, a part of the family. I’m happy to do it for them. why? because that’s not the only interactions I have with them, we hang out as adults too and they are a real part of my life.
            But then there are those people who literally a week after I move to a new city and start attending a new church begin asking me to watch their kids yet the only time I hear from them is when they want me to babysit. They’re not investing into my life at all but because I’m great with kids they believe I should volunteer and be happy to take care of there kids.
            I think what all the other single people on this site are identifying with is this behaviour. The people in the church who will only invite us to adult functions as babysitters so they can have a chance to talk to adults their own age not realizing that perhaps for someone like me, who works with other people’s children all day that this may be my only chance in my day to talk to an adult too before I go home to a completely empty house.
            This article is a breath of fresh air for most of us who have spent years feeling inadequate because we haven’t met our mate. Just because we’re identifying with this comment doesn’t mean that we don’t continue to serve in our communities regardless of the lack of consideration we receive back.

    2. Kristine
      Kristine December 6, 2013 at 9:57 PM |

      Jenna! You speak my heart. God has brought me from a thriving community of singles and like minded souls in Africa to a rural American town where marriage and 2-6 children is the norm. I know God brought me here, and I am so thankful for these friends…but their very busy lives makes it difficult to connect. I savor the moments of time together, even if it is with four children in tow!

  16. wilstek
    wilstek December 2, 2013 at 3:49 PM |

    Love this Christena! As a single person in my 30s, a church planter and preaching pastor, I completely agree with your 6 tips. I also celebrate that some amazing people, single, married, families, etc have lived into those tips and celebrated milestones in my life, investing in me, celebrating me and cheering me on. What a gift! I hope people know how much it means when you take these tips to heart. It is what has empowered me in my leadership on countless occasions! ~Stephanie

  17. andybilhorn
    andybilhorn December 2, 2013 at 4:15 PM |

    Christena – long time reader, first time commenter. Thanks for putting the best list together I’ve read. Like many singles in the church, I got asked the, “How’s your love life?” question recently over Thanksgiving. I responded kind of saucy, and said, “Well, I’m still single, not dating – in fact, I haven’t had a date in a few months. I got shot down last week, come to think of it. But enough about me – how’s your marriage?”

    She was aghast. I responded, “Well, I suppose if you feel permission to ask about my hypothetical relationship status, I suppose I have permission to ask about your real-life marriage.”

    At some level, we in the church have this unwritten rule that we talk to folks about relationships before they walk down the aisle, but to ask after the event is foreign. Thanks for giving this list – I hope it gets a wide reading.

    1. Gabe Hodge
      Gabe Hodge December 3, 2013 at 4:59 PM |

      Oh man. Awesome. Can’t WAIT to use that line over the holidays. You win, sir.

      PS – Great stuff here, Christena! Thank you for writing!

    2. Susanna
      Susanna December 5, 2013 at 9:26 AM |

      Andy, that is brilliant. I’m going to have to use that one in the future. I hate the “how’s your love life” question. You mean that non-existent thing? You mean that thing I’m doing just fine without, which you’re implying every person needs to have? That thing? lol.

    3. Lynn
      Lynn December 10, 2013 at 11:32 PM |

      Andy that is it – the answer I’ve been looking for! Will be using it next time the questions start. Thank you.

  18. Gloria McPherson
    Gloria McPherson December 2, 2013 at 4:35 PM |

    I appreciate the insights and would add another dimension: the single parent. It can be very difficult to participate in the life of the church when you are a single parent. If there is a meeting with no children allowed, that’s okay for a married person with a babysitter at home. When there are dinners for mothers and daughters, or fathers and sons, the single parent with a child of the opposite sex has to find someone to go with the child, stay home, or go and be the only “wrong” parent there. The church would do well to consider these issues.

    1. Becca
      Becca December 4, 2013 at 12:46 AM |

      The treatment me as a single parent (and of singles in general) is one large factor in why I am no longer an evangelical Christian. The incessant comments about my marital status and/or “prospects” were demoralizing and detracted from the focus on my faith. Prying and judgmental comments were very unchristian.

      The church I attend now never segregates according to marital status, parenthood/nonparenthood, or age (for adults). Very rarely does anyone ask about my “love life”; instead they ask, “How are you?” Of course I am still occasionally excluded de facto because of not being able to obtain a babysitter, but that could happen whether I was married or not. There are no mother/daughter teas or father/son breakfasts, no couples’ dinner groups, no singles’ ministries (code for “church-sponsored group dating”). Instead, people are ministered to as individuals and as part of the church family.

  19. Raquel TWG
    Raquel TWG December 2, 2013 at 6:29 PM |

    I really liked this article, even though I am “young” single adult (20 and in college). However, I have read a lot of articles about how people on the “outside” (non-singles) should celebrate singles and how they should realize that singleness is not a horrible plague. And on one level, I agree wholeheartedly. But on another level, there is a part of me that does not want to be celebrated. Meaning, even if the church does a good job at treating me well, I don’t want to treat myself well. I DO feel like singleness is a plague a lot of the time, and sometimes I almost don’t care if married people get all the attention because I almost feel like they deserve it. In my mind, being married is great, and being single is not so great; so it is hard for me to ask others to have a positive attitude toward my singleness when I myself have such a negative attitude about it.

    So I guess what I am asking is: even if the church and married people in general learn how to treat singles better, how do singles deal with their own negativity? How do we deal with it when we are not satisfied with the, “As a single you are more available to do ministry because you are unattached” answer? What if we desire to move on to another stage of life when we can do ministry with someone, when we can grow in new ways through a godly relationship? What if we desire so badly to be a parents one day?

    Basically, we know how THEY should deal with out singleness, but how do WE deal with our singleness? If someone has such a desire to get married, shouldn’t they do something different if our love life isn’t going anywhere? I know that non-Christians are all about dating and getting yourself out there, and I know that Christians do have to trust in God’s will, but should we really just wait around for someone to just fall into our lap? Shouldn’t I be trying harder in some way?

  20. Joe
    Joe December 2, 2013 at 6:31 PM |

    As a male who attends a Christian liberal arts college, I have noticed that this is something that few people actually talk about. There is so much pressure to be in a relationship, because you’re supposed to find your spouse in college. Right? Particularly if you’re a male student in a college with a high female-male ratio. I am currently on a staff of people who talk about their relationships quite a bit (or their desire to be in a relationship), which is good- in moderation.

    I wonder if a good tip for those in relationships is to be willing to engage someone who is single in meaningful conversations that do not involve one’s relationship status. The past couple of weeks, I have noticed most conversations revolving around relationships (or the lack thereof). Another thing to note is the difference between those who are content in their singleness versus those who long for a relationship. I am not sure how to approach them differently exactly, but they are both important, valuable, and different (as you mentioned, every situation is different). Past relationship status is also a notable variable. I have never been in a relationship, so empathizing during conversations with those who are in them can at times be difficult (but oftentimes rewarding)

    Thank you for your insight and wisdom. You write so eloquently and thoughtfully.

    1. Raquel TWG
      Raquel TWG December 2, 2013 at 7:42 PM |

      Ditto, ditto, ditto.

  21. Karianne
    Karianne December 2, 2013 at 7:43 PM |

    Thank you for this!! Reading that made me feel empowered…and so thankful for my MARRIED friend that posted this on Facebook. She’s an anomaly.
    There’s nothing more powerful than the bond of humanity and especially followers of Jesus that can just love and embrace each other without the distinction of married, single, older, younger, employed, unemployed, etc. I’m feeling loved and seen by your writing of this.
    Today I have been feeling really inspired to just live my life and stop “waiting.” As one of my housemates has said, “Don’t wait—go buy a Kitchen Aid!” :)

  22. Kelly Soifer
    Kelly Soifer December 2, 2013 at 7:55 PM |

    Hey Christena,
    Thank you, thank you, thank you. As a 52 year old with 30 years of vocational ministry experience, this has become a soapbox issue for me. I have never been married, though not by any sense of calling or choice. (I joke that I want to be like CS Lewis, who didn’t get married until he was 57, but I digress….)

    You covered so many things, and I’ll be honest, I haven’t read through all the comments yet, so I hope I don’t repeat what others have already said.

    I have given messages to church leaders on this topic, because it’s a giant secret in the church that all pastoral leaders need to engage with: latest stats from census.gov (2012) tell me that 44.1% of adults are single. WOW. Here are my immediate thoughts:

    1. What a neglected mission field! I roughly estimate that the average church is about 15% single (totally unscientific estimate, just a guess, and doesn’t count youth or college students). JUST IMAGINE IF CHURCHES SOUGHT TO ENGAGE ALL TYPES OF ADULT SINGLES. We wouldn’t have so many numbers problems, huh?

    2. Singles will go to churches if they see themselves up front. That means we need singles regularly preaching in the pulpit (using illustrations that speak to their reality), worship leaders, givers of testimony, etc.

    3. Not just Jesus, but PAUL was single. Some could argue that the two main shapers of our faith were not married. Hmm. Why do focus on marriage so much then?

    4. One of the absolute hardest things about being single is the issue of VACATIONS. Please, married friends, invite your single friends on your vacations. We would love to be included.

    5. Is there marriage in heaven? Matthew 22:23ff makes me think no. So if we’re all single in heaven, why aren’t we talking about our own walks with God more than anything else?

  23. Jacob
    Jacob December 2, 2013 at 8:50 PM |

    Excellent article. My single friend Rod Thomas shared this article with me. We have discussed this for a few years both when I was single and now married. Sometimes I fall into the trap at church by just talking to other couples. As a guy with still quite a few single friends whom I enjoy spending time with, I really did take solace in this article. I’ll look for more of your articles and posts!

  24. Terri
    Terri December 2, 2013 at 9:05 PM |

    What a marvelous article – on a subject that is very close to my heart, as my parents, and I (much later), were discipled by the very same single woman. She was the most committed Christian leader I have known, and was allowed to lead even in an era when women (much less single women) were not permitted to serve in leadership. Today, our church is blessed with 2 outstanding singles whose work in the church is unstinting, joyful, and of the highest caliber. Because they are single, they have time to devote to projects which leaders of families would be very hard-pressed to take on. They, too, have discipled and encouraged MANY young people, and some of us long-in-the-tooth types as well.

    I am new to this blog, so this is probably a well-worn topic, but I was surprised that no one mentioned Paul’s admonition to stay single! In this sexually saturated age, his guidance probably seems impossible to most, but the lifestyle he advocates – and you are living – is truly evidence of the power of the Spirit of God living in us. And of the secondary importance of all the things we are daily told are essential to our happiness. (BTW, while Paul expresses his wish that “everyone could be as [he was],” he was probably married at some time – widowed perhaps – because only married men could be admitted as members of the Sanhedrin.)

  25. Joanna
    Joanna December 2, 2013 at 9:15 PM |

    This is kind of extending on number one, but being mindful that the experience of singleness changes over time as a person’s circumstances evolve is a big one. Married people may feel like they can understand singleness because they were single for a little while early in their time at college, but being single at college and being a single as a mid-20s working adult are really different experiences, even if they are only separated by 5 years. The experience of my single friends ten years older than me is different again to mine.

    Another thing its helpful for married people to remember if they want to love single people well is that there isn’t a guaranteed, quick fix way to enter a healthy, suitable relationship. There is a high chance that what worked for them or someone they know won’t work for the single they are talking to. For example, people tell me that getting out more is the solution. One year I went to several Christian conferences & camps, went on two mission trips, was in two bible studies, had a ministry leadership role and went to assorted social events. How many dates did I get that year? Zero. Now, I didn’t do any of it with the intention of getting dates, but surely if getting out there was the solution I’d be married by now.

  26. Alvin Miyashita Schexnider
    Alvin Miyashita Schexnider December 2, 2013 at 9:19 PM |

    this will help keep us self aware and accountable. thanks Christena

    1. andybilhorn
      andybilhorn December 3, 2013 at 4:21 PM |

      You’ve also got good friends who can help you with this one, Alvin. :)

  27. Dan
    Dan December 2, 2013 at 10:10 PM |

    One amazing thing I’ve seen done at my church is changing the culture partly through changing the vocabulary. Rather than “singleness”, they talk about “celibacy”. The root idea in this is that we are a part of the Church; none of us can ever properly think of ourselves as “single” because we are a part of a community.

    The greatest ministry I’ve experienced in this regard (I’m 31 and unmarried) is the families that have welcomed me in. Not out of a sense of charity, but out of genuine affection. In the Church we are members of a vast community, comprising people of all ages and ethnicities, and all marital statuses. We each bring something different to the table and we are able to minister to one another in different ways. In my own immediate circle, there are two married couples with their children (ranging 3 to 13), one single mother of two, several unmarried men in their twenties and thirties, and an unmarried woman in her thirties who has no desire to ever marry. Just slightly expanding the circle, we could add another family (parents in their fifties, children mostly all grown and a few having children of their own), and a few more families on the next level of the circle. It’s community as it seems to have been designed. Each unit of the community may have some form of independence, but ultimately we are all connected to one another through responsibility to one another and a true affection for one another. The idea of being “single” seems almost laughable when brought face to face with true community in Christ.

    I was also recently able to celebrate with this family when I crossed the major milestone of paying off my student loans and completely getting out of debt. I had no particular need for a KitchenAid mixer; it doesn’t serve much purpose in cooking ramen. But I realized that I did want people to celebrate me passing a major milestone. So I threw a party, and everyone came. I mention that story to illustrate something that single people (myself included) often forget: sometimes our lives don’t get celebrated because nobody knows there’s something to celebrate. Tons of planning goes into a wedding and invitations are sent far and wide to make sure that people know about it and will come to the party. Sometimes we need to do that for the big things in our lives.

    Most importantly, everything you said in your post was fantastic. I’m just throwing in some plus-ones to the amazing things you already said, since you can’t possibly say everything.

  28. Mary Bailey
    Mary Bailey December 2, 2013 at 10:53 PM |

    Thanks for the insightful article. Being single is new for me, as I was married at 18 and after 34 wonderful years, lost my beloved husband earlier this year. I must say that I had no idea that being single was so complicated! I need private lessons on the rules! Some of the more challenging things that I have found are as follows:

    I am having to completely redefine my identity as a single person. That means not only how I function in my daily life, but also in the ministries that I can be involved in. My husband and I acted as marriage mentors. As a single woman, this is no longer considered an appropriate role for me. The groundwork and experience we brought to the table was wiped clean! It has been an awesome challenge – to see myself as God sees me as I stand alone in His presence.

    It seems that, not only do some former friends not know how to relate to me, but, as a single woman, I am apparently a threat. Honey, if I didn’t want your husband before, I sure don’t want him now!

    I think for some, I make them uncomfortable because the recent events of my life reminds them that they are not in control of their circumstances any more than I was. If it can happen to me, it could happen to them.

    Some folks seem to think I have regressed in both age and maturity because of my new status. They are inclined to either give advice on how to go about finding a new husband or feel the need to give me rules and reminders about appropriate timelines, behaviors, dating etiquette, and the dangers of being taken advantage of. It’s a lot like the folks who say that there is no right way to grieve and then proceed to tell you how to do it.

    I appreciate the thought provoking article, as it helps me see how inadequate my love for the singles in the church has been, and also helps me to have grace for those who don’t know what to do with me now! Keep up the good work!

    1. Susanna
      Susanna December 5, 2013 at 9:36 AM |

      Mary, you sound amazing. I’m sorry that you are now disincluded from marriage ministry, because what you learned and taught over 34 years didn’t suddenly go away when your husband passed. You sound like someone I’d want mentoring me if I was getting married!

      And this: “It seems that, not only do some former friends not know how to relate to me, but, as a single woman, I am apparently a threat. Honey, if I didn’t want your husband before, I sure don’t want him now!” LOL. As a 30-something single woman, I’ve definitely had women view me as a threat, and it makes me laugh. I’m happily single and not going after SINGLE men, why in heck do you think I’d want the trouble of poaching your man?!

      1. Mary Bailey
        Mary Bailey December 5, 2013 at 11:44 AM |

        Thanks, Susanna, for the encouragement. I guess that tbe Lord has me on a new path, now and all I can do is be open to the possibilities. If that includes being single, then I’ll just have to get some mentoring from folks like you and Christena! Thanks, again!
        Mary

  29. Tina
    Tina December 2, 2013 at 10:57 PM |

    Thanks for writing this. I got married right at 27, and waited for three years after college to meet my husband. Your article gave me perspective that even though I know what it is to be a single adult, I don’t know very much.

    I’ve disliked the marriage-centric culture of the American church for a while. So many biblical heros, and heros of Christian history, were single (or were single for much of their lives, like CS Lewis). My husband and I feel called to love the single adults in our church, and your writing will help me do that better. I might even start saving for a KitchenAid gift :)

    Thanks.

  30. Heather
    Heather December 2, 2013 at 11:22 PM |

    Thank you so much for writing this! It certainly needs to be said. I am 35, single, and have struggled with fitting in at church so much that I’ve left more than one congregation because they have NO IDEA how to connect with a single person. It’s ridiculous.

    I love the idea of celebrating accomplishments of unmarried people. It means a lot to have someone recognize the effort you’ve put in.

    I would also like to add in the idea of ministering to unmarried people’s needs. In churches I have been in, it’s *always* the unmarried people serving the married people (childcare, etc) – which is fine, and should be done…but wouldn’t it be nice if others would see the need of an unmarried person and fill it? The single person who owns a home could use some help taking care of some repairs, or a car repair, or something similar. It’s hard being unmarried and having a financial setback – there is no one to help you share the burden of the bill. No one to make you dinner when you’re sick as a dog. It won’t be as obvious/easy as childcare for a “date night”…but it should be done.

    1. Hannah Burtness
      Hannah Burtness December 10, 2013 at 11:17 AM |

      Beautifully said, Heather! Such a good point that I think the church doesn’t even see, on a wide-scale basis.

  31. Lexi
    Lexi December 3, 2013 at 12:28 AM |

    It’s funny how the man we follow was single, and most of His apostles were too. It is a fine line we must draw between what’s actually written in Scripture and what our ideas/perceptions are about what that means. We must be careful not to add nor subtract from it. Really informative read. Thank you, and may the LORD bless you in the greatest ways, like that of Abraham (who by the way had a childless wife till very late in her life…) :) No matter what, the LORD keeps all of His promises and loves His children. :) Sunshine!

  32. Sarah
    Sarah December 3, 2013 at 1:19 AM |

    This was so helpful to me as a married person! Thank you for your thoughtful and wise treatment of this issue.

  33. Amanda
    Amanda December 3, 2013 at 1:44 AM |

    I think it has less to do with whether someone is single or married, widowed or whatever and more about the home/family (Our church is doing this now actually). Whether that be the college kid living alone in a dorm or at home with parents, married, unmarried, widowed, divorced, with kids, or without…but what does your home look like? That’s what the church should be focusing on in my opinion. I don’t agree with the way that the Pastor in this article ended with single people as an after thought as though they could take nothing from the rest of the sermon, because that is obviously not true. It makes me sad to think that there are some single people who feel as though they fall into the shadows of the church and have no active part in the Church because this is obviously not so. But when there are sermons or lessons taught in singleness, dating, marriage, being widowed or having children there is a lesson in it for everyone even if it doesn’t seem as though you fit into one of those categories. Despite what your family looks like we are all a part of the Family of God.

  34. Eric
    Eric December 3, 2013 at 2:48 AM |

    I’ve been made acutely aware of this issue on a regular basis since the first time, in college, two of my friends got married and immediately began to talk down to me. And it’s a pattern that has continued to prove true more often than not with my friends’ marriages. And, sadly, as they get older, they very rarely get any better at treating you like an equal.

    Recently, I was introduced to a friend’s wife. A few days later, I learned that she had been very curious to know which I was: gay or asexual, since those were the only two things she could come up with that could possibly explain how I managed to be simultaneously 29 and unmarried. But usually, when people in the church ask me why I’m not married, I like to tell them that it’s because I’m too fat and ugly to deserve marriage. It invariably makes them feel very awkward, which I think they’ve earned.

  35. char-latte
    char-latte December 3, 2013 at 7:11 AM |

    This article is so good. As a single woman in her 20s in the church, I feel like there is something wrong with me. I SO appreciate this.

  36. Shannon
    Shannon December 3, 2013 at 7:47 AM |

    Great article Christena! I’m a 40+ single, never married. Am currently working with our mission organisation to highlight singles and raise awareness of a biblical theology of singleness. Sadly, the church perpetuates a model of wholeness that is not biblical! I highly recommend the book by Barry Danylak entitled “Redeeming Singleness: How the storyline of scripture affirms the single life.” Give it to your pastors & leaders and ask them to preach a sermon on the topic! It could revolutionize the church! Also recommend Colón & Field’s book “Singled Out: why celibacy must be reinvented in today’s church.” Thanks for your blog!

  37. Jennifer
    Jennifer December 3, 2013 at 8:38 AM |

    I’m a 34 year old single woman in Alabama so the divide is truly felt here. Thank you such for sharing this!

  38. Rachel Z
    Rachel Z December 3, 2013 at 9:12 AM |

    I have to say like everyone else…I am so encouraged. Thank you so much for posting the things that we have been thinking for a long time ;-) It does my heart good to realize there are more singles out there with similar feelings. And I totally get the Kitchen Aid issue :) My dad has actually commented about that to me multiple times. He agrees that married people don’t even think about it when it comes to furnishing a home. I appreciate that he sees that point of view. May God Bless you!

    1. Amanda McLaughlin
      Amanda McLaughlin December 3, 2013 at 10:07 AM |

      Hey Rachel ;)

  39. Jonita
    Jonita December 3, 2013 at 9:57 AM |

    Really enjoyed this post. It reminds me of a post I wrote a few years ago on “What NOT to say to single Christians”: http://realthoughtfaithlove.blogspot.com/2007/08/what-not-to-say-to-christian-singles.html?m=1

    I never thought I’d still be single at 33. While it’s had some perks (financial freedom, the ability to travel, etc.), I have to say that it can be pretty awful at times to feel alienated from some of my Christian friends…mainly because they’re now married or have kids and hang around other couples who are married and having kids. Luckily, I have a great church that includes a mix of married and single people. I think our pastor just doesn’t make as big of a deal about the divide. He does mention his wife and kids in stories, but likely makes a conscious effort to share other stories and include other voices sharing their stories often through video (including some single people).

    Thanks again for sharing, Christena!

  40. Amanda McLaughlin
    Amanda McLaughlin December 3, 2013 at 10:06 AM |

    Oh my goodness! Thank you SO much for this article! I am 28, single, and trying to do what I can to change the Church’s view of singleness. I too often feel like I have some “plague” that everyone can’t wait to cure me of….which makes “waiting” harder. Recently I’ve been challenged and convicted to live out my singleness well. So that other women who are single, and younger women who may one day find themselves single, will see it differently. That they see me living life well…and full. Not waiting around to “arrive” at marriage. Easier said than done! I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty offensive sermons as well. I just told someone this morning, that I wish that married people had to sit through as many sermons on singleness as single people have to sit through on marriage. Don’t get me wrong…there is much to learn about marriage, in case that is God’s plan for me…but it’s not the end all, be all that the church has made it out to be. Thank you!

    I also have Kitchen-Aid mixer envy. I have often times joked that I am going to register and celebrate my singleness. Why should I have to use garage sale furniture and kitchen appliances until I “arrive” at marriage/registry/and bridal showers!?

  41. Carrie
    Carrie December 3, 2013 at 10:22 AM |

    Thanks so much for this! As a 34 year old single woman I have often felt left out of my church’s inner circle. I have seen many friends find a spouse and all of a sudden they get invited to do stuff. People are so afraid of odd numbers! But this was encouraging! I would love to be a part of a church that embraced single people, but I also think I need to be more honest about my struggles. I don’t think married people realize how they make single people feel.

  42. maggie
    maggie December 3, 2013 at 10:45 AM |

    These are fantastic thoughts. I am a 35-year old single woman, and I say a resounding AMEN! to all of this. I was especially glad to see point #4 about celebrating single people (and not just because I like to get free stuff). I’ve thought over the past several years about how weddings often function as rites of passage into adulthood. What happens when you yearn for marriage, but that eludes you, and all of a sudden you are 35? I think that the idea of celebrating all the marker events-married or not-is deeply needed. Thanks for bringing that up (and I even have a kitchen aid mixer…gift from the mom!).

  43. Suzanne
    Suzanne December 3, 2013 at 11:01 AM |

    Hello Cristena! I am just delighted to read your blog recommended by my friend and colleague Shannon who commented above. We are on the same committee for our mission seeking to develop resources for all of our missionaries whether single or married on the biblical theology of singleness. I am +60 always been single. I must say the Holy Spirit has been my teacher throughout the years as to value of my person as a single. It is great to finally meet with others and express what the Lord has taught me all these years. I also believe that now is the time for this unspoken issue to be raised in the Church at-large. Thank you so much for your contribution! I’d love to meet you some day!

  44. Wendy Leep Hammond
    Wendy Leep Hammond December 3, 2013 at 12:00 PM |

    Love the article – would also love it if you addressed childfree marrieds in this series. With the emphasis on “family,” those who can’t or don’t feel called to have children often feel left out of the conversation.

    1. Jennifer S
      Jennifer S December 4, 2013 at 2:10 AM |

      Totally TOTALLY agreed – I found myself extrapolating a lot of the points (not all, of course, but a lot) to married-couples-without-kids. And there is hardly ANYBODY talking about how the church treats them and what to do about it. I’ve written a few things, but I’ve been hard-pressed to find much conversation going on.

      http://jenspin.blogspot.com/2012/04/motherhood-of-different-kind.html
      http://jenspin.blogspot.com/2013/02/church-and-single-girl-or-guy.html

    2. Laura VanArendonk Baugh
      Laura VanArendonk Baugh December 5, 2013 at 11:02 AM |

      Yes! I’m in my mid-30s, married early 20s, but child-free. Plus, my husband works out of state, so we have a great marriage but I spend most of my week living alone. I have FAR more single Christian friends, because we relate better; my married-with-children friends are entirely focused on kids, don’t want to talk about books or movies or games or much besides diapers or school issues, and usually break appointments if they even agree to them at all. I’m not anti-child, and of course parents should be focused on their children! but it’s pretty evident that not having reproduced makes my life irrelevant to theirs. One friend even told me so, when I complained of not seeing her. Funny, I was still interested in you….

      I guess I was already feeling the singles as My People, even though I’m married! but I absolutely see the divide being perpetuated. Which is sad.

      “A lot of people seem to think that singleness is to marriage as junior varsity is to varsity.” <– love this!! And will now be following for future posts.

  45. Veronica H
    Veronica H December 3, 2013 at 12:35 PM |

    Thank you for this article! I am a single woman in her early 40s and have experienced everything you spoke of above in the Christian communities I have been a part of. I pray that pastors hear this and remember that we are in a completely different place than the marrieds in their congregations! I will be sharing this with everyone!!
    I just can’t express how encouraged I am by this post!!!

  46. Suzan Dubrock
    Suzan Dubrock December 3, 2013 at 1:09 PM |

    I got married at 38 and all during my single life I felt negative about it. It is so true about being content a single person before getting married. I sometimes think I feel lonelier at times in my marriage than I did when I was single.

  47. Cristina
    Cristina December 3, 2013 at 4:39 PM |

    This is an amazing post. Is so brilliant and in some ocassion funny. You are an excelent writer keep posting. GOD BLESS YOU.

    PD. Sorry, for my grammar errors I speak spanish. :-)

    1. james
      james December 4, 2013 at 10:54 AM |

      Cristina, you did great. Your written English is better than most native speakers on the internet.

  48. Emeline
    Emeline December 3, 2013 at 4:51 PM |

    28 years old single woman here, nodding her head in agreement when reading your post. Thank you so much for saying it.

  49. Karla
    Karla December 3, 2013 at 6:55 PM |

    Wow! Thanks for bringing these ideas up for discussion. My husband and I have been married 38 years and we have many single friends in all of our social circles. We socialize with the single group at our church and have driven them in our van to their outings for over 10 years. We value them as much as we do other friends who are married. In our church of 240, many singles hold positions of leadership and responsibility. It is affirming to realize that we are on the right track. :)

  50. Jon V.
    Jon V. December 3, 2013 at 7:07 PM |

    Great post. I was single until I was 28 so I hit about average. I think often married people neglect singles, unintentionally, because marriage seems to consume so much of you. It is a marked difference that is externally apparent. We need to honor and empower people to serve the Lord in either condition as well as celebrate them.

    One thing to note. I would suggest you refer to the Holy Spirit as a he since that is how he is referred to in the Bible. Check out this post I wrote about it on a friend’s blog: http://jeremydriley.com/stop-objectifying-me-sincerely-the-holy-spirit/

  51. reyootie
    reyootie December 3, 2013 at 7:15 PM |

    On the mission field, there were lots of singles who became aunts and uncles to my kids. They learned so many things from these single adults who cared for them, taught them, coached them, babysat them, spent Christmas with us, went on vacations with us, just plain hung out with us, brought their dates over… they were our family and I really miss that. When married couples with kids were too busy, our single friends always had time to come and shoot the breeze. The guys loved talking theology and politics with my husband, I loved playing board games with them. When they came to our house, they participated actively – doing dishes, cooking with us. We needed them and they needed us. As much as I love Al Mohler (and I don’t know the context from which the quotes were taken)… the apostle Paul was single and thrived… I don’t understand why it’s a second class thing… and I’ve never been a matchmaking type either as some are.

  52. Scott
    Scott December 3, 2013 at 8:25 PM |

    Thanks for the insightful post. I’m single, childless, never-married, in my 40s, and the prospects of that changing anytime in the foreseeable future are slim-to-none. I’ve done a little blogging on Christian singleness. The thing that most provokes my ire are careless comments like “You never fully understand God’s love until you get married / have children.” No doubt marriage and parenthood can provide unique insights into the relationship between God and his people, but to imply that it’s the only way, or even a better way, to understand the depth of God’s love, is just so much self-righteous claptrap. I’m in a small church where I am essentially the sole representative of my demographic, but I’m fortunate to have a handful of married people who do not view my singleness as a handicap, or a problem that needs to be solved, or worse–the result of some sort of moral or personality defect. They incorporate me into their lives, and I incorporate them into mine. But this is exceedingly rare, in my experience. This is one reason I often look askance at many “singles’ ministries” in churches large enough to support them–they sometimes isolate the singles, just like the socially awkward kids sitting at a different table from the cool kids, until they manage to pair up and “graduate” into full membership in the church community. It’s very unfortunate. Fortunately, we serve a God whose grace is quite capable of overcoming our short-sightedness and thick-headedness.

  53. K
    K December 3, 2013 at 9:10 PM |

    I read your blog and nodded in agreement to most of it. But when I started reading the comments there were resounding Amens! I have a big bday coming up… how I would LOVE to not have to plan it on my own. How I would LOVE for a surprise bouquet of flowers to show up at work one day “just because” or to celebrate something important in my life. My small group is broke so I’m not holding out for a kitchenaid mixer but some yard work help would be nice. How I would LOVE to be invited on a vacation. Because in my mid-30′s I often end up going with my parents (who I love dearly, but…)

  54. Becky
    Becky December 3, 2013 at 10:16 PM |

    This article touched me in a powerful way! I wish more pastors had your perspective. May God enlarge your influence.

  55. Susan
    Susan December 3, 2013 at 10:36 PM |

    As a 36 year old single woman who also loves to bake, buy the KitchenAid! I love mine!! Think of it as a tool to use to bless others, whether married or single. Great article, it echoes many of my own thoughts and feelings. Thank you for sharing!

  56. Kell
    Kell December 3, 2013 at 11:01 PM |

    Interesting how well your fantastic article complements this one:
    http://juniaproject.com/incomplete-gospel-biblical-womanhood/

  57. Katie Axelson
    Katie Axelson December 3, 2013 at 11:01 PM |

    I’m very pro-family ministry but, yes, it does leave single adults like me out. There is no place for us in the church. At 24, I’m not a college student, we have no young adults ministry, the singles ministries I’ve tried are lions on the prowl, women’s ministries start at Mothers of Preschools and go all the way through retired…

    1. dee
      dee December 4, 2013 at 1:01 AM |

      I feel you here. I’m 23 and working, and almost left my church because of the lack of a good young adults’ ministry. i’m too apprehensive to even try the single’s ministry ..the last event they had was a mix and mingle party -_-

      1. dee
        dee December 4, 2013 at 1:02 AM |

        and i guess i should say mix and mingle as in meeting potential spouses,ot normal singles interaction.

  58. Autumn Stevick
    Autumn Stevick December 3, 2013 at 11:12 PM |

    This was incredibly well written; a timely and heartening message for single disciples of Christ! Thank you so much.

  59. ShareB
    ShareB December 3, 2013 at 11:38 PM |

    I can’t tell you how excited I would be to hear about a church “singles party”! Number 4 is my favorite – it would do so much to ease the invisibility. I’ve spent many years in church and, sad to say, most of the time singles are shoved in a tiny corner in a “just out of college” category or a “30+” or “40+” group and that’s the end of it. Or, if there is no teacher willing to step up and take the class, well everyone will just have to go into the Men’s class or Women’s class which is taught and comprised of married individuals. Previous groups I’ve been in were the most active in serving in the church but the leadership was never interested in developing, dicipling or even recognizing those serving so selflessly. They were very interested in reaching out to the young families in the area without even realizing that they could not manage the outreach without the singles who were watching all the children and running the sound & power point.I also very much like your point about experience & humility – a good general point for all to keep in mind.

  60. Renae
    Renae December 3, 2013 at 11:50 PM |

    I am 30, have two masters degrees, and have spent over five years in vocational ministry. At church I can help with set up, greeting, teaching kids’ classes, women’s Bible studies etc but I cannot take on any real leadership role in the greater church as those roles are explicitly for married people.

    In general, my church does a pretty good job at including singles while the church is gathered. When the church is scattered – that’s a different story. I rarely hear from other church members unless they are looking for a single person to watch the kids so they can have date night or couples’ night. In some ways, it is a joy to be able to serve the families in my church this way. In other ways, it would be nice to be invited to dinner (with the adults, not the preschoolers) once and a while.

    1. Di
      Di December 5, 2013 at 6:29 AM |

      I’m sorry to hear that you are usually only called upon for babysitting duties etc, we need to do better when we are scattered… I think this is true for both married & singles actually but especially single people.

      I’m wondering if I can clarify something you said??? What are the ‘REAL leadership roles’ that you can’t do? I don’t understand how leading & teaching kids & women are not real leadership roles?

  61. Michelle
    Michelle December 3, 2013 at 11:50 PM |

    Christena,
    Thank you so much for your blog. I hope the message is well received. For the most part, I believe that the married people in our congregations want to include us (singles) they just don’t know how.

    I have struggled for years to stay in a church simply because I do not fit in. I “church hop” frequently or skip altogether. I feel that married church goers have no idea what to do with me. I go, sit in the back or near the exit, cordially shake hands because I have to (not because I know a single person in the congregation) and cut out as quickly as possible because of the uncomfortableness I feel because I don’t fit in. I used to attend Sunday School and small groups. But I just don’t fit in. I would never darken the doorway of a “singles” activity because everyone there is in their 20′s and it would be creepy for me at 45 to hang out with them. Again, I don’t fit in.

    Like I said, I don’t think the married people are trying to exclude us, they just don’t know how to include us. This is why I appreciate your blog. You lay it out for them how to include us.

    Thank you for validating the things I’ve been thinking and feeling for quite some time.

    P.S. I’ve wanted a Kitchen Aid for I don’t know how long. A pink one. For my 40th some of my wonderful married friends pitched in and bought me one. :) I think what I want to buy for myself is silverware. :)

  62. Christina
    Christina December 3, 2013 at 11:52 PM |

    This was a great article, bravo for hitting it well! As an older, never married single, I’ve seen it all. My church has at times done a good job with integrating. Our choir was the best integrated group I’ve ever been in, and years later, many of us are still friends, singles and marrieds. We bonded in “praise” no matter what our stage of life was. To me, it is a shining example of everyone being a part of a greater thing to serve the body.

  63. Julie S
    Julie S December 4, 2013 at 12:08 AM |

    Thanks for taking the time to write this article. Very well said.

    I didn’t marry until a year and a half ago. I was almost 27. My husband was 34. I spent a fair number of years as a single adult, and have experienced many of the things you have referred to (“are you dating YET?”). The church can definitely work to love single people more. After spending some time struggling through singleness in our church involvement, my husband and I both have a heart for befriending singles.

    I wanted to add, though, that part of the reason why there is a lot of focus on married issues is because the complexity level of life goes WAY up when you get married, and then skyrockets when you have children. So married people and parents legitimately need a lot of help from the church in order to be married well and parent well. This is not to say that single people should never be honored or taught to or befriended. But I wish I could go back to my single self and tell myself to be humble enough to realize that those married- or family-focused sermons are really helping someone, and remind myself that they will be helpful to me later if I did marry; I’d tell myself to be creative and figure out how to apply the sermon to my life.

    Singles have real needs and should be honored and respected as viable ministers, friends, and wisdom-keepers, but single people, please remember that your life IS less complex than those who are married and/or have children.

    1. Elizabeth
      Elizabeth December 4, 2013 at 9:18 AM |

      Hi, Julie! Married people and parents legitimately need a lot of help from the church — so true! And, like another commenter mentioned, it’s very often single people helping out with this. But I’m not so sure that we can categorically say that all/most singles’ lives are less complex than all/most marrieds’.

      Some singles are missionaries, balancing life, responsibilities, and work and tax requirements in more than one country at once, possessions in several states and countries at once, navigating multiple cultures and languages at once. Some singles have very intense jobs with a lot of responsibility (full-spectrum family medicine, for example — which can also involve a level of sleeplessness more extreme and more consistent than many parents ever experience) while being responsible for complex ministries and also volunteering. Many singles care for aging parents, often living with them to help out.

      My life has included all but the latter for the past several years. I am a 40+ never-married woman. I often live with families in the US, sometimes for weeks and months. The complexity is definitely there, but it’s also different. (Many ways of doing self-care can be easier in the US than on the foreign mission field, for example.) And the support level that is usually available to the families is often also different. (For example, in a decent marriage there is someone else to share the emotional and task loads.)

      There are similarities and differences between all of our lives, and we are all carrying a load that is different (either slightly or drastically) than our neighbors’.

      1. Scott
        Scott December 5, 2013 at 10:58 AM |

        Agree! Another thing I’ve discovered is that being single in my 20s (or even my 30s) is a completely different experience from being single in my 40s. Clearly marriage and family has its own unique set of complexities, but assigning a lesser value to the complexities and struggles experienced by single people is ill-advised (but all too common in our churches.) There are more things in life that cause stress and sleepless nights than just crying babies.

    2. james
      james December 4, 2013 at 12:06 PM |

      Julie,

      Your second paragraph sounded very JV – Varsity like

      My life is very complex but in very different ways. Fortunately, or unfortunately, different complexities are easier to see and identify. The only example I can come up with would be addictions. Some are very easy to see (narcotics, alcohol) some a little (gambling), and others not at all (some person).

    3. christianpundit
      christianpundit December 4, 2013 at 8:50 PM |

      It is not true that married people have more “complex” lives or need more help than never married adults.

      Some of us have to care for aging parents as we get older. Single women not only have to hold down a job but have to mow the lawn, get their car repaired, etc (there is no husband to help with that stuff).

      Churches do next to nothing to help never married adults, but have many resources and ministries especially for married couples and couples who have kids – good luck finding something comparable for single, childless adults over age of 30 or older.

      1. johnhughmorgan3
        johnhughmorgan3 December 5, 2013 at 10:58 PM |

        I would say singles have more complex lives and have more responsibility.

    4. Annie
      Annie December 5, 2013 at 9:56 AM |

      I agree with the other commenters… Also, as Christina noted earlier, if you were married at 26, you fall into the category of being married earlier than the average female age of marriage. Humility :) I will not say one life is more complex than the other. They are both complex in their own ways… It honors us singles and the ones in your church who you try to befriend when you recognize that.

  64. Connie (@connienoelle)
    Connie (@connienoelle) December 4, 2013 at 12:55 AM |

    Christena, thanks for this beautiful piece! You had so many poignant points throughout the article! I think I love one the best – the celebration point. As I read, I was thinking about how wonderful it would be if I threw a party to celebrate singleness with my friends? Instead of complaining about singleness, we could talk about all the ways God has blessed us, and exchange gifts and quality time. I think that would be an amazing time!

  65. Mary Lin
    Mary Lin December 4, 2013 at 1:08 AM |

    Thank you for posting this! I am single and will be 30 this month, so I can definitely relate to everything you posted, especially the KitchenAid mixer– I love to bake, but it is most definitely out of my price range. A celebration is a great idea, though a small group who would by me a mixer probably won’t happen, lol.
    I am blessed to serve on staff at a small church while I am in seminary, but I have noticed that if I were not working with the kids, I really would feel out of place– we have a “college and career” Sunday School class, but other than that, most of the other classes are geared more for married people. There are a few families in my church that have really taken me under their wing as a part of their family, and I am grateful for them, although I have fielded questions about when I plan to get married or what it would take for me to get married. I try to respond with grace, but it is not always easy.
    Thanks again for your post! Well said!

  66. Ashley
    Ashley December 4, 2013 at 1:09 AM |

    This is fantastic. As a single woman in her mid-30s who is going to seminary, working, and teaching and leading a ministry team in my local church, I am thrilled that the conversation about how the church views and treats singles finally is happening more and more. In the past decade and a half of adult singleness, I have heard far too many comments like the ones you and some of the previous comments note. I have been told over and over: “The best way to be refined is with marriage;” “A good spouse is the best blessing God can give a person;” “Until you get married, you can’t fully understand God;” and, perhaps my personal favorite, “The reason you aren’t married yet must be that God knows you are not spiritually ready. Once you give up some things and learn to truly trust him, you will get married.” By that logic, of course, salvation is a second-tier blessing, God can’t fully understand himself, and he must have fallen asleep on the job when assessing the “spiritual readiness” of every married believer who still fails to completely trust him!

    My one quibble with your blog is with your reference to the Holy Spirit as “it.” “It” implies that the Spirit is an impersonal force or object rather than a person of the Trinity. It can be difficult to think of the Spirit in personal terms, because he has not become a human like the Son and is not referred to by a human relational term like the Father and Son are. But he has emotions and reactions (being grieved, for example) and deals with us in very personal ways. :-)

  67. Kara
    Kara December 4, 2013 at 1:10 AM |

    Thank you for a beautifully sharing your story. Each of us needs to hear this, both single and married. Your perspective is so valuable to help us all live the biblical church life that God is calling us to. Please don’t be discouraged, but in courage, keep speaking!

  68. rayhintz
    rayhintz December 4, 2013 at 1:36 AM |

    Fantastic article. Reading through the comments, it seems to be predominately singles or people who were single for much of their life. I happened to married when I was 21 and never gave much thought to it until some of my friends didn’t get married into their late 20′s. I’m 34 today and can definitely see the need for the church to start being more intentional about including and reaching out to singles.

    If I can point something out from the other side, I’ve had several of my single friends play the “I don’t want to be the third-wheel” card with me despite my insistence that they were doing no such thing. Being married with young children doesn’t mean that I don’t want to spend time with singles, but it does limit some of the freedom I had when I was single or married w/o children. I’d love to hear what singles have to say about this, but this is something that I’ve run into a number of times (maybe they just don’t like my crazy kids!).

    One other thing, and maybe it’s just because I’m nosey, but I DO talk to my married friends about their relationships, so if I’m asking a single person what’s going on, it’s not to say “you need to get married”, it’s just to see what up! I also talk about purity with singles and marrieds (I have accountability partners as well) because it’s important, not because I’m trying to get in your business… well, maybe a little. :)

    I’m glad I read this and it will definitely help me be more mindful of what goes into singleness when I’m ministering. Thanks so much for taking the time to share. I look forward to reaching out and connecting with more awesome people who might just happen to be single!

    1. james
      james December 4, 2013 at 11:58 AM |

      Ray,

      As someone who has felt like the third wheel and has been made like the third wheel, I’ve also made myself feel like the third wheel, This is where the opportunity to do something redeeming can take place. Try to be creative here! Do you like to cook, does your SO? Invite the person over for dinner! Do you have a washing machine and dryer? If the single person invite them over to do their laundry! (I loved this by the way, my apartment machines were horrible and good married friends of mine let me use theirs sometimes. It was a gift). The comment feeling like a third wheel was a clue to being hurt or someone has hurt one of their friends, or just society has hurt. The imagination to circumvent to redeem the divide that has occurred is necessary in those situations. Your crazy kids aren’t the problem (well maybe sometimes), remember if it gets too crazy the single people can leave.

      1. rayhintz
        rayhintz December 5, 2013 at 11:43 AM |

        James, thanks so much for the input! Things like laundry are seriously things I never think of and a great way to connect as well since it takes a while to do. I’m a connections pastor at a new church and we have a lot of younger singles. I’m sure that some of them will get married, but I don’t want to ever be the guy that is badgering them or making them feel like something is wrong if they decide to wait or not get married- we’re all a part of the family!

    2. Ashley
      Ashley December 4, 2013 at 3:32 PM |

      Ray,

      You raise some great points. Sometimes we single folks are sensitive because of past hurts or frustrations, and we might project some of that onto married friends who really do want us in their lives as more than babysitters. We also can start to assume that questions about relationship status (e.g. “Are you dating anyone?”) are based in condescension rather than care, because we’ve had other people ask those kinds of questions only to then say something like, “You need to get past whatever hidden issue is keeping you from being blessed with a spouse,” or “You still aren’t dating anyone? That is so depressing!” Just as married believers need to be mindful of their attitudes and openness toward single people, we single people need to be mindful in return. It’s all part of being in community and doing life together, and we all have a lot to learn!

      1. rayhintz
        rayhintz December 5, 2013 at 11:52 AM |

        Thanks for your honesty Ashley! I have to admit that I asked my close friends about dating more than once because they said that was their desire, but it took me a long time to see how my approach was detrimental to our relationship and hurtful for them. I always put the emphasis on them feeling awkward even though I created a lot of it myself! Thankfully, we have solid relationships now and we do talk about purity and even their dating lives in a healthy way.

        I always love hearing the perspective of others on things like this, because I admit to living in a married vacuum at times. Feeling challenged to start including more singles in our lives!

    3. Scott
      Scott December 5, 2013 at 11:32 AM |

      Ray, these really are some good points. As a single man in his 40s, never married, I’ve got lots of experience with the third-wheel phenomenon, but I’m grateful that I’ve almost always had at least a handful of good friends who are married, and not only that, but friendships where there was legitimate give-and-take. In many social connections between singles and marrieds, there is frequently the idea that marrieds must take singles “under their wings” and minister to or mentor them–and not that there’s anything wrong with that per se, but if it is a one-way street, it ends up propagating the notion that singles are somehow lesser contributors, immature, more needy. If single people are not invited to share their gifts, talents, wisdom, and mentorship, not just among other singles, but the church community as a whole, then something is clearly amiss. It stifles growth for everyone.

      1. rayhintz
        rayhintz December 5, 2013 at 11:57 AM |

        Great point Scott! I have certainly got up on my pedestal a time or two to show singles how it’s done, only to realize later that I could be learning a lot from THEM! My best friend is single and led me to Christ when we were teenagers.

        I can honestly say that our relationship has been one of give and take. He’s an awesome guy who loves Jesus, serves faithfully and lives a life above reproach. I have been blessed by him more than I could ever describe and am eternally thankful for his contribution to my life.

        Praying that myself and others gain a greater heart for and to work WITH singles in the journey!

    4. Hannah Burtness
      Hannah Burtness December 10, 2013 at 11:43 AM |

      Ray, thanks for a really thoughtful post! To both your question about being a third wheel, and about the “so, are you seeing anyone?” type of friendliness, here’s one thing to think about: a lot of us single people don’t want to be single (or at least, very much hope that we’ll get to be with someone, one of these days). I would LOVE to find a guy, would love to know what it’s like to be in a committed relationship. Being single can be wonderful, and yes has a lot of freedoms that being in a relationship/married doesn’t, but it can also feel like an open wound. Like a problem that you can’t solve. Maybe when your friends say they don’t want to be a third wheel, they mean they just don’t want to be reminded of what they don’t have, again, tonight (might even be the crazy kids!). Asking single people if they’ve met anyone lately seems like an innocuous question, but when you HAVEN’T met anyone, still, and you get asked this question a lot… well, it just kind of hurts a little, every time. And the older you get (especially if you always saw yourself getting married and settling down early), the harder that burden can be. I’m not trying to whine about singleness, or put words in your friends’ mouths, but I wanted to maybe help you see something that’s not obvious from the outside. Thanks for engaging in the conversation!

      1. AF
        AF December 12, 2013 at 4:24 AM |

        Thank you Hannah, I couldn’t say it more clearly you’ve stated my sentiments exactly. At 30 I would love to be married, I’m fantastic with kids and sometimes the birth announcements and birthday parties are to much and remind me of the kids I badly want, but am not so sure I’ll be lucky enough to get.

  69. Katherine
    Katherine December 4, 2013 at 2:30 AM |

    I heard a really great talk by Wesley Hill about Spiritual Friendship. His talk was centered on the LGBTQ+ experience, but I think it’s extremely applicable now. It’s definitely given me some ideas about how to connect on a deep level with singles in my church, mostly on a personal level.

    Ideas:
    - always having extra chairs at my table
    - small groups with both married couples and singles
    - small groups with singles and members from a marriage without their spouse
    - naming a single friend as a Godparent
    - encouraging single people to live in my home

    http://new.livestream.com/calvin-college/events/2471361

  70. kaylaeby
    kaylaeby December 4, 2013 at 3:26 AM |

    So interesting to read this article as well as all the comments! As a young university student, the transition from youth to young adult itself can be an awkward one, and that’s even before the pressures of all the matchmakers!

    Honestly, I’m not sure how much I can say about singleness… I am young, and in a committed relationship. I’m not ready to get married yet, but am fully aware and okay with the fact that I might be one of those people who get married young and don’t get the singles experience. If that’s the way God allows my life to lead, I’m not going to say no!

    But I’d like to think I’m also not completely oblivious. I have seen strong pictures of both the married-younger and single-later perspectives. As a past staff member at a Bible camp, I have seen many godly couples form, and I knew 15 couples under 25 who either got engaged or married in the past 6 months! My boyfriend worked at camp this summer, and whenever I went to visit him and other friends, I would get asked repeatedly when we planned on getting married! I was completely caught off guard, especially as I had just made one major life-stage transition. Another was not in the cards just yet! I may be young, but I have already felt pressure from my peers in regards to marriage, and I don’t think it’s okay. If it turns out God is leading both of us in a similar direction, and our callings complement each other-if we would make a strong team for Jesus-then I’m perfectly content to marry before 25. If that’s not the case, then I’ll thank God for the experience of singleness.

    I know that the article wasn’t saying marriage is wrong, and I really appreciate that! I think a lot of Christian singles-especially women-get the idea that if we’re single, it means we’re not good enough for marriage. It means that we aren’t perfectly content in the Lord, so he hasn’t brought us a husband yet. Is that really a God honouring perspective? Is that true relationship? No! Pursuit of God should not be born out of desire for a “good Christian guy” to come sweep us off our feet. There is no magic formula! God is not Santa, He is our Saviour. He wants our hearts. I think that’s a gift singleness can give-an undistracted heart. I’ve heard “If you’re dancing with Jesus, he’ll let the right man come in,” but the danger comes when we’re looking over our shoulder throughout the dance, and end up “stepping on Jesus’ toes.”

    I’m sort of going all over the place, but there was one more thing I wanted to mention. Honestly, at the end of the day, this may become a blog post or two of my own! (kaylaeby.wordpress.com)

    One thing my boyfriend and I discuss a lot, is segregation in the church. The way that bothers him the most comes in generational separation. How can we expect the children of a congregation to grow up as contributing members of the Church, when they are isolated from it? How can parents expect their kids to “get Jesus” when they take a backseat in the role of spiritual leadership, trusting their Sunday School teachers to cover all the important things? North American youth are some of the people who may be least exposed to the idea of need, and most disillusioned on the Church, yet what are we doing about it? Sending them to a youth conference or summer camp? Those places can have huge, valuable impact, but only if the parents and other church members take active roles in mentorship and discipleship. This principle extends to all ‘groups’ in congregations. We must strive to find real community amongst ourselves! We cannot do that if we are being served as individuals. We must become involved and invested in each other, no matter their background or class of diversity. Then we can model Christ’s vision for the church.

    1. Noel
      Noel December 4, 2013 at 8:41 AM |

      Kaylaeby, you bring up a great point! I agree that churches should not be so divided up into stage of life. My particular soapbox on this point is very well-intended youth groups (and similar organizations) that draw kids to the church because it’s “super fun” and “Jesus loves rock and roll and water balloon fights.” Not that Jesus would necessarily be against joining in a fun water game with some teens, but what are we teaching kids who will grow up to be the adult leadership in the Church? That Church is all fun and games and you should leave it when you actually have to sit down and learn some boring theology?

      My next point is along the issue of segregation in the church but having a little more to do with my own experience. I got married young – I was 23 and he was 22 and we quickly joined a great church that we are really excited about. My one issue is that the vast majority of our friends (and certainly all of the friends we actively spend time with) are single. Our church has a group of “20-something singles” that meets monthly with some adult mentors. This is great for them, I’m sure, but it unwillingly leaves us completely out in the cold! Whenever this group meets, it seems like they are going off to get life advice and fellowship with each other and we go home pout about how ignored we are (to be fair I should say that I go home and pout about how ignored I am because my husband doesn’t mind so much, and maybe I am just pouting and need to get over it but I would love to be able to continue building relationships with these people and with older adult-mentor types and I can’t because too young to be in the next group and too married to be in the single group).

      1. james
        james December 4, 2013 at 12:24 PM |

        Noel,

        Have you pouted or said something to your friends in this circle? If not do so. If you love them and you feel like they love you there should be enough trust there to get the ball rolling helping you feel included. The problem with JV-Varsity is two fold, single people are sometimes made to feel like we aren’t fulfilled or worthy, and varsity people are made to feel like have it all figured out when they don’t.

  71. Jane
    Jane December 4, 2013 at 6:11 AM |

    What a thoughtful article and comments. Graciously written by all.

    I was nearly 40 when I got married and certainly experienced marginalization as a single person. (Interestingly enough, to continue the JV-varsity metaphor, getting married may get you to the varsity team, but you need kids to make first string. And if you don’t have them, you’ll receive plenty of intrusive comments on that topic and what you should do about it. An opportunity to respond with grace about the position and purpose God has for life at this age and stage … although the grace part occasionally requires effort.)

    For those who want the Kitchen-Aid mixer, BUY IT! In my late 20s, I realized I had fallen into a pattern of deferring a lot of decisions “for marriage” … and that marriage wasn’t on the horizon, but life and God’s calling were right in front of me.

    So I bought a house and, over time, the 6 quart mixer and real furniture (apparently I thought I needed marriage for grown-up furniture as well). Threw parties for all kinds of folks.

    Another older single woman (an Episcopalian minister) inspired me to plan for a life of singleness and think about early retirement/planning for a transition into another phase of service. She encouraged me to take proactive responsibility for finances (example, paying off the mortgage early so as to be freer to pursue other service/career options).

    It’s not about the stuff but about embracing this time and place and seeing the purpose God has in it. For me, each action was empowering and affirming. Singleness wasn’t a holding pattern but rich and satisfying, a purposeful now.

    I did meet and marry a wonderful, godly man, whom I affectionately call Superhub. And he is super, largely because of the years of seasoning he had as a single, believing man living out God’s calling in his life in a community where most marry right after college graduation.

    Bonus: we didn’t have to list a Kitchen-Aid mixer for the wedding registry.

  72. Cheryl
    Cheryl December 4, 2013 at 6:23 AM |

    I really enjoyed your article. I am a single mom who has never been married. I grew up in the church and there has always been an empty place for singles and even harder place, single parents. As much as I enjoyed your article I think we need to be careful not to push our single agenda like we feel the married people push theirs. As your post says they just don’t understand.

  73. suzanne
    suzanne December 4, 2013 at 7:15 AM |

    I’m only 24, but for many years I definitely held marriage as an idol. My plan was to go to a Christian university, meet my husband, get married before I graduated and then start having kids. Then I graduated from that Christian university without ever having gone on a date and realized how exciting it was to have a whole world of options at my feet. Now that I feel planted in a city, church, job, and ministry, it’s easy to let those old thoughts creep in. “Okay God, I’m ready for a husband now!” But God is showing me how He is working in me as I am right now and that I don’t need to wait for a husband to do anything – I am loving on and investing in the lives of children right now and I don’t have to take them home at night! I imagine I have at least a few more years of singleness ahead of me (really, who knows?) and I am overjoyed to feel that I am growing into a beautiful community of single people who are doing amazing things for the Lord. I am also grateful for the married woman who told me last year, “Read your Bible now. Get to know God now. I wish I had the time to spend with God now that I did before I was married.” I am blessed beyond belief!

  74. Kevin Sanders
    Kevin Sanders December 4, 2013 at 8:17 AM |

    Excellent post! I was single until age 39 and I can relate to this.

  75. mike314159MikeTime
    mike314159MikeTime December 4, 2013 at 9:03 AM |

    On a related note, one wonders why Gen X/Y (which tend to be single) are so disillusioned by the church, and why the church doesn’t do more to reach out to them. I can tell you why in a nutshell and it has little to do with “reaching out to them”, the “style” of worship or not engaging in things like “social justice”. It’s mostly about the money. You look at who gives the most, and it’s the older folks (around age 40+, who often happen to married). Even if you account for Gen X/Y having less money overall due to not having climbed the corporate ladder, more student loan debt, etc.they still give a paltry amount either absolutely or as a percentage, even if they give at all. Well, from a purely administrative and pragmatic point of view, who are you going to please? A group which seems to be nothing but takers and not givers (young singles), or those who are paying your bills for the building and your own mortgage at home (older married)? I know this sounds scandalous, but no large organization is immune from political influences. I suspect if younger singles gave more to their local church it would pay attention. I don’t know of a good solution to this, as you’d be asking one group (the Givers) to support another group (the Takers) for “nothing in return”.

    1. james
      james December 4, 2013 at 11:44 AM |

      I’m going to push back on this,

      1. Young People/Singles do give. Nearly everyone I volunteer with at my place of worship is single. Nearly every major ministry at my place of worship people who are single are the major value adders volunteers (they’re the ones who do the work). To make this less anecdotal I have seen this from all spectrum of the body in every dimension of the spectrum. I willing to bet if you were to put volunteer time vs, money given, the Volunteer time would win out easy.

      2. We give, we give a lot. From missionaries to compassion kids, to our local churches we give. Remember we’re supposedly have so much disposal income because single and childless.

      3. Givers? Takers? Really? You’re using that language here?

      1. mike314159MikeTime
        mike314159MikeTime December 4, 2013 at 7:57 PM |

        Thanks for your reply james.

        Young people probably DO volunteer than older folk, but volunteering doesn’t pay for the church rent or the salaries of the staff. Volunteering does help alleviate some church expenses (e.g. volunteering for a worship team instead of paying someone). But those are of minimal impact.

        They also give not only an absolute but also as a percentage. There are a number of sources (but admittedly hard to gauge as most churches don’t disclose the demographics of who contributes).

        This chart by heritage shows that the PERCENTAGE among the younger crowd is the lowest: ( http://www.heritage.org/static/reportimages/C88ACEBC46F94D8421E53EC4CB231C37.gif). The bigger report regarding giving can be found here: (http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/1996/12/bg1093nbsp-how-a-flat-tax-would-affect-charitable)

        This report here (back in 2005 but doubt it has changed much) uses data from the US Labor Dept. See page 94 where it clearly shows both an absolute and percentage of giving as the lowest (http://www.emptytomb.org/scg05Chap7Xcrpt.pdf)

        If you can show me hard evidence that this is not the case then I will gladly reconsider my position.

        I am not arguing that young adults don’t give. I’m simply arguing they don’t give as much either absolutely or as a percentage. Obviously, when you’re young you don’t have as lucrative as a salary. But then again, as you point out, they do have more disposable income being single and childless. So why aren’t they giving more?

        Yes, I am using that language here (of “givers” and “takers”) because I believe it’s an appropriate term. There are some (of all demographics) who come to church over and over again, without giving a dime. They are benefiting from sermons, Sunday school class, nursery care (which isn’t cheap by the way on the outside), going to free events which the church sponsors, etc. Of course, some people in financial difficulties would be excused, but I daresay that’s a very small percentage considering looking at how some of them live. What would you call someone who did this in the secular world who constantly just took benefits from society without any intention of bettering themselves to be working productive citizens? Probably the name of a certain bloodsucking creature you find in fresh waters.

        And what about all those people who DO tithe (or at least give regularly)? Now I doubt that most of them will admit they actually “want” something from the church. But I think it’s fair to say that if the church did something totally contrary to their convictions over and over they would seriously consider leaving. So what does the church do? Naturally, to stay “in business” it’s going to lend an ear more to that demographic. Is this ideal? Not really. But it’s pragmatic and often how the world works, even within the church.

        Frankly what I find somewhat hypocritical among a number of young people (and I would count myself as one of them) is that they are all for things such as social justice, saving the planet, etc. which IS good, yet fail to make a sacrifice to support their own local congregations. If the young (single) adult population would like this very same congregation to listen to and help them tangibly they need to show they are serious about the congregation as well.

    2. Ashley
      Ashley December 4, 2013 at 3:55 PM |

      I second what James said in response. I also think that if a local church really does “strategically” prefer older people with more money over younger people who can’t or don’t give as much, that church is failing regardless of how well it is doing financially for now.

      First of all, Scripture is quite clear about not preferring those with money over those without. The book of James deals directly with this exact topic. A church that treats financially stable people differently than it does poorer people is in direct disobedience.

      Second, what happens when the current generation of “givers” is gone? The local church you describe is basically planning for collapse in a generation or two.

      Third, how we handle our finances is a matter of discipleship and spiritual maturity and discipline. Older people can struggle with that just as much as the young, and many young believers are obedient in financial giving. But those who aren’t don’t need to be ignored; instead, they need teaching and leadership in this area. Instead of writing off young people who don’t give financially, disciple them. Some people (of all ages) still will resist giving, but many just need help and guidance about how to prioritize and submit to Christ with money (as well as with time and service, areas where younger people typically give quite actively, as James pointed out in his reply).

      1. mike314159MikeTime
        mike314159MikeTime December 4, 2013 at 8:21 PM |

        Ashley,

        I understand what you are saying (or at least I try).

        That passage in James (James 2) refers to preferential treatment based on wealth or social appearance/status. But that would imply that they are treated differently. However, in most churches, everyone benefits equally. No one is denied the sermon, daycare services, the free events, etc. just because they are of a different demographic (except of course it’s targeted towards them and made clear like a women’s ministry)

        I do get what you are saying that it could also mean one shouldn’t listen to one group (meaning giving them more influence) more than another. In a perfect world, there should a ministry for every “group” equally. But the reality is when budget cuts occur (and they often do) SOMETHING has to go. Unless there is more giving to makeup the shortfall, staff will need to be cut, as well as programs. Now, who decides this? Ideally this could be put up to a church vote but don’t know that many churches which do this (young people would probably be outvoted anyway since they make up a small percentage of the population). It’s usually a decision by the pastors/elders. And they probably look at a number of criteria, but the most important factor in my opinion is probably the number of people directly served. That’s why you don’t cut sermons and worship bands. And given that church attendance among the young adults is abyssmal with a relatively small number compared to the whole (even among “Mega Churches” attendance to single small groups usually are no larger than 100 or so) it makes it a prime target. Why spend all this money for a full time pastor/staff for so few people? What’s worse is that among some young singles there is a tendency to church hop, perhaps motivated by a lack of other “prospects”, not liking the music, what have you. That further justifies the cuts. Why keep a program going when its members just get up and leave after a short time and don’t establish this place as a church home?

        Yes, we all need more discipline in handling our finances and giving. I’ve heard that total giving among regular churchgoers is about 2-3%. I’m not about to debate the tithe (a discussion for another time) but the point is, I believe as C.S. Lewis wrote that we probably aren’t giving enough if we don’t feel uncomfortable and have to give up some luxuries of our peers at around the same level. That is just unacceptable.

        What you point out is very true and a train wreck waiting to happen unless something is done. By ignoring the younger generation who won’t go to church for the older, you might end up with the situation in Europe where most churches are empty and certainly not with young (single) adults. The question is how to best approach it. If the younger generation goes to church but gives minimally the local church will not thrive. If the local church does not put more emphasis on young (single) adults it can’t even have a discussion about stewardship.

        Thanks for your feedback.

        1. Pam
          Pam December 5, 2013 at 8:41 PM |

          Sorry to be blunt, but the attitude in your two comments here is part of why younger generations leave the church. Being told we’re just takers and that our volunteer contributions – which, quite honestly, keep churches functioning – aren’t worth much does not endear us to hanging around.

    3. christianpundit
      christianpundit December 4, 2013 at 9:04 PM |

      @ Mike Time.
      You do realize that today’s 40 somethings are Gen X, right? Because we are. I’m 40ish, I am Gen X.

      I can’t agree with all of your perceptions. Those age 30 and up have the most money, but are still ignored, unless they are married with kids.

      Churches do not ignore the teens and 20s. They worship the teens and 20somethings. They are always fretting about the ‘millennials’ (today’s 20 somethings) and scheming and analyzing why they don’t want to attend church and how to get them to return to church.

      Although retired folks have tons of money, and preachers want their money, they don’t care to cater to the old people. They often tell the older people to shut up.

      They will take their money but don’t care about their views, because most churches are fixated and utterly obsessed with reaching teens, young college kids, and young married couples who have children.

      Churches are captivated and obsessed with “being relevant” and hip and trendy and assume that 20 somethings convey trendiness better than a church full of white haired or middle aged people.

      Read the book “Quitting Church” by Julia Duin. Even though singles age 30 and up have a ton of money, they are leaving churches in droves because churches are ignoring them to cater to teens, kids, and young married couples… and shooting themselves in the foot, since the wealthy, un-married 30 and 40 somethings are walking out, since they are being ignored. It’s so ironic. If churches could attract and keep the middle aged singles, they’d probably get more money.

      1. johnhughmorgan3
        johnhughmorgan3 December 5, 2013 at 11:03 PM |

        Julia – Amen and Amen. TY-JIMS

  76. MB
    MB December 4, 2013 at 9:07 AM |

    Ironically, I actually cried when a family member gave me a Kitchen Aid mixer for my 25th birthday BECAUSE it was equated with marriage. Same family member had given one to my sisters and cousin as wedding gifts, and to me it was an statement that they were giving up on the prospect of marriage for me. Of course the intention was nothing of the sort and this relative simply knew I would enjoy having one and didn’t want me to wait.

    This article is a good reminder. I walk the fine line since I got married in my late twenties, but still remember the feelings of inadequacy as a single in the church (I earned my MDiv from seminary as a single person, yet as a single was only hired in an administrative role and as an unpaid intern). I remember the painful remarks from Godly seniors: “You’re 27? I guess there’s still time for you to find a husband.”

    Now that I am happily married with children and in church leadership, I benefit from these reminders and the call to do singles ministry better and change the cultural prejudices against singles.

    Truthfully, I find myself envying some of my single friends who are still able to pick up and go on a mission trip, speak internationally at a conference, or stay late at a Girls Night Out, as I am now in the season of parenting little ones- diaper changes, nursing, tantrums and all.

    Each season of life brings unique blessings and challenges. Let’s celebrate what God is doing in us and through us today!

  77. Scott
    Scott December 4, 2013 at 9:19 AM |

    Excellent article! I’m a single Christian man that’s 31 years old. I think more pastors and church leaders need to read this article and seriously consider what harm (unintentional harm) is being done to single people.

    Another note should be that people should stop thinking a single man and single woman are having a relationship because they go get coffee or are seen together every once in a while. It is not a sin to hang out with a friend (although proper boundaries should definitely exist).

    Again, great article!

  78. A Texan in China
    A Texan in China December 4, 2013 at 9:30 AM |

    I went to a small church for several years where I was one of the only single people for some time. Most others were married with small to middle-size children.

    They gave me a beautiful example of what a church looks like that meets the needs of single people well. I was invited and included in everything–social events, church events, volunteering at the church, etc. There was nothing that I was not “fit for” because I was not married–even got asked to help in kids church often, despite my obvious lack of experience with kids. On an individual basis several of the couples befriended me both as couples and as individuals.

    I was often asked over to their houses, and we “shared one another’s burdens” with each other, which was actually a neat balance because the burdens I had and the burdens they had were quite different, so our ability to help one another really complemented well.

    I think the worst thing a church can do is have a “singles ministry,” as if somehow all the singles need to be cordoned off in their own corner of the church because somehow others don’t know how to interact with them.

    I was never treated differently, and there was never a discussion of my “singleness” (as if it’s a disease!). There wasn’t a special effort to meet my “special needs” due to my singleness. In fact, the best thing my church ever did to minister to my needs a single person was to embrace me as part of the larger church family. This meant that although I was not married, I was never alone….

    Also I think this article applies to the “young/old” divide as well. A healthy church is one in which older generations and interacting with younger ones and each helping the other to grow in ways they couldn’t on their own! Some the people I have enjoyed the most at church have been 40 – 50 years older than me, and I have learned sooo much about life from older women in the church.

  79. Lloyd
    Lloyd December 4, 2013 at 10:44 AM |

    Another ‘lost’ demographic is the married person who attends service but the spouse does not. Most churches don’t know how to handle that ‘single’ married person. Everything is usually for married or single…just does not connect with either…

    1. christianpundit
      christianpundit December 4, 2013 at 9:09 PM |

      Lloyd, try being a never married adult age 40+ (and one who is a virgin). Churches can’t deal with that, either.

      Churches understand “divorced” and “widowed” or even “pregnant as a teen outside of marriage” but not “past age 35, and have never married, never had sex, never had a kid”

  80. Liz
    Liz December 4, 2013 at 11:09 AM |

    This is true in Christian organizations too. Where I worked, married couple received special privileges most of which revolved around seeing them as mature adult units, whereas all single women were grouped together as if they were perpetual college students. It’s one of the top five reasons I quit and never went back to Christian groups. Now that I’m married, I see another problem- people put me in a new category as of I’m a different person. I am the same adult with the same maturity now as then, and I still feel like I fit better with my same friends, single or married, because I didn’t change! I’m still me with my same strengths and weaknesses, just instead of complaining about boys from a single perspective, I complain about my husband. ;) My Christian-ness didn’t change with my relationship status, so I don’t understand why we emphasize it so much. Great article!

  81. The Dandler
    The Dandler December 4, 2013 at 11:20 AM |

    Hi! Thanks so much for this article. It’s a great additional insight to the work of singles in the Church today. Me and another single friend of mine have often lamented the de-glorification of singleness in the Church by the Protestants. I think because Roman Catholics have basically done to singleness what the Protestants have done with marriage (making celibates a more holy, separated people than the “worldly” married folks) there was a reaction to that. But as Protestants, there is no “niche” for a single man or woman. You can’t say “Oh, I’m a priest” or “I’m a monk” and then get some understanding from the person you’re explaining to. You’re basically just a weirdo, socially awkward, gay, or some other oddity, because SOMETHING must be wrong with you.

    On my blog, my most popular series is On Celibacy, based on Wesley’s tract about being single in the church, which is a much needed focus. Bring back the monks and nuns! Just, in a Protestant context. Hehe. Jesus Christ WAS single, and so was Paul, and they actually advised AGAINST marriage unless you were really sure – why shouldn’t the Church today encourage that same caution, when marriage isn’t our highest goal, discipleship is. http://www.dandleblog.com/2012/09/on-dreaded-word-celibacy.html

    THanks again!

    1. Rose Scherer
      Rose Scherer December 4, 2013 at 4:51 PM |

      As a Catholic, I agree that the Catholic church has gone to the other extreme; however, I think you are oversimplifying things when you say that the priesthood and holy orders provide a niche for singles. What about the (many) singles who feel called to be single, NOT single and a priest/monk/nun? Catholic singles face much of the same discrimination as Protestants PLUS the pressure to join a convent or monastary by people who wish to pigeonhole them.

      1. christianpundit
        christianpundit December 4, 2013 at 9:17 PM |

        @ Rose.
        As a former Baptist here… there’s another group of Christian singles who are even further marginalized, which is, someone over age of 25 who had hoped and wanted to marry but never met the right person, but who is still a virgin, who would still like to marry.

        Seldom do I see the topic of adult singleness discussed in Christian circles, especially for adults over age 35. Most discussions, blogs, books, etc, assume one of several things, that never fit me, eg, Christians often assume one or more of the following:

        You were “called by God” to be single, you explicitly heard from God at some age that God was going to keep you single forever (so the other assumption here by most Christians is that you must feel just fine and peachy about being 40 years old and still single);

        You must hate marriage/ hate men/ be a feminist and actively tried to stay single and you got one billion marriage proposals when you were 25 but turned your nose up at all of them.

        Some Christians basically tell you if you have reached age 35/40 and are still single, to just give up on marriage already, just suck it up and accept that you will die single, so go and just have Jesus thoughts all the time and serve orphans in soup kitchens.

        There are several other assumptions like those. None fit me.

        I was not “called by God” to be single, I do not want to be single forever, and I hope to get married. I do not want my desire for marriage minimized or insulted as it sometimes is by these authors who tell me it is worldly or unrealistic to still want marriage past age 40.

        There is absolutely no perception among Christians that someone who wants marriage can still find him or herself single at 35+ years old, and if we admit to wanting marriage when we are over 35, we get shamed and chided for it!

        1. Sharon
          Sharon December 7, 2013 at 6:14 PM |

          AMEN! It’s fine to talk about singleness being a potentially fulfilling lifestyle and one with various benefits, etc, It’s fine to talk about blooming where you are planted and not waiting for “someday”. But that doesn’t change the fact that many singles just DO want to get married, and there is often great struggle and grief associated with being single.

          I posted this article to my Facebook page and one of the comments said something about “appreciating the gift of singleness.” Well, that’s fine and good, but for many people learning to live with long-term singleness feels less like exercising a gift and more like learning to live with a handicap – a difficult situation in which it is possible and necessary to find peace and contentment, but nothing like a spiritual gift.

  82. Tanorria
    Tanorria December 4, 2013 at 11:33 AM |

    Thank you for this post!!

  83. Kelsea
    Kelsea December 4, 2013 at 12:01 PM |

    Thank you for this article. It is really good to hear from people who have had similar experiences, it doesn’t make me feel so alone. Some of my thoughts as a 30 year old single…

    Being single when one yearns to be married and have children is painful. It can be a burden and a hardship. Of course, as discussed, there are some wonderful advantages and God works every circumstance in our lives to deepen our walk with Him if we let Him, and I know that he has used my singleness to bless me in unique ways.

    Still, many, many blessings arise out of hardship and long-suffering. Countless times I have heard pastors “list off” personal hardships, to make sure they include everyone (health, financial, broken relationships, etc.) In my experience, singleness is not the only life struggle they leave off the list, but that’s the one we’re talking about now. It would be nice to have the pain of singleness be spoken to. I have heard people talk about the heartache of couples not being able to have children. That is a huge, huge heartache, and my heart goes out to couples in that situation. So many singled people are also people who yearn to have children, and they also have the pain of being childless.

    Someone mentioned that as a single in the church, it was as if they were perpetual college students. I have seen this in my church. My good single friend is 38 and is still frequently encouraged to join in the “Young Adult” activities, comprised of mostly people under the age of 22. It is frustrating to somehow not be seen as a “real” adult.

    Someone commented about being careful not to push our single agenda…I don’t think this conversation has been about any agenda, really. I think it is mostly about wanting to be understood.

    Thank you everybody for this wonderful discussion.

  84. thedatingmanifesto
    thedatingmanifesto December 4, 2013 at 12:16 PM |

    Thank you, Christena, for this post. I’ve been writing about singleness for a few years now and I’ve never seen (much less written) such an articulate, positive post. I truly appreciate the “junior varsity-varsity” analogy. I’m 38 and single and am often treated, by married women 10 years or more younger than me, as if I’m a single college student with no sense. I also really appreciate that you pointed out how God uses prolonged singleness in us to produce the same qualities that He produces through marriage in others.

    I would add two things to your list:
    1. PRAY for us. If they think marriage is so great that they want to see us married, then pray that for us. Pray that we’ll cling to God with positive attitudes and hopeful, healthy hearts while we wait. Pray, pray, pray is the number one thing I ask married people to do for me in order to embrace my singleness.
    2. I think you mentioned it above, but ask to spend time with us. I hate eating alone. And I do it probably 20 meals a week.

    THANK YOU for saying to celebrate us. And I’m one of the ones that just went ahead and myself the Kitchen Aide. Just do it, honey. You won’t regret it.

    1. christianpundit
      christianpundit December 4, 2013 at 9:24 PM |

      I would also add that churches, married couples etc, should pray that any and all Christian singles who desire marriage will receive a spouse. Christians should ask God in prayer to grant spouses to any single who wants to get married.

      I’d also say that for any adult single who wants help in this area, that married couples at churches start playing “matchmaker.” (I’ve tried dating sites they did not work for me.)

      I think Christians need to wake up to the fact that God does not magically drop a spouse into someone’s lap, that there needs to be some human intervention involved. But many Christians are hesitant to actually HELP an adult single get married, they will sit there and lecture the single to “be content in your singleness,” or refuse to pray for a spouse for someone.

      Only in Baptist and evangelical Christianity is it through appropriate and acceptable to pray for financial prosperity, blessing, a better job, healing from cancer, but the moment a single says to another Christians, “Please pray that God send me a spouse,” they will be told that such a prayer is wrong or selfish.

      Oh, and you are apt to get the line from such Christians that you are “making an idol out of marriage.” :roll: I have yet to figure out why Christians think it fine to pray for a new car, a better job, or a healing, but not for a spouse.

      1. Erica
        Erica December 9, 2013 at 5:28 PM |

        Oh, dear. I trust you mean well, but please don’t encourage the matchmaking. If a single person actually wants and asks for that kind of help, fine. But unsolicited, it is demeaning and hurtful, and just serves to reinforce all the damaging ideas this blog post is addressing — that there is something fundamentally wrong with singles and they need to be “fixed (up).” I’m not saying that it can never work out well, but one should tread very, very carefully, and only with the express permission of the single people involved. Personal relationships are very complicated, to put it mildly, and a spouse is not something you acquire like car or a house, or even a job, and finding the right person is something best left to God. (I have no problem with your point about praying for a spouse — just the matchmaking, which is practically a sport in far too many churches.)

        1. christianpundit
          christianpundit December 9, 2013 at 5:35 PM |

          Reply to Erica.

          I have my own blog where I frequently discuss this issue.

          I usually mention in discussing this issue that the unmarried person should be asked first, and if she says “no, do not fix me up with anyone,” that preference should be respected.

          However, I for one would appreciate someone playing match-maker, since so many single Christians males seem unreluctant to ask a woman out.

          It ticks me off when I see singles approach church people for practical help in this area, but the single get shamed or lectured, as in,

          “No, we cannot make church a meat market” or,
          “be content in your singleness,” or,
          “no, I refuse to introduce you to any single males I know to date because it should be 100% God at work no human intervention”

          Further, single men do not attend churches that much, but maybe a married woman at the church is friends with a Christian single guy from her job or something she could fix me up with.

  85. Sheryl
    Sheryl December 4, 2013 at 12:41 PM |

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I’m 32, single, and frustrated by how invisible I am to my church. I love my church for so many reasons, but how they support the single person is not one of them. They have many great small groups, but I don’t fit in any of the categories. I complicate my situation by being a foster mom too. I don’t fit with the married couples, young 20′s, single mom’s, or couples with kids. When I was in my 20′s, I had so many more options and friends. But now my circle of friends has shrunk as everyone else gets married. It is a hard place to be in life. Thank you for saying what I’ve been feeling for so long.

  86. Heather Collins
    Heather Collins December 4, 2013 at 12:42 PM |

    Thanks for this post. My church has a lot of singles. The church leadership is very well intentioned in shepherding us, however there’s been something that has consistently irked me. A lot of what I hear about “the gift of singleness” is that we as singles have more time to give and serve the church, as if our only value is this mythical vast resource of time that we evidently have just by being single. I have a lot more to give than that, and I’m of more worth than that. I can invest in the church and serve – which I do – and yes, not having to get kids ready for church makes it easier to be there to serve on Sunday morning. But I’m not called to be an emotional martyr for the sake of the church programs.

    I’ve found the real gift of singleness to be in seeing the sufficiency of the Gospel to form a community. I have a great relationship with my family, but I live several hours from them. My “in town” family is my group of friends from different churches, backgrounds, and walks of life. The only thing we all have in common is the Gospel (well and that we all speak at least some English and live in same metro area), but that is enough to form a family. This is something I wouldn’t have experienced if I was married already. The real gift of singleness is learning in a experiential way that in Christ is our inheritance and heritage, our brothers and sisters, our family. Christ alone is enough to form a community in which to celebrate, mourn, and serve within. And yes, give our time to.

    I’ve gotten to experience the richness available to us in Christ, and I know that if I do get married, my experience as a single person will influence the centrality of Christ in family life. Singles in the church can give married people a unique perspective on the power of the Gospel.

    And on the KitchenAid Mixer point. I want one ($$$$). But I do have some wonderful, high quality, don’t-dare-put-these-in-the-dishwasher-because-you-could-give-them-to-your-grandchildren pots and pans. I love cooking with them!! I also picked out a china pattern and am collecting it because it’s pretty, and I like pretty things.

  87. Cindy
    Cindy December 4, 2013 at 12:47 PM |

    Good stuff.

  88. Lester
    Lester December 4, 2013 at 1:06 PM |

    Well, to say the least, I think our priorities as followers of Jesus are extremely out of wack — why on earth is being single all of the sudden an issue that the church needs to cater to when poverty and food stamps and suicides and drug related homicides and high drop out rates and institutional racism and lack of equity and grieving foster children and battered women and so on? There are bigger fish to fry if you ask me. Yeah, I get it, single people need compassion too — that’s a no brainer. But to address that issue with full on studies and percentages gives me the notion that the church’s mission is a bit pigeon-holed, and frankly, a bit too concerned with upperclass issues (though still important but petty in the face of a starving colored child without healthcare)

    1. Puzzled
      Puzzled December 4, 2013 at 6:00 PM |

      “Colored” – really?

    2. Susanna
      Susanna December 5, 2013 at 9:55 AM |

      Lester, I’m fairly sure that seeking to be inclusive and ministering to a large segment of the church population that often gets overlooked doesn’t preclude doing any of the things you’ve mentioned.

  89. Sarah Payne
    Sarah Payne December 4, 2013 at 2:19 PM |

    I almost cried when I read this… One of the things I really struggled with after I graduated college was when my best friend getting married and she had a huge bridal shower and got lots of cool gifts. One of those gifts was a KitchenAid mixer. We both love to cook and I had wanted KitchenAid mixer for years, but nobody cared that I had wanted one also, or that I was also going to be going out living on my own for the first time, simply because I wasn’t getting married. It may seem like a small thing but it was extremely hurtful and represented the way a lot of people treated me (and still do) because I am single. So thank you. Thank you for speaking up for us.

  90. Bobby Wilson
    Bobby Wilson December 4, 2013 at 2:29 PM |

    Awesome.

    I’m a 26 year old single male who has never even been on a date (Not for lack of trying) and I’ve pretty much felt like a fly on the wall in most situations when it’s come to church. I’ve sadly quit going to several churches because I felt like they focused too much on this.

    I’ve had conversations with people in relationships about how I feel being single when being in that church. Most of the times it’s with people who aren’t neccessarily married, but they’ve been in the current relationship they were in for a good while now and all they ever say is “Man, it’s great being single. If I could be single, I would.”. I laugh at them and go “Then why did you get married?” and they never really had a good response to that.

    One church I used to go to pretty much has it to where unless you’re married, you can’t even be on a paid leadership role which I get angry about because I have a friend that’s stays at that church longer than most of the people who actually work there and they really can’t give him a “leadership” position, but they pay him for being a “janitor”.

    I’ve encountered no churches really that focus on a young adult singles thing. If there is a Singles Group at the church, it’s usually people in their Late 30′s and up. I guess they just leave that whole thing up to their Young Adult programs, but none of them actually do any form of programs to help them out. Instead, they have “Young Married Ministries”, which don’t get me wrong, that’s all fine and well and I support those, but to me it felt like I hung out well with people in these YA ministries up until the point that they either got engaged or married and then after that, they start hanging around the married people and pretty much neglect the singles for the most part unless those people were in that persons “inner circle” and close friends to begin with but those people end up usually getting married within the first year that the other people do.

    When I go on Facebook and see that someone I know is either getting married or having a baby, I pretty much have started either deleting people on Facebook or just removing them from my life for the most part just to save myself from the trouble of “Hmm, I wonder if we’re ever going to hang out again.” thoughts.

  91. Steve
    Steve December 4, 2013 at 2:47 PM |

    Sounds like a lot of whining from an immature single. Seriously. Get a life. Get married. Have lots of babies and stop complaining.

    1. Table4OneMinistries (@TableforOneMin)
      Table4OneMinistries (@TableforOneMin) December 4, 2013 at 2:59 PM |

      Steve. The apostle Paul would disagree. Stay single, live for Him, and do not divide your interest with a wife and kids. Note the phrase “Does better” when Paul talks about singles.

      1 Corinthians 7

      Concerning the Unmarried

      25 Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. 26 Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for a man to remain as he is. 27 Are you pledged to a woman? Do not seek to be released. Are you free from such a commitment? Do not look for a wife. 28 But if you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.

      29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.

      32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

      36 If anyone is worried that he might not be acting honorably toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if his passions are too strong[b] and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. 37 But the man who has settled the matter in his own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin—this man also does the right thing. 38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.[c]

    2. Joanna
      Joanna December 7, 2013 at 4:14 PM |

      If only it was that simple. Some people are called to singleness as another commenter pointed out and for the rest Its often not as easy as deciding you’d like to get married and then quickly making it happen. There’s lots of people who would really like to be married and have tried lots of things to move in that direction but are without success even after decades of effort. Maybe you were blessed with a really easy path into marriage. If so, that’s great but please try to not be so obnoxious and dismissive to the real challenges of people who haven’t had it as easy.

      1. andrew
        andrew December 7, 2013 at 7:14 PM |

        Joanna, it’s best to ignore the comment from “Steve” because his response is designed to cause anger and issues among posters who really want to discuss things in a mature manner. It’s called a TROLL.

  92. Table4OneMinistries (@TableforOneMin)
    Table4OneMinistries (@TableforOneMin) December 4, 2013 at 2:55 PM |

    What a great post from the heart! This is why we created Table for One Ministries. We want to be a resource to single and to churches to build community for single adults through discipleship! :-) Check out our website! http://www.tableforoneministries.com

  93. Caleb
    Caleb December 4, 2013 at 2:56 PM |

    Some good points here. I do wonder, however, if we need to come at the issue from a little different angle. I think that the reason a lot of married couples don’t focus more on singles is simply because they’re too busy caring for their own kids, participating in their church, etc.. Instead of singles (I am one) asking marrieds to focus more on us, perhaps we ought to be using the additional time and resources available to us to serve our churches and the families in them.

    I think singles who are pouring out their lives serving their church and families will find that they have an abundance of influence and relationships. Churches and families can definitely do better, but I don’t think any more of the burden rests on them than on us.

    1. kaylaeby
      kaylaeby December 4, 2013 at 3:09 PM |

      I agree with this! If we’re pouring into others, that’s what really matters. Church shouldn’t be about us getting anything, but about giving to the community. When we invest in a community with the intention of helping it become more Christ-like, then beautiful things will happen.

  94. Jennifer Anne Turner
    Jennifer Anne Turner December 4, 2013 at 3:32 PM |

    I couldn’t agree more. One thing notice about churches today (or at least churches I’ve attended), they refuse to support Singles ministries, when they’re ministries for every other group such as Young Marrieds, Marriage, Teens, Kids, Men’s, Women’s, and even College, yet refuse to support singles. They don’t want it to be a “matchmaking” group. My response to that is then I guess I should go meet someone at a bar then (in a sarcastic tone). I have been apart of singles ministries and it was more about fellowship.

  95. Singled Out: How Churches Can Embrace Unmarried Adults by Christena Cleveland | Christian Pundit

    […] Singled Out: How Churches Can Embrace Unmarried Adults by Christena Cleveland By christena on December 2, […]

  96. Melissa Bashore
    Melissa Bashore December 4, 2013 at 4:40 PM |

    Thank you for writing this!!!

  97. Kris
    Kris December 4, 2013 at 4:45 PM |

    This is sooooo good! Well said! You said exactly what I feel and think as a single Christian adult.

  98. Caleb
    Caleb December 4, 2013 at 4:46 PM |

    I am wondering if others have a similar problem as what I have seen in the churches in my city: singles ministries are just a little more self perpetuating than the preschool department. It seems that in order for a singles ministry to go anywhere you either need a staff member to take it up or the very uniquely motivated individual who will do so. I’d love to have a singles ministry in my church. I might go for it and offer to lead again in the future – I have in the past on several occasions. However, even in the larger churches they don’t seem to thrive at all.

  99. SingleNOKC
    SingleNOKC December 4, 2013 at 4:54 PM |

    As a single missionary, the problem of singleness on the field has an enormous spotlight on it. I’ve heard stats that say women outnumber men on the field 4 to 1. For me, personally, I do not know one. single. male. missionary. Not one! But yet, all of the married missionaries who’ve been married since they were 20 say things like, “It’ll happen when you least expect it” or “When it’s God’s timing, it’ll just happen” or even better, “God’s preparing him for you/you for him.” At 35 years old, I’ve grown to loathe silly cliche comments like these. They don’t help me. If anything, they make me doubt where I’m at spiritually, which I realize is sad, but alas, it is the truth. I begin to wonder, “Is it me, God? What do I need to work on? Am I not ready? How is it that I can’t possibly be ready at 35 and yet others got married at 20? How on earth were THEY ready THEN?”

    Another thought from the field…married people have each other to go home and vent to about their stressful day but who do we singles have? A pet? Or maybe we make a Skype call back home to vent to someone….assuming the time difference permits and it’s not an immediate need at 3:00 a.m. USA time.

    Or how about holidays on the field when couples and families celebrate Christmas morning together opening presents, drinking cocoa around the tree, and celebrating with their own little traditions? What are we supposed to do as singles? I love cocoa and Christmas trees too. :) I was fortunate enough to have an older single mentor on the field who took it upon herself to create a tradition for the single women – we gathered together at her house Christmas Eve to watch Christmas movies, snack on holiday treats and open our own gifts to each other on Christmas morning. Thank God for older wiser thoughtful missionaries on the field!

    1. Hannah Burtness
      Hannah Burtness December 10, 2013 at 11:51 AM |

      “Am I not ready? How is it that I can’t possibly be ready at 35 and yet others got married at 20? How on earth were THEY ready THEN?”

      YES, thank you for putting this into words!

    2. johnhughmorgan3
      johnhughmorgan3 December 10, 2013 at 12:54 PM |

      SingleNOKC – Not knowing any single male missionaries should be an indictment on the church. Not on single men. Since there are denominations that have a ban on hiring single men, I wouldn’t expect to see them in the mission field.

      1. andrew
        andrew December 10, 2013 at 5:16 PM |

        One thing I’d like to say – I consider myself a “missionary” even though I am currently working in Saudi Arabia as a teacher – not sent out by any church. In Saudi, obviously it is difficult to reach Muslims and there are serious consequences for witnessing to them. However, I feel my ministry here is reaching out to other English teachers. The ESL field is difficult and attitudes toward Christians by longtime teachers can be bitter. Often teachers are either estranged from their families or come from dysfunctional families where there is little contact. The last church I attended in Ohio, however, did not see it that way. I wasn’t even allowed to talk about what I did at our singles ministry, and some people told me that in Saudi, the only “valid” ministry was to the “heathen” Muslims themselves. When I wrote to one of my good friends asking him seriously if our Bible study group prayed for me while I was gone, he said they weren’t doing so because I was “actively employed” and not sent out by the church. Some friends! And I’d been attending that group for several years. Instead, our studies often diverted well away from the Bible and onto Tea Party politics, guns, survivalist techniques and calling our current president names that are nearly unprintable. And these guys are mostly in their late 30s and 40s. I seemed to have dropped off the map, out of sight out of mind. When I do leave Saudi next year, I don’t plan to return there. But I consider myself every bit as much as missionary as one directly sent out by the church. .

        1. johnhughmorgan3
          johnhughmorgan3 December 10, 2013 at 7:14 PM |

          Good points Andrew. I’ve always thought all Christians were called to be missionaries.

  100. John Gunter
    John Gunter December 4, 2013 at 7:30 PM |

    Great article on a subject not often talked about. I appreciate you mentioning Al Mohler here, as I have also felt he has done some sloppy work on singleness.

    As a Christian leader who is also a 42 year old single, I wrote an entire series on singleness this year. It might be helpful to some. . .

    http://johngunter.net/singleness/

  101. John Gunter
    John Gunter December 4, 2013 at 7:42 PM |

    This is a post that seems particularly pertinent to your article here. It is of the seminaries which will actually not even allow single people to apply. . .

    http://johngunter.net/singleness-conversation/

  102. Marie
    Marie December 4, 2013 at 8:17 PM |

    I was only married for a year when my husband demanded a divorce. Suddenly, I was single again and now with a baby to care for and the church backed away – almost like all the men thought I was suddenly out to steal them away from their wives the women thought I wanted to streak their time from their families. Yes, I needed friends and time direct with them, but I needed brothers and sisters to guide me and make me feel loved. I never got that from the church.

  103. Tahnee
    Tahnee December 4, 2013 at 9:15 PM |

    I agree- this ‘discrimination’ from the church also makes it extremely hard to leave an abusive marriage and actually get support for doing so

  104. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth December 4, 2013 at 9:16 PM |

    I am 42, never married, and I have no living family. What you’ve said here resonates so much with me! Some years ago, I was living in a new city, thousands of miles away from anyone I knew, and my first Sunday there, I wandered into a church. It was apparently that church’s first ever meeting and they wanted to pray over the congregation. Instead of doing it by rows or any other way, they called people up by families. I slunk out as unobtrusively as I could when it was obvious I was going to be the only person left sitting, but I was crushed and humiliated by the whole experience. Obviously, I never went back.

    I served as a missionary in two third world countries and I have to say that I never encountered these problems overseas. I was respected, and while people might occasionally ask why I didn’t have a husband, they never made it seem as if the question were a judgment. They embraced me as part of their families and it was easy to have genuine relationships. Coming back to the U.S. was really rough in that respect.

    Here, I feel that I’m treated with suspicion and sometimes, fear. My current church refuses to have mixed gender small groups because “it’s dangerous.” So I have very few opportunities to connect with married people at all. And here’s something really important that I wish churches would understand: I want to know all different kinds of people! I’d love to meet that older confirmed bachelor who might become my totally nonromantic go-to guy for car repair advice or the younger married couple to whom I could offer advice on how to survive grad. school. Just letting me an opportunity to make those connections in a non-socially awkward environment would mean the world to me! Since that doesn’t happen, I depend a lot more on my non-Christian friends, who seem far more open to bringing me into their worlds. I wish this wasn’t so.

  105. Carolyn
    Carolyn December 4, 2013 at 9:56 PM |

    Thank you for putting into words so clearly what I have tried to convey to church leadership for years. Side note: why is it that strangers feel so free to ask why we aren’t married? Makes me crazy too!!

  106. Liz
    Liz December 4, 2013 at 10:17 PM |

    Mike C, I caught that too! The Holy Spirit is most certainly not an “it”! Thanks for mentioning it.

    Other than that, loved this post!

  107. Adam O
    Adam O December 5, 2013 at 12:09 AM |

    Wow, this was such an echo of my heart (as a married man) for single people in my church/community. I remember a single prof telling me stories of how Eugene Peterson and his wife often invited single people into their lives, sharing life with them as Christian family. Hauerwas drove it home theologically…this is my favorite quote of his about singleness/marriage:

    “The early church’s legitimation of singleness as a form of life symbolized the necessity of the church to grow through witness and conversion. Singleness was legitimate, not because sex was thought to be a particularly questionable activity, but because the mission of the church was such that “between the times” the church required those who were capable of complete service to the Kingdom. And we must remember that the “sacrifice” made by the single is not that of “giving up sex,” but the much more significant sacrifice of giving up heirs. There can be no more radical act than this, as it is the clearest institutional expression that one’s future is not guaranteed by the family, but by the church. The church, the harbinger of the Kingdom of God, is now the source of our primary loyalty……But both singleness and marriage are necessary symbolic institutions for the constitution of the church’s life as the historic institution that witnesses to God’s Kingdom. Neither can be valid without the other .2-1 If singleness is a symbol of the church’s confidence in God’s power to affect lives for the growth of the church, marriage and procreation are the symbols of the church’s understanding that the struggle will be long and arduous. For Christians do not place their hope in their children, but rather their children are a sign of their hope, in spite of the considerable evidence to the contrary, that God has not abandoned this world. Because we have confidence in God, we find the confidence in ourselves to bring new life into this world, even though we cannot be assured that our children will share our mission…”

  108. Heather
    Heather December 5, 2013 at 12:40 AM |

    Thank you for sharing this. As a single Christian woman of 35, I am constantly asked by other Christians why I’m not married, especially if I also happen to have provided some sort of delectable baked good they are munching on while asking. I am sorry, but I don’t think the basis of a marriage is baking (hopefully faith, friendship, and love would get in there once the memory of the delicious goodies fade). I feel no need to be married for the sake of being married, which is what I would be if I were married now. It is possible I may be married one day; it is also possible I will never be married. This does not not make me more or less of a Christian, this is just my status in relation to another person (or lack of another person). My faith should not be defined by marriage, but by my relationship with Christ.

  109. Micha
    Micha December 5, 2013 at 1:02 AM |

    Thank you. There really is nothing else I can say to express how very encouraging and affirming this blog post is. Lead me to tears.

  110. Chris King
    Chris King December 5, 2013 at 1:32 AM |

    I definitely think the superiority/inferiority relationship of married folk to singles needs to be done away with and is unhealthy, and there’s a reason Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 7:8, 25-35. There are unique advantages to singleness. You point out the snobbery of marrieds toward singles very well in this piece. I would also add that the entire dating/engagement period is awkward and weird in the Church and there’s not really a paradigm for handling that either, other than preparing the dating couple for marriage (not that that’s a problem necessarily) and making sure that they aren’t “impure,” however that is defined among that branch of the Body.

    However, I also think there’s a reason Paul wrote 1 Timothy 3, and depending on the leadership role I might disagree with you on that one. Leadership doesn’t (shouldn’t) connotate maturity, and definitely not superiority, but a calling to a positional role…and I think the wisdom of the Spirit had Paul write that elders and deacons should be married in multiple places because it offers a unique protection and encouragement that would leave a man without it extremely vulnerable. Perhaps that’s what the person you quoted about hiring a single woman as worship arts director meant, although it was terribly spoken if that’s the case. There are roles that I would argue singles are in a BETTER position to fill than are marrieds, like overseas missions, itinerant preaching, or any other position for which being tied to one place is disadvantageous; not to mention the ability to relate when working with or writing to other singles or obtaining unique insights from that single Guy who started the Church.

  111. Merry
    Merry December 5, 2013 at 5:02 AM |

    Offer sermon series on relationships, rather than marriage. Or, offer one on singleness. Singles have certainly sat through enough series on marriage. Married persons can sit through some on singleness.

  112. Pam
    Pam December 5, 2013 at 5:22 AM |

    Reading your experience with that sermon sounded so much like my own experiences. I remember one sermon 18 months ago on 1 Peter 3 where the preacher at the beginning explicitly stated that while the passage was mostly relevant to marriage he’d get on to talking to/about singleness later on, preached all about marriage, then ended with ‘oh and all of this applies to singles too amen’. I really wish I were exaggerating on this; it literally was a single(!) sentence at the very end of the sermon. Having to mask feeling upset and left out as the preacher chatted to me at morning tea afterwards took way more strength than it should, and way more than it would if preachers properly acknowledged and spoke to the experiences of singles.

    And wow, even just typing about that over a year later I can feel myself getting upset about it. I guess because we don’t talk about this enough, those hurts live on for longer periods of time.

  113. Molly
    Molly December 5, 2013 at 5:49 AM |

    Kate Hurley over at thesexycelibate.com has some great thoughts on singleness in the church. They are especially encouraging and validating to those who are single.

  114. NT
    NT December 5, 2013 at 6:04 AM |

    Awesome article. I can’t agree more with what has been stated. I don’t want to be singled out (no pun intended) to be a singles group, nor do I want to be excluded or made to feel awkward when I’m with the married in my church. I have stopped going to many extra church functions because I feel that there is only a focus in the married couples, or that is everything is done with that group in mind. I also don’t think that married people are comfortable with talking to a single person like they do their married friends. I was at a church picnic and there were a group of married ladies talking so I went over and say with them and it was like I wasn’t even there. It’s almost like we are made to feel that we are ‘less’ or don’t understand things about life because we are single.
    So it was great to read this post!

  115. Liz
    Liz December 5, 2013 at 7:01 AM |

    I’m single, but I always thought that the reason the church uses marriage is to reflect the idea of unity. Just as the bible uses the immagery of marrige to show our connection to God. That we are “engaged” to him. Marriage is talked of more becuase it is a connection between 2 people, and the 2 are not telepathic. Singles can get inside our own heads, but couples need to actually talk, and sometimes need to be reminded of this. But mostly, marriage is a beautiful image, founded in the scripture, of our relationship with God.

  116. Brian Marquis
    Brian Marquis December 5, 2013 at 7:52 AM |

    There can be great advantage to being single. Consider this passage from 1 Corinthians 7. The Catholic church adheres to this, yet Paul goes on to say that if a person marries, they have not sinned. Kind of funny, that Catholics claim apostolic authority through the apostle Peter, who was married.

    I am on my third marriage, and have considerable experience in the interim periods with singleness before marriage, while separated and while divorced. That being the case, I’m thankful you’ve raised these issues in a public forum. Each presents unique challenges, and all require dependence on God for empowered holiness.

    We are all wretches without the power of Christ living in us and through us.

    32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— 34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

  117. Becky Holzman (@BeckyHolzman)
    Becky Holzman (@BeckyHolzman) December 5, 2013 at 9:36 AM |

    What an amazing post! Thank you so much. I’ll be sharing this as encouragement with quite a few others.
    One of my favorite points: “The average marrying age is 29.8 years for men and 26.9 for women. If you got married before these ages, then it makes sense to acknowledge that your experience as a single adult is below average. In other words, you don’t know a lot about singleness. This calls for humility.”
    -I’ve said before that if you’ve been married or ‘with’ someone for more than 5 years, you no longer can relate to someone who is ‘still’ single.
    Another fav: “marriage isn’t a fruit of the Spirit either. Married people aren’t more holy or godly or mature than single people.”
    – WOW I totally loved this point of view!! And it would be SUCH a blessing for someone to preach a message for excellent conversation topics to have with a single person. My rule of thumb is to never ask “Are you dating anyone?” Over time I’ve learned they will mention it if they are, and if you have to ask, you aren’t close enough to that person to have the ‘right’ to ask. A better question is something similar to “How has God been working in your life lately?” or “What’s something you’ve learned recently?” or even “How can I pray for you?” It’s rare as a single person for someone in the church to challenge or encourage my spiritual walk. I’ve found people seem to be overly focused on my marital status as if ‘at my age’ that’s more important than any individual growth and maturity. Think of the questions regarding personal development, spiritual growth, and general activity involvement to ask instead of ‘who are you dating?’.
    That’s my $.02 for the moment! And thank you again for an encouraging, positive, and insightful blog.

  118. Kate
    Kate December 5, 2013 at 10:01 AM |

    I started using most of our wedding gifts this year (including a K.A. mixer) since we moved back from a foreign country, and the whole time I have been uncomfortably aware of the fact that my single friends and family members don’t have such nice things. It makes me want to give them gifts for no reason other than I love them! It should be a high priority for communities to throw house or apartment warming parties for single people, I think. Or celebrate other things, like you said.

  119. Susanna
    Susanna December 5, 2013 at 10:04 AM |

    Christena, let me just say that you are amazing, this blog post is brilliant, and I find myself wishing we could hang out and chat. I could go on and on about it, but this:

    “Marital status isn’t correlated with godliness or maturity. John 15:5 says that we bear fruit when we are connected to God. Period.”

    I’ve been completely mind-boggled lately when reading people saying that the route to sanctification is through MARRIAGE. No doubt God uses marriage to sanctify people, just as he uses any other life situation/pressure/relationship! But to say or imply that marriage is THE track to sanctification and holiness is…well, it’s laughable at best and insulting and dangerous at worst. There is absolutely NO scriptural justification for the notion that sanctification takes place only, mostly, or best through marriage. None whatsoever. As many people have mentioned, the Apostle Paul holds singleness to be a higher state than marriage for the purpose of singleheartedly serving the Lord. And yet that advice is completely ignored in the church today.

    Good stuff. From one long-time (33 years old) single to another, keep pressing on in the Lord. You and I are not second-class citizens in the Kingdom, and thank God these ungodly distinctions will be obliterated in Heaven.

  120. jzb
    jzb December 5, 2013 at 10:06 AM |

    I think this article is relevant:

    http://www.singleness.org/talkdown.shtml

    My biggest frustration as a single is that I’ve listened to the church’s teaching on what is attractive to a mate. Namely that I will find success in attracting a mate if I am a reliable, hard working, christian nice guy who is very involved in church.

    Of course, needless to say, those things don’t make you any more attractive to women. Just like being a good christian doesn’t make a plain Jane into a beauty queen.

    I think the biggest frustration as a single is the “over-spiritualization” that occurs (just wait on Jesus, he’s enough or he’ll provide!). And overall the lack of frank/honest conversation on the matter.

    I appreciate the article, props for being real and pushing for authenticity on the matter.

  121. Laura
    Laura December 5, 2013 at 1:14 PM |

    This is the best article I have ever read on this issue! I followed the link over from The Junia project post. Singleness is complex. I once heard a local influential pastor of a large church in my area say that anyone not married by a certain age (mid-20′s) was guilty of “sinful independence.” Sigh. And married couples without kids were “fearful and selfish”. I’m serious. No humility whatsoever. People can be single or married without kids for so many varied reasons!

    I actually relate to and so appreciate your article even though I am married, and for 21 years at that! We do not have children. Married couples without kids can experience similar frustrations and marginalization by the church.

    Thanks for this post!

  122. Crystal Barlean
    Crystal Barlean December 5, 2013 at 1:55 PM |

    Thank you so much for writing this. At a single woman at 35, helping a friend to raise three children that are not mine I have a double whammy in my life (not married and not really a mother but my entire life revolves around the kids as I watch the years and my opportunities to have “my own” family slip by). My life is not what I thought it would be by any means. Don’t get me wrong I love “my kids”, I have a roof over my head, I work part-time nights as a nurse which I love too and in general have a good life but its definetly not what I ever imagined for myself. I struggle with the “christian” dribble about “children are a blessing”, “Marriage is the goal”, etc. because does being single and not having birthed children somehow make me less blessed??? I don’t think so but it’s still a struggle. This article made me cry. Thanks for sharing it.

  123. wordloving
    wordloving December 5, 2013 at 2:17 PM |

    A friend of mine pointed out that it’s interesting how this issue is buzzing around Evangelical circles while Catholics debate whether marriage would make their priests less holy. Makes me think the married/single question might very well be an adventure in missing the point.

  124. Susanna
    Susanna December 5, 2013 at 2:25 PM |

    haha I once had a pastor tell me that I had “Single Girl Syndrome” because I went outside and waited by the car for him instead of waiting in the restaurant for him and his two (male) friends to escort me outside. I laugh about it now, but it stung a bit at the time.

  125. algiesbrecht
    algiesbrecht December 5, 2013 at 2:29 PM |

    That part about “married people don’t automatically understand singleness”: YES. It’s something for “us” singles to remember when talking to married people. We may need to explain why things are different for us, or why certain things are more difficult. Though we need humility too, and grace. Just because someone is ignorant of a situation doesn’t mean they’re not kind-hearted, compassionate, understanding… I can’t help but feel bad when a lovely, sweet older woman is horrified because she just now realized, thanks to me, that she’d been saying the wrong thing to single women for years.

    It’s a subject that’s good to get into with people of differing marital status. That’s the great thing about diversity, isn’t it? We can learn so much from each other.

    I got to thinking about the “family-oriented” thing, and you know, I think one thing we could do is stop thinking of “family” as only “parents + children” and broaden the terms. Could we encourage singles and families in our churches to “adopt” each other?

    My whole life I’ve been blessed by people “adopting” me. When I was little, we lived a long way from extended family, so our neighbors were our honorary grandparents and honorary aunt. There’s a guy I’ve known my whole life who might as well be my third brother. Several older couples at my church have “adopted” me – in spite of my parents attending the same church. And I’m more or less an aunt to a friend’s little girl.

    With a network like that, we singles may be unmarried, but we’re hardly alone.

  126. Kia
    Kia December 5, 2013 at 4:37 PM |

    Thank you for the read! I really wish more people would talk about this subject. A few weeks ago our church had a ladies bunco night where all the married women were sitting in one room and myself and 3 other single ladies sat in the back. It was terribly awkward.

  127. Diane
    Diane December 5, 2013 at 4:45 PM |

    It can be hard to come up with “excuses” to celebrate – but I had a party to celebrate paying off my college loans. I’d love to hear of other “excuses”!

    On another subject – please be careful about holding up Jesus and Paul as models of Christian singleness. You mean if I’m single I have to be like them? That’s a little intimidating, to say the least! And what if I’m a woman? It took me quite a while to think of examples of any un-married women in the Bible who weren’t young girls or widows. (I finally thought of Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha, or perhaps Deborah in the Old Testament.) We have to recognize there simply wasn’t a place in that culture for unmarried women – but let’s not impose that culture on the church today.

  128. Shaz
    Shaz December 5, 2013 at 4:50 PM |

    I understand what you’re saying. However, as a married lady with children you can also feel isolated in your role in the church. I was much more involved in the church and lead many things as a single. Now….I’m a mum at home and I don’t really do much in the church. Sometimes I feel as if I’m just seen as a mum with kids without other skills…..I’m actually a professional with a fair bit of experience with working with young people with mental health problems. I feel now that I have little value in the church. I’m to raise my kids and keep them controlled in the service and support my hubby. However, at my church there are plenty of single people in leadership. Single people and married people both preach on a range of things. Our life group has married and single people….and we love that. I was about to do mission work but then got married…so I missed out on that. I think in both situations you can feel isolated.

  129. Kate
    Kate December 5, 2013 at 6:39 PM |

    I love your post – thank-you! It’s helped me voice some of my uneasiness of the last few years in the church. I was single until I was 33 and then I adopted my daughter on my own.
    As a single person in the church, I’d felt marginalised since I stopped being a ‘young adult’. It was seemingly okay to be young and single, but after that I was supposed to be married to fit in. As a single parent, things changed. I no longer fitted with other singles as I no longer had the freedom to go out and my perspective on life had changed. I sort of fitted with other families with young children, but I was aware that I didn’t quite belong and the women seemed a bit uneasy about me engaging in any form of conversation with their husbands.
    Three years later, I met my husband. While we were going out, we continued involvement in our own churches, but started coming along to each other’s as well. A few of my husband’s friends would talk with me, but I was largely ignored by the congregation. I felt like I was invisible. I assumed it was just a really difficult church to get involved with, but then a year later, we announced our engagement. Suddenly I ‘belonged’. Everyone wanted to talk to me and congratulate me. Quite a number of people asked if this was the first time I’d been to their church. While it was nice to be included, I still feel sad that I could only be accepted when I signed up for the married crowd.
    I’ve now been married for two years and I am so thankful for my journey. I feel I can understand the single experience and I’m now getting to understand the married experience. I have a real heart for singles and also for those families who don’t quite fit: single parents, adoptive parents, blended families. I’m now pondering what more I can do for the singles in our church.
    Thank-you.

  130. kayla
    kayla December 5, 2013 at 6:48 PM |

    I enjoyed reading this and I shared with others. It is very rare to see anyone write on the single life with a positive attitude! I am single and in my mid 30s and it is confusing why so many single women aren’t more joyful in living out the single life. I think marriage is wonderful, but the single life has so many opportunities as well.

  131. andrew
    andrew December 5, 2013 at 7:06 PM |

    I am a 53-year old never married male who is working as a teacher in a Muslim country. Honestly, I feel more accepted here than I ever did in the USA, particularly the Southern USA. I grew up Catholic and can’t remember even ONCE when I was marginalized for being single, but when I began attending evangelical churches (particularly Southern Baptist and Churches of Christ) it was a constant issue. I attended singles functions and classes but witnessed some women in those groups talk trash about nearly every man that was there, openly discussing what they thought their salaries were and who was the best “catch”, and the fact that I was privy to it indicated that I was seen as a loser who wasn’t part of the game. I attended a Church of Christ college in the Midwest where I, at only 31, was gossiped and lied about by typical-age students because I was single. I just HAD to be gay, they said. The admins of the school would always say that life would be good if I were only married. By the time I was 42, I wasn’t allowed to attend either the “singles” group at my Tennessee SBC church (for being too old) or the “other” group, which is exactly what the leadership called it, serving mostly the divorced, because I’d never married. And then churches wonder why people stop attending? I am certain now that when I do return to the USA, it will be to a Catholic church. They respect the uniqueness and the gifts of never-married singles, although I wish they would stop age-cutoffs for those who may wish to become priests, brothers, sisters or monks after a certain age, usually 30-35, because it’s assumed we won’t be alive long enough after those ages to be a financial win-win for them.

    1. Katie
      Katie December 5, 2013 at 11:06 PM |

      Andrew, I feel your pain. I am sorry you have been treated poorly. …I was thinking just earlier today how non-single people assume that a single person has some kind of fear of commitment or of sex because they’re not married, as if it’s better to get married to someone just to say you’ve been married and are not afraid of sex, or just to prove that you’re heterosexual. (I’d say that We are the strong ones.) …A few years ago I was really interested in a guy that I made the mistake of mentioning to my sister. Because he wasn’t interested in me, my sister–the “open-minded” one–was just sure that he was gay*. As if sexual “issues” are the only reasons to get married or not get married! (I could go on, as could all of us single brothers and sisters.) It’s a cross we bear, being misunderstood and looked down upon. Yet, Jesus was single, and most everyone misunderstood Him. In fact, even today, people are still in disbelief that Jesus could actually have foregone sex and so they make up stories about Him. We stand in solidarity with Jesus, Our Lord, on this one! (Yay!) And it’s not just Jesus we stand with, but with all the single people of the world in all of their trials. (*Let us remember especially our brothers and sisters who do in fact feel same-sex attraction. What a heavy, heavy cross they bear. Many times I ask Jesus to let me help them carry it by offering up my single-life sufferings.) Okay, I don’t mean this to be long, but I’d like to mention a couple of other things, Andrew. Look into the lives of people like Dorothy Day who wrote her autobiography called “The Long Loneliness”. (She’s a bit of a radical, but she does inspire me to live for others.) Like you said, the Church has a plentitude of single people throughout time that we can look to for inspiration. (And I’m not just talking about priests and sisters, who aren’t technically considered single anyway, since their spouse is the Church (priests) and Jesus (sisters).) And speaking of that, I want to address your last concern about the Church not wanting older candidates for the priesthood and sisterhood. First, there are places that will take older candidates, so search on the web for those, if interested. Secondly, (I was in a convent for a year, and this is what I learned), there are two main reasons places hesitate to take older candidates. One is that it’s hard for a single-person, set in their ways, to conform to the needs that these lives demand. It would take a long time to fully explain, but it was extremely difficult for me to let go of my freedom and my ways when I was there. I know that happens in marriage, too, but this is intensified, a continual giving up of everyday comforts and norms. The second reason that seminaries/convents don’t take older candidates is because they don’t want Jesus to be “second choice”. Some people say (and I’ve heard this myself too often), “I would like to get married, but if I can’t get married then I’ll be a priest/sister because I definitely don’t want to be single.” That’s not how it works. Either Jesus is calling you or He’s not, and it’s Not supposed to be a “well let’s see if anything else comes along” response. If we understand it correctly, and if we are indeed called (which, it turns out, I wasn’t), then there is an overflowing joy in saying Yes to the Beloved, our Savior and Redeemer and Bestow-er of Love.

      1. Sharon
        Sharon December 7, 2013 at 8:22 PM |

        Your mention of same-sex attraction is interesting, Katie. Even though I’ve never experienced that myself, and even though I don’t believe a homosexual lifestyle is at all appropriate for a Christian, I do have a lot of compassion for people who struggle with this issue. The choice between “do what I need to do to find love and intimacy” vs. “follow Jesus and be alone” is one that I feel like I’ve had to make, and I understand how hard it is. (Not ignoring the fact that homosexuality has other hard issues with it, but I think this is one I do understand.)

    2. johnhughmorgan3
      johnhughmorgan3 December 6, 2013 at 8:41 AM |

      Andrew (53) is absolutely correct. I’ve been Baptist all my life in the southeast and am considering converting to the Catholic church. As it is now, the SBC doesn’t try to hide the fact that they discriminate against singles, men and women. Most of the job postings in the newspapers for preachers specify “married man with two children.” I’ve been told by many Baptist deacons that the resaon is “we don’t want any homosexuals in here.” As a matter of fact, one told me “if you’re over 25 and not married, it’s just assumed your gay.” Even the Baptist Faith and Message statement purposefully excludes singles from all ministries or activities in the church. As they say, to be a real man, you have to “man up” and get married. Of course, I know what they’re doing is not biblical. And I have gently tried to correct them over the years – without success. The sad point now is our society has reached a new level of sexual perversion. “Single” has lost all virtue. Most all younger singles don’t even know what it is to wait until marriage before having sex. Really, the word “virginity” has become no more than a punch line in a boys’ locker room. I hear their parents in church complain that “they don’t have any guidance” and “they don’t have any role models.” The problem is that when we do try to help by offering to talk to them, the suspicious fingers start flying – “There must be something wrong with her.” “Who is he anyway. What do you mean he’s never married?” Imagine Apostle Paul attending a church today – He wouldn’t make it in the front door. You may want to rea “Quitting Church” by Julia Duin, which is on this subject. As it is now, most Protestant churches have nothing for never marrieds between 25-85. In my opinion, that is the number one problem facing churches today. John, 52, never married, still waiting

    3. Katie
      Katie December 6, 2013 at 10:59 PM |

      Though I am thankful for the Catholic Church’s faithfulness to St. Paul’s teaching on “virginity for the sake of the kingdom” and being free to be focused on the Lord’s affairs, I do think that misunderstandings and exclusions can happen in any church. Last year there was a retreat advertised in our bulletin “for all women of the parish”. The theme happened to be something like “The Blessings of Motherhood”. Whoever organized the retreat must have thought they were being welcoming to “all”, but they forgot about the large percentage of women who were not currently raising children.

  132. Heather Alkire
    Heather Alkire December 5, 2013 at 7:54 PM |

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Such an amazing article. It speaks to so much of what I have been working through in the last few years. My minister did a sermon on the topic of singleness this fall, and it was the most incredible sermon I’ve ever heard. Life changing, really. I finally was able to say, “I am okay, and if I remain single the rest of my life, I will continue to be okay.” More than okay, really. I lead a rich, fulfilling life. And I have some amazing sister friends (most old enough to be my mom!) who have shown me true love and fill my life with joy. Glad to hear another voice on this journey. Keep preaching it, girl!!!!

  133. Heather Alkire
    Heather Alkire December 5, 2013 at 8:00 PM |

    I would also add (and maybe it’s already been said….I didn’t read all the comments) that one way for the church to love on singles is to include us in family life. Invite us to birthdays and holidays and the kids’ concerts/sports events/ recitals, etc. I am blessed to be an adopted member of many families, and it makes me feel very loved and special to be included in their family life.

    1. Sharon
      Sharon December 7, 2013 at 8:24 PM |

      Amen!

  134. thathat
    thathat December 5, 2013 at 9:47 PM |

    Oh wow, I kind of teared up a bit reading this. I moved recently and had the option of staying at my old church or going to a new one (same distance). What made the decision easy (even though my old one is the church I was baptized in) was that the current priest speaks as if the ONLY people in his congregation are married parents of young kids and teens. And it’s like…look, I’m thrilled for y’all, really, I am. It’s nice that there’s all the activities, and a whole month of a family-oriented game set aside for you and what not, but…*I’M* here too. I live here. I go to church here. I come in alone and leave alone and feel like a visitor in my own home parish. I feel invisible, and superfluous to the overall Plan of that church.

    I don’t know if the new one will be better. But I’m willing to try something new, because it just got too sad.

  135. MJ
    MJ December 6, 2013 at 12:45 AM |

    THANK YOU for sharing your heart and insight!

    As for this: “Here’s what I want to say to all you single people: Don’t have sex before you get married. Then when you get married, make up for lost time. [wink, wink]”

    I apologize for this sort of ridiculousness. This 1-point sermon on singleness hints at what I call God’s Sexual False Dilemma. I present that in this 30 second video taped in front of a college audience at Belmont University: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLfDhF5yCvc&feature=c4-overview&list=UUeNTcwBOtEYqTqxG1FeOhdg.

    This pastor’s comments not only show a disrespect for singles. It shows contempt for marriage. Marriage isn’t about sex. Sex is about marriage and marriage is about relationship!

    As long as sex is the focus than the (obedient) Christian single is on the outside looking in. If the focus is RELATIONSHIP than that’s something we can all celebrate!

  136. AVA
    AVA December 6, 2013 at 3:00 AM |

    I am so happy to have discovered your blog series via a link to this article! This is an AWESOME piece, detailing a lot of what I’ve experienced but had not been able to articulate in an organized way.

    I’m 32 and single, and I take a lot of flak for it. A few weeks ago an older woman approached me after the church service and warned me that “the decision not to get married is just as irrevocable as getting married or having children,” and told me I needed to hurry up and make my decision before I was too old (as if people can’t get married later in life?!). Just today, I was at a Christmas gathering with friends, surrounded by their noisy toddlers, and one of them made a crack about how I didn’t have to behave in a mature way because I didn’t have any kids at home. Any time one of my married friends brings up how busy they are managing their spouse or kids’ schedules, I flinch internally, knowing that a “you don’t know what it’s like” comment is coming (never mind the fact that I work 3 jobs, volunteer with nonprofits, etc., etc.).

    It is so heartening to see someone take a thoughtful, intellectual and spiritual approach to singleness, as you have here. I am sharing this with everybody. THANK YOU!

  137. Courtney
    Courtney December 6, 2013 at 7:34 AM |

    This is really great. I think you bring up quite a few good points. I often tell our single friends that I have no experience in that area (married my high school sweetheart at 22) but I don’t feel like that means that The Lord can’t use me to speak into their singleness at times. To assume that just because a person is married that they have no wisdom to share is discriminating on the flip side. If you are truly saying a married pastor can’t preach on singleness because he hasn’t experienced it are you also saying if he hasn’t experienced loss he can’t preach on that? Pastors should preach the Bible and not pick and choose from only what they experience.

    1. johnhughmorgan3
      johnhughmorgan3 December 6, 2013 at 9:06 AM |

      Courtney – “To assume that just because a person is married that they have no wisdom to share is discriminating on the flip side.” I will have to respectfully disagree with that. The ability to relate comes into play here like no other issue in the life of a church. Since “single” is just a legal/social term today, it includes many different kinds of support — widowed, separated, divorced, never married, eunuchs, etc. Comparing the support needed for someone experiencing grief to someone that is 60 and never married is like comparing apples and oranges. If the married pastor feels led to talk about singleness and he has a more knowledgeable (and wiling to talk) single in the congregation, it is his responsibility to use that resource. Every whisper that is uttered in a church supporting marriage, families, children, etc. without a corresponding word of support for singles puts the church one step closer to being irrelevant. John, NM, 52

    2. Aubree
      Aubree December 6, 2013 at 9:53 AM |

      I will respectfully support/disagree with both of you on this. I would agree with Courtney that we do need to consider the flip side as well. Being married does not automatically mean someone has no wisdom to share on the matter. As John says, the ability to relate is key. A big part of relating is how in tune we are to the experiences we’ve had and our ability to actually listen, take off our own lenses and be fully present with the person in front of us. When we distance ourselves from our experiences we lose the connection to them and thus, the ability to fully relate with someone going through what we went through. There is an authority that can only come through having a certain experience. Bob Sorge has a message on this, how the fires and wilderness experiences we have give us an authority in our story that we didn’t have before. I’m not married, I haven’t been through that experience yet. Do I have input on the matter? Yes. Is it limited though because I haven’t experienced it first hand yet? Yes. Is my voice still important? Yes.

      I worked with parents before I was one. My opening line was “I’m not a parent, but after working with kids for so many years I recognize that it’s hard work and I have a lot of respect for parents.” Was I able to connect with parents? Of course, and I did it well. But now that I am a parent, I have an authority that I was lacking before and I knew I was lacking an authority. My empathy, understanding and compassion reach much deeper levels now. As a single parent that’s never-been-married, I have an authority to speak on the single-parent experience because it’s my daily life. My experience is not going to be identical to another single-parent’s, I can’t speak for all of us, but I have an authority on this topic that only someone who’s been a single parent can have.

      We all go through different seasons, we all grow and learn. Can a pastor speak on loss if they haven’t experienced loss? Yes, but they’re going to be lacking some authority if they haven’t experienced it b/c when you do experience it, your heart changes, you reach a depth that you didn’t have before the experience. I do hope to get married, in which case I’ll no longer be a single mom. But that also means that all people will see is the ring. My daily prayer is that I will never forget my experience. I need it to stay on the forefront. The moment I forget where I’ve been is the moment I lose that relational piece. I will always be a single mom, that’s an important part of my life that I don’t want to be covered up. There are so few of us in the church to begin with that I will be doing a disservice to the single parents that have the courage to walk through those church doors and need someone that understands where they’ve been, someone that can be fully present with them because I know how the heart hurts.

      Authority is important, but whatever experiences we have, the key relational part is being able to identify with the hurt and joy, even when it’s not the exact same. My boyfriend is a divorced pastor. Having a child out of wedlock and being divorced (especially as a pastor) are two of the worst sins you can do in the church. I haven’t been divorced so I don’t have full authority on that, he hasn’t been a single parent so he doesn’t have full authority on that issue, but we both know the deep hurt that comes from the loss of what should have been. Our lives were changed in very big ways that have resulted in major blessings of course, but also a lot of pain. Different circumstances but a unity in pain and beauty from ashes. We learn from each other, we have the ears and heart to fully hear each other, we both know the shun from the church because of our black marks and how hard it is to keep pressing in, we can unite under that.

    3. Courtney
      Courtney December 6, 2013 at 1:43 PM |

      John,
      Thanks for the dialogue. I look forward to hearing what Christena has to say. It looks like you and I actually don’t disagree very much at all. Both of us believe the church should speak informed of its audience. In my case 55% of our adults in our congregation are single. You and I agree that the bible isn’t just something for married couples but is something for everyone. Grief is indeed different than singleness and that is exactly where my point is. What makes the family of God so unique to the world is the unity it experiences while being very diverse. The unity it experiences is found in a common hope that is stronger than any life stage, race, or experience which diversifies us. In essence, the hope in Christ that unifies us is SO strong, we are empowered to live as a family together in a way no other community can.

      Part of a pastor’s job is to preach the authoritative, unifying message of the gospel and apply it to everyone. A wise pastor will consult a single person when preaching on singleness, married people when preaching on marriage, and one who has suffered loss when preaching on grief. I like, for example, that Christena’s pastor brought her into the sermon on singleness. It shows awareness on his part. The tough part for the pastor is showing how the same message meets so many different situations.

      I think all I’m saying is let’s make the scriptures, not life stage, authoritative to all of us in the church. That puts us all on the right common ground. Then, let’s live wisely with one another by humbling ourselves enough to know we “don’t know” as Christena says when it comes to life experience.

      Great discussion!

  138. J c
    J c December 6, 2013 at 8:15 AM |

    Like this. Totally agree. Most churches do not celebrate the singles enough.

  139. johnhughmorgan3
    johnhughmorgan3 December 6, 2013 at 8:49 AM |

    Christena – One of the best articles on this subject I’ve seen in quite a while. An intellectual and spiritual depth that is rare today. Please continue. John, NM, 52

  140. Lauren
    Lauren December 6, 2013 at 8:59 AM |

    This is one of the best articles I have ever read on this topic. Thank you so much for putting into words some of the thoughts I’ve had for years but have been unable to express adequately.

  141. Sonna Evans
    Sonna Evans December 6, 2013 at 11:04 AM |

    Very complex and complicated issue in the church. So glad you have addressed it. Alone for the last few years after 20 years of marriage and see the discrepancies I never noticed before. I also notice experiential differences between the never married and the newly single, especially if there are children involved, which is another bridge that needs to be crossed. Loved your thoughts and insights. I work with the college/young adults in our local body and this is an issue that comes up often with not a lot of solutions.

  142. on being single in church | eat.sleep.read.love.

    […] of thoughts and feelings about being single, and especially being single in church. I came across this article, and found myself nodding at a lot of the points. Like […]

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  144. Becky
    Becky December 6, 2013 at 4:24 PM |

    Why do long-time married people talk to me like marrying is something I could just do whenever I felt the time was right? Or, that being single all this time has been my choice? This attitude definitely puts up the walls. I’ve never married because I don’t get everything I want in life, and I will not date non-believers because it is not God’s will for me.

  145. Sarah
    Sarah December 6, 2013 at 8:30 PM |

    The statement about singles being less mature or less holy rings very true. A number if years ago I was a part of a church created by a group of single 20 somethings. As the church grew these single leaders all got married within the church. A group of singles approached the leadership wanting to start a singles ministry within the church. These same leaders who had been married through the church refused to allow us to start a singles ministry because they were concerned that it would not be a ministry but a place for people to hook up.

  146. andrew
    andrew December 6, 2013 at 9:25 PM |

    Just to clarify my comment from a few days ago – I have never seen being a priest or brother in the Catholic church as any kind of “alternative” to getting married. I know that if interested, I would want to be a brother. But there are so many roles to play in the Catholic church that I could be satisfied with that. I know many single Catholics and maybe it’s just time for me to “come home”. Guess I always believed that you couldn’t call yourself an adherent of a particular denomination/faith if you didn’t believe in ALL of its tenets. There are certain things about the Catholic faith I struggle with, but am in agreement with more of its teachings than not. Protestant churches split all the time over doctrinal issues (remembering one particularly contentious split in a church of Christ over using instruments which caused an even 50% split) so I know the Lord accepts my doubts. Perhaps I’ll be one of these people who attends Mass on a Saturday or early Sunday then attend an evangelical gathering of my choice. Honestly, I don’t feel that lonely in my normal day to day life, except when someone rubs it in that I am single.

  147. Weekly Meanderings, 7 December 2013
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    […] Christena Cleveland on singleness: […]

  148. Michelle
    Michelle December 7, 2013 at 9:34 AM |

    Hey, I haven’t read ALL the responses, but I feel a bit nervous about being possibly the only married with kids commenter here. I have to try to explain my side of this. I have several acquaintances at church that I’d like to get to know better and get to be friends with.

    Here is my perspective. I really am in my own married world and have no idea what it would be like to be 30ish and single. I know that, but I don’t know what to DO with that knowledge. If I ask the “wrong” question, I’ll offend, but if I don’t ask questions, how do I get to know them better…. if I talk about my kids to fill in an uncomfortable gap in our conversation, they might tune out and lump me in with those who don’t try to reach out. I’m scared to death to try to reach out, because I don’t want to offend or turn away someone that I really do want to get to know.

    Is it ok to talk about my kids? Is it ok to ask you if you’re dating (ok, so I have a friend that I DIDN’T ask, and when I finally danced around the subject, it turned out that she really was wanting to talk about it! How do I know???)? Is it ok to ask what you DO in the evenings? (because I can’t imagine what would fill an evening other than homework, baths, bedtime stories, and multiple glasses of water, songs and prayers from kids… I’m THAT clueless!) Is it appropriate to invite you into my crazy 4-child, 1-spouse home, or is that a world you have no desire to enter?? I hear so much online from people with no kids how much they hate being around kids, and I know that’s not true of everyone, but how do I find out if my kids are ok or a nightmare?

    So often I don’t take that first step. But then…. sometimes I feel like they don’t really want to get to know me either, because I don’t understand them. It’s so sad. It IS very similar to the first few times I tried to reach beyond my own cultural world and develop friendships. How do I not offend and still learn more about their world? I guess I just have to stumble through and hope that my single “friends-to-be” will understand and extend me some grace. Please don’t forget that we’re people too and we may WANT to reach out and just not understand how to do that safely (hence, awkward jokes from those much braver than I and awkward questions from those not as brave but just as clueless as I). :)

    This article is very helpful, though… and has made me feel a little braver.

    ~Michelle

    1. Hannah Burtness
      Hannah Burtness December 10, 2013 at 12:01 PM |

      Michelle, thanks for your thoughtful reply! I think you make a really great point; that the divide is just as big in the opposite direction.

      If you’re looking for advice (from a single gal!) I would say to just get out there and start making friends! Ask the questions, reach out, and know that–when people are truly relating, and wanting to understand each other–there’s a lot of grace for awkwardness and misunderstandings. Like you mention, and like Christena said in her article, this is in many ways a cross-cultural experience. It’s gonna be awkward (because we’re most comfortable with what we know), and we’re gonna offend a little at times. But that’s okay, and it’s worth it :) Just by being aware of the divide, you’re already a lot farther than a lot of married people, on this issue.

      1. Michelle
        Michelle December 11, 2013 at 6:24 AM |

        :) Thank you for this! I appreciate the grace that shows through in your reply… I tend to just be quiet rather than reach out if I’m afraid I might offend someone, so you have given me courage to go ahead and keep reaching out. :)

  149. Andi
    Andi December 7, 2013 at 9:50 AM |

    I would also add, think about singles around all holidays/family days (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Mothers/Fathers Day, 4th of July, Labor day..) Living so far from family, I have spent a good share of “family” days alone. Thanksgiving has always been the hardest for me. Think about them at least 2 weeks before, and then ASK. (I have been told after I spent the whole day alone, “we assumed you were already asked”) Nothing says “we want you to be a part of our family” by receiving the invitation well before the day. Feeling like a last min/pity invite is the worst. Include!!

  150. Andrew
    Andrew December 7, 2013 at 10:53 AM |

    To Michelle,

    It IS certainly ok to talk about your kids with singles; however, if you do meet someone, male or female, one of the first questions should NOT be, “Are you married?” especially if you see that person isn’t with someone at church. Why not ask about where the person is from, maybe a question or two about their career, or even better yet, to break the ice…ask about something unique that the person is wearing, or comment about the sermon you just heard, etc. Knowing there is interest in a person aside from marital status makes for a comfortable conversation starter. For myself, I DO love kids and if I see yours playing in the church hallway and the mom or dad is nearby, I might make a comment about them to get a conversation started. I’m not shy about going up to couples who seem friendly, but avoid couples whose body language says, “we only socialize with other couples”. My question is, WHY? If there is fear that having a single friend of either sex creates a potential “temptation” in the marriage, then that marriage is not on firm footing if the couple is that insecure. While I’ve been working abroad (out of USA) as a teacher, I have met couples from other cultures as well as USA expatriates, and we have always gotten along. It just seems that in the USA, with evangelical churches, there is more of a tendency to snub – I have no idea why, but that has been my experience.

    1. Michelle
      Michelle December 7, 2013 at 11:28 AM |

      Ooooh, definitely… yeah, I wouldn’t start off a conversation asking about marital status! :) The people I”m thinking about and wanting to get to know better, I already know that they’re single, in some cases “single again”… we’re already through the basics of where they’re from, where they work, etc. I want to move on to more of a friendship… I’m just hesitant how to go about that. I didn’t know that there was a fear of “temptation” in the marriage. Goodness, if someone is fearing that for their marriage, it wouldn’t matter if the friend was single or married! I don’t know why it is either… but I can say that most “singles” I know aren’t especially friendly to me as a married mom of a bunch of kids either. :) Talking this through is a helpful start though!

      1. Sharon
        Sharon December 7, 2013 at 9:13 PM |

        Thanks for your honest comments, Michelle. It’s helpful to hear your perspective. I remember a married woman at my church telling about a single friend of hers who once said her, “All you do is talk about your kids!” and that was quite hurtful to her, because as a mother of young children her life was wrapped up in her kids. So yeah, you need to be able to talk about your kids with somebody who is a real friend. But you might have force yourself to take an interest in something that you might not naturally BE interested in or have thought a lot about.

        You say of course you would not start out a relationship asking about marital status – but it’s quite common. (So the fact that you realize that is somewhat tactless means you’re a step ahead of a lot of people!) One lady who I had just met asked me if I “had a family” – and my instant response was, Oh yes! I was thinking of my siblings and in-laws and many nieces and nephews. It took me a minute to realize that she meant something very specific by that. Awkwarrrrrd.

        I do think that asking about somebody’s dating life requires some personal closeness. Unless you happen to know the person is in fact dating somebody or goes out on dates a lot. I think for older singles especially, there is often a level of pain involved in the subject, so you might want to be aware of that.

        A subject you can always talk about is their job, which most singles have and spend a lot of time at! Even if their job isn’t terribly interesting, you can ask about why they have it, what else they might like to do, what training they had for it, etc.

        As far as hanging out with your kids, I’d involve the kids in some small way and see how your friend reacts. If she acts easily annoyed, maybe she and they are not a good mix. Also really try to find a time where you can mostly focus on her, even if the kids are around. (Might be hard to predict/control, I realize!) If everything is focused on the kids, she’ll feel patronized – unless she happens to LOVE kids (some do!). Or invite her over for a holiday when she might normally be alone, which will be treat for her and give her a chance to get to know your family.

        I think the best idea is to find somebody who you have something spiritual in common with. Get together to pray or maybe read and discuss a book that you both like. Walking with the Lord is something both singles and marrieds have in common!

        Just some ideas! I’m sure there is some single out there who would be blessed to be your friend!

        1. Jennifer
          Jennifer December 9, 2013 at 8:42 PM |

          Ironically, since it was suggested as a discussion point…

          I (as a single 20-something) strongly dislike being asked about my job/career by people at church who I am meeting for the first time. (Although, in the town I live in, the assumption is often that I am a college or graduate student – likely because I am under 40 and single.)

          I would much rather be asked if I did anything interesting this weekend, or if I have exciting plans coming up, or what my hobbies/interests are, or about the sermon, etc.

          I just spend a lot of time at my multiple jobs, neither of which is my ideal position, and would prefer not to be defined by them or spend my free time talking about them – especially with people who do not know me well. :-)

          1. Michelle
            Michelle December 11, 2013 at 6:03 AM |

            And this is where it gets tough… I subscribed to the comments to get an idea of how I can reach out better and I’m getting such a wide range of opposing advice on how to do that. (Ask if we’re dating, DON’T ask if we’re dating… Mention a single person that might be a good match, DON’T matchmake… Ask us about our jobs, DON’T ask about our jobs…remember we CHOOSE to be single, remember we DON’T choose to be single.. Invite me into your family life, DON’T expect me to be interested in your kids… Don’t shut us out, don’t be surprised if we don’t invite you to OUR events… ask us to help out with your kids, DON’T even think about asking us to help you with your kids) If we did a poll asking singles what they would like from us as marrieds, I don’t think anything would come out strongly.

            We’re all so different in what we want and what we find acceptable, whether we’re married or single, that if we don’t show each other grace, we’re never going to get across that any of the things that divide us.

            I have to unsubscribe now, because I have enjoyed learning about, but I think I might get to the point where I feel that if I open my mouth, I’ll offend someone. I’m an introvert, so it’s hard for me to reach out, but I hate the thoughts of anyone feeling left out, snubbed, or marginalized, so I’m willing to force myself to reach out. But if I get so much conflicting advice about what offends or is acceptable, then I’m likely to just crawl back in my hole and let someone else reach out. :)

        2. Michelle
          Michelle December 11, 2013 at 6:32 AM |

          That’s a huge help, Sharon! :) I think we’d be great friends. I stepped out on a limb (in the safe world of Facebook chat, of course) and I actually asked a mid-30s single guy in our church (who has a sense of humor) if he’d find dinner with our family (with 4 kids ranging from 2 – 13!) appealing or appalling and he surprised me with a very serious answer of “I think I’d like that very much”. Plans are in the works to make that happen. But I’d have never even asked him that, if I hadn’t read this article and the comments (especially yours).

  151. johnhughmorgan3
    johnhughmorgan3 December 7, 2013 at 12:19 PM |

    Andrew – You hit the nail on the head – There is a tendency for marrieds to snub singles. One of hundreds of examples: I attend a very small rural church in the SE. Thursday evening I happened to notice a picture on my Facebook page of the inside of a local restaurant with Christmas decorations. Took a closer look. It was my entire church having an impromptu Christmas party. Interesting thing is . . . they invited everybody but the only two never marrieds in the church. Lighting of the Advent candles – For “families only.” But, this happens all the time. Nothing unusual.

    1. Michelle
      Michelle December 7, 2013 at 12:35 PM |

      EEEK! That is horrible! “Families only”??? That’s really sad. I can happily say that you’d be invited to anything that our church had… except maybe the for CHILDREN-only events. ;) Then you’d be invited to help out! I’m glad to know that our church does seem to do a better job than most of including everyone.

  152. Thoughts on singleness | musings by carly

    […] Junia Project blog I also found Christena Cleveland’s blog, which features a post called Singled Out: How Churches Can Embrace Unmarried Adults.  It is great […]

  153. Janelle
    Janelle December 7, 2013 at 3:57 PM |

    Awesome food for thought.

    I love that you want to talk about diversity in the church beyond ethnic/racial issues.

    How about a topic on embracing those with disabilities in the church? That’s a group that often gets overlooked (speaking from experience since my brother has mental and physical disabilities).

    Thanks!

  154. Sharon
    Sharon December 7, 2013 at 5:43 PM |

    Thanks for this really great article. I greatly appreciated it – especially the statement that people who married young need to admit that they don’t know much about singleness! However, I’d like to suggest that there are many aspects of singleness that you don’t experience until you get into your late 30s and 40s. Being single at 45 or 50 was a TOTALLY different experience for me than it was at 30.

  155. Ann
    Ann December 7, 2013 at 7:34 PM |

    I have experienced a type of…shunning, if you will, because I’m a young widow. Most of it was because they were afraid I would take their husbands. I just needed to be accepted as a sister in Christ. Included. Wanted. Loved. Still haven’t found a church body that is willing to do that, but I know that God is bigger. Great article! Great insight.

    1. christina habib
      christina habib December 8, 2013 at 2:35 PM |

      hi Ann i pray that you find a church body that would love and accept you in Christ. so sorry to hear that others treated you as a threat to them.

  156. Kristen
    Kristen December 7, 2013 at 10:09 PM |

    Loved this! First time I’ve read your blog, and I have to say, I’m impressed!! I’m the only single female my age in my church, and every time I step foot in that building (or the homes of other church members), I’m always told, you need a guy! We need to find you a husband! Case in point: Tonight we had a coffeehouse at our church. A (guy) friend that I work with at Christian concerts came with me and we ended up working in the sound booth together. By the end of the night, I had heard of at least three different people asking if we were ‘together.’ *facepalm* This blog put so much more eloquently than I could why I DON’T need a guy! Thank you!

  157. Sunday Best: Christmas and Ethnocentrism, Nelson Mandela Liturgy, Amazon and Advent | Seedbed

    […] Christena Cleveland shares how churches can embrace unmarried adults. […]

  158. Kara Dellisanti
    Kara Dellisanti December 8, 2013 at 10:08 AM |

    Thank you so much for writing this. As a single in her mid-twenties this post was very reassuring. I think something I really need in my spiritual life is guidance from church leaders/mentors on how to navigate life as a single in a way that is Christ-honoring. There are specific spiritual needs that I have as a single that have nothing to do with spouse-hunting, but the “singles ministries” I’ve seen or heard about in my area either don’t exist at all or seem to be focused solely on finding a spouse. Treating singleness as a problem to be fixed or deficit to be made up. I think you captured that concept beautifully. Thank you.

  159. How Churches Marginalize Single People and How They Can Do Better | Single at Heart

    […] Christena Cleveland, a single woman and author of Disunity in Christ, wrote an especially smart and thoughtful post about how singles are singled out in the church and how churches can turn that around. I’ll share […]

  160. Bella DePaulo
    Bella DePaulo December 8, 2013 at 2:15 PM |

    Thanks for this terrific article (and for mentioning my “Singled Out” book). I just wrote a post introducing my readers to your insights:
    http://blogs.psychcentral.com/single-at-heart/2013/12/how-churches-marginalize-single-people-and-how-they-can-do-better/

  161. christina habib
    christina habib December 8, 2013 at 2:23 PM |

    this is a great read and very well researched.

    i belong to the coptic orthodox church. many points fit in with the orthodox church but some don’t necessarily. historically the orthodox church has valued the state of virginity on earth as “crown-awarding” in heaven. yet the western culture of the orthodox church and the general culture of people does still focus on marriage and family life.

    i really like how you said that singleness is not a pre-marriage state, like junior high and high school. so many experiences of marriage and singleness can be mirrored at the same time and it has to do with age rather than marital status. ie moving out, managing finances, etc. not only married people have these experiences. so bridging the gap between married and non-married is essential for life learning and fellowship.

    God bless you and help you built your ministries!

    1. christina habib
      christina habib December 8, 2013 at 2:32 PM |

      also, just to clarify in our church, community priests are married. monks and nuns are present (as singles). Many church services and ministries are actually run by single people because they are always called upon since they “have time”. it is the general view that if you’re not taking care of a family then you need to dedicate your time to the church. This seems to be a bit different from the protestant perspective of your church.

  162. Tina D
    Tina D December 8, 2013 at 2:47 PM |

    I’m a little late to the game here, but this is a wonderful post. I’m going to add your blog to my feedly. :)

    I have so much to say on this topic, but for the sake of remaining productive and not bitter I will say this: I seem to thrive in environments where individual growth in encouraged, married or single, male or female, young or old, brown or black or white. I miss my little church, precisely because it was little. Rather than program for groups, they could only focus on maintaining healthly relationships. I think they saw me or Patrick or Ben or Crystal, not a single dude or a young mother. There were fewer boxes and more people.

  163. R Wilson
    R Wilson December 8, 2013 at 3:28 PM |

    Thanks, Christena! In a conversation on singles ministries with another single Christian friend, a rather depressingly accurate term occurred to me to describe many singles ministries and how they are viewed by the church, including by many of the singles themselves (!): “advanced youth group.” No wonder we are viewed as ‘less mature’ if we are thought of as those that haven’t fully graduated yet!! We are “those who need to be entertained and coddled, a satellite group the church is happy to have and support, but as a satellite, rather than an integrated part of the body–a ministry of the church, not part of its family.” The bigger problem is this is an unhealthy attitude to have towards youth groups as well!

  164. Check this out! | tattooedmissionary
    Check this out! | tattooedmissionary December 8, 2013 at 8:43 PM |

    […] Singled Out: How Churches Can Embrace Unmarried Adults at Christena Cleveland – We are all part of the body. […]

  165. dee
    dee December 8, 2013 at 10:23 PM |

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAWdNxdPW9E

    this is a link from francis chan and one of his talks. at about 1:05:45 he talks about the fact that the church focuses too much on marriage and instead, it should be focusing on spreading the Gospel through marriage..not church marriage ministry but church ministry marriage,

  166. cookiejezz
    cookiejezz December 9, 2013 at 7:31 AM |

    Very good article – thank you for writing it (38 y.o. single male and occasional Pentecostal preacher here).

    That comment by the pastor “I don’t want to hire a single woman to direct the worship arts ministry because she’ll probably end up sleeping with all of the guys in the band” is symptomatic of something that is wrong with our Christian culture, and which (in my view at least) actually affects how we treat singles.

    For some reason we seem to expect Christian people to sin rather than to be holy. Things that could be opportunities for growth (e.g. What if the new female staff member falls in love with one of the guys in the band and they get married?), we view as opportunities for sin, and hence shut them out.

    Same with singles’ events, which we see as ripe for fornication; same with the new guy who turns up at church, whom we suspect of just being there to scope out the single ladies (or even try to steal a married one!); same with letting adult male and female Christians work together on projects; same with letting the guy pay on a date in case he’s after a sexual payback. We segregate people whom we should be bringing together and to whom we should be allowing opportunities to form relationships, or else we see everything as a breeding ground for sin, rather than a chance for regenerate people to enjoy God’s blessings.

    For sure, we need to be wise, sanctified and so on, but why is there so much fear and negativity? At the end of the day it is insulting, both to the people affected and to the work of Christ in them, and it will drive people away from church because it is superficial rather than real in its dealing with important issues.

    1. johnhughmorgan3
      johnhughmorgan3 December 9, 2013 at 10:42 AM |

      Cookiejezz – Ageism, sexism, marital statusism, and distrust – They all need to be removed from the church. To do that, they are going to have to undo many longstanding traditions and assumptions.

  167. Katrina Bue
    Katrina Bue December 9, 2013 at 2:43 PM |

    Such truth is this entire piece! Thank you so much for researching and writing this so well! As a single in the full-time ministry world I have experienced all of these things first hand. I was overlooked for a position because I was single and because I was trying out for the Olympics. (Who would’ve thought that choosing to serve your country and to use your talents in this manner would be cause for dismissal from making a living) I have also been spoken to as if my singleness was a condition to be cured. Or worse, I have heard a pastor share from the pulpit that as a single person I had more time to give to the Lord since I didn’t have a family to serve at home. WHAT??? Anyway, thank you for sharing, for opening up the doors to this sin that is standing in the pulpits all across America! It’s a sin to find someone less than you, especially as it pertains to circumstances outside of their control. We were all created equal and God loves each and every one of us, we are His beloved!

  168. Jeff
    Jeff December 10, 2013 at 9:14 AM |

    I was talking to some longtime married friends, and they talked about how one of the keys to their long, successful marriage was realizing that any marriage actually has multiple marriages in it. That is, different phases in which marriage works very differently. And obviously, it’s unique to each marriage (married early, married late, with or without previous marriages, kids/no kids, stay at home/working parents, empty nest, etc.)

    One thing that has helped me as I’ve tried to think in a more complex way about singleness is to think similarly about all the different phases and variables in a single persons life. I’m not going to try to enumerate them here because I’d probably be somehow offensive, but it’s been a helpful way to approach this.

  169. Brent
    Brent December 10, 2013 at 9:53 AM |

    Love this, Christena. Will share it with my pastor friends. I’ve had a few dozen conversations with young adults who are thinking about the future and ‘finding their soulmate,’ etc. and suggested that they should think seriously about staying single – that both Jesus and Paul suggest that single people can do more for the Kingdom. The response is universal: ‘No one has ever told me that before.’

    Greg Boyd once preached a sermon that was the best I’ve heard on the topic. I should try to dig that up and give it a listen again.

  170. Dano
    Dano December 10, 2013 at 10:12 AM |

    This is great, thank you again Christena. One of the things I was nudged by in this article was the invitation to celebrate single people more often, specifically to attend their parties. What a simple, fun, and potentially impactful way to celebrate the milestone’s in their lives, especially if I can someone get them a Kitchen Aid!

  171. How thought provoking…talking about mental illness and the church | musings by carly

    […] I linked to a piece about singles from Christena Cleveland, which made me think a little bit more about the needs of my single […]

  172. Statement of Purpose | Single Serving
    Statement of Purpose | Single Serving December 10, 2013 at 11:19 AM |

    […] have difficulty ministering effectively to singles. (Here is the link, if you would like to read: http://www.christenacleveland.com/2013/12/singled-out/) To sum it up, basically the author gives married leadership six tips about how to reach out to […]

  173. Hannah Burtness
    Hannah Burtness December 10, 2013 at 12:14 PM |

    Such a fantastic article, and very encouraging! Thank you, from this single woman in her mid-20s in the church. I find that the overemphasis on marriage and married life in the church encourages me in my (misguided) personal feeling that, when I get married–when I finally find HIM–everything will be easier and better and full of love. I know in my mind that’s not true, haha, I’ve seen enough marriages to know the struggles. But that Disney belief that life starts when you fall in love is hard to beat, and the church weirdly reinforces it by not understanding your point here: “The challenges and joys of singleness are equal to but different than the challenges and joys of marriage.” My struggles to build my character, to rejoice in God through adversity and learn how to love the people around me, to do good work in the world and be productive… it’s the same process as it will be when I’m married (IF I get married). Glorifying marriage doesn’t help me now, and I imagine it won’t help me when I do get married.

    As you say, the struggles of being a single person often get overlooked in the emphasis on the struggles of being a spouse/parent (not that I’m saying that’s not a hard job! Definitely is), and as you mention, don’t get much pulpit time. I’d love help from my church on things like: I am happily waiting for marriage to have sex, but oh hey that’s actually a really hard thing to do, especially in our culture. It’s a constant choice, just as marriage/fidelity is a constant choice, and a difficult one, especially when a lot of your friends are either a: happily married and having sex, or b. not married, but happily having sex anyway. Like you said, most pastors had very little experience with being single; our issues are not their issues, and because this has been an overlooked area, they haven’t done much reaching out and learning.

    And as someone mentioned above, the assumption that life is easier as a single is shortsighted. I’m dealing with life (from taxes to tragedy) without a partner, without someone to help. I love the ways that people here have suggested dealing with that; that the church could be more proactive in helping with the practical things, and with including singles in all aspects of life.

    I think part of this issue is just the church not being quite up to the times in the US. Our parents’ generation were the first ones where people weren’t all getting married at 20 or so, but even then it was still quite common. Our generation is getting married a lot later, and I think the church kind of wants to ignore that fact; just hope that it’s not the case in the church. But it is!

    I think your points are a fantastic place to start the church on the road to embracing the other 40%. If the church would first see us, and then start to think that single people are an important part of the Kingdom, too; already, just as they are… and that we have struggles that you don’t understand. That’s a good place to start.

  174. Hannah Burtness
    Hannah Burtness December 10, 2013 at 12:17 PM |

    One other quick thought: I’m a single gal who would love to find a great guy to be with. I have a lot going for me, but a lot of my world is outside of the church (my job, hobbies, etc), so I don’t have a lot of opportunities to meet young, single, Christian guys (not to mention the statistical difficulty Christian women have, since there’s more of us than men; especially single men). Here’s what I propose*: maybe instead of asking me if I’ve met anyone, or how dating is going, you could think about the single guys you know (and if any of them may be a good match for me) and then if you have one in mind, mention it!

    *CAVEAT: only if you know me well enough to determine who might be a good match with me, and ESPECIALLY only if you know me well enough to know that I’m actively looking.

    Now, I’m not asking for awkward set-ups. And if I’m not into it, don’t be weird and still try to make it happen (no one wants to be a pity date). But, if you’re married, and have a single cousin, or brother, or guy you went to college with who you know is looking, and you know a single girl and know that she’s looking, and they seem like they’d be a good match… well, say something! To one, or both of them (separately).

    I have successfully used networking and connections to get jobs, but somehow, this aspect of the potential power of church networks seems to be lackluster.

    1. Chad
      Chad December 12, 2013 at 9:04 AM |

      Hannah, praise God for your godly desire for a Christian life mate. While it is easy for desire to turn into discontentment, the fact that you’re committed to wait as long as necessary (even if that’s forever) for God to bring the right one along speaks volumes concerning your preeminent love for Him!

      As I read your comment, I personally felt that the main reality it draws out (at least from my vantage point) is the epidemic of failed male leadership that we are facing presently in the evangelical world. There are only so many Christian single men (as you noted), and among those many of them (though certainly not all) are more interested in remaining on the “dating scene” for as long as they possibly can before they “settle down.” In other words, I think the particular struggle that many Christian young ladies face says more about male immaturity.

      *My CAVEAT: Please don’t take this to mean that I think all men are called to marriage. But I would tell a male friend who is very active on the dating scene that he should go ahead and choose one to unconditionally love until death and seek to marry her (if she will have him)! Men who know they are called to celibacy are not in hot pursuit of a Saturday night date. Hope that was clear enough! :)

  175. johnhughmorgan3
    johnhughmorgan3 December 10, 2013 at 12:45 PM |

    Christena – I noticed that number 4 in your article suggested that people should celebrate single people. The big problem with this is . . . what is a single person? Is it merely a legal term to describe someone who is not currently holding a valid marriage license? Or does it infer something about the person’s sexual history? I agree with Dan that we need to be talking about celibacy – not singleness. And in order for us to be “singled out,” I think it would be appropriate for churches to help us celebrate our celibacy anniversaries just as well as they celebrate wedding anniversaries. I just celebrated my 52nd on my birthday. But who knew but me? No one. I took myself out to eat and bought a new shirt. For me personally, celibacy transcends college degrees or achievements. I think this would go a long way in reinventing celibacy in today’s church — Find out who we are.

  176. 9 things to do for singletons at Christmas | thedatingmanifesto

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  178. Pad
    Pad December 11, 2013 at 9:34 AM |

    “The Holy Spirit isn’t boring; it doesn’t have a cookie cutter plan for how it brings forth fruit in people’s lives.”
    Wow, Amen to that, Sister! And the whole paragraph before that. (And come on, really, the whole article is amazing.)
    Thank you for this informative piece! As a married woman, I gained a lot from reading this article about a subject I almost completely ignore unwittingly. If you could, please provide some specific ideas of how I can reach out to singles. It’s easy to hang out with other married people– I can suggest a double date, and small groups at my church are divided into married/family or single/”young professionals”… but to hang out with singles, I don’t really know how to go about it.. help? Thanks!

  179. Is the Church for Singles or for Couples? Why we both need each other. | Words of Truth & Reason

    […] been pointed to an interesting article, and enjoying the conversation it led to, I thought I would share a few briefs thoughts on being […]

  180. Heather
    Heather December 11, 2013 at 6:55 PM |

    God bless you! This is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone talk about singles this way. This is going straight to my pastor.

  181. Crystal
    Crystal December 11, 2013 at 8:32 PM |

    I actually wrote a blog entry on this topic within this last year. Here is the link – just in case you’re interested.

    http://livinglifeatrandom.blogspot.com/2013/07/challenges-for-singles-in-couples-world.html

    Great article, btw!

  182. Chad
    Chad December 11, 2013 at 11:00 PM |

    Very helpful insights and reminders! I do think the author took the Mohler quote a bit out of context, though. I listened through that sermon on a radio podcast a few months ago (Family Life Today) and his point was that those (primarily the men, he noted) who were evidently not called to singleness (because they were active in the dating scene) were putting off the marriage they expected to have one day in the name of far lesser pursuits. His point was that marriage was intended to be one of the main arenas in which those called to marriage would experience their sanctification. And I would add, similarly for the Christian single, his/her singleness is (for however long he/she is single) a primary arena in which God has them to work out their salvation as well.

    This hardly detracts from the main point she brings to our attention, though, and I enthusiastically affirm each point!

    1. johnhughmorgan3
      johnhughmorgan3 December 11, 2013 at 11:37 PM |

      Chad – Mohler has made many disparaging remarks about singles (especially single men) over the years. The SBC has a history of doing this and it continues to today with Russell Moore. Furthermore, the Bible tells us that there will be no marriages in heaven. I agree with Christina – Marriage is not the primary route to holiness.

      1. Chad
        Chad December 12, 2013 at 8:48 AM |

        The fact that there are no marriages in heaven is irrelevant to whether God chooses to use our marriages or singleness as a primary (though not the only) means to sanctify us. The author stated that being married is not a fruit of the Spirit, which is obviously true. But even with the fruits of the Spirit, they’re evidences of the Spirit’s work, not means the Spirit uses to produce in us holiness (think Heb. 12 chastening, discipline). Conflating the two makes a categorical error concerning both ideas.

        So the author is right when she states that marriage is not a stamp of holiness, but she would be wrong if she were to infer that marriages are not a primary means the Spirit uses to sanctify married people (Mohler’s point) just as singleness is a primary means the Spirit uses to sanctify the single person. (I don’t believe the author was necessarily arguing the latter, though.)

        Furthermore, (as I tried to clarify in my previous comment) the original context of Mohler’s quote clarifies that he was not marginalizing singles in any way. I am not a part of the SBC, but if there is a lot of evidence that they through the likes of Mohler, Moore, and perhaps others constantly offer disparaging remarks, about singles then they should be biblically confronted about such. But you’ll need to cite your sources since, though I read the aforementioned authors rather prolifically, I have never come across such a remark. I believe they would advocate the same as the author of this article–emphasizing the equality within the body of Christ among married and single adults alike.

        I say all of this not to detract from the point of the article. The author hit the nail square on the head and really helped to bring further insight to a frequently overlooked reality. But I long for unity in the body of Christ, so I am trying to encourage us to be fair, gracious, and charitable to our fellow brothers and sisters.

        1. johnhughmorgan3
          johnhughmorgan3 December 12, 2013 at 10:15 AM |

          Chad –

          “In heaven, is the crucible of our saint-making going to have been through our jobs? I don’t think so. The Scripture makes clear that it will be done largely through our marriages. ” http://news.sbts.edu/2004/06/29/mohler-message-on-familylife-today-dont-put-off-marriage/. Albert Mohler.

          “. . . to be blunt, in my town, you have to be discerning when dealing with older, single men in the church who seem to have no interest in pursuing a wife. Rusell Moore. http://www.russellmoore.com/2012/03/08/why-impostors-love-the-church/

          “Both the logic of Scripture and the centrality of marriage in society justify the strong inclination of congregations to hire a man who is not only married but faithfully married.” Albert Mohler.

          There are many, many others. They do routinely make disparaging remarks about singles.

          You mentioned that men who know they are called to celibacy are not in hot pursuit of a Saturday night date. Can you give me the name of one of those men?

          1. Chad
            Chad December 12, 2013 at 5:18 PM |

            Thanks John. The clearest example you gave was the Rusell Moore comment. That was out of line and I do agree that may be cause for offense.

            As stated twice above, I believe the context of the first quotation you gave (the one cited in the above article) makes it clear that he was not speaking out against people who called to singleness, but those (particularly 20-30 year old guys) who were intentionally putting off marriage. I don’t think the context can be any clearer. So, again, let’s be fair to the good Dr. It’s not a disparaging remark.

            As for the third quote, I see prudence in most contexts to follow a similar logic. Does the Bible require an elder/pastor to be married? -No. But I see no problem for churches to have a strong inclination (being the key word here) toward hiring a pastor who is himself married. Unless the context says otherwise (I couldn’t tell since there was not a link for the third quote), I can’t imagine Mohler to be saying that no staff position in the church or even in areas of leadership would be open to singles using this kind of rationale. I think this is an area you can disagree with me and Mohler on. And all Mohler seems to be saying is that such churches’ position can be justified when considering these two factors. Again, I see nothing that speaks against Christian singles.

            I would address your closing question, but it confused me (probably my bad). I would be happy to answer it, though, if you might clarify for me. Are you asking for names of men I know who have shared with me their belief that they are called to singleness? I do have a handful of friends who would fit that description and choose not to date. But my comment was concerning the Christian youngsters I know who have every intention of taking out a different girl every few months and put off “settling down” until they’ve thoroughly expired their beloved feeling of extended adolescence. I don’t think you would fit this characterization, and I would commend you for that. Does that mean that someone who was called to singleness for a time can never get married? Probably not.

            Above all, I hope you don’t take my thoughts to be disparaging remarks against Christian singles! As stated more than once, I commend the entire above article and it gives us much to consider/reconsider as The Church. God bless.

            1. johnhughmorgan3
              johnhughmorgan3 December 12, 2013 at 11:15 PM |

              http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/03/25/must-a-pastor-be-married-the-new-york-times-asks-the-question/

              I have no respect for failed male leadership Sorry. And I don’t read the scriptures through a window of inclinations. So I respectfully disagree with you. BTW, the Southern Baptist Convention has no unmarried pastor in the southeastern United States (TMK). I think that pretty much . . . speaks for itself.

  183. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth December 11, 2013 at 11:16 PM |

    I think one of the reasons people see any situation involving single people as being potentially “rife with sin” is the zeitgeist of the Billy Graham evangelistic movement. People lauded Graham for being unwilling to ever meet alone with a woman lest HE be tempted and essentially did what Christians often do and decided that if were a good thing for one man in one situation (which, in my opinion, is even a debatable premise), it must be a good general “rule” to adopt. Only somehow, singleness got added in.

    I once attended a seminar led by a young, male. church staff member. It was on a subject which really spoke to me personally, and I wanted to talk to the man (a few years younger than I am) about it in more detail. I went up to him after the seminar to ask for a meeting and he informed me that he didn’t meet with single women; it was too dangerous! The topic of his seminar? Outreach to marginalized groups in the church!

    Sigh.

    1. Chad
      Chad December 12, 2013 at 9:19 AM |

      I think Christ in John 4 gives us men a good model to follow when “counseling” women one-on-one (single or married). He did not refuse that sort of interaction, but actually pursued it as it presented itself. But (and here’s the key for us fallible servants of His) there was accountability. It was generally in the open and in public. Even if his interaction was behind closed doors (Luke 10:38-42), there was someone else within eye or ear-sight. This protected him even from accusations or suspicions that anything “else” might have taken place. And it is the accusations that such accountability especially protects us men from (as well as sexual temptation).

      So in other words, I affirm your point that this young church staff member should have been more available to meet with you, but I would also emphasize that there is good reason to be careful about how we pastors go about ministering to women (again, single or married) one-on-one because it can be dangerous–not because the person is dangerous or necessarily the temptation even, but because the wrong perception and an unfounded accusation can still hurt or even destroy one’s ministry (which includes both parties).

  184. Holy Spirit Theology; Warrior Culture; Incarnation; Parenting Boys; Nelson Mandela Irony; the Surveillance State and much more « ChosenRebel's Blog

    […] it on to every man you know. And then determine to love your wife like Christ loves the Church.) Singled Out: How the Church Can Embrace Single Adults  (The church is the bride of Christ and she needs to take care of all the flock, including the […]

  185. Anonymous
    Anonymous December 13, 2013 at 2:18 PM |

    I especially love #6 on what to do- invest in the single people around you. Have you heard of The Porch at Watermark community church? It’s an incredible singles ministry that addresses exactly what this article is about. If you’re interested, you can check it out online at http://www.theporchdallas.com as it has great resources and sermons directed to singles in the church. Not just about dating but how to use your singleness to bring God glory and advance His kingdom.

    Hope you find it as helpful and edifying as I do! Romans 12:10

  186. From Around The Interweb | Words of Truth & Reason

    […] Singled Out:  How Churches Can Embrace Unmarried Adults.  Christena Cleveland.  This article is not perfect but was forwarded to me by an unmarried person.  Dialogues and learning need to happen along these lines. […]

  187. Steve DeLisle
    Steve DeLisle December 15, 2013 at 3:06 PM |

    I was 26 when I got married after seminary and was constantly asked when I would get married. Now after 19 years of marriage I am raising my 2 teenagers as a single pastor. I have to agree completely that the church misses the boat with singles. I hear things through totally new ears these past almost 3 years. I want to lead a church that values individuals and not just families. I am seeking how God would have me begin a healthy singles ministry to my community. One that isn’t just a “dating service” but that genuinely speaks to the single community and helps them find their wholeness in Jesus. Blessings for this article.

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