“Do you have children?” asked the nice lady in the church restroom after I had introduced myself.
“No,” I replied, and added, “I’m not married.”
Sudden, awkward silence.
This little dialogue—what there was of it—will be instantly recognizable to most single Christians. To announce your singleness is very often the way to bring a conversation with a fellow churchgoer to a screeching halt.
Church conversations like this one could go very differently—and friendships between marrieds and singles in the church could grow and thrive—if we could learn to focus on the truth that a person’s identity is found in Christ, not in his or her marital status.
So often, I look around me at family members, neighbors, and colleagues and wonder, What did I do wrong? So many couples, so many families. So many people preoccupied with home and children and all the mess and busyness that go with them. So many people who have what I’ve been longing for . . . what I may never have.
But singleness is not a moral failing or a cause for shame. The single person has equal worth and dignity with the married person before God. This should be reason enough for the church to offer the single person genuine acceptance and support. But ask single people if this has been happening in recent years, and you’re likely to hear otherwise. Singles often feel that the church doesn’t know what to do with them. They feel that they don’t fit in to sermon illustrations, retreat themes, or small groups. Marriage and family has been elevated to such a high status in the church that many single people feel they have less value than married people.
Recognizing the experience of singles in the church today is an important step in recognizing who they are and how we can support them in who they want to become.
Have you had a similar conversation with a single person in your church as Gina describes above? Why do you think churches often forget to serve single people?