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Feb11ThuFive ways to include those who aren’t married. February 11, 2021 by Captain Jaclyn Wynne
I’ve come to believe that the church with the best singles’ ministry is the church that does not have one. Meaning, while there may be value in offering some events geared toward specific groups on occasion, we can and should integrate singles into our overall ministries. Failure to do so robs our communities of unique and valuable perspectives and mutual hospitality.
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The number of single-person households has doubled over the last 35 years, according to a CBC article from March 2019. The fastest growing age group of people living alone is 35-64 years. In fact, single-person households are now the most common type of household. Of course, not all those considered single households are unattached adults, but these numbers indicate a shift in our society’s focus on marriage and family over the last three decades.
The church has been slow to adjust to this growing trend, continuing to focus on marriage and family as the ultimate goal. Singles seem to be an afterthought and are expected to find meaning and community with other singles in the church, whether or not they have any other common ground.
Sometimes I have experienced anxiety in having to attend large events such as officer retreats or church-related banquets or events alone. Well-meaning friends and family suggest finding other singles to sit with at these events. However, often the only thing we have in common is our marital status.
We must realize that the single experience varies widely from person to person and includes those who have never been married, people who are divorced, people whose spouse has died, singles with children and without, and differing gender identities. There are even those who may not be technically single but experience their spirituality and life in the church as a single, because their partner does not share the same beliefs. The one thing that unites all these groups is the fact that the church can be a lonely place for a single adult.
We can’t address the entire experience of singles in the church in one article. So, what can we do as a starting point, both as individuals and the greater body? Here are some suggestions based on my own experience with being single in the church.
1. When we are once again able to host community gatherings such as meals or seminars that involve table seating, set an odd number around the tables. A simple gesture like this can alleviate some awkwardness for your single attendees.
2. When you notice someone coming into a worship service alone, extend the invitation to sit with you and your family. This can help the person feel more at ease and be able to enter fully into worship. For many, it is easier to attend events with someone, and when this is not possible, the invitation to sit with you might make the difference in that person coming back.
3. Invite your single members to participate in Sunday worship, and be particularly inclusive at special times such as Advent, Christmas and Easter. We tend to focus only on
family participation on special Sundays, but single adults can contribute to worship as well.
4. Be mindful of your comments. While it is OK for married people to say things like, “I did not know what tired was before I had kids,” be sure to keep the focus on your own experience without projecting it onto someone else by saying something like, “You’re single with no kids—how could you possibly be tired?” For a single person who may suffer from something such as chronic fatigue, comments like this can dismiss the very real experience of a debilitating illness, and potentially be a painful reminder of dreams they had for a family that just did not work out the way they had hoped.
5. Offer to bring a meal to your single friends during stressful periods. When people are under stress, one of the first things that tends to happen is we forget to eat or have no energy to prepare meals. We often do this for families experiencing stress, such as the death of a loved one, job loss, etc. This is a simple act that you could do for a single friend as well.
A church that is effectively ministering in a community should reflect the demographic, and the church can’t continue to ignore the presence of single adults in its midst or treat them as a problem to be fixed.
Captain Jaclyn Wynne is the corps officer at Erin Mills Corps in Mississauga, Ont.
Photo: Prixel Creative/Lightstock.com
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