To my surprise, I’ve remained single far longer than I ever expected or wanted to. As the years have progressed, I have found myself increasingly challenged by the need for answers to the tough things I was facing. Unfortunately, resources to help me and those like me have been few.
It is good for us to want others in our lives whom we love and who love us. But I have found it difficult, as a single, to sustain the level of relationship with other people I believe God wants me to have.
Various barriers inhibit this, and He wants to remove them. He wants to open the floodgates to abundantly meet the relational needs of singles today.
And there are a lot of us! According to the 2000 United States Census, 46 percent of American adults are single. Whether or not your church mirrors the national norm, it probably looks and feels like a “couples church.”
We need to adjust this unintentional imbalance to better reflect who we truly are as God’s people. Bridging this gap is one of the most important things we can do to make the church a family.
Admittedly, some aspects of the traditional singles ministry model can hinder singles from connecting more fully to the church and from having our relational needs better met. If we remove the elements of singles ministry that separate singles from the church generally and from couples specifically, we will take a step toward opening the doors to more diverse ways of meeting the legitimate relational needs of all singles.
Ordinarily, the social circle of singles diminishes as we age and friends marry. The gap between singles and couples distances singles from half the population, cutting the pool from which old friends are kept and new friends are made.
This gap also hinders our experience of community within the church body. If a church feels like a “couples church,” singles may feel unwelcome at church functions that are typically viewed as family-centered.
Singles who do not like attending singles functions can feel even more isolated. They don’t want to be separated out with just other singles, and they may not feel that they fit in with couples.
It is going to take work on the part of both singles and couples to overcome these things. As singles, we need to be willing to push our way in, despite feeling out of place. Couples need to be willing to pull singles in and expand their own dimensions beyond family life.
God Sets the Solitary in Families
Scripture indicates that the existing divide between marrieds and singles is not on God’s blueprint, but that He is the architect of a beautiful bridge. One of the most obvious passages to illustrate God’s heart on this matter is in Psalm 68:6, which says, “God sets the solitary in families” (NKJV).
Among the most touching examples God has given us is the account of Jesus making provision for His mother shortly before He died on the cross. This is what we find in John 19:26-27: “When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ From that hour the disciple took her into his own household” (NASB).
Another thing we see from Jesus’ life is that even though His mother and other relatives were still alive, He had a special “family-like” relationship with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Jesus, as a single man, was ministered to by being meaningfully included in the lives of these two sisters and their brother (John 11:1-44).
Jesus further expanded the definition of family when He made it clear that we are related to Him through obedience to the Father: “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:50).
He also told us we are related to one another as family through our relationship to Him: “There is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children” (Mark 10:29-30).
The Bible speaks of the deep value in friendship, sometimes even in contrast to family ties. Proverbs 18:24 says, “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Proverbs 27:10 reads this way in the Amplified Bible, “Your own friend and your father’s friend, forsake them not; neither go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near [in spirit] than a brother who is far off [in heart].”