I recently came across a question posed on Facebook that intrigued me. The question was whether churches need to scale back the marriage and family focus to attract and keep singles as part of their ministry.
Interesting question. Even more interesting to me were the comments that followed the question.
Given that the ministry asking the question focuses on Christian singles I was interested to see what they would have to say in response. Especially because I know that these singles do struggle at times to find their place in the local church.
As I read through the comments, I read comment after comment from these other single people who did not think the church should scale back the marriage and family focus to keep them as part of the local church. That they should rather include singles in all that is happening within the church. That response was the overwhelming consensus. And I agree.
The church should not scale back marriage and family focus to attract and keep singles. That does leave an interesting dilemma though. In the midst of important teaching about and support for marriages and families, how do we help singles feel welcome and a valuable part of our church families?
I don't know if it's a question that has an easy answer, because every church, every family, every single is unique.
When I look around my church on any given weekend, the number of singles does seem to be disproportionately small compared to the number of singles in the general population - at least when it comes to those older than college and university students.
In a culture where marriage and family are under attack, I don't think the church can afford to scale back on the marriage and family focus. It is needed. It is vital.
That leaves a balance that needs to be found. Even while having a marriage and family focus, as a church we can still make singles feel like a welcomed and valued part of our church families. But it takes work from both sides. As singles there are things the church can do to help us. But there are also things singles need to do. It's a two-way street here.
I think the most important thing all of us can do is look at our local church as a family. We talk that way often, but we really live like we believe it? Within our families, we don't usually separate people according to age or marital status and keep them from interacting with each other. If we begin to really see our churches as families it can become easier to make singles feel welcome whatever the focus.
Honestly, as a single who has moved beyond my early to mid-twenties, I just want to be included in the regular church ministries - whether that is women's ministry or small groups or anything else happening. To me that's part of being a family.
I want to be part of Bible studies with people who are at different stages of life than me, because I can learn a lot from what they say. There really is only so much I can learn from people whose lives look exactly the same as mine.
I need to hear what people older than me and younger than me have to say. I need to hear what married people have to say. And I hope I can share things in those groups that other people need to hear.
Marriage and family need to be talked about and taught about. But much of life following God doesn't change whether you are married or single. The same truths apply. So why do we often segregate people by whether they are married or not? We can learn from one another by being together when we talk about things.
I really don't think there is any reason for churches to scale back their marriage and family focus just because of single people. Rather, what needs to happen is a balance that makes everyone feel welcome no matter their age or marital status. A welcoming of all people into all aspects of church life. Everyone of us is looking to feel welcome and valued for who we are.
Every person who walks through the doors of our church gatherings is important regardless of their marriage status. We need to be making them all feel welcome and valuable as part of the family they are walking into.