Dear Pastor Without a Church Singles Ministry,
In the summer of 2017, I moved from the west coast of the U.S. to the east coast on a strong sense of calling from the Lord. I expected there to be a lot of differences in pace, culture, and climate to adjust to. An adjustment I didn’t expect to make in this large metropolitan area was for there to be no church-sponsored singles ministries.
I’ll have to admit, Pastor, I was very surprised. I came from an area known to be very liberal and with fewer churches per capita than where I was going, but to their credit, they have a few churches with singles ministries for singles over 30. My old church had two such groups.
Now, I’m a big girl. I know how to thrive despite there being no local church singles ministries. That’s only because there are a few other outlets for Christian singles to find each other for events, activities, and Christian teaching. However, Pastor, truth be told, I would prefer to build relationships and community with the hundreds of singles in my immediate area and in my congregation.
That’s not because I don’t like outsiders or anything like that. It’s because I am a church girl. Having been a follower of Jesus for over 40 years, I am disciplined enough to get rooted and grounded in one place and have the body of Christ, as expressed by the local congregation, be the base for most of my fellowship, teaching, giving, and ministry.
I know I’m not the only one in this category. Even if many others have not been followers of Christ as long as I have, they mostly prefer to have their church be their base for most of their fellowship, teaching, giving, and ministry. I know because I hear it from them all the time.
I have been single all my life, Pastor, not because I did not have any opportunities to marry, not because there is something wrong with me, and not because I hate marriage or men, but because I chose to remain single for ministry calling purposes. For me, it’s possible that I have been called to remain single and it’s a gift from the Lord.
For others, their singleness is from being scared of being in another superficial, negative, turmoil or abuse-filled relationship, and they’re skittish. They know they’re not ready for another relationship until some healing occurs, positive support is reinforced, and some boundaries are strengthened.
Many single Christians want to finish raising their children so they can devote their complete time and attention on being there for them.
Some single Christians don’t know who they are as a person, let alone who they are in Christ, and they want more time to explore all that before they settle into a permanent relationship with a potentially incompatible person.
Some have been divorced and their marriages scarred them. They are good with staying single.
Some single Christians had a wonderful marriage when their spouse died, and they long for the day when they can marry again.
And some single Christians have never been married and would like to be, but they just haven’t found the right person, or (they muse), the right person hasn’t found them. They’re staying in church, are involved in ministry, and stay out of trouble, but they’re single for what they hope is a shorter season than they expect.
We’re all looking for a church home within a church home.
I know my stance and calling to a lifetime of singleness are not common, even in today’s culture of exponentially growing numbers of adults staying single, but it is more common that it used to be. You know, Pastor, there are just a lot more of us singles, and especially Christian singles, than there ever has been before.
And you know what? We Christian singles are here to stay. In fact there are a growing number of us. According to the latest demographic statistics, not only are there more singles by number in 2017, we singles are a growing percentage of the general population.
Most of us work and make decent money. Many of us have been married before and are now single through divorce or widowhood. Many of us are single parents. Many of us are well-educated with masters’ degrees and doctorates. I must warn you, a growing percentage of us are not Caucasian. Check out the amazing statistics I found with a simple search online in my References section.
It’s incomprehensible that there are hundreds of churches in our area and hundreds of thousands across the country (about 384,000 churches, according to a 2012 report by the National Congregations study, summarized here: Summary of church statistics), but precious few have thriving singles ministries.
Back in the 1990’s, almost every church in our area had a singles ministry. Singles ministry was the newest fad to roll down the red carpet from the church growth specialists. We were in our heyday. Activities and events and books were everywhere to support us in our walks with Christ as single adults. Now, according to Dennis Franck, national director for Single Adult/Young Adult Ministries for the Assemblies of God in Springfield, Mo, about 80% of every denomination don’t have singles ministries. That means that only 20 churches out of 100 have a singles ministry of any kind. Yet we are at least half the population in most states in the U.S. How can that be, that around 50% of the United States is single, and yet few churches have ministries specifically established for them—for us?
There are already lots of age- and stage-related ministries in most churches. There are ministries for children, ministries for youth, and ministries for young college-aged adults—millennials. Many lament the observation that millennials don’t like church, and church leaders are striving to outreach them and get them into a relationship with God and their church.
There are ministries for engaged couples, ministries for newly married couples and “oldly” married couples, ministries for families, ministries for men, ministries for women, ministries for the developmentally delayed, and ministries for senior adults.
What about single adults over 30? Why aren’t you outreaching us?
What’s Your Story, Pastor?
Are we an embarrassment to the pastoral ministry?
Are you uneasy that all those attempts twenty years ago to get us singles to stay pure and holy until we married, and to keep us married once we got there, now look like they didn’t work? Does what happened twenty years ago look and feel like a ministry failure today?
I say, Pastor, you didn’t fail, the gospel didn’t fail, and most of all, the grace of God didn’t fail. A few of us, but definitely not all of us, have failed. But failing doesn’t make us failures. It makes us human. And last I checked, God loves us single human beings that He created as much as He loves you married human beings.
Is it more convenient to minister to people who have the most important things in common with you: spouses, children, and family concerns?
Many of us have families, too, but struggle with raising children or grandchildren alone. We sure could use the support and assistance of the body of Christ in bearing the burden, not of children, but of raising children alone, especially if our child is the opposite gender. As a pastor, you already know the lesson that godly ministry is not always convenient. Please help us bear that burden with practical support like free childcare at more church functions. Like the singles ministry.
Are all you married people afraid we’re going to steal your spouses?
I sure don’t want someone else’s husband, believe me. If I’m going to go through the trouble of giving up my freedom to get married, I want my own special gift from God!
And I am too smart to want someone who could be tempted away from his existing marriage. Most of us are too smart to fall for that bit of adulterous, demonic nonsense. It’s more difficult to combat the feeling of not being wanted in the room or not trusted due to someone else’s issues and insecurities.
Do you want singles to “focus on things above” and not think about marriage, and that’s why you don’t have a singles ministry?
Let’s apply that logic to other desires and needs.
Since many people want a new car, but should focus on things above, we should eliminate new car lots. Since many of us need to get in shape physically, but should focus on the internal, not the external, we should banish all gyms and workout equipment.
Since most of us like to eat, but we should not become slaves to our flesh, let’s tell people to stay away from grocery stores, restaurants, and fast-food joints.
Does it make better sense now?
So… Pastor… just like you think a lot about ministry and your church and your spouse and your children, many of us think a lot about getting married. I don’t think you want us going to bars and secular dance clubs to find our mates. In fact, many of us did that worldly search already and refuse to do that again. What better place to find our mates than in a local church or church ministry setting?
Did you try having a singles ministry, but nobody came?
It is true that many singles don’t like going to church singles ministries.
They feel ashamed, like they failed in their quest to find a mate. Or they don’t want to look desperate. Or they think it’s only a place for people who want to find mates, or worse, it’s a meat market for wolves. Or they met their ex- there, or their ex- would go there if there was another singles ministry, and they don’t want any more bad memories or negative encounters.
These very valid questions and concerns have to be addressed during the meetings at both the general large-group level as well as the small group, intimate level.
Leaders in a singles ministry have to have compassion for single Christians, but set firm limits against abuses or drama of any kind. When singles—especially the women or new believers—realize they’re in a safe environment where their single status is accepted and they can bring their honest desires, questions, and discussions, they are much more likely to come, stay, and invite their single friends.
It’s also possible that the people placed in leadership over the previous singles ministry didn’t have a heart for singles, especially if they were married, and previous attendees sensed it. You have to have a leadership foundation that is more than just a babysitting service.
Finally, single leaders placed in charge of the ministry often get married and leave the singles ministry as their focus shifts to being with other married couples and/or ministries. You know the basic principle: that, to keep a ministry thriving, one needs to continually pray for and train new leaders so that if a key leader leaves for any reason, the flock will continue to be cared for in their permanent absence. Discipling leaders is a must in other parts of the flock and it is a must in singles ministry.
What Will Be Your Story From Now On?
You know, Pastor, it’s not in the Bible that we should only minister to half the body of Christ. It’d be like taking care of only half your body—shower only half of your body or exercise only half of your body. Would you shave only half of your beard every day and walk around in your community as if that was normal? Does that make sense to you? Me, either.
When the Hellenistic widows (singles!) were being neglected in Acts 6:1-7, the situation was prayed about as to who should administer support and assistance, not whether they should have a ministry to those singles. It says in verse 7 that after the apostles prayed and appointed the new leaders to serve these widows, the Word of God spread, the numbers of the disciples went up exponentially, and a huge number of priests became obedient to the faith. Don’t you want that even more than you have it right now?
Jesus is concerned about the entire body of Christ. He has different callings for each one of us, and He wants us all to learn and grow in a safe community of both married and single believers. He blesses prayerful attempts to minister to the entire body of Christ.
I’m not trying to shame you or guilt you into having a singles ministry, Pastor. I just hope you will see how ripe the harvest is for the picking. Then I hope you’ll prayerfully consider reaching outside your comfort zone to minister to half the population of your town, city, or area.
There are hidden, lonely, and hurting Christian singles who would start coming to your church if you provided a safe (read: non-condemning) environment for them to bring all their hurts, their pasts, their children, their desires, and their needs. And there are happy, joyful, maturing Christian singles who would love to be part of a thriving Christian singles group in a church setting, where there is leadership, accountability, guidance, continuity, and a certain level of safety.
Be prepared to be tested. And pray for the Lord to bring forward people who have that burden, that desire to love on, minister to, comfort, and strengthen the singles in your church and your area. May our Lord and Savior, the ultimate single adult Jesus Christ, guide and bless your efforts to reach the singles in your area.
Brumley, Jeff. Churches must improve treatment of singles or risk losing them, author says. Article for baptistnews.com 8/1/2017. https://baptistnews.com/article/churches-must-improve-treatment-singles-risk-losing-author-says/ accessed 10/19/17.
Chiu, Joyce. The Single Minded Church. Article for the Barna Research Group 02/09/2017. https://www.barna.com/single-minded-church/ accessed 10/19/17.
Dalfonzo, Gina. One By One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church. Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, MI June 2017. http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/books/one-by-one/383600 accessed 10/19/17.
Eaton, Sam. 12 Reasons Millennials Are Over Church. Blogger at Recklessly Alive 09/26/2016. http://www.recklesslyalive.com/12-reasons-millennials-are-over-church/ accessed 10/19/17.
Hamaker, Sarah. Pew for One: How Is the Church Responding to Growing Number of Singles? Article for the Christian Post 02/29/2012. http://www.christianpost.com/news/pew-for-one-how-is-the-church-responding-to-growing-number-of-singles-70586/ accessed 10/19/17.
Single Adult Ministries of the United Pentecostal Church International. US Singles Statistics. http://www.upcisam.com/about/singles-statistics/ accessed 10/19/17.
U.S. Census Bureau. FFF: Unmarried and Single Americans Week: Sept. 17-23, 2017. Published 8/14/2017. https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2017/single-americans-week.html accessed 10/19/17.
U.S. Census Bureau. Households and Families: 2010. (This is where you can look up data about your state. You can also see if your community is one of the ten top cities with a population over 100,000 having the highest percentage of single person households. You’ll mostly be looking at pages 10-14). https://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-14.pdf accessed 10/19/17.
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