Only Couples Allowed? The Need to Celebrate Singleness in the Church.

March 19, 2013 — 12 Comments

Over the past few weeks, we have had three HOPE staff members get engaged. I am absolutely thrilled for them. They each met a special person. They each have a fantastic engagement story. They each are about to enter an incredible lifelong journey and learn about mutual service.

1169452_rings_for_wedding

But I think it’s time to also celebrate singleness.

A few days ago, a friend of mine referenced a single friend of ours.  “Jane is such a nice person,” he said, “I just hope she finds her special someone soon.”

I’ve often heard these comments. And I’m sure people who are single hear them regularly.  Well-intentioned, the underlying message being sent to singles in Christian community is this—If you are single, you are incomplete. Life is on pause until you’ve met your spouse.

But I see a different story in Scripture. Jesus chose to remain single. Another bachelor, the apostle Paul said, “I wish that all of you were [single] as I am” (1 Corinthians 7:7). Paul celebrated singleness and referred to it as a gift.  At the very least, in today’s world, let’s not put so much pressure on singles or only view the world through the “you-have-to-be-married” lens.

To my married friends, here are several dos and don’ts on how to celebrate singleness:

Please don’t …

  • Treat singles as if something’s wrong with them.  In the Church, sometimes we make people feel something’s wrong if you don’t get married within 10 years after graduation. Reject the lie that being a Christian means you have kids and a spouse.
  • Let dating monopolize conversations. Interact as friends, and don’t lead every conversation with “have you met anyone yet?”
  • Pretend you understand what it’s like to be single. Yes, you were single once. But being single for a few years doesn’t make you the expert today.

Please do …

  • Value their voice. The Church can be the loneliest place for singles.  That could explain why so few singles attend. They are relegated to singles groups – where the preoccupation is dating, rather than growing in Christ.  We need their voices, and they are an invaluable member of our community.
  • Celebrate milestones.  “Adult” milestonesbridal showers, bachelor parties, and baby showers—exclude singles. Why not throw a single person a birthday party or celebrate their promotion at work?  Or just find a way to make them feel special and valued?
  • Invite singles on Friday nights, not just weekday small group.  Weekends can be a low point for singles whose married friends prefer “couples only” activities. Invest in your single friends. Invite them to be part of your social world, especially on weekends.

Bottom line: Being married is not the ultimate goal of life.  Being a faithful follower of Jesus is—and that can be done whether we are married or single.


12 responses to Only Couples Allowed? The Need to Celebrate Singleness in the Church.

  1. thank you Peter! :) this seems ridiculous even to say but i especially loved the “celebrate milestones” point. i can’t tell you how many wedding gifts, bridal/engagement/baby showers, baby gender reveal parties, 1st, 2nd & 3rd little kids birthday parties, not to mention bringing new moms meals when they have their babies i have participated in over the years…i’m in my mid-30′s so suffice it to say, it’s been a lot! and i’ve been more than happy to be a part of these moments, to genuinely rejoice with my beloved friends as their families have expanded, as they have found their special someone, etc.

    however, i’m often left after those events feeling like unless all those things happen in my life, there isn’t much about my life as a single that others see as worth celebrating. this is especially true living in Lancaster County where people get married a lot younger than the national average and you’re looked at as odd/weird/what’s wrong with you when married people realize you aren’t married “at your age.” again, i feel ridiculous even saying this and also want to say that 90% of the time i am happy, living life to the fullest, pouring myself into my job, serving my church and family, etc. but at the same time, i can’t tell you what it would mean if even one of my married friends would just acknowledge that i’m worth celebrating, even if i’m single for the rest of my life. anyway, i appreciate your sensitivity towards this growing group of people. this was a great article!

    • Thanks for sharing, Lily. I appreciate your honesty and openness, and I hope that more and more people will recognize the value of celebrating singleness in the Church!

  2. thanks Peter. I kind of suck at this. Great reminder!

  3. Daniel McDonald March 19, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Thank you for these simple directives. I am a single unmarried bachelor of 57 years of age. I suppose some of us are single by choice, probably most especially in Evangelical circles are single not so much planned as by the way things developed circumstantially. We don’t need segregated, we often do need encouraged. At the time of my conversion when I was in high school being raised in a fairly Catholic area although s child of lapsed Protestants I read the Scriptures and knew that celibacy was one of the callings and it seemed to me whether through God’s prompting or just messed up theology it seemed that the one thing that stood between me and coming to faith was whether or not I would be willing if God so chose to live a celibate life. Your directives are extremely helpful for all Christians living in the estate of singleness. I would add that one would do well to point out to married people and single people the advantages as well as disadvantages of the single life. They are both there in I Corinthians 7. I would encourage ministers reading this to encourage single people to make the most of their singleness while they are single for spiritual causes. This will be a win-win sort of ministry. If they serve the Lord well as singles, they will probably make very good mates if God calls them into marriage. If they serve the Lord well in singleness and they never marry then they will receive their eternal blessings and anything viewed as temporary loss will be fully understood as eternal gain.

    • Thanks, Daniel! I’m glad you were encouraged by the post, and as you mentioned, it would be great if pastors would preach more about the value and struggles of singleness to their congregations. Great point! May God continue to bless you as you serve.

  4. Thank you for this message! I’m a young woman who feels no call to get married anytime in the near future, if at all, but I always feel like I get the “sure, sure, for now…” nod when I say this. People seem to forget that it’s possible to remain single and serve God at the same time.

    • Thanks for sharing that, Kathy. I’m sorry you have often been treated as if you’re not fully living out your faith being unmarried. I hope that mentality changes in the church! Again, thanks for your honesty and desire to serve the Lord.

  5. Peter – Apostle Paul would not be welcome in many churches today. He would stand in a stark contrast to a culture that idolizes marriage and family and material possessions while neglecting the least among us and those who have been called to the single life. John Morgan, St. Paul’s Call International

    • John – thank you for your comment and I thought of Kyle Idleman’s book Gods at War. In it, he writes about the idols of family and finances and their prevalence in our modern church.

  6. I’m 38 , still single but I also can’t have kids . What angers me are church people and their ” well God has a plan for your life ” – or ” God has other plans ” I’m sorry am I not free to plan my own life or make plans of my own . Are church people incredibly stupid when it comes to singles . Why is it that we are to be like Paul and serve God um are marrieds excluded from serving God um I think not !

    Also church people need to shut up with this idea that being single is a calling ! It’s the lack of single worthwhile men is why many are women are single .

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Celebrating singleness – 1 Corinthians 7:25-40 | Let's Talk About Sunday - May 28, 2014

    […] most of which I read in the sermon.  Thank you Lisa Bartelt for sharing Peter Greer’s article.  Peter shares some great thoughts about how our culture can be so wrapped up with the milestones […]

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