A few weeks ago, I asked several single people (including widows, divorcees, never been marrieds, etc.) two questions:
- What are some of the ways people in the local church have been an encouragement to you as a single person?
- What are some things you have found discouraging?
Answers varied widely, but there were a few common themes that kept coming up, which I have sought to categorize with the following tips.
Ways to Encourage Single People in the Local Church:
- Provide a variety of ways to serve — Most singles seemed happier and felt more included in their church when they had opportunities to serve, whether as a bible study leader, church greeter, choir member, guest preacher, or in community outreach.
Some commented on how the church could improve their evangelism strategy through strategic volunteer opportunities:
“I don't feel the church allows singles to be used enough corporately. As for soul-winning, this could be a major KINGDOM TAKE-OVER if singles could come together and really understand why we exist.” – Marian (You Can Tell It! Instructor)
- Whenever possible, include a wider demographic range in staff positions – Don’t require that all paid employees be married as a prerequisite for hire.
“I have also heard churches reject candidates for pastors who are singles. I am not sure what they are trying to communicate with that decision but it does mean that Jesus & Paul would not qualify for the pastoral position at those churches which is interesting.” — Michele
- Offer Bible Studies/events at a variety of days and times – A stay-at-home mom may prefer a study during a week day, but working mothers may need something in the evening or on a weekend.
- Encourage friendships between people who are not in the same marital status – Meals together, shopping trips, game night, etc.
“Don't get me wrong, I love my singles friends and hanging with them as well, but just because I'm single doesn't mean I want to be segregated from marrieds and families just because we are in different life stages, which I feel happens a lot. When my married friends keep pursuing me as a friend, or get to know me, it means the world to me.” – Katie
“Some of our people (outside of church leadership), try hard to make and maintain friends who are not in the same marital status. Not entirely, but enough to not marginalize us (formerly) single people. And I have tried to continue that with my own friendships.” – Elizabeth (didn’t marry until her late 30’s)
- Remember to include single people in church wide events; don’t make them all family focused.
“I've been forgotten more times than I can count for fellowship events--simply wasn't invited. Now, some of these things have happened because I'm not a part of the 'popular' cliques at church, but most of it's been because I'm single” – Rita
- Ask single people to sit with you during the worship service so they don’t have to sit along.
“Widows tend to hide in the back of the church and disappear fairly rapidly. And then they are forgotten. Their friends should encourage them to sit in the front, cry as much as they need to, and STAY sitting in the front so they will be missed if they disappear from the church. That way people know to go chase them down and bring them back to church.” – Nancy
“I have also felt discouraged on Sunday mornings when attending a smaller church when I felt I always had to be the one reaching out and very rarely was I initiated with or invited to sit with others. It often felt like every family was their own independent unit and since I was single it was just me and myself unless I made an effort to reach out…” – Katie
- Remember, single people are human too!
“Talking to me like an adult human being that's like anyone else is probably the most encouraging thing as a single. I'm just a human, not a ‘special entity.’ Those who have included me in leadership and not asked to defer to a male figure in my life, those who view me as an equal...that's what's encouraging. Acknowledging my issues as valid and striving to see me grow in Christ because I'm His child...that's what's encouraging.” – Rita
Things to Avoid:
- Don’t treat single people like projects — Some are content to be single; others wish they were married. Yet, either way, no one wants to feel like attending a singles class is akin to an AA group.
“What I have found discouraging and downright unhelpful is when older ladies would feel the need to tell me there is nothing wrong with me and the issue is obviously that single guys are blind or stupid or whatever. I'd rather they focus the conversation on things we have in common: family, hobbies, God's sanctifying work in our lives, etc.” – Melody
“I've often felt like a second-class citizen in churches because of being single.” – Rita
- Avoid asking questions like “When are you going to get married?” and avoid playing the match maker.
“I don't think single people need to be pitied. That is the one thing that really bugs me. We don't necessarily need help from anyone--it is just the life that we are choosing to live. I personally don't want anyone in church to bring it up. I just want them to see me as the person that I am, not as some person who is woefully incomplete, broken, or not normal.” – Ryan
- Don’t avoid the topic of singleness altogether.
“I appreciate the people who remember to simply ask how singleness is going for me, how they can pray, etc. I feel the older I get the less people ask. I'm not sure if they don't want to upset me or feel I've been single this long and I must just always be great and loving it, but no matter what they think or assume it hurts. My singleness just like a marrieds marriage or a mom learning to be a mother is a part of where they are at, so is my current status of single, whether that changes later on or not only time will tell, but for now it's a part of my story and my life, and worth asking about at least on occasion.” – Katie
For Further Reading: