We need singles in the church. Unmarried people are an important part of the family model of ministry. They are important members of the family of God because they are legitimate members. It’s a shame that we forget the Apostle Paul said that if one is unmarried it is good for them to remain unmarried (1 Corinthians 7:8).
Singleness, as pointed out by Paul Zahl in Living By Grace, is the natural state of each human. We are born into the world as singles and we exit the world as single. But just as true, we know that every human is born craving human interaction. Every human needs community.
In discipleship, singles are just as important as children, and just as important as parents. All members of our communities need to be adequately considered in disciple making. Unfortunately, many churches put a priority on people who live in a home with adults (parents) and children. The best reason for this is that we value our young people. The worst reason for this is that nuclear family is the most marketable demographic for churches.
Adult singles are an important part of the family-model of ministry. They’re important because they are a growing demographic in our community, as more people are choosing to never marry. Some may curse this, but they’re wrong to do so. Singles can be just as committed, if not more so, to the work of the Kingdom of God. If we alienate them from our churches by redefining church as a compilation of families, then we will lose a large part of a generation of believers.
Singles should feel welcome in the church. This doesn’t mean that we need to create large singles ministries, as in programs where singles go to hang out with the hope that maybe they will meet someone they can marry. This plan has two things wrong with it. First, it assumes that singles need to have a special, separate place in our fellowships. There will be occasions that singles should do things together, but peer gatherings should not be their primary interaction with the church. The second problem with designed singles groups is that they often become dating clubs, which again sends a message that we only value singles as potential couples and families. This path should not be supported by the church.
Rather, we can do these things to involve singles in our churches:
- View singles as whole numbers. They aren’t partial people waiting for a spouse to complete them. Christ is their completion.
- Lift up single leaders in the church so that those joining your church do not feel marriage is a requirement for full membership.
- Develop a culture where families and singles mix regularly.
- Make an extra effort to see that singles are enveloped in the fellowship and discipleship groups of the church.
- Provide care and a positive disposition for single adults who return to live with their parents. This is becoming more common and does not have to be seen as a shortcoming of the adult child. There are many good reasons for an adult to live with parents, but there are also different kinds of relational concerns that must be addressed for both the adult child and the parent.
Our churches are composed of all types of people. As we develop the family ministry model, it is important that we recognize the value and needs of all people. Married parents, single parents and unattached adults should find their place in this model. As we prepare ways to involve single adults, we will discover that they have much to offer the other groups, including the children, of our churches.