Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Single at church: an open letter to all the married churchgoers and pastors out there

A few years ago I was talking to a single woman who was in her late 30s and seemed very self-assured and confident in her singleness and I saw her become more emotional than I had ever seen her before when she said that the hardest part of being single was going to church every Sunday. Going in, seeing happy families, couples sitting together, announcements about couples is absolutely FULL of reminders of the relationship status that single people don't have.

Now, I'm not saying that it's bad for churches to be couple and family friendly, but I think that the attitudes displayed toward single people in the church often make us feel somewhat alienated. For example:

  • Couples sitting together - where is the verse in the Bible that says that married men and women must always sit next to each other every single service? Don't you guys get enough of each other already? Come on! Split up once in a while SIT next to a single person, widow, or divorcee....I know there is the "meet and greet" time, but there is a major difference between saying hi real quick to someone who sits alone during the fellowship time versus actually sitting next to someone who generally sits alone. 
  • Token sermon segments - Oh man, if there is anything that gets me riled up as a single person, it is when pastors do sermons on marriage and realize they need to throw something out there for the single people, so they do one or both of the following - a) "if you're single, this is still a valuable message to you as you figure out what you should look for in a spouse". What if we never want to get married? What about people who just got out of messy divorces and need to stay away from relationships for a while? What about the people who, just through the way life goes, will never find the right person? There HAS to be more pastors can offer than a caveat that might potentially help singles eventually. Plus, it always makes me feel like I'm in this weird limbo state where I'm not really meaningful until I get married and deal with life issues that dominate a good chunk of some pastor's teachings.  - b) the message to singles is completely about abstaining from sex. Great, just the message I want to hear - legalitarian, implying that as a single person I am especially drawn to licentious activities, and above all else, it just reminds us of the lack of physical intimacy that tends to pervade single people's lives, or makes us feel guilty for times we may have strayed into "sexual immorality." What....a....downer.  Come on. There HAS to be more valuable lessons for singles that can be shared from the pulpit - ones that encourage and build us up rather than making us feel super guilty or that we are missing something of vital importance in our life experience.
  • the "God's not done preparing you for your spouse" argument - Oh man, this is the worst. Do not tell me that the reason God hasn't brought someone into my life is because I'm not ready. How do you know that? How come you can speak for God? How do you know God doesn't want to use my singleness for his glory? Were you in the most perfect relationship with God when he brought your spouse into the picture? Maybe God hasn't brought someone into my life because he wants me to have the time to spend building relationships with others, volunteering, and having the flexibility to be used as He desires rather than potty training toddlers and doing laundry (not that a wife's duties aren't very important...but they aren't the only or most important thing a woman can do with her time - every situation is different).  This argument just always seems like judgment to me - people telling me I must have some sin issues that God is punishing me for by not giving me a husband til I get everything straightened out. That's insulting.
Ok, that's my rant. I know my emotions are probably skewing some of the rationale I use, but I think it's vital for pastors and couples to recognize the way we single people feel perceived at times.  


  1. I completely relate to everything you've said and really wish more people were able to consider the idea that being married is not the highest calling in life.
    It's good to know that someone else understands how I've felt for a long time.

  2. Wait until you're in your early 40s as I am and still have not gotten married. It doesn't improve.

    I've seen online commentary by never married Christians who are in their 50s who say it's bad at that age too - not just the singleness, but the judgments and assumptions other Christians make about them.