One by One
Are singles integrated into the life of your church? My BreakPoint colleague Gina Dalfonzo has written a new book to help churches do better with single adults. My BreakPoint colleague, Gina Dalfonzo, was chatting with a pleasant woman in the ladies’ room at her church. The woman asked Gina, “Do you have any children?” “No,” Gina replied. “I’m not married.” There was, Gina says, “a sudden, awkward silence.” It’s a scenario familiar to many single Christians, as Gina writes in her terrific new book, “One By One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church.” Many churches today “don’t know what to do with the single and childless,” Gina notes. “While churches offer couples’ weekends to strengthen marriages, and Ultimate Frisbee games for families, many are not able to offer much help, or opportunities for service for the singles in their congregation.” And sadly, fellow Christians, sometimes unknowingly, make singles feel as if they themselves are to blame for their unmarried state. That somehow if they haven’t tied the knot yet, they must be too self-centered, or too picky, or too focused on their career. The truth is many singles deeply desire and pray for marriage. The list of reasons for why they haven’t married are many. Many churches have far more single women than men, and relationship fads have dramatically shifted in the past decade, even resulting in Christian singles being afraid to talk to each other. At the end of the day, Gina says, “so many of us who desire marriage and children simply don’t manage to get there.” Of course, there are those who have been married, but through death or divorce find themselves single again, against their wishes. So, what should the church do to ensure that singles are every bit as much a part of the life of the church as married folks? First, we should stop thinking about singles as projects to be “fixed;” but rather as “fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, making the journey through life alongside the rest of the congregation. They’re dealing with a set of circumstances (too). . .” even if different than our own. Second, we must embrace the fact that not everyone in our congregations is going to marry—and that the New Testament has a high view of the state of singleness. Some of the greatest saints in Heaven never tied the knot, or lived most of their days as singles. Here are a few suggestions for serving the singles in your congregation: find ways to celebrate career achievements or athletic accomplishments—just as we throw showers for women expecting babies, or for couples marking their 50th anniversary. Invite singles for an after-church meal, even if—Heaven forbid!–it means you’ll have an unequal number of guests. Another great idea is to make sure singles have resources to get the help they need when the car is in the shop (offer a ride), or when they need a handyman, or help with taxes—things couples usually help each other with. And here is a crucial point Gina raises: Marrieds and singles need each other. At a book signing party for Gina recently, one attendee remarked that the most loving and supportive small group she’d ever been in had young people, old people, singles, marrieds, folks with kids and no kids. Christ knitted different people with their different gifts and perspectives into a loving community. And the growing number of singles occupying the pews means an infusion of talent: Invite singles to ministry and leadership roles—teaching, search committees, care committees, etc. I urge you to grab a copy of “One by One.” Better yet, get one for yourself and another copy for a leader in your church. You’ll gain a better understanding of how unmarried Christians feel when they sit down beside a pew-full of married couples and their kids. Let’s make sure they don’t feel singled out.