“I am 36 and single, and I would like it if the church devoted a little more attention to single people. So that I feel more addressed and that church members consider me, and other singles, as full. Is this a realistic question? And if so, how do I raise it?"
It's a recognisable question! Many singles feel that church is mostly about marriage and family. Not surprising when you consider that in many municipalities families make up a large part of the membership base.
Yet the number of singles is growing, also in the church. Think of people who become widows or widowers, and people who separate. But there are also men and women who have never been married.
Not a substitute
I recently had an interesting conversation after one of my workshops. “I hear a lot of people here saying that churches should look after singles more,” said a thoughtful middle-aged lady. The lady did not want to say that the church cannot do more for singles. "But," she said, "what I miss in those stories is the realisation that the church cannot be a substitute for marriage."
How do you want to be seen?
I recognised her point. I welcome the fact that singles are increasingly making themselves heard in churches. I think this is necessary to be heard. And I think it is realistic to expect to do this multiple times, and in multiple ways, before you actually start to see change. It's not enough to say, "I want to be seen more." It's important to state how you want to be seen. Show what you miss, what you need. For example, do you want your pastor to pray concretely for a partner for you? Or for peace with being single? Or thank you for how happy you are with being single?
What do you want?
It is also important to indicate what you need as a single. Do you want discussion groups on the topic? Do you miss specific education on how to form relationships? Report it! It is also good to look at what you can contribute yourself. Not only what you miss is important, but also what you have to bring with your background and talents. The best single initiatives I've seen in churches have been started by singles themselves.
But I also recognise that daily reality is unruly. And that in the end the church should not be a solution for being single. If you are struggling with being single (and indeed if you are struggling with your marriage when you are married), ultimately with your loneliness and your need for intimacy you need to be with God. However difficult that is. The church is not everything, God is (John 14: 6). So yes, the demand to be considered more of a full-fledged single in the church is absolutely realistic. The answer begins by seeing yourself as complete - through God's eyes.
Aukelien Van Abbema is a singles and couples counsellor, public speaker, and successful author, including the title Dare to Date.
Helping people with Christian dating, relationships, singleness in church, dating in church, loneliness, connectedness, christian connection, healthy relationships.