Pew for One: How Is the Church Responding to Growing Number of Singles? by S. Hamaker

Pew for One: How Is the Church Responding to Growing Number of Singles?

This link below is from 2012 but is as timely as ever. This will still be pertinent and relevant 20 years from now because I predict the whole of American Christianity will still be failing singles into the future.

(Link): Pew for One: How Is the Church Responding to Growing Number of Singles? by Sarah Hamaker

How are they responding? Not very well, that’s how.

Most churches continue to ignore singles, except for the sliver who note we exist but who blame and shame us for being single (as I have blogged about before, with links to examples).

Though I must disagree with the person quoted in the article who said, “church is for women.” No, it’s not.

Women are more marginalized at church than males are. Oh yes, they are, more so than males, click here and read this for an explanation.

Males run all churches. Women are barred from leadership in most churches.

It is breath-taking when Baptists and other denominations bar women from leading, preaching, and teaching…

But then these same Christian males (and a handful of the females who support sexism in churches under the names of “biblical womanhood,” and “gender complementarianism”), complain, moan, and gripe in their books and blogs that “Christianity is too feminized, it is feminizing men, and Christianity is not masculine enough.”

Yeah? If that is so, whose fault it is?

Why, it’s the men who are at fault.

You males prohibit women from leading, preaching or having any meaningful input in churches, yet you have the nerve to complain that church is “too feminine”? It is to laugh.

Preacher John Piper wrote some time ago that he believes that “Christianity is masculine.”

This Piper has many nutty views about women which I shall not get into here, but anyway, if you google for it, you can find many pages about his belief that “Christianity is masculine.”

Here is one page of a million on the issue:
(Link): Piper’s ‘Masculine Christianity’ Actually Emasculates

And goodness help you if you are a never-married and childless woman in Christian circles, because you are the lowest of the low on the totem pole in churches, even below the single males.

(Link): Pew for One: How Is the Church Responding to Growing Number of Singles? by Sarah Hamaker

    • February 29, 2012

One can be the loneliest number, especially in the church. Today, there are more singles in the United States than at any other time in history – 43.6 percent of the U.S. adult population are unmarried, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

“The number of single adults in the United States has been rapidly approaching the number of married adults, and this is an unprecedented culture shift that is dramatic,” says Barry Danylak, author of Redeeming Singleness. “This is not an American phenomena – it is seen in nearly all of the modernized and industrialized nations.”

The church, long welcoming to married with children congregants, has been slower to adjust to this demographic shift.
“At least 80 percent of every denomination do not have a targeted ministry to single adults,” says Dennis Franck, national director for Single Adult/Young Adult Ministries for the Assemblies of God denomination, headquartered in Springfield, Mo.
“However, the majority of churches are not trying to exclude singles, but they are more marriage and family focused, which means singles are not acknowledged very often.”

The Rev. Alan Fretto, a single senior in Danbury, Conn., points out, “The church is geared toward children, women and couples. There is very little in most churches for singles, and yet singles dominate the church population. Singles need to be encouraged and included in the process of the church, and should be considered a valuable asset to the church.”

Readjusting Focus

Many churches have yet to formally acknowledge singles in their midst, either with targeted ministries or inclusion in preaching or teaching illustrations and examples.
“Some churches are certainly aware of this demographic, but other churches are almost impervious to it,” says Danylak. “The church focuses on marriage and family, with the expectation that by focusing on family, you’re encouraging singles to get married.”

One reason churches have not adopted singles ministries across the board has been the diversity of this demographic – singles in their 20s/30s; single parents and their families; single divorced adults; or widows and widowers.

“Some churches are targeting one category, but that’s not the majority of the churches,” says Franck. “Part of my job is helping churches understand how to try to reach these groups because you can’t shove all these single segments into the same group.”

“Churches need to realize they can’t do a one-size-fits-all approach to singles ministry,” agrees Danylak. “The strategy for the church is to think about different reasons singles look for support in their particular circumstances and then design a support structure that will draw them into the larger body.”

John Card, single life pastor at the Second Baptist Church Woodway campus in Houston, says his church makes an effort to reach singles. “When I came as the single life pastor 4½ years ago, we didn’t have a very big singles ministry for those in their 30s, but now it’s one of the fastest-growing ministries we have because people are getting married later or are divorced,” he says. “We see a need and do everything we can to fulfill that need in our city.”

Single Challenges

Many churches think singles need a different approach when in reality many singles want the same things as couples and families: strong preaching and teaching, and fellowship with other believers.

….”Single adults have a big need for healthy friendships with men and women,” adds Franck. “One challenge of the church is to connect single adults to each other and to the greater church body. Single people don’t always want to be excluded or segregated all the time.

The church also should make an effort to meet singles where they are in their lives, much like it does with couples and families. “Many of the young singles are in a transitional period, wrestling with things like are they supposed to be married right now, is this job right for me, etc.,” says Card. “We try to understand that’s what’s going on and help them through our ministry.”

Single Expectations

Churches think that unmarried congregants have different expectations about church, when what’s often lacking in the church is an acknowledgment of the singles in their midst. “The Bible has a lot to say about friendships and dating, marriage and sexuality, but those are issues the church does not teach on from a single adult perspective,” says Franck.

Singles do not want to feel stigmatized by the church and its activities. “When I was working at a Christian nonprofit, teaching a weekly children’s Bible study, and attending church regularly, I alternated between desperate hopefulness that the much-advertised joy would show up some day soon and desperate misery that it never would. What I ultimately came to expect from church was false wish-fullness inevitably resulting in disappointment,” says Leslie Carbone, a single from Boston.

“Singles should be welcomed and respected by the church in their single state,” says Danylak.

But more often, churches, whether inadvertently or purposefully, do not convey this message from the pulpit or through its members.

Couples in the church also play a part in reaching this demographic, a fact that married congregants can overlook.

“Couples of the church always think that singles have more time than they do, and that singles should therefore do more in the church,” says Fretto. “Granted, singles have the opportunity to manage their own time different than families, but couples have each other to divide the chores and work of the household, while singles have to complete the household tasks with no help from their spouse.”

The church needs to re-evaluate its relationship with singles, especially in light of the increasing numbers of unmarried adults. “The church reverts to an over-emphasis on marriage as a one-size-fits-all solution, but biblical singleness is a solution, too, and we should preach and teach both,” says Danylak.

Churches that do not begin to embrace singles may find themselves with dwindling congregations in the years to come. “It’s imperative that churches become inclusive to single and single again people. Historical attitudes have changed and now singleness has become totally acceptable in society, but in our churches, singles still sometimes feel left out,” says Franck.

Sidebar: Single Stats

99.6 million unmarried adults are age 18 and older, which is 43.6 percent of the U.S. population in 2010.

44.9 percent of unmarried adults age 18 and older are women.

61 percent of adults in this demographic have never married; 23.8 percent of adults are divorced; and 14.4 percent of adults are widowed.

16.4 million unmarried adults are age 65 and older, with the elderly comprising 16.5 percent of unmarried singles ages 18 and older.

There are 88 unmarried men age 18 and older for every 100 unmarried women in the same age category.

59.1 million households are maintained by unmarried men/ women, which is 45 percent of all households nationwide.

31.4 million people live alone, which is 27 percent of all households. That’s up from 17 percent in 1970.

Source: America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2010 U.S. Demographics

Here are some good comments by other people on that page:

by ruis2002

    • 11:03 AM on February 05, 2014

I think singles-specific programs have value, but I wish the church would stop segmenting the congregation so much by age and marital status.

I see a lot of churches arrange their Sunday School classes around age and marital status. I peruse many local church websites online (before I will even consider visiting them). They almost always list out their adult Sunday School and Bible Study programs online. Most have a theme, but also say the group is for “married adults” “singles in their 20s – 30s” etc.

I have NEVER seen any church post a Bible study or Sunday School class open to “all ages and stages.”

Why do they feel the need to segment every group? Why not have at least 3 Sunday School classes and Bible studies (if the church is large enough) that are open to all – older teens through seniors. Also, most churches that *do* segment their programs for marrieds and singles almost NEVER have a single adults program for singles in their 40s. They almost always have a 20s/30s singles group and a 50+ singles group. Are they afraid of a cougar invasion or something?

Why leave out an entire decade’s-worth of singles?

It’s odd, but I see it all the time, especially at the largest churches in my local area. They have segmented groups for every demographic except 40-something singles. Is it a deliberate form of exclusion, or just massive oversight?

Madeline Penna

    • 10:23 AM on May 20, 2013
    • This article tackles a very important subject that the church needs to address.

There is also, for me, some comfort in knowing that I am not alone, but that there are other single adults that feel that the church is not “their” church. but the church of families with children.

Most Sundays I feel as if I am part of the wall, there only to care for the children. My God-given gifts and talents are not valued or used. I know how very very much God loves me, but sometimes I have to admit that I don’t believe the Church believe that.

Related posts this blog:

(Link): Do You Rate Your Family Too High? (Christians Who Idolize the Family) (article)

(Link): Fewer Americans See Their Romantic Partners As a Source of Life’s Meaning

(Link): Lifeway Research: Pastors Encourage Single Adults, Some Provide Targeted Ministries (How Churches Are Ministering to Adult Singles in 2022)

(Link): Single Adults – Why They Stay and Why They Stray From Church – Book Excerpts

(Link): 2013 Study: People today living alone more than ever before

(Link): The Netherworld of Singleness for Some Singles – You Want Marriage But Don’t Want to Be Disrespected or Ignored for Being Single While You’re Single

(Link): Candice Watters and Boundless Blog Gets It Wrong / Christian prolonged singlehood singleness singles ignored

(Link): Want To But Can’t – The One Christian Demographic Being Continually Ignored by Christians Re: Marriage

(Link): False Christian Teaching: “Only A Few Are Called to Singleness and Celibacy”

(Link): Singles Shaming at The Vintage church in Raleigh – Singlehood Shaming / Celibate Shaming

(Link): Preachers and Christian Media Personalities: Re: Marriage – You’re missing the point stop trying to argue or shame singles into getting married

(Link): The Changing American Family (article)

(Link): Unmarried America: How Single Adults Are Changing the Face of the U.S. and What It Means for the Church by R. Hurst

(Link): Focusing on the Family Causes Church Decline

(Link): The Way We Never Were (book – Family Idol)

(Link): Conservative Christianity Stuck in 1950s Leave it To Beaver-ville

2 thoughts on “Pew for One: How Is the Church Responding to Growing Number of Singles? by S. Hamaker”

  1. Some churches are responding to the growing numbers of unmarried people. How? By pressuring people to marry even more! That way they will be more likely to attend church.

    Reminds me of how American and European missionaries would “evangelize” islanders by forcing mumus on their women and trying to westernize them.

    1. You said,

      “Some churches are responding to the growing numbers of unmarried people. How? By pressuring people to marry even more! That way they will be more likely to attend church.”

      Oh yeah, I’ve done many a post about that, usually under the “Early Marriage” tag.

      And stuff like this:

      Single Adult Christian Pressured Into Marriage by Her Church – And Regrets It

      Husband-Hunting is the Worst Part of a Christian Upbringing – Christianity Made Me Obsessed with Finding a Husband

      Leaving Christianity gave me the fairy-tale ending I always wanted / Divorce and pre-marital sex destroyed my relationship with Christianity by T. Sheehan

      Salvation By Marriage Alone – The Over Emphasis Upon Marriage by Conservative Christians Evangelicals Southern Baptists

      Just one example of a few from my “Early Marriage” posts:
      The Nauseating Push by Evangelicals for Early Marriage

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