A friend was telling me about a speaker he listened to recently, sharing a few details of her life and overall message. Along with the facts that she’s a pastor in the midwest and a California native, he mentioned, “She’s in her 30s and single—so, you know, so much opportunity for Kingdom work.”
At that moment, I stopped listening to my friend’s recap because the stark reminder of how the Church often views singleness stopped me in my tracks. Along with a host of unhelpful labels on the status of being single—a “gift,” a “season,” a “cross to bear”—being a single person in the Church also means you’re handed a lot of assumptions.
I am constantly told to use my season of singleness to get to know or better myself, to cherish this unique period of time where I can work on my growth. Yet these are healthy actions that all members of the church should engage in. Communicating these goals as if they’re exclusive to single people makes it seem as if people in relationships don’t have any area to grow in or work towards—it perpetuates the lie that there’s something wrong with single people.
Can we all agree to once and for all stop overspiritualizing singleness?
Single, married, divorced, whatever—we are all called to the constant renewing of our minds and daily striving to be more like Christ.
Working on yourself is not something reserved for people who happen to be single.
There have been times in my life where I’ve had to work on myself and being single allowed me to do so in a way being with someone would not have easily allowed. And yet there have been other times in my life where I’ve needed to grow and being in a relationship allowed me to do so in a unique way. A relationship isn’t an excuse to avoid the pursuit of wholeness and singleness isn’t a natural catalyst for change.
Our time as singles in the church is also constantly commented on. And, based on the expectations of others, that time should be entirely designated to ministry.
We have the freedom to move to the other side of the world, if called. We have the capacity to be involved in five different ministries at church. We have the energy and bandwidth to truly change the world—in a way our married friends, allegedly, do not. Or at least that’s the message projected when such “helpful” advice is offered.
And this message evolves into pressure to constantly be in ministry, using every second of my time for Jesus, while my married friends can snuggle on the couch for the evening, enjoying Netflix.
Do single Christians have the ability to make major life decisions without worrying about their commitment to their spouse or children? Yes. But does that mean they don’t have other relationships or responsibilities to consider before doing so? No.
Married couples and families are called just as often, and needed just as much in ministry.
When I moved to Malawi after college, I arrived to find fellow single expats … and married expats … and even families of expats!
At another time in my life, I spent four wonderful long years in youth ministry. I was able to invest in those wonderful young women in a unique way that I am truly grateful for: I picked them up from school, had them over for sleepovers, threw their birthday parties and attended their sporting events.
A lot of people pointed to the fact that I was, for the majority of that time, single, as why I was able to play such a special role in their lives.
And yet we had a married couple who showed up every week, and loved the kids in a way that I couldn’t. They opened up their house for dinner to the whole youth group once a month and provided a place in their own family for everyone—something I couldn’t do. They invested in our students in a way I am truly grateful for and cherish.
Your marital status might determine how you do it or where your mission field is, but it never changes the importance of your work. My married friends might have a different ministry than I do, but our commitment to ministry should be equal.
Single Christians do not have more time.
Honestly, I’m usually more busy when I’m not in a relationship than when I’m in one.
Sure, single Christians don’t have a legal commitment to another human being. We don’t have to run our calendar by another person or care exclusively for another’s needs along with our own. I can see how that might seem like “more time.”
But we have relationships and commitments, jobs and responsibilities—same as anyone else who may or may not have a ring on their finger. We don’t have more hours in the day than other people and our schedules aren’t filled with more divine appointments than anyone else’s. Maybe God called me to serve my barista at Starbucks today, while God called my friend to serve her husband, but we’re both actively serving the same God and responding to His call.
As a single person, my ministry may change from time to time. But it’s all ministry. It’s all spirit led. It’s all the same in His eyes. And it’s not holier just because I’m single.