That Seriously Single Sisterby Camilla Sauder
How the church can reach never-wed women
“How many?” the elder whispers as I sneak in late for service, as usual. I hold up one finger (again), and he ushers me to an open chair. I’m inevitably seated between the doting newlyweds and the families of five beautiful children. *Sigh*
Always being a party of one can be a struggle, especially when we singles feel overlooked by the church. And the reminders of our singularity are particularly poignant Sunday after Sunday, as we raise money for a new children’s wing, hear of an upcoming marriage conference, and see support groups for seemingly every other demographic: those with Alzheimer’s, those whose children are struggling with same-gender attraction, those who are overcoming addiction, etc.
But what about us? What about all the seriously single sisters who can’t seem to snag a husband or start a family? Are there ways for the church to improve at fostering inclusion and support for never-wed women?
IT STARTS FROM THE TOP
1. Create a singles group. Single people just want to have fun with their friends, travel and be free, right? Not usually. Our hearts know this is not what God intended, for "it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). The reality is that singleness is the biggest struggle and deepest heartache in our lives. We need to be surrounded by other believers who understand what we’re going through.
2. Include us. What about instead of addressing just husbands/wives or families from the pulpit, singles were addressed too? Or what about conferences and trips that were aimed for not only those with shiny rings or little ones, but also for those who are solo? What if our pastors and elders created a culture of outstretched arms that reached beyond how many seats we take up in the pew? After all, we are called to a fellowship of all believers (Acts 2:42-47).
3. Provide mentors and counseling. A listening ear, a piece of advice, a shoulder to cry on, and an “I’ve been there” would mean so much. It would be tremendously helpful to have another believer walk alongside us to help pick up the pieces, encourage us, and pray for us. As we know from Ecclesiastes, “If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up” (4:10).
IT’S A GROUP EFFORT
1. Talk to us. This may seem simple, but so often married folks are unsure how to engage us because our lives look so different; we don’t have a spouse or kids to discuss, so what do we do with our time? A lot. Singles are some of the busiest people I know. We’re involved in ministries, volunteer work, hobbies, Bible studies, etc. The truth is, we tend to fill our lives so we aren’t lonely. Ask us about ourselves, and genuinely listen. We like that. “Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
2. Seek to understand our struggle. We need your help. Prolonged singleness is a burden, one often marked by depression, lust, discontentment and worry. Our minds race with questions like: “What’s wrong with me?” and “What if I never marry?” and “What do I do with my sexual desire?” Galatians 6:2 says it best: “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Please take the time to listen and point us to Jesus.
3. Learn how to encourage us. Well-meaning married friends often cite 1 Corinthians 7:7, where Paul talks about how singleness is a gift, allowing us time to focus on God. Of course we know there’s truth to that, but many of us are still looking for the receipt to take this gift back to the store. Most of us feel that it is “better to marry” (1 Corinthians 7:9), and we’re desperately longing for that. Please instead encourage us to “trust in the Lord with all [our] hearts” (Proverbs 3:5), and remind us that “[The Lord] satisfies the longing soul” (Psalm 107:9).
To summarize, we singles just want to be understood, recognized and included in the church. Help us with our real needs and real hurt, and know that like our married cohorts, we desperately need Jesus.
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