- Go outside of your department and investigate the number of singles volunteering across departments. Because they have more availability and can be more dependable, singles might be getting overextended. They’re at a particularly high risk for burnout if they feel like the church doesn’t really care about them.
Social psychologist and author Christena Cleveland writes, “The marginalization of single people in the church is not just a sociological problem; it is also a theological problem. … Not only does this corrode the identities of single people who are rightful and invaluable members of the family of God, it tarnishes our perception of God.” What you communicate to the singles in your community in both obvious and subtle ways has a massive impact. In fact, sometimes the subtle messages are the most damaging.
- How does your church portray the idea of family? In your marketing, sermons, and classes, is family spoken of exclusively as the people you live with and gave birth to? Consider how Jesus talked about family in Matthew 12:47–50: “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? … whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” How often does your church speak about family in this way?
- Consider your sermon series in the past year. How many were obviously focused on marriage and family? Do you ever have a sermon or sermon series directed toward singles?
- Is the existence of singles in your congregation ignored or acknowledged? Are their challenges taken seriously or dismissed? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “You married people know what I’m talking about!” or something similar in a sermon. I’ve found that anecdotes, stories, jokes, and examples from the pulpit almost exclusively reference marriage and family, while positive references to being single are nearly nonexistent.
In her book Living into Community, Christine Pohl writes, “The character of our shared life—as congregations, communities, and families—has the power to draw people to the kingdom or to push them away. How we live together is the most persuasive sermon we’ll ever get to preach.” In light of this truth, our collective mission becomes having the eyes to see those who feel pushed away from the kingdom and not only acknowledge them but honor them. Jesus recast the vision of family in the Gospels—will we follow his lead? Or will we keep unintentionally marginalizing singles and abandoning them to navigate life on their own? In a culture where people feel more lonely and alone than ever, it is crucial that the church, in its efforts to protect the nuclear family, doesn’t further isolate those who don’t have one.