Singles Ministry. These two words can strike fear into the heart of many ministers and congregations in America. Ask your local Church to describe what the Church offers singles and watch them scramble to answer appropriately.
Some will answer that they help singles find a suitable mate to help them on their faith journey. But on the other hand, some will discourage singles from dating others in the Church to avoid conflict and messy relationship fallout.
Many will answer that they are working on a strategy to address singles’ real needs. And a few will answer that they don’t know what to do but are open to suggestions.
Single people surround us; they form a significant portion of the population. Yet, most Churches seem to give little thought to formulating a strategy for ministry to them (and with them).
Why does this bother me? I have a significant number of unmarried relatives and friends who are single. My interactions with them have made me sensitive to some of their issues while attending Church.
I don’t pretend to speak for all singles. But I can bring attention to some of the concerns they shared with me and possible solutions.
There are three specific ways that Churches have failed in the singles ministry and unintentionally harmed the single unmarried portions of their congregations.
In Singles Ministry, We Have Equated Marriage With Spiritual Maturity, And Singleness With Immaturity.
We have made an idol out of marriage, equating marriage with spiritual maturity and singleness with immaturity.
We instinctively know that marrying does not make you more spiritually mature than a single person. But this is not the message we are communicating in singles ministry.
A first-time visitor to a Church might assume that marriage is a prerequisite for spiritual growth based on how we behave toward the unmarried.
Personal experience has taught me that married and unmarried individuals can display remarkable spiritual growth and spectacular immaturity.
In Singles Ministry, We Have Made Singleness An Undesirable State.
For some, singleness is God’s choice for their life. They understand that marriage would be an unhealthy distraction from their service to God.
For some, singleness is a choice to remain celibate amid a same-sex attraction.
Some singleness is due to not finding the right person in God’s timing.
Rarely do we think about this when we ask about their marital status. Instead, we ask incredibly personal questions without considering whether their singleness, at least at this moment in time, is a gift. Instead, we treat singleness as a curse—something to be avoided at all costs.
We act as if the single person is incomplete without a spouse while preaching that every person is made complete in Christ.
These comments can be exceedingly hurtful to a single ministry and damaging to the body of Christ.
We Have Limited The Ministry Opportunities Of Single Unmarried Individuals.
I know some reservations that the Church has about unmarried people in ministry.
Some Churches are unwilling to submit to the leadership of an unmarried pastor. They are concerned about whether the pastor can effectively minister to married couples and address child-rearing issues. In addition, they may wonder if a search for a prospective spouse in the future might impact their current-day pastoral duties.
Some Churches will relegate unmarried singles to serving in children and youth ministries. Although this might be an excellent place to start their journey in church, it might not be the ministry that God has called them to accomplish.
But the Bible provides several examples of single people doing ministry work.
The Apostle Paul was single. In 1 Corinthians 7:8, Paul says, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am.”
One of the Old Testament prophets, Jeremiah, was commanded not to take a wife or have children (Jeremiah 16:2).
There is no indication that John The Baptist was ever married.
Jesus was not married. The son of God did not need a marriage relationship to make him spiritually mature. His relationship with our Heavenly Father was the source of his spiritual strength and maturity.
Most bible scholars believe that several of Jesus’ spiritual followers, Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus, were unmarried.
Suggested Remedies For Singles Ministry Errors.
Here are a few suggestions on how we can address these three errors.
We can celebrate those with the gift of singleness, whether for a season or a lifelong state. And we can try not to make every illustration or application from or about marriage.
We can mentor a single person. Let them know they are enough and God is using them now.
We can give them opportunities to serve, not limited to youth ministry or working with children. They can serve alongside us as they explore their gifting.
We can recognize that representation matters by having unmarried ministers speak to our congregations regularly.
In doing these things, you may develop a Jeremiah or John The Baptist within your congregation.
We need to recognize that marriage is not always a guarantee of spiritual maturity, that singleness can be God’s perfect plan for some, and that He equips married and single individuals to ministry regardless of their marital status.
Would you consider asking your single friend to read this article and tell you whether it accurately reflects what they experience when attending Church?
If you liked this article, please signup for the LoveIsBroken4u Newsletter. This newsletter is for those who feel broken by trauma, shame, and mental illness and the caregivers who serve them.
My mission is to help individuals and churches become safe havens for the broken.