by Lore Ferguson
Bloomberg highlighted a study recently, citing that “single Americans (16+) make up more than half of the adult population for the first time since the government began compiling such statistics in 1976.” The Church cannot afford to ignore—or bypass—this demographic in their current narrative. It’s not a mark of deficiency or a blemish to be single, but it can feel like it in the somewhat glaring omissions. Paul said singleness was good. I think singleness is good. Many singles love their singleness. We should be encouraging godly marriages, yes, but we should also be giving singles land to till.
Leaders, here’s how you can give singles land to till:
1. Stop expecting them to have more time/money than married couples. I understand it is often the case, but if we’re taking seriously the radical gift of singleness as Paul laid it out (lives devoted to the Lord), we’re going to have less, not more. We’re going to be crafting a lifestyle that isn’t making the stuff of earth our great treasure. Stop giving big discounts to married couples for conferences and leaving singles to pay more. It legitimizes the feeling that we’re less, not more and yet have more, not less. An unmarried person who truly is caring for the things of the Lord will have pockets inside out spending their time and finances on Kingdom things.
2. Don’t assume that because we haven’t experienced marriage we don’t have good things to teach married persons. The true aim of a disciple is to live a life submitted to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Though submission for a married person looks different than for an unmarried person, trust me here, unmarried persons should be (and are) practicing submission in a more universal, and eternal, way. That’s a pulpit worth sharing. While we in the modern Church spend most of our listening time hearing from marrieds, it’s worth noting that Christ was single, and Paul seemed to have been. Be careful to not equate marriage with maturity.
3. Battle divorce by helping singles find godly spouses. Do you know unmarried people who want to be married? Who feel their ministry would be strengthened and better within the context of marriage? Help them. Help them, Church. Singles Ministries aren’t the answer if we want to encourage integrated local churches, but it is a good work to help godly singles meet and marry. In the absence of help they’re going to go outside the Church to find partners. God help us, and they do. Nearly every one of my single friends is on some online dating service. I’m not saying the tool isn’t useful, but it seems to me we’re doing singles a great disservice to not provide a context for singles to meet one another. Small groups don’t work because by their very nature they’re small and the pool is usually limited to less than five other singles. Don’t be afraid of matchmaking or thinking strategically about potential couples. Help them.
4. Reframe your idea of biblical womanhood and manhood again and again and again until what you actually have is a biblical believer in Christ Jesus. Until we have human flourishing at the base of our teachings on roles, we will bang our heads against this wall. The aim is never to be a caricature of a woman or man, it is to preach Christ crucified by living a life fully crucified to our flesh, submitting all rights, nailing autonomy to the Cross: that is the true role of biblical men and women, married or unmarried.