A 2017 Barna survey states that over 54% of Americans are single but only 23% of singles are active church members. While this number most likely has grown over the years, the low percentage of singles in church versus the number of singles in America should alarm us. Church should be a place where singles feel welcome and important. However, sometimes an overemphasis on marriage by believers can make singles feel unwelcome. As followers of Christ, it is imperative that we care for singles and emphasize their necessity in our local churches. While there are more than three ways we can care for singles, we can care for singles by making them feel seen, included, and important. And if you are currently single, we want to hear from you! How can the body of Christ better support and encourage you?
1. Make them feel seen
Often, if single people don't have family or friends that come with them to church, they can end up going to church functions or services alone. While it is not a bad thing to attend a function by oneself or sit by oneself, singles can sometimes go unnoticed by other members.
When I was single, there were plenty of times I would attend a church service by myself. Often, but not always, I would go through an entire service without one person acknowledging me. As members, we should be intentional in making sure singles are welcomed by us. We should greet them, invite them to sit with us, or spend some time chatting with them. Whenever you attend a church function or service, take a moment to scan the room. Do you see anyone sitting by themselves? Do you notice any single people you know? Move toward them and engage with them!
That said, being intentional with single people doesn't end on Sundays. Singles can feel lonely if they live alone or don't see that many people throughout the week. Take a moment in your week to text or call someone single that you know. Check in with them and ask them how they are or how you can be praying with them. Inviting them over to your home for dinner or coffee also helps them feel seen. As the body of Christ, let's be sure to keep singles from fading into the background or blending into the sea of people. Let's make an intentional effort in helping single people feel seen.
2. Make them feel included
It can be easy for those who are in a particular stage of life to spend time with others who are also in their particular stage of life. When married people only get together with married people, they often unintentionally leave single people out. Sometimes we can leave singles out of events such as baby showers or engagement showers. Even if we don't mean to, not including singles in events or get-togethers can make singles feel as if their presence doesn't matter. They may feel as if no one wants to hang out with them because they are not married.
When I was single, I attended a small group of all married people except one or two other singles. On some Sunday nights, I was the only single person in that group. That group was so intentional in making me feel included. They would always make sure I had a seat and encouraged my contribution during Bible study. They would even make sure I was included in conversations by asking me my opinion on a topic or simply asking intentional questions. Sadly, my experience as a single person in a small group isn't always shared by other singles. Every person matters in the kingdom of God, including singles. As the body of Christ, we reflect the inclusive nature of our God by intentionally inviting and including singles into our community. When you make plans with others, invite another single person to join. When you gather for parties or showers, be sure to invite singles as well. Even if they decline, inviting them communicates that their presence matters.
3. Make them feel important
In 1 Corinthians 12:12, Paul writes. "For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body ‚Äã– ‚Äãso also is Christ." The body of Christ is made up of members who are uniquely gifted to contribute to the building up of the Church. God has equipped singles with gifts that are vital to the flourishing of the Church. When we choose to only give serving or leadership opportunities to those who are married, we prevent singles from exercising their necessary gifts. As the body of Christ, we are to encourage and empower singles to use their gifts. If you are in a staff position or the head of volunteers, make an intentional effort in giving singles a role. Encourage them by celebrating the specific gifts you see in them, and empower them to use those gifts by giving them opportunities to exercise those gifts.
If we're not careful, we can unintentionally cause singles to feel identified by their relationship status. When I held a leadership position at a church, I had one church member breeze past my position to ask me if I was married. When I said I was not, he replied with "why not?" While I'm sure he was not meaning to be insulting, asking me this made me feel as if there was something wrong with me. I felt as if the position that I worked so hard in was minimized because I was single. As the body of Christ, we should be careful not to perpetuate the mentality that single people are deficient because they are not married. Instead of shining a spotlight on their relationship status, let's shine a spotlight on their gifts, talents, and skills. Let's come alongside people to disciple them, encourage them, and empower them.
These three principles communicate to singles: You matter, your presence matters, and your gifts matter. May we actively and intentionally care for the single people in our churches, declaring their value in the body of Christ. And, remember, if you are currently single, we want to hear from you! What are some ways that the Church can care for you?