I recently met a good friend for lunch, who shared how hurt she felt by some teaching she’d just heard on singleness in her church.
This surprised me because this particular friend of mine is not exactly the type of person who takes offence easily. And she’s not someone who’s holding back on life or waiting for a man before she steps out, either.
I know that she’d really like to get married one day, but she approaches life with a kind of joy, enthusiasm, and spontaneity which very few other people I know share.
So, it kind of got me thinking …
35% of our church
Statistics show that about 35 percent of adult church members in Britain today are single.
But you really wouldn’t think it, considering how little attention singleness is given by most churches today.
I know that singleness is a broad and diverse issue. Being single at 20 is very different from being single at 30, 40, or even 70.
And some people are single simply because they have not yet found a marriage partner, or because of divorce, or widowhood, whilst others may have actively chosen it as a lifestyle – at least for a season.
But, whilst I appreciate that not everyone who is single will feel frustrated by their situation, for the vast majority of those who are single I think it can be really unhelpful when the Church treats singleness as if it’s just a waiting room for marriage.
Because, whether it’s explicitly expressed as an opinion, or just implied through omission, or a lack of emphasis, when we act as if singleness is somehow God’s second best it’s not only damaging to individuals but it’s also entirely un-Biblical.
Back to the Bible
1 Corinthians 7 highlights that marriage can be good, but so can singleness. According to Paul, both are gifts from God.
But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that
1 Corinthians 7: 7
The apostle Paul doesn’t stop there, either; he says that someone who is single can actually devote themselves more fully to God’s work.
What an incredibly true, but so often over-looked, point of view!
My own experience of singleness in my 20’s was that I was free to serve God in a number of ways that I no longer can now, due to my responsibilities as a mother and wife.
I spent some time as a student worker at my church and self-funded the role with part-time work. I did an unpaid Christian gap year working with YWAM on missions in both the UK and abroad. I also spent a number of years living in a shared community with other young singles, where I could witness to others in a very ‘hands on’ kind of way.
Singleness is not a second-best
The truth is that whether singleness is just a season in someone’s life, or a longer-term calling, treating it like it’s just making the best of a bad situation is massively under-valuing and under-utilising a huge section of the Church.
Churches should be one of the most inclusive places for single people; a place of natural extended family, where everyone can feel embraced, and no one feels left out.
And yet, how often is that not the case?
We all have a part to play
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Church is often referred to as ‘family’.
whatever our life stage, we all have a part to play in making everyone welcome and helping them to fit into it.
So, if you are part of a couple or a nuclear family right now, why not ask God how you can be a part of the solution?
Sometimes it’s even just about making small changes in how you talk about and think about singleness, or in how you choose to include others into your family life. How much are you inviting single friends over for dinner or just to hang out with your family?
And, if you’re single right now, I’d encourage you to stay plugged into Church even when it feels like a lonely or hard place to be.
Choose to see your singleness as a gift by really focusing on how you can serve God right now, in ways that may not be as easy for you in the future.
And, most of all, make sure to seek out people who will love you, include you, support you, and release you into your full potential in God – not just when you’re married but right now, exactly as you are.