So how can we best advocate for singles in our churches? For starters, we need to talk to some single people about their experience. If you’re married, keep in mind that your experience as a single person may not reflect the reality of being single today. Dating apps and smartphones have completely altered the landscape of dating, even just within the past five years. Take the posture of a learner when you’re listening to unmarried people in your community. Find out where their hurts and joys are without getting defensive or making promises. Remember that there are many different “single experiences”—a never-married 42-year-old, a 63-year-old widow, and a 29-year-old divorcee have vastly different experiences of singleness.
Beyond talking to single people in your church, here are three areas to examine to determine how you might advocate for the unmarried in your church context:
1. Programs and classes.
Obviously it’s impossible to have a program for absolutely everyone, although in our consumer culture, that can be what people expect. But with what you are offering, are you communicating to unmarried people that they aren’t important to the church?
- Look at the classes and groups that happen on Sunday mornings. Are you offering age/stage ministry only to select groups?
- Who are your special events meant for? For example, are they primarily marriage seminars, date nights, and marriage retreats? Is this out of balance with events singles can attend, and/or do you have any singles-focused events?
- Look through your church website and think through it from a single’s perspective. If someone who isn’t married is looking to get connected into your community, does your website reveal any barriers to doing so? For instance, does your women’s ministry schedule assume most women stay at home with their kids?
Church life moves fast, and leaders can easily get bogged down in attendance numbers and event logistics without noticing who’s in the room. So ask yourself: Who is participating and who isn’t—are there a lot of singles, or very few?
- How diverse is your lay leadership? Does it fully reflect your congregation? Are there more unmarried people represented there, or fewer than there should be?