By Brian Jennings
No church leaders intend to discourage singles in their congregation, but leaders ought to evaluate if their churches unintentionally discourage singles. Here are some questions to ask:
1. Are our singles expected to stay in their own group, or is it easy for them to integrate with our whole church family?
2. Do we foster environments for singles in our church to find meaningful community, or do they have to hunt for it?
3. Is there support for single Christians who might occasionally need assistance with various tasks that married couples might take for granted?
4. Do we train our group leaders to avoid unintentionally creating “married only” environments? The key word is unintentional. It’s healthy to intentionally lead a class on marriage, but we must avoid unintentionally excluding singles from regular groups and ministries. I’ve found that mentioning to several couples that a party for our ministry might feel odd for the only two singles planning on coming. I don’t even need to finish my thought. They say, “Good thinking. We’ll be mindful of that.” At the event, I’ll see them congregating as guys and girls or doing whatever they can to help things not feel awkward. A simple reminder helps people be sensitive.
5. Do those who are preaching and teaching work to include relevant illustrations and application for singles, even if the topic is about marriage? This is easier than one might think:
a. When you prepare for a lesson, picture both a married and single person. This guides you to be relevant to both. Singles also need to know how to honor God in a marriage, but it doesn’t need to be assumed that they are already married.
b. Adults need biblical wisdom for being a loving uncle, aunt, coach, or teacher. Using an illustration from one of these roles, instead of only choosing parent/grandparent illustrations, connects with lots of different people.
c. A simple introduction can help everyone get on board, rather than assuming that the lesson is going to exclude singles. Plan statements such as: “Our text today speaks about parenting. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, cousin, or child, you can find godly wisdom from this text, so let’s all give this Scripture our best attention.”
6. When was the last time we reached out to the single people in our congregation?
7. Are we encouraging singles to take ownership and provide leadership? I often hear from singles, “I’d go to that Bible study, but there aren’t any other singles there.” When five singles all tell me the same thing about the same Bible study, I realize that they are the only ones who can fix the problem. When this happens, we need to gather those singles and explain that the study could flourish, if they’d all commit to it. Leaders need to be sensitive here, but they must also challenge singles to better the church and their own lives through commitment.