It hasn’t been easy to be in full-time ministry and business as a single woman. The problem is that the church has perpetuated marriage as the pinnacle of spiritual maturity and the assumed role of the majority of its congregants. They force many into marriage out of fear of sexual immorality, lack of understanding, jealousy or generalized presumption. This has caused marriage to serve as an idol within many churches and singles viewed as a threat to Christian ethics. Due to this perception, many singles grow tired of the assumptions, the setups and being considered outliers and abnormal within church culture.
I will say that the treatment of singles differs based upon location and the influx of diversity within the sanctuary. For instance, NYC has a growing number of single people flooding the church. They’re seeing one of the greatest revivals of Christianity because they’re choosing to demonstrate the love of Christ and not demonize single men and women.
For years, women were expected to marry early, procreate and stay within the confines of marriage expectations. This occurred because of the lack of choice for many women. 50 years ago, women were given three options for vocation: teacher, secretary or nurse. It was assumed and pushed by outside culture and Christian culture that women would quit their jobs after they married and raise their children at home. However, even though the culture provided more options for women, both married and single, the church did not move from the 1950s stance. They provided women with one choice: marriage and motherhood. Don’t get me wrong, women who choose marriage are purposed and they’re ministering in many ways. However, because of Christian culture’s leaning towards traditionalism, married women are given more opportunities and given more worth within the church than their single counterparts.
Here are some practical ways to show that your church is inclusive to male and female singles:
1. Choose study books that are not marriage-driven.
Allow all people in your church to understand leadership within their own context. One of the greatest problems that I find, especially in women’s studies, is the sole concentration on marriage and children. The studies presume that ALL women are married, or if they’re not, then they shouldn’t be welcomed into certain cliques within the church.
2. Encourage single people to mentor married people.
Too many times, mentors reach out to singles because they want to pour into them, which is great. However, the mentorship needs to go both ways. Singles have the same maturity level as their married counterparts; the only difference is that they sleep alone at night.
3. Create events that are inclusive based on interest, not on relationship status.
For instance, there’s nothing worse than being forced to sit with the youth because the church sees you as less than because you’re not standing beside a spouse. You’re still standing with Jesus and you’re standing strong by yourself. When we create events based around leadership, marketing, business, theology or just doing life together, we invite all people to listen and contribute.
4. Hire single people!
This is imperative. I recently saw pictures from a church staff retreat at a local waterpark. They had a blast with their kids and other parents, but I couldn’t help but wonder why they created an event that catered to only married people with children when some of their staff were senior citizens or single individuals. Instead of having the retreat at a waterpark, chose a destination that’s interesting to all people.
5. Don’t assume that singles are dying to volunteer in the nursery.
Smokey the Bear said it best, “Only you can prevent forest fire.” The same is true for the church, only you can create a space that includes single adults. If you’re looking out and seeing a plethora of married couples with gaggles of children and single people are nowhere to be found, maybe it’s time to reorganize, maybe it’s to restrategize, maybe it’s time to understand the reality of this generation and create churches that minister to all.