smallcoffeehands

7 reasons why it’s hard to be single in the church

I want to treat today’s topic with a little more sensitivity, because I don’t want this to seem like a church-bashing session. So before I tell you why it’s been hard to be single in the church, let me give a few qualifications.

First, the things I’m going to say today are based on observations, personal experiences and the experiences of friends.  There are many churches to whom these do not apply.

Second, churches do amazing things. There are beautiful, generous, wise people in the congregations and on staff.  So I’m not trying to disparage churches in general; I’m only describing an experience that I believe lies in the blind spot of many churches.

Third, I don’t think the pain singles experience is intentionally or even knowingly inflicted by most churches.  As I said above, I think it’s a blind spot.  And hopefully, by having an honest conversation, we can help each other see.

Ok. That being said, here are the top 7 reasons why I think it’s hard to be single in the church.

 

1)The mythical “gift” of singleness.

I’ve heard many, many times from church leaders that some people have “the gift of singleness,” which is divinely given and has nothing to do with that person’s free will.  Furthermore, if a person has the “gift of singleness,” they know from a young age that they’re meant to be single for the rest of their lives.

Therefore, if you don’t know that you’re supposed to be single forever, that means you’re supposed to get married.

This is nowhere in the Bible.  Nowhere.  Paul says in I Corinthians 7 that marriage is a concession, something you’re allowed to do as a last resort if you can’t resist sexual temptation.

I know lots of single people, even single people who have been single for decades and died single.  And I don’t know of a single person who knew they were going to be single forever.

chapel

2)Marriage is a short-sighted goal.

Is marriage beautiful? Yes.   Would I like to be married some day?  I’m definitely open to the possibility — if it’ll allow me to do something for God that I can’t do as a single person.

Will I feel that if I’m single forever, I have a gaping void in my life narrative, or I’ve not been blessed by God?  Absolutely not.

Marriage is a beautiful illustration of Christ and the church.  But even the most amazing marriages only last for five or six decades and then we enter the other side of eternity, where, Jesus says, “they neither give nor are given in marriage.”

In the whole scheme of things, marriage is a drop in the ocean of time.  Marriage is great, but instead of perseverating on it, what if we lifted our eyes to the real promise — that one day we will all be reunited with and “married to” Divine Love for eternity.

For me, that’s the most exciting thing.

doorway 

3)Marriage is treated as the benchmark for maturity and adulthood.

This is true in general society, but I think it’s even more noticeable in the church.

Single people are often disqualified from, or not even considered for,  ministry positions because they’re not married.  For one, because everyone’s worried that singles’ sex drives are so out of control, they’ll try to seduce everyone around them.  And for two, because one of the qualifications Paul stated for elders is that they be “the husband of one wife.”

This phrase has caused unbelievable (and, I think, unnecessary) turmoil and pain in the church. I’ll deal with the gender implications in a later post, but for now,  can we agree that “be the husband of one wife” means “If you’re married, honor your vows.  Oh, and don’t practice polygamy.”

To interpret it any other way seems weird because, by taking this passage literally, we’d have to disqualify at least two incredible men — Jesus and Paul — from church leadership.

It’s crazy to think we’d ban Jesus from ministering to people in our churches.  And it’s also bizarre to think that Paul wrote qualifications that disqualified himself from ministry.

Paul even says in I Corinthians 7 that single people are MORE available to minister and be available to people than married people.  So how is it that we do exactly opposite of that and make it difficult for singles (especially single men) to be in leadership?

4)There are more resources to support marriage & family than singles.

In many churches, there are multiple classes for people who are, or who want to be, married.  There’s a pre-marital class, a class on marriage, a marriage mentorship program, and a parenting class.   There are lots of Christian resources for how to be married.  There often aren’t any for how to be single.

I went to a church of a few thousand people, and several singles tried to get a singles group started.  At first they were told no, because, “as everyone knows, singles groups are just meat markets.”

Then they were told that “the church doesn’t need a singles ministry because no one would come — no one actually wants to be single.”

A few years later, they were allowed to start a singles group, but it had to be like all the other small groups meeting that quarter — which meant it was assigned a room at the church and had to meet once a week, on campus, at a certain time.  Now, anyone who knows the lifestyle of single people know that this will absolutely not work.

The two leaders asked if they could, instead, host get-togethers in different venues, at different times during the week, to allow single people the opportunity to connect with each other in a more informal way.  They were told no.  If they didn’t meet in the small group format, then they were no longer a ministry of the church.

The church did, however, avoid scheduling events at 8 p.m. on weeknights because they knew many parents wouldn’t be able to make it.  But when it came to creating a schedule that worked for singles?  Not so much.

Why?

shoes

5) I Corinthians 7 is acknowledged but not encouraged.

I have never heard a sermon in which a pastor preaching on I Corinthians 7 camped on the sentence “being single is being preferable…..”

First of all, Ephesians 5 gets WAY more attention than I Corinthians 7.  And when pastors do preach on the passage in Corinthians that includes the bit about being single, they always transition quickly to, “BUT….if your sex drive is too high…and it probably is….then it isn’t wrong to get married.”

And…the church will do your premarital counseling, host your bridal shower and wedding, and the pastor delivering this sermon will marry you.

But if you choose to remain single, what will the church provide for you?  Umm……

Christianity is radical, right?  Following Jesus means taking up a cross and following him, right?  And Jesus was poor and single, right?

If our faith is so radical, why don’t we encourage people to make radical choices?  Why don’t pastors stand up in front of their congregations and preach on I Corinthians 7 and challenge people to consider whether, for the sake of the Gospel, they can put off marriage (at least for a season) to do something for God and others that they couldn’t do if they were married?

There’s an opportunity cost for every choice we make in life.  The opportunity cost for being single is dealing with loneliness and celibacy.  What’s the opportunity cost of marriage?  Well, an enormous amount of time, tons of energy, and tens of thousands of dollars in setting up a household, throwing a wedding and taking a honeymoon.

Has anyone ever dared to ask out loud, “What could we do for the Kingdom if we skipped the wedding and spent that time, energy and money on ministry instead?”

I have never heard anyone ever say that out loud in church.  Not just from the pulpit, but in any of the pews.

marriage

6)Singles are used as worker bees in the church.

I’ve heard more than one pastor say that if you’re single, you’re meant to serve the church.  Which, several have said, means providing childcare on Sunday mornings so the married couples could participate in the morning worship service.

We’re not 15 year old babysitters, okay?  We’re every bit as intelligent and mature as any married person, and we need fellowship and teaching just as much as anyone.

Should we participate in childcare?  Of course. We should do everything we can do to serve the community.  But married people should do the same.  We are all to serve each other.

7)Single people are not discipled in their singleness.

When I’ve spoken to pastors about being single, the immediate response has been to come up with solutions to make singleness not quite so painful until some guy wises up and marries me.

Singleness is not a disease, and marriage is not the cure.

Yes, singleness is sometimes a struggle and people in that season are sometimes miserable or discouraged or weary — but you could say the same thing about marriage, right?  And we don’t offer miserable married people divorces; we teach them how to grow and persevere in the midst of the difficulties.

I have never, not even once, been encouraged to persevere in my singleness because I could do something with it that I couldn’t otherwise do for God.  Instead, I’ve been encouraged to look forward to marriage.  And I’ve also had pastors profusely apologize to me that they haven’t been able to convince a man in our congregation to pursue me.  Both are vastly unhelpful responses.

When pastors say this, it reminds me of Anna and Simeon, who were both (presumably) single adults who spent lots of time at the temple, and were the first people to hold baby Jesus when Mary and Joseph brought him to the temple 8 days after he was born.

In today’s churches, I think most pastors would try to convince Anna and Simeon to get married to each other, and assume that if they didn’t persue marriage, one or both of them was too selfish, immature, short-sighted, picky, etc.

What would the temple have missed out on if Anna and Simeon had married, moved out, and purused domestic bliss?  The entire community would have missed out on their constant presence, and Anna and Simeon themselves would have missed out on the opportunity to dwell in God’s house and to serve others.

All that to say, Do singles want to get married?  Yes, probably.  But who knows when that will be.  Maybe next year, maybe not ever.  And if we hold our breath waiting for it, we’ll miss all the beautiful opportunities that are right here, right now.  As Henri Nouwen says, we’ll miss the treasure under the ground on which our feet now stand.

woods

Thanks for sharing!

138 thoughts on “7 reasons why it’s hard to be single in the church

  1. Spot on! Some things said by church leadership have hurt lately, even though I know it wasn’t meant to hurt. Working in the 2 yr old class was fun, but I was getting weary because I wasn’t using my spiritual gifts. I love babysitting for my married friends, but there is so much more to me, which my friends know and thankfully acknowledge. I wish the church as a whole would, too. I greatly appreciated when one of the pastor’s at my church recently stated that the church should listen to Paul more on the topic of singleness and not ignore it! Again…thank you so much for your clarity in communicating the frustrations that swirl in my head/heart!

      1. It did not resonate with me. The author sounds on the lukewarm side about wanting marriage to begin with for herself.
        A common response to those openly and firmly wanting marriage is to point out the drawbacks and downside of being marriedz
        I guess an attempt to make singles diminsh their desire for marriage and decide it is not such a great state to be in after all. All these single women still attending church with few single men attending or pursuing. It is an embarrassment to the church for this to be happening. No one wants to call out the men because most of the main church leadership are men. So, single women may stop attending church out of crushed hope or realize to have any options of marriage at all they must consider non believing men who will pursue. Because the desires are so strong many will have relationships without marriage. If I hear another comment saying men are hardwired to pursue I think I will scream. That is a bunch of baloney repeated over and over.

  2. Sarah, I appreciate your blog so much. I just wanted to say that as a widow I to am relegated to the childcare role OR Work in the kitchen. My age plus not having a husband seems to automatically qualify me for these places of service. And folks automatically assume that I knit and go to bed at 8pm. Neither are true. Blessings

    1. Sheila — Thanks so much for your comment. The knitting comment made me laugh. I hope others take the time to get to know you for who you are and not for the stereotype they assume you to be.

  3. Sarah, this is a most excellent post. I so appreciate your candor and willingness to offer solutions rather than just criticize. When we were experiencing childlessness, we were also treated as having a disease for which children were the cure. It was incredibly alienating to be excluded from the community that should exist in church because of this. I so long for the church to embrace the concept that we are a diverse group of people, often messy and broken, who are connected by our love of Jesus. Period, end of story.

  4. Oh, and a follow-up: the expectation in churches that single people should work with the kids is utterly ridiculous. Oh my goodness. I actually feel the opposite and have proposed many times that any parent who is a member of a church should be required to lend a hand once a month in kids’ church if they use that service. Also, one of the most bone-headed things a Christian told us when we were experiencing infertility is that I should volunteer in the church nursery or pediatric ICUs to get my “fix” of babies. Seriously.

  5. It is understandable that your church wouldn’t want a singles group. Perhaps you are innocent enough that it wouldn’t hurt but for a lot of people it would turn into a meetup place. Of course married people have more resources from the church because their family unit is much more dynamic. They need all the help they can get. Furthermore, most of your church leaders are likely married so they wouldn’t be able to help you. They would suggest marriage as a cure for loneliness because it worked so astoundingly well for them.

    Anyway, being single is the best way to drive you out of the memories of the world. After life, only your close family will remember you and with no children to pass on your legacy you will have faded after a single generation. I don’t know why you would want that. I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway because in three generations, married or not, it is likely no one will even know your first name.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I agree — the reason pastors recommend marriage is b/c most of them are married themselves (I’ll talk about this more in a later post.) As for no one remembering us, I’m not sure that’s the main point of life. I think it’s to love other people and be loved while we exist here in this physical world.

    2. Daniel said: “Anyway, being single is the best way to drive you out of the memories of the world. After life, only your close family will remember you and with no children to pass on your legacy you will have faded after a single generation. I don’t know why you would want that. I suppose it doesn’t matter anyway because in three generations, married or not, it is likely no one will even know your first name.”

      If your future is “your children passing on your legacy”, then I pity you. That is the way a man of the world thinks. A man who really (if he has admitted it to himself or not) has no future at all. Do you actually know the Lord, or are you just a “church person”?

      1. Martin, I think it opens up a broader question (not an accusation) of what are meaningful ways in which single people can leave legacies that don’t have to do with procreation. Thoughts?

    3. I look at people like Martin Luther King Jr. or Mother Theresa. I’m not sure either of them thought they would have such a legacy. You’re right, we can all do the best we can to make a difference and our memory may be snuffed out in less than a few generations. But, you never know, our positive contributions could put our name in history books. If not, God doesn’t miss our positive contributions.

      1. I agree, Carrie. It’s not about designing a legacy as much as being faithful, and being present to the people around us.
        Sarah

  6. Its so true, what you have written!!
    Even here in my country in europe we have big problems and a lot of missunderstandings with this issue :/
    As a single most christians leaders of churches or mission organization they treat you as someone who is immature,
    especially for spiritual jobs like pastor or missionary, e.g.: i have a deep desire to become a youth pastor or a missionary, but
    the most missionary organizations won’t accept me to go as a missionary who is single. its so sad.
    your post helped me more to become more aware about the wide consequences of this problem,, thats why: thx for sharing
    and keep your eyes just on Jesus, He will guide you as your shepherd :)

    1. Thanks for the note, Andrew. I hope you receive all the encouragement you need as you continue your uphill climb. Keep going!!!

  7. This is an excellent post. I am not single, I got married halfway through college and thus never actually lived any of these issues; however, I have often observed this within the church and felt frustrated by it. In one of your posts on singleness you mention that you would get married if you felt that you could better serve God with a spouse. I love that! It seems like we as a church often lose sight of the real goal of life which is to bring glory to God. I absolutely believe that marriage glorifies God, but throughout history great things have been done by young, passionate people who have the energy and drive and freedom to make a major difference in the world. I wish the church would encourage this more than stifle it.

  8. One person in scripture you might study is Jeremiah. He wanted to we’d and had a love and God directed him to NOT marry. Jeremiah’s ministry was to be as an un married man. Giving up his lady love was one of his sacrifices required by God. When is the last time you heard that from the pulpit?

    I will say however that as a parent with children ranging in age from 12 to 35 I have always found it greatly beneficial to have youth pastors who are married working with my children. The single, or young married no children guys have time, care, have great intentions, but they Have been, without exception, more judge mental of parents, more likely (always unintentionally I believe) to undermine parental authority, and to feel they know, when…they simply can not yet know what it is to be a parent. I witness a change, for the better, in their ministry to the teens and the family when they too become parents. It simply does make them better, even if it also makes them busier.

  9. Thanks for your insight and for your vulnerability in sharing your experiences and observations. My husband is the pastor of a church plant that will launch in less than 2 weeks. One of the ministry job descriptions in Scripture is to “shepherd the flock of God among you.” We are grateful that God has given us singles in our fledgling church and we want to care for them just like any other demographic–have you found any helpful resources geared to singles that do not just look forward to marriage as “the cure”? For the most part, I like it when the church crosses demographic lines and ministers to others just because we are all people and all part of the church (whether old/young, rich/poor, married/single, etc. we are given to each other to build one another up), but I also recognize there are unique blessings and challenges depending on what stage of life you’re in, and sometimes it is nice to have the understanding and prayer support of someone who is in the same situation. Also, any tips for a married person to encourage a single person who desires marriage? My heart wants to encourage, but sometimes I feel disqualified as the messenger because I am married…that it comes off the wrong way because I have something that they desire. Thanks again for addressing these things. I am sad when anyone is marginalized in the church.

    1. Amy, I love your heart! As far as resources, there may be some written by Protestants, but I don’t know of any off the top of my head. I’ve found it most helpful to read Catholic priests, monks and nuns who have spent their life as single people pursuing God and ministry opportunities. In terms of single people in the church who desire marriage, I think it’s like any other thing people desire — married people who desire a more attentive partner, parents who long for a wayward child to come home, ill people who long to be healed. We approach God with our requests and our longings, but in the end, God’s goodness is not dependent on a specific outcome. And we’re not to wait to serve God or trust Him until He delivers results.

      So for single people who want to be married, it’s great to pray for it with and for them. But until that happens, I would urge single people to press into God, and to live into all the opportunities that singleness provides.

  10. It kind of seems you forgot about Catholicism in this one. In our church, single men have great opportunities for leadership as priests. They can also be monks. And single women can be nuns who teach and do nursing and all kinds of church work. These people enter into a deep relationship with Christ like that in heaven where there will be no marriage. They are those who put off marriage for the sake of the Gospel. We also have a tradition of single people consecrating themselves to God and living their life as a special vocation.

    But I do agree that churches across the board pretty much ignore single folks. And despite the appreciation of celibacy in my church, marriage is loved more. In my own church there are no opportunities for us to have fellowship besides informally hanging out after Mass. I don’t understand why this is such a problem in Christianity.

    As for the verse that states a minister must be the husband of one wife, it is NOT a prerequisite! They didn’t say “get married first then be a minister” Many single unmarried men were ministers as you pointed out, Jesus, Paul and also John. It means that if a man happened to be married, he must only have one wife. They only wanted faithful men in ministry, whether single or married. Celibate clergymen were actually preferred in early Christianity. It still is required for bishops in the Orthodox Church.

    God bless you for writing this. I share the struggle!

    1. Hi, Rachel. It’s true — I wasn’t focusing on Catholicism because my personal experience was in the Protestant faith tradition. I appreciate the Catholic celebates, though. Most of the spiritual reading I do was written by them, in fact (Rohr, Nouwen, etc.)

  11. Thank you so much for this post! I’m a single woman in the church and I can relate to all of your points very closely. This is definitely a fresh, uplifting, eye-opening, yet humble approach to what I wish more churches and church leaders would read. God bless you and your writing.

  12. Anna was married, actually. See Luke Luke 2:36–38, “And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phan′u-el, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

    Simeon, on the other hand was likely the officiating priest at the Presentation of Christ. As a priest, he would be at the Temple regularly, married or not.

    However, I can definitely sympathize with point 4. That just seems utterly ridiculous, and very alienating.

  13. This is such a great post – thank you so much for taking the time to write it! As an individual who has struggled with being marginalized in professional environments, it is disheartening to be treated as a second class citizen by the church simply because I am not married. I find such treatment both contrary to the Word of God and emotionally damaging. I would be far more content with being single if it were not for all of the unsolicited pity. The irony is that sometimes it comes from individuals who are married, but unhappy in their relationship.

    Also, it seems as though being a joyful person with an engaging personality is unacceptable – if you are single. While I understand the importance of using wisdom and being appropriate when interacting with people of the opposite sex, my happiness should not be equated to a desire to seduce someone in the church. As a person focused on trying to make a difference in this world, often I feel like the drama associated with this issue is not worth the hassle. Who wants to be in an environment where you feel “tolerated” and not “celebrated” (of course I understand that we are there to glorify God, but you get my drift).

    Your ability to articulate the issues surrounding this topic is refreshing and so very much appreciated. I think we all want to be deeply understood – I imagine that this post accomplishes that for many. God bless you!

    1. “Also, it seems as though being a joyful person with an engaging personality is unacceptable – if you are single. While I understand the importance of using wisdom and being appropriate when interacting with people of the opposite sex, my happiness should not be equated to a desire to seduce someone in the church.”

      ^THIS. I’ve been chased away from a handful of churches because I happen to be a pretty, friendly person who is also single. When I was 17, one pastor was so worried that I was going to seduce his worship leader that he refused to baptize me! The irony is that while I might get attention from a lot of the single guys in church, they are way TOO SCARED to ever ask me out.

      Also, I will never tell the church I work with kids for a living, or I will become a permanent fixture in kids’ church.

      1. Wow, so sorry you had that experience. And yes, singles have lots more to contribute to a community than free childcare!

        Sarah

  14. Thank you for the 7 comments. I do work with the preschool and you are right about how single people are placed in the church. You are right about 1st Corinth and even 2nd Corinth is not preached much at all. We could use a preaching sermon on both of those books especially now in this season.

  15. Thank you so much for pointing this out! It ticks me off that people look at me and assumed I am married or should be aleafy be a mother. I am twenty years old and I am having enough fun figuring out how to establish my own life to become independent from my family home. Marriage is not to be treated as a cure, but a mutual partnership commitment you are agreeing to sacrifice to for the rest of your life. This treatment of singles is one of the many factors that are playing into the lack of my generation in the church. The church is so vacant of my generation that I was told to join the youth group to get to know people, but not before being told, “Oh, we do have people there your age, but there is no one for you to marry because they are married.” I was not looking for a groom, I was just working to get connected to the church family. I do wish to get married one day, but I do not want to do so just because it is a pressured expectation. Dating is more complex then that and people make it even more complex. Love takes time to grow and I have yet to find a guy who will try to cultivate love the way it should be: with time, care, and patience.

  16. As a single mother of one, church has been one of the most painful places for me for years. I am physically alone in my home, but I feel totally alone in church, surrounded by people. It hurts to sit, alone, and see husbands with their arms around their wives, to hear about upcoming bridal showers, wedding showers, baby dedications, etc. To see husbands dropping their wives and children off at the preschool area drive-under, especially when it’s raining. It seems like every visiting missionary or evangelist praises his wife for supporting him, which is appropriate, but then he says those awful words: “I just don’t know what I’d do, where I’d be, or what my life would be like without her.” And I want to hold my hand up and say, “It might look something like mine.” One visiting missionary was talking about how after his first wife had died, God brought his second wife into his life, and the missionary said: “I don’t know how you guys do it; I am made to be married.” And I thought, “Well, I guess you would do it if you had to; I am made to be married, too. I can’t exactly go to Husbands ‘R Us, so until God brings us together, I will remain single.”

    I was recently at a song service where several churches were represented. The woman beside me and I made small talk, and she pointed out a lady and said, “Her husband died about a year ago.” I wondered how the woman would feel, if she knew that that was how she was presented- as the Woman Who’d Lost Her Husband, as opposed to the Woman Who is Kind, or the Woman Who Brings Laughter. Then, since she had brought up the topic of husbands, I said, “My husband hasn’t shown up yet,” kind of tongue in cheek. She said, “Oh; is he parking?” And I said, “No, I haven’t met him yet.” And we both laughed. Then she said that her 45 year old daughter has never married and still lives with them, and the woman said, “You know, not everyone has to get married.” Which I know was said with good intentions, and it was kinder than some other things she could have said. The problem is I KNOW that not everyone has to get married… I just really, really WANT to.

  17. SARAH!!! Thank you so much for this!!!! I am writing an ethics essay on ‘living the single life’ from a biblical perspective and this is so incredibly helpful to look at it from your pointy of view. I cant count the amount of times this year that my church or my bible college has talked about singleness, I think I’ve heard so much about it I could write a sermon series on the subject. And I guess as a young Christian it kind of frustrates me with how OFTEN it is talked about, that’s one of the major issues. I wouldn’t feel so alone and pathetic if you didn’t keep bringing it up. I think I would benefit more on hearing about something else for one, like, I don’t know, tell me about Calvinism, or hey, predestination and free will, don’t tell me for the third time that I have the “gift of singleness” and that I’m going to be pitifully alone for the rest of my life.
    What I was trying to say, before I went off on a tangent was thank you for saying this. Your opinion is refreshing.

  18. Sarah,

    Did I miss the command “If thou wishest to serve God properly, thou musteth be married?” somewhere in my reading of the KJV.

    Okay, sarcasm aside, Why aren’t there very many Christian books for Christian Singles? And further, why are the ones that do exist for Christian Singles so Marriage-biased oriented?

  19. First of all, Paul ( a/k/a Saul ) likely was married at some point since he was a member of Sanhedrin. Jewish men not married by 20 had something wrong with them. SO no marriage – no Sanhedrin membership. Second, Paul writes I Cor 7 as a response to what the Corinthian church had written him, “it is good for a man not to touch a woman”. Paul had just in I Cor 6 told about the danger of fornication. Ch 7 in verse 2 says “Nevertheless to avoid fornication, let every man have his OWN wife and let every woman have her OWN husband.” Then Paul says something most everyone totally misses … he speaks by permission and NOT OF COMMANDMANT from God. In essence Paul points out everyone has a different gift. If they have “celibacy” then it is better to stay single, like he was for the reasons he stated. However, Paul said better to marry than to burn in passion that could well lead to fornication as referenced in Ch 6.

    Bottom line is Paul says it is everyone’s choice of whether to marry or not, just know both sides before you marry or deliberately stay single. God said in Genesis it is not good for the man to be alone. Deciding to stay single when you do not have the gift of Celibacy ( NO SUCH THING as Gift of Singleness ) sets you up for sexual temptation by the master of deceipt … Satan himself. Look how that has influenced our culture !!! Churches regretfully have FAILED the single population by NOT encouraging singles to develop and prepare for marriage at any age EVEN IF they never marry – at least they would be better prepared for marriage if and when it presented itself. Heaven forbid we should do anything to lower the divorce rate and create unemployment among divorce lawyers.

    Marriage is a choice and like any elective, singles should prepare for it. God is waiting on each of us to decide what we want – being single or being married. He will not choose for us as that would invade FREE WILL that God has given each of us. Even Satan and the Angels have free will – God did not stop Satan from rebelling nor his Angels, but God did punish them all for the choice, Rebellion is NOT God’s Will … marriage IS. See Prov 19:14, Prov 18:22. God describes the marriage bed as honorable and a good thing.

    Churches should not be surprised to find that singles have shunned them … churches have sent the message only marrieds are celebrated, singles are only tolerated. SHAME on our churches of today. Wait til Jesus conducts His Judgment Seat … churches are going to get it stuck to them – and hard !!!
    If God and Jesus are not respecter of persons, why are the churches in judging someone because they are married or single?

  20. Thank you for your perspective. It has openned my eyes to see this issue from a new point of view and has challenged me to better prepare singles to serve God in this season of their lives. Thanks!

  21. Sarah,
    Lately, I have been made well aware of the problems single or newly single people have with the church. You should be a divorced man like me. I divorced my wife of 24 years because I couldn’t take the mental or verbal abuse from her, not only on myself, but everyone else around us anymore. I might as well be walking dead. No one but a few of the elders would even make eye contact with me. There are couples and families that have joined in the last 10 months that were welcomed with opened arms, laughter, etc. I still sit alone. The reality is the Family is now being idolized/worshiped by Christian churches

  22. All amazing comments.
    Most churches are designed for families, not for singles. Although lately, churches are now ending up with 70-90 % attendance by elderly people.
    It’s a sad situation that churches and married couples are “using” single women and men as babysitters and teachers for their children.
    And who are we to highlight these issue coz no one bothered to preach some sense to the “ailing” churches. When I first joined my home fellowship, I had to babysit (for free) all the kids throughout the week. And everybody becomes a busybody on any single man who wanna join the cell group and discourage me “why bother to marry, it’s better to be single”. So I realize most of them are selfish. Needless to say the cell “isolated” me when they find they couldn’t make me believe in their philosophy. I am still single now. Anyway my advice to singles, just listen to God and just rely on God….

  23. I don’t quite agree with Daniel’s comments. And Sarah is right, nobody is marrying for the sake of legacy. Well maybe some do.
    But mostly married for companionship. So it’s not a practical thing to say to a single. I suggest that Daniel pray for discernment before responding to such a sensitive topic.

  24. Dan Thomas, fantastic insights.
    Awesome. Glad that Sarah highlighted this topic.
    1. It annoys me to no end about “gift of celibacy” as taught by churches. Bible emphasized on giftings of Holy Spirit and it’s human error to assume Paul was talking about celibacy as a gift. He was referring to singleness as a choice to serve God with 100 percent focus rather than being “burdened” by family needs.

    2. I love how Dan Thomas said married couples are celebrated and singles are tolerated. I came across many church announcements on baby showers, parenting courses, endless children concerts but hardly anything on singles. Even divorcees with children who go to church are celebrated more than singles. I have also come across churches who rather introduce spouses to divorcees rather than singles. I dunno why singles are treated so badly….
    I really need to pray on this matter.

  25. I’m a young person who, over the past few years, has grown increasingly convinced that I don’t have any desire whatsoever to get married and have a family. At the same time, I’ve been more and more aware of how much the language of the church is directed toward married couples. It’s often hard to feel as if the message is being spoken to me: Once, I fell under the category of “child” but that no longer applies to me. I’m instead grouped together with people who are assumed to be looking for marriage at some point in the future, a kind of “This may not apply now, but you’ll understand when you’re married/in a relationship/(grown up).”

    It really makes me sad that the church of all places is falling into the pattern of assuming that all relationships must be romantic *relationships*. I’ve spent the past few summers working various research internships and when I’d visit my home church and talk to people about what I was doing and who I was working with, the reaction was “Oh, Wooooow. It’s just you and your lab partner most of the time, huh? And a Christian too? Lucky you! wink wink” Why is it so hard for people to accept that two single people can work together and be good friends without anything more than that?

    The hardest part for me is when people can’t believe that I never want to be in a romantic relationship or marriage. “What do you mean? Don’t you want to have sex? Of course you need to have sex! You’re just a late bloomer. You’ll grow up eventually.” From. The. Church. It hurts so much to constantly be told I’m broken, or not willing to fulfill God’s plan for my life just because I have no desire to be in a relationship.

  26. Thank you, Jolene. I appreciated your encouraging words of affirmation.
    Just sharing my faith and experiences … all glory, majesty, dominion and power go to Jesus as per Jude 25.

  27. How how this post speaks to my heart! I’ve been struggling for a year plus to find a church home that has discipleship opportunities for singles.

  28. I used to belong to a friendship group (which was mainly for single Christians) with members from different churches. Dating was rarely mentioned as friendship, not marriage was the aim of the group. Several members got married, and praise God, all the marriages have lasted. By not being a ministry of a church, we could tailor the programme to the needs of the then group members plus each member could remain in their church rather than being attracted away from a church with few single Christians to one with many, which happens in many large cities. The emphasis on friendship made for great fellowship and meant that singles of all ages could belong.

    1. Louise, thanks for the note. I love the idea of a friendship group that exists outside of a specific church. Very cool.

    1. So sorry you’ve had that experience, Bruce. Hope you find support and community somewhere….even if it’s not in church.

  29. At my church, two questions women often get asked as part of introductions in a group settings are, ” Are you married? “, and ” Do you have children? “. As a single person and without children, it’s feels like daggers going through my heart every time when I say “no” and I am mortally wounded into silence as all the mothers go on happily chatting about their married lives with children.

    1. I feel you. We need new ways of interacting with each other as women, new ways of forming relationships in a way that includes people and doesn’t exclude them.

  30. Well so many people that have been Blessed by meeting their love ones, it is very Obvious why they would go to church with their families which many of us Good people out there really have No reason to go since Most of us us are still Alone with No family. Many single women can certainly handle it a lot better than us single men.

  31. Im amazed at the number of comments. This means many singles have googled about their church challenges.
    It too has been hard for me. Im thankful that I went to a church that had a mens group. This allowed men in the church to get to know me independently.
    There were a few couples who loved me and for that im thankful. It remindes me that God loves us regardless and does not want us to feel rejected that others dont know where we stand even when the misconceptions are painful.

    Bless you all brothers and sisters,

  32. Well done Sarah, in this post and your previous two about singleness in the church you have nailed it. Thankfully, I am in one of those rare churches (by default rather than by choice on both sides) where singles are treated equally. Now the issue of women in leadership is a whole different matter, but I am working on it…..

  33. This is super true of ALL the churches I’ve been to in Southern California. I haven’t gone to one that didn’t alienate single people in some way… like they are the “freaks” of the church. I think the whole “blessing of singleness” is a bit odd. I don’t like being categorized, or having scriptures thrown about. I remember once asking someone, well “how do I meet members of the opposite sex in this church?” Their whole answer to everything was to be as involved and visible as humanly possible….but really with a full time job, aging parents, etc, I can’t go to every meeting and be part of as many “volunteer” activities as others who might be younger or jobless. Then the church had nothing for singles whatsoever.

    Another place had a meeting for “singles,” When I got there it was a bunch of women in their 50’s and a few possibly homosexual men (I’m not lying), and several people who stated they weren’t even church member. How does that benefit someone in their 20’s or 30’s? It’s a mess!

    I also think there is an unhealthy push (that makes it more awkward if you actually ARE into someone) that just if someone says “hi” to a girl or guy they are automatically interested and should suddenly jump to marriage. I know so many unhappy couples and poor-couplings because they thought they “had to” date someone or “had to” get married because a church member asked them out. Nothing is worse than seeing the nice church woman date the resident rude fart-man (I’m not lying) because she thought she should go out with him… (barf).

    Sigh..

    1. Hi, Jaeson. I resonated with everything you said. We have created a very unhealthy culture around singleness/dating/relationships in the church. I hope you and I and others who see the issues can become part of creating solutions and changing the culture that’s so unhelpful and unfair.

      Sarah

  34. It is very sad for many of us that really wanted to be married with a family that we still Don’t have today which Loneliness for us is really No fun at all, especially for us Good men and women that would’ve thought by now that we could’ve been all settled down with our own family today.

    1. I hear you. I truly believe that God can use singleness in amazing ways, and teach us how to find solitude instead of loneliness. Blessings to you, friend. Hang in there.

    1. I don’t think singleness is punishment. Paul talks about what a great opportunity it is to have freedom and time to do lots of good in the world. I think the challenge for me is going from loneliness to life-giving solitude.

  35. Sarah,
    I just want to say, FINALLY SOMEONE GETS ITS! :) I love my pastor and his wife and my church family. I enjoy serving and have built some really good friendships. I do however, struggle with the fact that there are no consistent teachings/events for the singles. I’ve stated this many times and to no avail. When I talk about how challenging it is as a single here are the things I’m told by people who were mostly married and had kids by their early and mid-twenties: 1) Keep serving God and he will send me a mate. 2) I”m still young and have plenty of time. 3) Don’t focus on my age and what I don’t have. 4) Maybe I’m selfish or God’s still perfecting some things in me. 5) I don’t do anything except go to work and church. 6) I’m probably too picky. 7) I have SO Much free time and should enjoy it while it lasts. I don’t have any plans to ever stop serving God and allowing him to do a work in my life are my responses to numbers 1 and 4. The other responses are offensive and I usually just end the conversation as quickly as possible. I understand that people who are married and have children need support and resources from the church as they have huge responsibilities. What I think everyone forgets about is single people have to work, pay bills, cook, clean and deal with a lot of the same challenges and guess what? You get to do them by yourself, not to mention if you have aging parents you’re trying to help. I’m not sure where the notion came from that single people don’t have responsibilities, but it’s very painful to feel like I give my time and resources and get very little in return in the area of singleness. I’m still praying that my church will do something, but with each year I’m less and less hopeful. Praying about transitioning to another ministry.

  36. Well i can certainly blame the women out there why a very Good man like me is still single today since the women of today are so much Different than the women of years ago since many Career women today are so very high maintenance, independent, selfish, spoiled, greedy, picky, and very money hungry which the women of years ago were Never Ever like that at all which really made it very Easy for the men back then that did find the Love of their life. So most men in that time really had it made since many of them had very long lasting marriages which many of them are still together today with their families since God has really Blessed many of them with the Gift of life that many of us men still Don’t have today since many of us are certainly Not single by choice. Women have certainly Changed since the Good old days which many of us men that really wanted to get married to have a family could’ve been all Settled down by now with our own Good wife and family instead of being Single and still Alone today as i speak.

    1. Hi, Paul. Thanks for your thoughts. I’m wondering….what are you hoping to accomplish by blaming women? How does that help you? How does that get you closer to obtaining the relationship you desire?

      Sarah

  37. Just a note concerning point # 7 , Anna and Simeon. Anna got married as a teenager. By the time Jesus came to the temple, she was 103 years old. She had been a widow for 84 years. Simeon had been around for a long time, too. I guess these two made a conscience decision to stay single, while remaining faithful to God.

  38. I have not been able to find a comfortable church. I am single (widow) and have no family left on this earth. I have asked many people about their church experiences. One of the saddest was a beautiful young woman with two daughters who had been abused by her ex-husband. She went to a church near the women’s shelter where she and her girls were staying to recover from the abuse. The church advertise an after service “get-together.” She took her girls and not one person spoke to her or her girls at the church. She felt as if she was rejected for being a woman alone with children, and never went back to church. My experience has been an on going process. I am friendly and talkative. I will talk to anyone who will talk to me. I like being around people, and I feel more alone every day of my life. I have made no friends on this seven year search for a church. One of the pastors spoke about the results of a survey of how people see the people of the church. The most given answer was “hateful.” After church not one person spoke to me. I said hello to as many people as possible. I even asked to volunteer to do something at the church, but my request was ignored. I am pretty, nice, and friendly. It doesn’t seem to matter to the people of the churches. I never saw my life taking this direction!

  39. Just to add a little something more from my last comment is that with many women that are Gay and Bi nowadays makes it much more difficult for many of us Good straight men that are still Single now which certainly does add to the problem since many more women nowadays are going for another woman which is very sad for us looking for true Love. Times have really Changed today for the Worst unfortunately which it is just too bad for us men that we weren’t born many years Earlier to Avoid this mess today which Most of us would have been all settled down by now with our own Good wife and family just like our family members were very Blessed by God at that time which certainly did come very Easy for them finding Love with one another since many of our family members are still together today as i speak which turned out to be very Amazing for them.

    1. Proportionally, there are more gay men than women — so women actually would have a better case for this complaint than you do. Please don’t blame other people’s sexuality for your lack of a relationship. Either work on making yourself a better potential partner, or explore the good you can do with your singleness.

      1. OK. I think Paul’s point is brave. Is he blaming the opposite sex for the gradual change in gender roles that have occurred over the last 50 years?
        Who has instigated this change?
        The media and political world has never been more accepting of radical feminism. When it comes to traditional relationships, men have become disposable. There are more women choosing divorce, single motherhood and focussing on careers instead of the traditional Christian husband / wife relationship format. This has lead to men reacting in a way in which they are dropping out of society, choosing not to go to college, get married, have their own family and climb the corporate ladder all for it to come crashing down when their wives decide to divorce them for no reason, take away half their stuff and custody of the kids.
        Women have more political freedom than men. Name a law that benefits men and not women? Yet a woman has the right to abort a pregnancy without the father’s input, views or feelings as these do not have to be legally taken into account. US family and divorce laws are absurd, unfair and damaging to men.

        I believe Paul is trying to reflect the view that traditional partnerships have taken a nosedive based on what feminism has brought to society. Women have bought the lie. They’ve focussed on achieving sexual promiscuity, worthless college education and career goals only for them to reach their childless mid 40s and they wonder “where have all the good men gone?” and then they start to panic at the lack of potential suitors.

        There’s no point telling Paul to improve himself. He might be at the top of his game – successful, in shape, fiscally responsible. Perhaps you should be saying that to the legions of poor quality women out there who have feelings of entitlement, AKA the “little princess syndrome”.
        You bought the lie. You acted upon it. You got shafted.

        And you females did it to yourself.

        Good luck with your future.

        1. Your statements are sweeping and vague, and I’m not sure how to respond. “Men have become disposable”, “More women are choosing divorce, single motherhood and focusing on careers….” I also don’t know what to make of your idea that the traditional Christian husband/wife relationship excludes women pursuing education and careers. What do you make of Lydia in the New Testament — a wealthy business woman?

          Never, in any of my writings, did I tell Paul to “improve himself.” (I don’t even know what that statement means.) To say that I bought a lie, acted upon it and got shafted sounds accusatory and unfair.

          I hope you find a way to deal with your bias and your anger, because you seem to be projecting it onto the world around you in a way that’s really unhelpful, untrue and unfair.

          Sarah

          1. To the above harsh comments made by “Angel of Def” and “Paul,” I would say (in brotherly love) that I think you are hurting because of the fact that you are (or may be) single. There is no crime in that, as we have all experienced that at some point. However, blaming an entire gender of people does not heal your hurts. In fact, blaming the opposite gender because you are still single will most likely DRIVE THEM AWAY from you instead of to you.
            Also, imagine if a woman posted on here, “I definitly blame all of the lazy, no good, sleezy men in this country who do not pursue a relationship with a woman as a spouse as the reason for why an excellent, God-fearing catch like myself is still single.” It woul be obvious that woman is filled with pride and arrogance. This may be a spirtual shortcoming that God is trying to eliminate from you before introducing “the one.” There is no place in a marriage for someone who looks down on the opposite sex, whether the action is done by a male or female.
            Lastly, the Proverbs 31 woman in the Bible (the woman I assume everyone is looking for) owned her own business (vs. 16, 18, 24, and 31) while attending to her household (vs. 15, 21, 27, and 28) while caring for her husband (vs. 11, 12, 23, and 28) while EDUCATING HERSELF (vs. 16, 17, 25, and 26) while caring for the poor and needy (vs. 20 and 26). The woman who is worth more than rubies (vs. 10) is, according to Proverbs 31 in the Bible, wise, educated, caring, and hardworking. Again, I say this in love, if you expect to find you a woman like the Bible recommends, you should become the man God COMMANDS you to be.
            If you want to talk meaningless, bias, sexist opinions, talk to an unedcated person. If you want to talk about facts according to God’s Word, back it up with Scripture.

  40. I can relate totally as a single Thai guy who is now 41 years of age I sense that all I am good for is teaching and doing busy work. I tread lightly because I have deliberately told the pastor no and I find myself starting to get angry when I tell him so. I pray constantly and while I have asked The Lord to just take away the desire to want to be with someone it still has not happened. The Lord knows what is best for me. I truly try to delight myself in the Lord and He will give me my hearts desire. That being said I have translated that to mean to make Him my hearts desire and He will give me my hearts desire to whom I should marry. Of course this is easier said than done.

  41. I think they get the idea of a “gift” of singleness from 1 Corinthians 7. “Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.”

  42. You really have to understand that many of us Good men which i do really speak for others as well which many of us today are Not at all single by choice since we keep meeting the Wrong kind of women instead of one real Good one to make us very happy since many of us Don’t want to spend the rest our life all Alone. So what can we really do about it since the times today really has a lot to do with it? Any suggestions? It is like trying to win the Lottery today which is very impossible as you can see since many of us i will certainly admit are very Unlucky in Love.

  43. Sarah,
    You are spot on. My husband passed away 15 years ago. Once my children moved out a few years ago, everything about church changed. No one spoke to me or would have anything to do with me. There were no groups for me to fit into. I am not a young single, 18-30 or a 65 and older single. I fall into an age range of 31-64 that churches ignore and don’t want to deal with. I have gone to several churches to try them out and I was completely ignored. I have become so discouraged by this “married and family only” approach to the church that I have stopped going all together. I thought we, ALL singles were also a part of the Body of Christ.

  44. I would like to add an additional reason, if I may. I’ve only had two close male friendships in my entire life. One is a pastor within my age group, the other is a man older than my own father (both have moved away from my area). They provided me with invaluable insight and counsel from a male perspective, something I could never get from my female friends. Now that I am nearly 40 years, I don’t fit in the “young adult” group which is for 18-29-year-olds. I find the only ministries for a woman my age in my church (and most other churches) are either female-only, or for married couples. Plus, there is a anti-dating/courtship culture in many churches where there is tremendous pressure for any interaction between a man and a woman to have marriage as the goal. The result of this is that it is very difficult to forge genuine cross-gender fellowship.

  45. Thank you so much for being bold enough to write on this topic! I am a college student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and coming home to a small town and going to a small church has been incredibly difficult as a single. Sometimes it feels very lonely and it even gets frustrating trying to be content in my singleness as everyone around me is celebrated for being married or in relationship with another. Being single is rarely recognized or celebrated, it is in fact, most often, treated as a “temporary waiting room” for those who just lack the maturity or appeal for a spouse.

  46. Thank you for getting this out there. Many times my Sunday School group has spoken about this exact topic. A group of us single women in our mid 20s to early 30s split from college and career because we couldn’t really connect with the 18 year old freshmen nor the 40+ women and obviously not the married’s class. At times we’ve all mentioned how second class we’ve been made to feel in society and even our own church. We’re always asked if we’re dating anyone, not what our class is doing. Or we’re always asked why we’re not dating anyone and that we should get on that. However, there are only 2-3 single men anywhere near our age group in the church and the first thing those same people will do is warn you about the dreaded slippery slope of dating outside the church. Not helpful. It always seems like people are more than willing to point out the perceived “problem”, but are never willing to offer real support. I love my church, but lately it’s been wearing on me how much it’s geared toward couples and families. Pastors will directly address husbands, wives, and children frequently in sermons with things that apply to their lives, but singles are only rarely addressed and then it’s a toss-up if the focus will be “flee from lust” or “appreciate your gift of singleness because it means you can do more work in the church” never “How blessed you are to have such opportunity for love, freedom, growth, and service in front of you. We support and appreciate you in your loneliness and your freedom”. I’m involved in several ministries and am usually quite content with my single life (it definitely has its perks!), but there are surely times where I’ve been made to feel inferior to couples and families; a tag-a-long who will “understand when I’m married and a mother” as if my adulthood and humanity are dependent on those two events.

    1. hi, anna. thanks for sharing your thoughts. i’ve had very similar experiences. i’m not sure why the church tends to be so suspicious of single people’s motives and sexuality. i hope you’re able to find meaningful support and community. hang in there!
      sarah

  47. nice blog. keep up cos its helping people like me who is still single and into a very large church as minister

  48. Why doesn’t the church realize that single women
    want the same things as married wonen? I sm divorced after being married many years. I want to regsin what was stolen from me when I was forced into singleness. The church should intentislly get single persons together so relationships can form and Christian marriages can take place. The married should try to fix up persons on dates. That is a singles ministry, to create loving marriages among believers. Christian marriages are becoming fewer and fewer. According to the Bible, all women need earthly protectors and providers, which is the role of husbands. God created marriage and proclaimed it was good, in spite of what the world says and what
    many men say about it. Single men should be attending church. The use of porn should be decried
    As the biggest cause of divorce today and how it causes Christian men to not pursue single women and to disrespect women. Unless the Church starts actively promoting marriage, martiage will fall by the wayside. Christisn Women desiring marrisge and children will have to visit soetm banks to have babies, even if marriage is out of their reach. This is where we are headed.church leaders wake up!

  49. Very good article. Not so sure how long it’s been hanging around, but being single in the Church is a problem that’s been hanging around for a long time. I live in an unban/suburban area, where it is family, family, family at every Catholic Church around. I have quit gnoing to church because I no longer feel like I belong. It’t not overt; it’s just I feel an ousider. I know what this possibly does to my soul, and I miss the Real Presence, but I feel like a stranger in a strange land. I am not totally sure, but being male and over the age of 45 may be harder than being female and the same age. We are looked upon as dangerous and possible predators. I have done my best since I have been about 30 to uttery avoid any interaction that may happen –even accidently– with children. I won’t even acknowledge an innocent “hello” said by a toddler holding his mother’s hand. I wonder if Jesus had lived a longer public life and was aged 50 or so, how He would feel in his own temple?

    The only church in recent years I felt welcome in was a poor church in a bad neighborhood where more than half the congragation was Mexican. They treated me like a person and warmly shook my hand, instead of the cold, stiff hands offered by men and women with families and even other apparently single people. I had to stop going to that churchtin when the area became too deadly due to drive gang shootings.

    The Church is not for single people. Being single is NOT a gift. In today’s world it effectivly mocks you as a person and excludes you from living in the community of believers. Good thing the Pope wears white. If he stolled into any of the churches in my area he would not be welcome.

  50. A preacher of mine did not believe that single people are treated differently so I did an experiment. A few of my single friends and my self visited the church and sat alone while a few married people visited at the same time and sat together. When it came time to welcome the visitors, we singles were generally left alone while the couples were treated like they had the last pork chop at a Baptist pot luck. I’m sure there are welcoming churches out there but I’ve run out of energy and patience to find them. On Sunday mornings I prefer to head to the mountains and leave the drama for the couples

    1. Lance,
      UGH. That story makes my heart sink and, unfortunately, it’s all too common. I hope you’ve found community that feels supportive and inclusive — inside or outside of the church.
      Take care.
      Sarah

  51. I left the church and Christianity after decades of being treated badly and spoken to like a 2nd class citizen. I’ve never wanted “your” husband; I never even wanted my own husband. But you wouldn’t know that because you didn’t take the time to get to know me. And as far as married couples with children needing more help; that’s not true. The single person is alone. We need the extra hand. So happy that I no longer live under the oppression, inequality, and abuse of Christianity.

    1. Marie, I’m so saddened to hear your story. I hope you’re doing better now, and have found a more accepting and inclusive community. Take care.
      Sarah

  52. Wow! Sarah you have such amazing and interesting points. I found it very helpful in my single adults ministry. Love your life story by the way. You have such an incredible testimony and I know that it brings great glory to God. I would love to read your book. I want to be professional writer one day too and create my own blog. I had fun reading your work!

  53. I am 59 and never been married. I feel like I have been forever looking for a right church for me – one where I feel fit into. In my 20s it was pretty good as there were others my age and single. When I turned 30 and after that, it was all downhill. I feel like as being single, I have not been very well received. The vast majority of people going to church are coupled and family. I prefer small churches than the larger ones.

    I admit that I have some social anxiety. I don’t do well with strangers, but I try the best I can. But a lot of churches tend to have cliques; and I don’t do well with that at all. In the last 20 years or so, I have been in a blur of remembering any glorious experiences I had in being at a church. JUST ONE TIME I CAN REMEMBER WAS WHEN I WENT TO A CHURCH WHERE I WAS WITH A WOMAN THAT I WAS GOING TO MARRY! I couldn’t believe the attention and respect I was getting from people at that church at that time. Well, we broke up (I was the one to break it up) and then moved on elsewhere. Before going to that church, I had not had any real great experiences at any of the churches. After I left, same thing! For so many years, I would stay with a church for a few years and just tolerating it with hopes that it will get better. It never did.

    Just recently I left a church I had been going to for four years. I had a counseling session with the Pastor – telling him that I feel lonely. He told me, “people avoid you because they sense that you don’t feel comfortable being around others”. Well, I think it was true, but the people at that church didn’t make it comfortable for me. As they were much older than me and into their cliques. That church was more like a country club than a Godly place. That remark that the Pastor made was the last straw.

    So now I’m church hunting again. At one church I recently went to, it seemed very boring to me. But one thing that happened that soured me was that I was interested in going to a Men’s Breakfast. I went once before. I went to the place where it was going to be (it was an IHOP). No one was there. I asked the Pastor the next day, “what happened?”. He told me that he had decided to go to another place instead and forgot to call me.

    Sorry this is so long. I have not quit church yet, even though it would make sense for me to do so. I’m just hoping and praying that I will find one someday. It’s been 20 years!

    1. Thanks for the note, Tom. Sorry for everything you’ve gone through. Being left out and forgotten is a horrible experience. I hope you find people who love, encourage and embrace you.

      Sarah

  54. Thanks – good stuff! I’m preaching on 1 Cor 7 this Sunday (18th September 2016) and if I don’t refer directly to this blog post, rest assured that its contents will be reflected in my teaching. Although I’m married, so I have to be careful not to push singleness too much… :-) OTOH in the church we have widows, widowers, teenagers and at least one life-long single lady, so it’s definitely relevant.

    1. Thanks for the note, David. I’m glad the post was helpful. Especially since our faith is founded on Jesus, a single man, I think it’s important that the church disciples people who are single on how to live into the potential, and navigate the obstacles, that singleness entails.

      Blessings to you and your congregation!
      Sarah

  55. I grew with the opposite problem; that of marriage being discouraged and all but forbidden. (A lot of the women are still single into their thirties and fear being old maids; I feared being an old bachelor.) Marriage wasn’t viewed as a requirement of maturity/adulthood, but you had to be sufficiently mature(and “Dead in Christ”[TM, Gal. 2:20]) to be married; we were told those who didn’t play by the rules were thieves and robbers (John 10).

    I can say that what I had was quite frustrating, and it made me feel like I’m being held back. Your description is completely alien to me; thus, I can’t compare the situations.

    1. WOW, I haven’t heard of a community that discouraged marriage that way. It does sound very different from many conservative evangelical circles I grew up in and around. I hope you’re doing well now.

      Sarah

  56. I’m 56 and have spent a lot of time in my career teaching overseas. When I was in my 30s I was attending churches where many people were quite wealthy and I never felt so snubbed in my life. Some of the ladies my age even spread stories about me that were not true and caused me quite a bit of stress. Only one pastor ever listened to me instead of judging me. I hope and pray I can get back down to that church soon, and live in the area again. Please pray for me.

  57. I am misunderstanding something, I guess. It sounds like you want to go back to a church where the rich people are and they had snubbed you?

    I have been to churches that were in “well-to-do” areas myself and I know how that is. For some reason churches in those kind of areas tend to be very snobby.

    I have heard about how Christians are in very poor countries (like in Africa and China); and those people act a lot more like the way Christians should be than here in the US.

    1. Hi, Tom. Was your comment directed at me? Not sure what you mean by “you want to go back to a church where the rich people are and they had snubbed you.”

  58. Sarah, my post was not directed at you. I pushed the reply button on Andrew’s post. I just re-read his post and I think I misunderstood. He mentioned about attending churches where the wealthy people were and was snubbed (in which I had experienced myself). He mentioned wanting to go back; but then he had said that there was only one Pastor who had listened to him. Perhaps he meant that he wanted to go back to that particular church where the Pastor had listened to him.

    Sorry for any misunderstandings.

  59. I think most church leaders do the opposite of what you say. My experience is that the leaders demand that 1st Cor. 7 be accepted. I have wanted to get married for a long time. I have made many mistakes, including some serious legal ones. I am not good at socializing, so I ask for help in finding a wife from the church leaders.

    They laugh at me and refuse to take me seriously, the fact is, there is nothing wrong with wanting to marry. Prov. 18:22 says “whoso findeth a wife, findeth a good thing…”. Prov. 19:14 says a prudent wife is from the Lord Gen. 2:18 says It is not good for the man to be alone. Ecclesiastes 4:9 says that two are better than one.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to stay single as long as you don’t date someone over and over and over again [unless it’s the other person’s intention too] with the intention of never getting married. But there is also nothing wrong with wanting to get married. It seems. Being poor, white & male automatically disqualifies one from getting help in knowing how to proceed in a relationship. It seems much counsel is based on psychology rather than the written Word of God, what we call the Holy Bible or Holy Scripture.

    Apparently my dad was a member of a gang, and I may have inherited some of his traits. He was also an alcoholic, but I don’t drink. It hurts the heart when someone calls you loser for being poor & when the people threatening you claim you threatened them. It hurts when you read scriptures like Matt. 5:23-25 & Matt. 18:15-17 which clearly teach reconciliation and you can’t get the help you need to obey the scripture.

    I don’t have all the answers, but I can read and I know there is nothing wrong with wanting a spouse or for asking for help in getting one & Christians need to stop laughing at people like me and start actually helping. If we insist that you take us seriously, then we are considered trouble makers and the commitment of church leader’s to man made laws becomes more important than their commitment to God’s word.

  60. It took me 20 years to find a girl who would go to church. Then, the pastor said I could not marry her because she was divorced. Awwwweeee, son-of-a___________.
    I have had it with church as it is the cause of singleness. There are so many churches and some appeal to men, others to women. I don’t know where the single-never-married women are, and I’ve just been told I can’t marry a divorced one.
    Now, I think the pastor is wrong. I can read those verses about marriage and divorce in bible and draw a different conclusion. But to run into such a thing at age 47 is ridiculous. Churches are the cause of singleness. I could write a book about it.

  61. Your article helped pull me out of a funk tonight, thank you. I appreciate that it wasn’t mean-spirited toward churches, just honest. I’m grateful that my church is not hyper-focused on marriage, and people do care about me as a single, but the leader of my small group regularly comments about marriage being a sacred institution (making singleness seem unholy) or other comments that alienate me. Singleness has become deeply lonely for me because of changes in my closest friendships and because I have no Christian family at all. The widows in my church are even better off than me because they have children and grandchildren in their lives, they are financially more comfortable with homes of their own, and they are held in higher esteem than singles.

    I have to keep returning to that picture of eternity: one day it will not be lonely, and there will be rewards for staying faithful no matter what happens on earth. And God also gives those wonderful promises in the Psalms: “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord. Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

    1. Thanks for the comment, Nancy. I hope you keep searching until you find a community that embraces you and makes you feel as valuable as you are.

      Hang in there.
      Sarah

  62. As of now I tried another church last Sunday. It was a small church in a neighborhood that I don’t live at. It was mostly very old people. They seemed friendly, but I don’t know if this will do it for me. There was a fellowship time with drinks and a cake. I didn’t go to it. I went home because I had a lot to do, plus I felt intimidated to be in a room with total strangers. But I think I’ll try again next time. We’ll see what happens.

    I had a talk with my sister a couple of weeks ago. I have told her that it’s been decades since I’ve gone to a church I liked. She tells me over and over again that she loves her church. Well, good for her! But that was not comforting to me. She told me to just keep on looking. Well, I have been doing that for about 30 years now! How much more looking can I endure?

    1. Bravo for putting yourself out there, Tom! Keep going until you find the community that welcomes, loves and encourages you.

      Sarah

    1. Hi there. Not sure what you mean by “church…or anywhere else”? Do you mean that single people shouldn’t want to go to the grocery store or a coffee shop or the bank? Can you clarify what you mean by your comment?

      Take care.
      Sarah

      1. Sarah, I know that i didn’t answer since i made that Comment almost two months ago. What i mean is that as a Good Single man that Never found love is that when you go anywhere Alone it makes you very Depressed especially when you see so many other men and women that are together with their families. I do consider the men and women that are together Very Extremely Blessed to have met one another and found their True Love which it was really meant to be for them. Why Not Us? I always wanted a wife and family which i Can certainly Blame the times we live in today compared to the times years ago that was so much Different back then the way that our Family Members had it since it was much Easier finding Real Love in those days as you can really see. A Good woman is a Very Extremely Rare Find these days for many of us Good Single Men since i have friends that are having the same problem just like me unfortunately since they really Hate being Single too. Women have certainly Changed today since years ago which makes it Very Difficult for many of us men really looking and hoping.

        1. I know lots of single women who would say the same thing. So I don’t think it’s fair to blame your singleness on the opposite sex. I think the most important question to ask is — how can you be content in this season? How can you not only survive, but thrive, this singleness season, however long it lasts?

          Sarah

  63. I love this! It’s so accurate. I’m 41 now. I’ve spent the whole of my 20s and 30s being told to “Wait on God” and “Pray every day for a husband” etc. So i basicaaly wasted my youth waiting for something that never happened, and feeling as though I must have been doing something wrong, instead of living my life and enjoying my freedom and independence. There’s a vibe most Churches give of marriage being superior to singleness, which just crushes single people’s confidence, when the Church is meant to do the exact opposite!
    Now I’m older, when young people come to me bemoaning singleness, I tell them all positives of being single and encourage them to embrace and be thankful for it!
    I point out all the stresses I see married people going through, like sleepless nights with babies; lack of social life with having to stay in with children; stress with teenagers; having to be accountable to someone else with money when you just want to shop till you drop, or a girlie holiday etc. I’m sure all these things areworth the sacrifice, but to me, that’s what they’d be now – a SACRIFICE.
    I try and tell younger single people what I wish people had told me 20 years ago, so they don’t spend their lives feeling like a square peg in a round hole like I did.

  64. Marriage is something I think many people would like to enjoy. And being single in the ministry is a struggle, because you see married people and to the natural eye they look happy. So you desire something you have no experience with. I am single and a mother of four, but I also serve as my Pastor’s staff. I had a desire to be married because I seen others married and in relationships. Not paying attention to the hard times they were having or their mishaps, just the fact that they are married. And often times, many people are married because they can not control their fleshly desires. That is what Paul was talking about, because he did recommend that you be single because of the greatness of kingdom work, but if you can not control yourself, then he rather you marry then burn in Hell. You are absolutely right. What my Pastor has explain and expressed to me is, it’s okay to be married and work in ministry, as long as you build it together. Many times married people have different callings and some are used more greater than the other and if the other person is not grounded in Christ, then that becomes an issue in their household. I have seen it, heard it, and witnessed it many times before. So I feel as though there is an advantage to be single in ministry, yes on my behalf it is lonely because I have kids, but I have learned to defeat my loneliness as it is a spirit. And God does not deal in the spirit of loneliness.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Rita. YES! There is so much freedom and availability to serve in ministry as a single person. Blessings to you, your family and your church community as you live into your calling and gifts.

      Sarah

  65. I made a comment back in October that I was hoping to get back down to that church again that I loved so much. Well, it finally happened. I moved back to that city this month. I don’t have a job (the obsession with Christmas and “the family” makes it hard on singles too) but I am being embraced and supported as I knew I would be. Things will get better after Christmas, I’m sure. In the meantime, anyone reading this, please pray for me as I get reestablished. Thank you.

  66. I’m glad this article was written. I’m 61, never married Catholic male. I have three brothers who married, one sister. My oldest sister and I never did. For years I wondered why I never married. I see it had lots to do with my teen years. My parents never encouraged marriage, and they offered no support or guidance in the areas of marriage or sexuality. Girls I grew up with had no interest in me, and I had no resources to pursue them until much later. I had my first date at 35, my first car at 33. I saw then I’d missed my turn. Despite a few more dates, five in all–I saw there was no hope I’d ever meet the right person. I was too late. I stopped dating at 46. It was simply too depressing. I’m still a virgin–what a surprise. I tried online dating 2 years ago. In a eight month period I had 1400 women view my profile, I contacted 40, ten replied, and none had any interest in doing anything–not even getting a cup of coffee. Online dating is a scam–don’t do it. Here is a stat most people don’t know: a single woman age 40 has only a 1% chance of ever getting married, a single man age 40 has only a 5% chance of ever being married. The Census bureau put this out—moral–you must seek your partner early in life, or risk being left out later on. I realize it’s not in God’s plan for all of us to marry. I accepted that it’s what will be my fate. In my generation 70s –women were pushed hard to get careers and avoid marriage. The result today is many of us both men and women from that time never married. I only wish I’d known how tough it would be to find a partner after 30. Cancer ended my career at 56. I was able to retire with a pension, but the loneliness is real. I learned fast no one wants 50 plus dates or friends around. Date with a purpose while you’re young–you won’t get a second chance later on.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Michael. I really resonate with what you said — “The loneliness is real.” For me, the question becomes, how do I redeem/make the most of/celebrate my life even if or when it includes being single long past the age I thought I was going to be married. I hope you find grace in living that question.

      Sarah

  67. SHOUT IT FROM THE MOUNTIAN TOPS PREACH IT ITS THE TRUTH AND THE TRUTH WILL SET ALL FREE

    THANK YOU LIFE IS TO SHORT NOW WHATS THE SOULUTION NOTICE

    THE WORD SOUL YEAH SO TRUE

  68. Several comments to this article (I am a single, divorced, Christian woman). First, I met my former husband at church. He pursued me to no end. After many tears of prayer (should have been a clue) wanting to know if I should agree to marry him or not, I did. Within a month I learned he was a sex addict and addicted to pornography, cheated and pursued other woman without a second thought of me, who was now raising his daughter from a prior marriage. So much for meeting a guy at church. Second, I personally am weary of the Singles Minister who claims to have lived life in the fast lane, even with their now wife, prior to becoming a Christian, trying to tell singles what they should and should not do because “they learned their own lesson.” Ha! Many church singles I know truly have and are living the single life of celibacy and godliness and would be better teachers to the church singles groups than those who have no idea of the pain, loneliness, separation and frustration we really go through because those ministers have never experienced it. Third, I have been in several different churches over the years having moved three times. In each church I found some very lovely people, single and not, but also found some very arrogant, self-righteous people (all married!!!) who have stolen money from me, gossiped, stole ideas, and excluded me in multiple ways. The interesting fact is they were all women (several — yes several – were the pastors’ wives). Since then, I no longer attend a brick and mortar church. I get my teaching from the Holy Spirit, from selected radio ministries, etc. I am much happier and I can choose my Christian friends without feeling obligated to serve in a mean-spirited environment. Fourth, my most recent experience was this most recent holiday where my new (married) next door neighbors, invited me and my young son, along with my new (married) across the street neighbors, to a holiday event at their church. After greeting everyone when we arrived, it took all of 10 minutes for the division to begin….Marrieds formed a circle and kept talking while I found myself standing alone on the outside of the circle about 5 feet away. Confirmed. No thank you. I’d rather choose the ministries I support from afar. Keep my handful of faithful friends (married and single) outside of a church setting. Create my own ministry/ies for the Lord. And, most of all keep myself from walking into a fire of pain caused by marrieds who think I have leprosy because God did not bless me with a husband. Like others here have said, I am more than a single! I view myself as a child of the King. He knows my worth. He knows my heart. After all, He made me. Until HE tells me to do something different, that is all that matters to me.

  69. Just recently I went to a church near where I live and went to their Sunday School. I did not attend the Worship Service following the class. I must say that I was very impressed with that class.

    A friend of mine told me that he (he’s single also) just go to classes at church and that’s all. At first when he told me that, I thought it was a pretty good idea. But then I thought, I should be attending Worship Services. I spoke to my sister, who just attends a Tuesday Women’s Group at her church, about that. She feels that it’s a good ideal also. She’s married and have two children. She often feels too bogged down with time to be able to attend a Sunday Church service.

    So far, I feel that going to that class was more like an organic Christian experience than just going to the Worship service. I felt a sense of participating and connecting that I never felt in just going to the Worship service. Now I’m thinking I may have hurt myself for decade because I only attended Worship services at various churches and it never worked for me.

    Right now I feel a new twinge of excitement that I have not felt in a long time. For those of you who just attend Worship services and, if you feel that you don’t get anything out of it, perhaps going to classes or groups may work for you.

    1. Thanks, Tom! I’m glad you found that class. I think community can look like a lot of things — not just siting in pews on Sunday morning. I hope you continue to find encouragement and insight there!
      Sarah

  70. Hey- Thank you for sharing your insights. Being single and trying to get plugged in at church is difficult. I especially resonate with the unspoken “worker bee” label we are given as single children of God. I believe that the enemy really wants to cause single people to feel insecure and alone in the church so that the church will wither away and become useless.

  71. I honestly feel sad about this trend in the church. I have so much to give in life, and I have so much faith. I don’t care whether I’m single or married. I ended up pining over a guy in my young adults group who I didn’t realize is gay. I feel like I missed out on a lot by trying to impress this person as he had lofty standards of what he wanted a woman to be. I should have stood up to him, and I encourage people to not make a man into a be all, end all. Because I did this, I wrecked a couple of my best years. I felt the church emphasized the marriage culture. But I wish my younger self had seen what a gem I was to God. I would have really progressed. Now I face another period of singleness, but I look to this phase in my 30’s as a time to be happy. I love being a Christian, I love my life, and the only thing that can wreck that is the misery of feeling like I need a man to be content.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Joan. It sounds like you’ve gained a lot of wisdom (though it came through disappointment and pain.) I hope you’re able to find contentment and people who encourage you to thrive in your singleness, not just survive it!
      Sarah

  72. Thank you. I appreciate reading the posts. I’ve been married for 43 years and a pastor for 26, and have never really been single. My wife and I began dating in high school in 1969 and we’ve been together ever since. Thankfully over the years, several singles have been brave enough to rebuke and correct some of my narrow thinking. There have been singles in my small group for years now, and I love them! I’ve been looking for good resources to serve and minister to singles, but the options appear to be woefully in short supply. And please don’t hear this wrong: almost nothing from men. What I’ve found has either been by women, and they are great, and married men who are giving advice to single men AND women. I think the best resources are right in the local church if we can deploy them. Hospitality, female and males friendships between singles and marrieds. In my thinking the married need to get outside their world and venture into the single’s life instead of requiring singles to live outside theirs. It causes many to be uncomfortable and is too often rooted in the idea that singles have more time. Jesus was single. Paul was single. Peter was married but you’d hardly know it if Jesus hadn’t healed his mother-in-law. On my worst days I’ve wondered if it wouldn’t just be easier if I was single. My wife has probably had the same thoughts. Also, we should make sure singles are a part of leadership teams in enough numbers to make it obvious. Hospitality has a part to play in breaking down some of this wrong thinking. But to be honest, I’ve tried several ideas and the cultural and social norms seem so entrenched that I’ve made little progress. Any thoughts?

    1. Hi, Mark! Thanks for the note. I agree with you that both singleness and marriage have their own (and equal?) share of difficulties. The issue I have is that churches spend lots of energy trying to help married people get through the marital difficulties so they can continue in marriage, thrive, and honor God in that. What resources do churches offer single people to do the same? Not to groom them for marriage, or help them wait out the clock until they find a partner, but truly thriving and using singleness for God’s glory? I have found a lot of encouragement going to an Episcopal church where there’s no such thing as parenting or marriage classes/retreats. It’s just a community of people in lots of different life seasons living life together. I feel like that’s the closest thing to the early church (at least for me!)
      Sarah

    2. Mark,
      I’m a male, 60, never married. I have posted on here previously a few times. I’ve noticed that, in books about being a Christian single, they all seem to be written by women. Hardly any by men. Although there are some articles written by single Christian men for single men. You can go to Google to find it; and look very hard because there are so few.

      I heard one theory from one guy as to why there’s hardly anything written from single men. He said that, “when a man becomes known for writing about that, he would get ribbings from other people”. I can understand that. Though I would find it very interesting to read something from a single man; especially someone around my age who has never been married like me.

      I personally would want to participate in some kind of study, research, and/or to be in an article about being single. I don’t know where to go to make that happen. Perhaps you may know; or others reading on here may know. Mark, you are a married man and never experienced being an adult single. I am glad that you posted on here. It was a pleasure to have read your post.

  73. I’m a single man with bipolar 2 and have two half sleeves so I have come to accept the fact that I will never be on any church’s ‘most wanted’ list. I have, however, started to return fire when church members shoot their self righteous arrows. I really love being lectured about ‘singleness’ from people on their third, fourth or even fifth marriage. My last visit in church resulted in a lady telling me I should repent for my tattoos because my body is a temple. She then getting offended when I asked why she turned her temple into multi-unit housing (she was well over 600lbs). Instead of focusing on married, single, etc…. churches should really start teaching their members how to show love, compassion and actually be more Christ-like to everyone. Maybe then church would become a light in this dark world…

  74. Spot on many points. It is frustrating being single in the church today. I often times wonder if people are deliberately being insensitive or just Flatt out blind and inconsiderate towards singles. Not talking about everyone, but I have had many experiences were I sought prayer by people in the church who I thought were mature believers and week or two later they start rubbing it in my face. like last Sunday someone saw me crying at church and I told her what was going on. She seemed to understand but then Friday after our small group out of no where says to me and two other women ,”isn’t my son and his girlfriend a cute couple? Didn’t they look cute together on stage last week?”… that night I tried to not think much of it..maybe she forgot I’m single and struggling, but its things like that bother me and alnost makes me feel like they’re doing it on purpose. Past example which was more direct was with some one else who later in a one on one conversation was like,”so did you hear so and so are dating,engaged ect.” And I always put on a fake similar but on the inside if I may be honest, I’m thinking” why are you telling ME this?”

Leave a Reply to Helen woods Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *