Recently, I read an article titled, “Why Do Churches Treat Singleness Like A Problem” in which the author shared how her church treats singles almost as though they are outcasts. Churches that separate their congregation based on age/stage-of-life don’t know what to do with single adults; we don’t fit with the college crowd, but the next step up is young married couples. Where do singles fit in? How can singles serve the body in their singleness?
Growing up in the church, I’ve heard both extremes from “you won’t believe how God will use you once you are married” to “the apostle Paul says being single is best”. During college, and for a few years following, I was in that time when it seemed like everyone I knew was getting married. And those that were already married started having kids. For a time, I longed to get married; sometimes I wanted it so badly, I would physically ache. Well-intentioned friends would tell me that “it will happen in God’s time” or “I met my spouse as soon as I stopped looking.” I got asked what I was doing to prepare for marriage, and reminded that God had to get me and my future husband to the point we were both ready for marriage. While (some of) these things might be true, they honestly weren’t helpful. What I was missing was someone telling me how to be content, how to thrive, as a single woman. I didn’t have anyone helping learn how to live in the “waiting room” (yes, one friend called singleness the “waiting room”).
Why is singleness treated as second-best? The “waiting room”? Seriously? Do we, as a church body, think that God can’t use single adults, or that He doesn’t give gifts until we are married? I attended one church (for a short time) in which single adults only served in the nursery. Teaching Sunday School classes, children’s church, or Bible studies (no matter the age group), was only asked of married couples. Since joining Redeemer Presbyterian Church, I have been given numerous opportunities to serve the body using my singleness. As a result, I have discovered that being a single adult gives me a freedom to serve in ways that married adults would find more difficult.
My freedom has allowed me to serve in everyday, simple ways. Being free to house/pet sit for a week, and driving families to/from the airport so they don’t have to leave their car are just two of a number of ways that I have been able to serve families in my church. As a single adult, I don’t have to worry about loading up the kids to drive someone to the airport; I don’t have to compare schedules with a spouse when someone needs a house sitter. One family called and asked me to babysit with one day’s notice because their scheduled sitter canceled. Serving in these ways would be more difficult (if not impossible) if I had a spouse and kids.
The freedom of singleness has also allowed me to serve the body by taking an active role in children’s ministry. As shocking as this might sound, singles do know a thing or two about working with and ministering to children. Because my pastors and elders didn’t dismiss me as a single adult, nor tell me that God would use me when I got married, I have experienced the amazing freedom of God’s grace in serving some of our youngest members. I have been allowed to discover the gifts that God has given me and use those gifts within the church. These opportunities have helped me thrive as a single adult.
Singleness is not a “waiting room” where we sit and do nothing, waiting for something better to come along. Nor is it something to just get through. We should not simply accept singleness with the attitude of “well, this is where God has me now so I’d better be content.” Rather, we should be thriving in singleness, serving the body in ways that only single adults can, and looking for everyday, simple ways that our singleness makes us free to serve. Pastors, elders, and leaders can help by providing numerous and various opportunities for singles to serve within the church, allowing single adults to serve in whatever area they are gifted.