Don't be squeamish about dating and other top tips for single friendly churches
I am a single woman.
I’m over 30.
I’m committed to following Jesus and I’d like to not be single for the rest of my life (please Lord)
There’s things I love about being single and there’s things I hate about it.
I’m committed to my medium sized church where I feel like God has called me but I’m constantly thinking about leaving because there aren’t any other single people there.
It doesn’t help me feel like part of a church community when I check out the list of events happening that week in our church calendar…
Monday - Student’s Dinner
Tuesday - Young adult social event (18-30s)
Wednesday - Midweek Mum’s Group
Thursday- Marriage Course
Um… I mean once I’d got over the fact that I’d considered myself a ‘Young Adult’ until seconds before, I realised that I don’t really fit into any of these categories. If you’re a single person under the age of 30 then there could be lots of social opportunities and groups available to you but if you cross the dreaded 30 boundary and you’re not safety tied up with a hubby/ wifey and bouncing baby then you can consign yourself to probably never meeting another single Christian. It can be really hard to feel part of a church community when you look around and notice everyone your age is part of a family or when you look to the front and see everyone leading the church is married. I know I’m not alone in feeling like this.
In 2016 the campaign for Single Friendly Churches began and co-founder David Pullinger collected data from over 7000 people to inform their work.
'We've known it, anecdotally, for a long time but this new survey proves it at last, churches have been very successful supporting marriage but this data shows married couples are already over-represented in churches. What about single people? What about those of other marital status? Thousands of Christian women in particular must choose between marrying somebody who doesn't share their beliefs or staying single. They deserve far greater respect and understanding from church leaders and fellow worshippers.'
So churches… what are you going to do?
Here’s a few ideas…
1.Encourage single leaders
How many single people do you have at the front of your church? Speaking? Leading worship? These people are role models, they represent the congregation and they should be a diverse bunch. If people attending church only ever see couples or families represented in the leadership it will be harder for them to feel a sense of belonging or to feel empowered to step into leadership themselves. If you have budding single leaders in mind then watch this space as we'll be hosting events to encourage single leaders in the near future...
2. Consider your content and ministries
There’s some great advice and ideas on the Single Friendly Church website so check it out. Give yourselves a health check. If you’re married, imagine yourself in the shoes of someone who isn’t and consider what their experience of your church might be. Do your sermons always contain content for people from all walks of life with applications that are relevant to all people? Are all social events accessible for single people? Do family ministries account for single parent families? Do you notice single people being invited back for lunch or included in social plans?
3.Don’t shy away from ‘Singles Ministries’
Since starting Honoured I’ve spoken to loads of church leaders and married friends about promoting our events and passing on our resources. Some were very encouraging but mostly they have been reluctant to promote it and unsure of how their single friends or single church members would respond to it. In contrast single people I speak to are really excited and keen to keep in touch with our events. Yes it’s true, lots of people have such terrible associations with the words ‘SINGLE CHRISTIAN’ that they would run a mile. However a lot of people feel very excited to find there is something specifically for them. And whether you celebrate or shun the label it’s so helpful for single Christians to hang out with other single Christians. Not just to meet potential partners but for support and empathy. To be encouraged and inspired by others and to have others who are not busy with partners or family who they can go out and have fun with, pray with and do the journey with. So if you hear of events for single people or you run events for singles then make sure you promote them and keep people informed of things that might be relevant for them. It might even be an event run by a different church! Don't be afraid to still share - we're all part of the kingdom and if another church has the capacity to provide something that you currently don't then let them be a blessing to your members.
4. Don’t be squeamish about dating
If you’ve ever done any internet dating then you will have some idea of the trauma and terror it can induce! And if people in your congregation are dating each other that can be even more terrifying! If you can cultivate a culture of honesty and openness (without noisiness that makes people uncomfortable) single people will feel they are able to share the highs and lows of their romantic pursuits with some of their church family. Its also a time where some might consider dating a partner who isn’t a Christian and they will need their church family to support them through any decision like that with love and empathy. I’m sure we can all think of a person who lost their faith because their choice of partner was not well received by their church. These are important moments and decisions in people’s lives and they need a church family around them, supporting them through.
These are just a few ideas… really finishing this with a prayer that you might feel encouraged and inspired to act on some of these ideas and check out www.singlefriendlychurch.com for more information. And I wouldn’t be true to my cause if I didn’t remind you to sign up to our guest list to receive all of our Honoured blogs and events!