Now Reading
What I Wish the Church Knew About Singles

What I Wish the Church Knew About Singles

A very dear friend asked me in March 2021 whether I would meet weekly with her to pray for three to five specific prayer requests for each other. One of the things she wanted to pray for me, she said, was that I’d find a husband.

At the time, I couldn’t help but feel a bit taken aback. “Do I seem that desperate to find a spouse?” I wondered. “And is it so unattainable that I need this level of intervention?” At the same time, I realized how thoughtful my friend was to see that marriage was a real desire for me. And because I know this friend is just as single as I am, and holds similar feelings as I do about people’s attitudes (especially in the evangelical Church) toward singleness, I gladly assented to her proposal for prayer. 

Singleness is not a subject that is foreign to me — I have been single the majority of my 30 years of life. In recent years, I have found myself declaring to my friends often how tragically imperfect the Church is in its attitude toward single people. There often seems to be a sense in Christian circles that being single means you have not yet “arrived” or been made complete. Marriage is often spoken about as the most sanctifying experience a believer can have, helping a person become more like Jesus as they learn to unconditionally love their spouse.

Yet, as Dr. Bella DePaulo pointed out on the CXMH: On Faith & Mental Health podcast, there are many events in life besides marriage that are sanctifying. Grief, suffering, pain, loss — each of these experiences can deeply shape a person and make them more like Christ. Why do we like to hold up marriage as the experience that makes us most like our Savior, who was never married Himself? 

Even further, the Church’s focus on and exaltation of marriage often leads to a neglect of discussing the very real struggles and issues inherent in singleness.

A couple years ago I sat through a Valentine’s Day sermon on the topic of marriage, and was pained to hear the preacher — a man who married his wife at the ripe age of 21 — speak to the singles as an aside during his message. “Before I speak to the couples,” he said, “I need to address the lonely hearts in the room…” He went on to talk about how difficult it is to be single in a culture that glorifies marriage, while emphasizing that singleness is not a curse. 

Certainly there was truth in his words, yet I found myself getting irritated as this pastor boxed me and every other single in the room into his imagined Lonely Hearts Club. I don’t want to hear from a man who has never been single for one day of his adult life talk about how difficult it is to be single in the Church. 

The truth is that being single is not a curse, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It can be lonely and isolating and downright discouraging at times. And it often feels like the Church is doing little to help.

In regard to the Church’s approach to singleness, a friend once wisely said to me, “They are out of touch with the majority of young Christian Americans trying to live godly lives in Gomorrah.” 

For many singles in the Church, the unmet desire for marriage wears them down over time, causing them to compromise in ways they hadn’t planned. In a society that is obsessed with relationships and sexuality, it is tempting to let go of Biblical standards and adopt the ways of a culture which tells us to “follow our hearts” and do what “feels right.”

I can’t tell you how many of my friends who earnestly desired to reserve sex for marriage simply became worn down by the waiting. After years of dating in search of a godly husband, one friend finally declared to me that she was done with the idea that God wanted her to wait for marriage to have sex. “A God like that is a sadist,” she said. A short time later she moved in with her boyfriend. 

It doesn’t help much that the message from married people is often, “Enjoy your singleness while it lasts, because you won’t have any time for yourself once you’re married!” I don’t want to minimize the challenges of married life or of raising a family. Yet when married Christians tell singles they need to be more grateful for their season of life because it is so much simpler than marriage, it simultaneously minimizes the challenges of pursuing godly singleness while also suggesting that marriage is a negative thing. Both of those messages are discouraging!

So what is the Church — and individual churches — to do with this? How does a body of believers (many times led by men who were married in their early 20’s) relate to, encourage, and disciple the single people in their midst? 

First of all, we can acknowledge that language matters. Churches often focus so much on families in their messaging that it can feel like single people are invisible. It doesn’t have to be that way though. A former pastor of mine was intentional about not only referring to “your spouse” or “your child” when he spoke about significant relationships in his congregants’ lives, but would often also include roommates and friends. The simple acknowledgement that not everyone in the room was in a living situation which involved family made me feel like I was seen. 

Another thing that would be encouraging is to see single people celebrated and included in more ways in the Church. Two of the most frequent community celebrations in the Church are weddings and baby showers. These are important life events to acknowledge, but, as Jon Tyson once pointed out, we need to get good at celebrating other life events which affect people in different stages of life as well — graduations, job promotions, retirements, etc. 

Along the same vein, many churches provide meal trains for families who have just had a baby or are sick, yet rarely have I heard of a meal train for someone single who is ill or recovering from surgery. As someone who dealt with two years of chronic pain which led to surgery, I can tell you it is not easy to navigate alone. I’m grateful for the ways God provided for me in that season and for the friends who helped me during those long, difficult years. But at the time I wished that I had a spouse who could drive me to appointments and help carry some of the emotional burden. 

One of the most beautiful things about the Body of Christ is that it is made up of people from a diverse array of backgrounds, each bringing their own unique experiences and gifts to the table. One of the most special communities I’ve been part of was a “Crochet Club” that consisted of women from my church, ranging in age from 20 to 70. The group started when a woman from my church invited me, a recent college grad navigating my first full-time job, to join her and her husband for dinner. Following the meal, she pulled out some crochet hooks and yarn and taught me how to make a wash cloth.

Our gatherings grew to include other women in the church in varying stages of life, and we continued to meet for years. I learned much from these women—not just about yarn crafts, but about faith and life. And I would dare say they learned from me as well. All because a couple of empty-nesters decided to invite a young woman from church to dinner. 

There are few things which make me sadder than when people sequester themselves into communities of people who are all in the same stage of life, who look and think the same way they do. There is a huge opportunity in the Church to meet the needs of others simply by reaching out and getting to know people who are different.

I won’t deny that community like this can be messy. When we rub shoulders with people whose perspectives are different from our own, it can get uncomfortable as our ideas are challenged and our assumptions disrupted. But I can tell you from my own experience there is no better way to be the Church. 

Singleness is a unique time in life. It is not always a walk in the park. It is often lonely. Yet it can be a season of incredible growth and joy. It can be a time of intensely seeking God’s face, learning to set His love before all earthly relationships. It can be a season of breadth and depth of friendships that is not always possible when you have a spouse and children to care for. And it can be an opportunity to utilize the flexibility and privilege of being unattached to ask God to use you in powerful ways.

If you are a single person, don’t waste this season. You don’t know how long it will last, and your married friends are correct that your life will change dramatically when/if you start a family.

To my married friends in the Church, especially those who married young and never had to navigate adulthood alone, please take time to listen to your single friends in their struggles. Don’t dismiss them when they tell you that singleness and dating are hard. Invite them into your family life. Provide a place for them at the table. Remind them that you’re in their corner, even if you don’t quite understand what they’re going through. You never know what surprising gifts you will discover together.

View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

© 2023 RELEVANT Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Scroll To Top

You’re reading our ad-supported experience

For our premium ad-free experience, including exclusive podcasts, issues and more, subscribe to

Plans start as low as $2.50/mo