Did you know that today there are more single adults than married adults in America? The tipping point came in 2014.
So if there are now more single men and women than ever, what is the church doing to meet their needs?
That’s according to Gina Dalfonzo, author of One By One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church (Baker Books, 2017). In her new book, Dalfonzo shares her own experiences as well as those of other Christian singles in the church.
While the church is a place to worship, connect and serve—a place to find community and fellowship—many singles find the church to be a lonely place. Some feel “less than” because of their marital status. They feel unseen, forgotten or left out because there are no small groups or programs for them (since much of the programming and events at churches in America center on couples and families.)
Maybe you’ve had this experience from well-meaning married folks at your church,
“So, when are you going to get married?"
“Why hasn’t some nice young man scooped you up?”
“You’re not getting any younger, you need to settle down.”
While their intentions may be good, singles are made to feel as if something is wrong with them if they are not married or don’t have kids. And the truth is, we have worth and value no matter what our marital status.
[Side note: I know dozens of wonderful, godly and fun Christian single women of all ages who would love to be married but the men simply don’t ask them out. But that’s another blog post for another day.]
Of course, the author is definitely pro-family. Dalfonzo writes:
“…families, especially families with children, are honored, encouraged, supported, and praised by the church. And that’s a good thing. Parents of young children are doing a tough and often thankless job…they need all the encouragement they can get. What the church doesn’t always understand is that single Christians need encouragement and support too.”
So what do you do with a culture that has singles in church who are in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond? How do you meet their needs and ensure they are growing in their faith?
Gina Dalfonzo offers sage advice for married people—for the church as a whole—to be more aware of and welcoming of singles, and how the church can “help support us in reaching our goals, living our lives for Christ, and becoming fully functioning, supportive members of the church.”
First, it’s important for married people to remember that everyone who walks into church isn’t married with children. Some have never been married—whether they are a few years out of college or approaching retirement. Some are divorced—and may or may not have children. Others are widowed. Dalfonzo says:
Look. Train yourself to see—really see—the single people in your church. Don’t ignore them as you make a beeline to talk to others who are just like you. Make it a point to look for them and look at them.
Listen. When you notice a single person at church, make the effort to go over and talk. And listen. Ask questions. Ask them how they are, or how you can pray for them. Meet up in the coffee area at church or invite them over for lunch sometime. Show you care.
Learn. You have to be willing to acknowledge that there are people in your church who are different from you, who have experiences and memories and points of view that may be very different—and that is okay.
Love. Reach out in friendship to the single Christians around you…help the church to incorporate their ideas and meet their needs. Ask them over for coffee, for lunch or for a holiday meal. This is how you demonstrate the love of Christ for your single brothers and sisters in the church.
The church can see singles and love them as they are. The church can restructure classes, groups, and activities to include both single and married people instead of keeping them apart—at least some of the time.
In the end, singles are not a problem to be dealt with, or a project to take care of, says Dalfonzo. We want to be a valued and integral part of the church whether we are 35, 55 or 75.
Additionally, singles can get to know others in the church by serving alongside them in a ministry or a service project. They can reach out to the married people, too, and start a conversation or a friendship.
The truth is, we really do need each other—single or married.
Delfanzo says: “We need people in our lives who understand us…but we also need people who are coming from different backgrounds, stages of life, and points of view. We need these people to help us broaden our perspective, look at life from different angles…and they need us too.”