“Single” is often a dirty word thrown around churches. It’s not that they aren’t loved or welcomed, but often people in leadership don’t know what to do with them. The honest truth is that most of our church ministries and resources are focused on families.
Women’s ministries tend to be a microcosm of the larger issue facing churches as a whole. What do we do with the single women? We have groups for mothers with children of every age range, we have groups for retired women, we have niche groups for women who like to craft or be hospitable, but we often find that the single women tend to be the ones who are unengaged.
In an effort to be transparent, I’ll tell you that I am married with a child, but that wasn’t always the case. I was one of those “singles” well into my thirties. Even though I find there are many ways for me to engage in church ministries now, it hasn’t always been that easy, and I find myself being sensitive towards the plight of the single woman who loves Jesus and His church, but doesn’t always feel like she belongs.
Now my experience has not been every single woman’s experience, and there are some churches out there that absolutely rock at making single people feel loved and included. But if you think you might not be one of those churches, allow me to share a few ways you can better include the single women in your women’s ministry.
Don’t Exile Or Pigeon Hole Them
As a single, God-loving, lady in my late twenties and beyond I had two realistic options for where I could plug in at church, the College & Career group or the Singles group. The women’s groups were fine, but everything was so marriage and mom centered.
As a woman who had been paying taxes for years, was well past the age where she wanted or needed a roommate to help split the rent, had traveled the world and was well into a second or even third “career”, the last place I wanted to spend my time was with college students. I liked them as people, but they were not my peers and I felt insulted being lumped in with them because I wasn’t married.
But that left me with an equally disturbing option, the Singles group. If you attend a smaller church, that could include everyone from the kid who just graduated from high school to the awkward “confirmed bachelor” in his 60’s. In a larger church you generally have the advantage of being grouped by age range, 20’s, 30’s, etc. But honestly, at that point it’s little more than a meat market.
Don’t get me wrong, churches should encourage and foster opportunities for Believers to meet in a healthy setting, but please don’t make me feel like I’m on the last life raft slowly sinking into an ocean of loneliness.
Single people want to feel like there is a place for them in the life of the church just like everyone else. Unfortunately in some churches that is just not the reality. In fact, I had a pastor go so far as to tell me that their focus was on families with young kids, if I wanted to be ministered to as a single person I should go to another church and return when I got married and had kids. No, I am not making that up.
Single people want to feel like they are a needed and welcomed part of the congregation, not someone to be pitied and hidden, or even worse, banished.
Understand That They Want To Be With Other Women, And Not Just Single Ones
As a married woman, I love hanging out with my single friends. They help break me out of my routine and give me things to talk about other than husbands and kids. When I was single, I loved hanging out with my married friends. They helped show me that the grass is not always greener on the married side and reminded me of all the awesome stuff I was able to do as a single person. Plus they let me hold their cute babies and then give them back when they started crying.
I also loved hanging out with older and wiser women. I needed (and still need) that reminder that life is short and the troubles I’m facing today won’t last forever.
Women, of all ages and marital statuses, need each other. We need to be reminded that we were also created in the image of God (Gen 1:27). That we have a role and calling in the Kingdom of God, as women, but also as disciples.
And on that topic, single women want to be discipled by older women. It doesn’t matter if she’s married or single, it just matters that she actually wants to invest the time to pray, encourage and challenge her towards Godliness. And let that single woman disciple someone, not just the teen girls. If you can trust her with an accurate handling of the Scriptures then you can trust her with any lady in your church.
Explore How They Will Feel Most Invited, Included and Considered
Now this one might actually require you to gather a few of your single ladies and ask them how you can help them engage.
They might shed some light on issues you didn’t even know were issues, like perhaps all of your speakers for events for the last two years have spoken on topics surrounding being a wife or mother. You don’t have to dedicate an entire event to singleness, but it would be nice to have a balanced view of womanhood represented. After all, our end goal is not to be better wives and mothers, our chief end (as the Westminster Catechism reminds us) is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
Maybe the single women in your church actually like the women’s ministry, but they would really like to gather more than quarterly or semi-annually. Consider allowing them the freedom and flexibility to meet outside of the regularly scheduled events. Encourage them to own a part of the ministry, especially your older single ladies who have a heart to mentor and cheer on the younger single ladies. Let them know that there is a place in leadership for them. In fact, if you don’t have a single person on any of your leadership teams, this might be the time to make that happen. If they don’t have a seat of the table, how will they feel represented in the church?
Perhaps your single ladies will come up with completely different ideas than these, but if you take the time to meet with them and truly listen, they will know that you care and want them to feel loved and included.