We live in a world where people get hurt. People make fun of others, silently judge others and they ask questions that are inappropriate and can be quite hurtful. You have probably seen this conversation play out in front of your very eyes.
Man: Are you single?
Woman: Yes, I am.
Man: Don’t worry, you’ll find someone someday.
Or, maybe one like this…
Woman: Are you single?
Man: Yes, I am.
Woman: Well you’re getting on a bit now, don’t you think it’s time to settle down?
Man: Yes and no, I’m not really…
Woman: I have a friend who is also single and you two would be perfect for each other!
The conversation never starts that way but many can testify that it might not take long until you reach that point. Whilst these conversations might seem innocent enough, the reality is that they have the potential to tear people down.
Conversations like this suggest that a single person isn’t really ‘complete’ until they have found a partner and are married. That is just completely and utterly wrong! It bases a person’s identity on their family life as opposed to their relationship with Christ and the fact that they are image bearers of God.
Marriage has been elevated in the church to the point where many single people are being looked down on or forgotten about. This is such a mistake! Like every other person in the world, a single person has a tremendous amount to offer and bring to the church family. Every church or family that shuns people for not being married robs themselves of the opportunity to be blessed and to be a blessing to a brother or sister in Christ!
I know plenty of single people and they love to serve the church, they love to spend time with couples and families and they love to stand side by side and worship the Lord together. I don’t know why, maybe it’s a historical/cultural thing or maybe it’s a misunderstanding of Scripture, but many Christians seem to elevate marriage as a gift and forget that singleness is also a gift (1 Corinthians 7).
But there is also another danger! There are people who are single and who don’t want to be, so simply brushing off their struggles by quoting 1 Corinthians 7 isn’t going to help them.
Christians need to build each other up, spur each other on to good works and to grow in our knowledge and love for the Lord. Sometimes that will mean tearing down some harmful misunderstandings of Scripture that can cause real pain. We need to teach people that their identity is as an image bearer of God not as ‘…..’s wife’ or ‘…..’s husband’.
Marriage is a wonderful gift given by God to the world, but not everyone will benefit from that gift. That doesn’t mean that they are broken or that they need to be hitched up with the cute guy or girl in your small group! It means that you should treat them like every other brother or sister in Christ! Have them around for lunch on a Sunday, invite them to spend time playing with your kids, let them become part of your family. If you don’t you’re the one missing out!
Singleness isn’t a thing to be looked down on and neither is marriage. Both present different opportunities to serve.
Maybe your church doesn’t do anything that I’ve mentioned so far, that’s wonderful! One last thing though… just because somebody is single it doesn’t mean that you should expect them to serve in the church more than you would any other member!
Absolutely, a married couple with 3 kids under 5 will be strapped for time, but so will a single person in their 30s or 40s. The time constraints might be for different reasons but they are no less real. We should expect every member of the body of Christ to serve in a way that complements the others and that works for the good of the Kingdom. Scripture is pretty clear on that, so let’s not expect more work from someone else just because of their relationship status.
Some single people see it as an opportunity to invest their time in the lives of children or to support young families and parents. Others see it as an opportunity to invest more into discipleship of younger people of their own sex. Others see singleness as an opportunity to serve Christ where they are and how God has equipped them. Whatever the case is, singleness is not a problem that needs fixing!
Here are just a few thoughts on things not to do:
- Don’t start up a ‘single’s ministry’.
These can be really cheesy! Plus they separate the body meaning that people, often of the same age, can’t mingle and socialise because of their martial status. Not a good thing at all! The reasoning behind ministries like this is normally that the leadership want people in similar life circumstances to support and care for each other, and that is great. But that can happen, like it should with every other people group in church, through one to one discipleship relationships.
- Don’t assume that every single person wants to get married and have 10 kids.
Not every person is the world has that dream, some people have made a conscious decision to remain single and they have good reasons for that. Encourage people, bring them over for dinner, invite them into your family and let them serve you as you serve them. Don’t assume that everyone is looking for marriage or use every conversation as an excuse to set them up with someone else.
- Don’t assume that every single person wants to be single.
For some people singleness is a real struggle and raising it every time you see them is not helpful. It’s not actually encouraging to say “one day you’ll meet the right person” or “there’s plenty of fish in the sea”. There are times to speak but more often than that there are times to listen! Take time to get to know the person, pray with them, pray for them and live life together with them.
I’ve had the privilege of knowing some tremendous and godly Christians who happen to be single, but that doesn’t define them! Every person is an image bearer of God and they are to be treated as such. I’ve found that many of the people who always pray for couples in their marriage and parents as they raise children are those who are single. Singleness is not a problem, treating people as if they are incomplete because they are single is!
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic and learn how we, as a global and local church, can serve single people better. Why not leave a comment below or drop me an email to share your thoughts.