Why Are So Many Single Women Leaving the Church? by K. Gaddini
I have been blogging about this topic, and ones pertaining to it, for several years now. It’s no mystery to me why women have been leaving the church in droves the last ten or more years.
(If you’d like to see just a few of my posts explaining why the Christian faith, or more specifically, churches, are a huge turn-off to single women, please see some of the links to my other blog posts below in this post, under the “Related Posts” heading.)
However, most Christians only obsess over smaller numbers of MEN leaving church; they don’t seem to either notice or to care that single women have been dropping out as well.
One of the few things this article highlights is that the “equally yoked” rule is a waste of time for women of faith who’d like to be married.
If you are a Christian woman, and you’d like to marry, it is vital you give up a hope or strict rule of marrying only a Christian man – otherwise, you are more than likely to remain single.
Secondly, and obviously, too many churches have made marriage and parenthood into idols and benchmarks of adulthood, so that any woman who doesn’t marry or have kids is ignored or viewed and treated like a child. That needs to change. Single women should be valued and recognized in their singleness.
I can also see how gender complementarianism (traditional gender roles) are also keeping these Christian women from getting married: they have internalized the idea that being anything other than the Christian gender complementarian woman (i.e., a passive doormat) hinders them from getting a husband, and worse yet, some of the men they’ve met in church actually do feel that way.
Christians need to toss out the regressive stereotypes (which are snuck into Christian teaching under heretical gender complementarian teachings) if they are truly concerned about declining marriage rates and would like to actually help marriage-minded single women to get married.
Not all women naturally fit into the gender complementarian ideal, which means they may not get married, if everyone insists all women must be gender comp to merit marriage. (The Bible does not hold up women being passive or being gender complementarian to merit a husband; it is church members who promote this false view.)
(Link): Why Are So Many Single Women Leaving the Church? by K. Gaddini
…. It turns out that in both countries, single Christian women are leaving churches at increasingly high rates. In the UK, one study showed that single women are the most likely group to leave Christianity.
In the US, the numbers tell a similar story.
Of course, there is a distinction between leaving church and leaving Christianity, and these studies do not make the difference clear.
Regardless, leaving – whether it be your congregation or your faith — is a difficult decision. Women stand to lose their friends, their sense of identity, their community and, in some cases, even their family. And yet, many are doing it anyway.
What or who is driving them out?
The first thing I discovered is that single Christian women are leaving because they are single.
It’s no secret that Christian churches exhort marriage as God’s design for humankind, and yet many women struggle to find a suitable spouse in the church.
On the one hand, the gender ratio is not in their favor.
In both countries women far outstrip men in terms of church attendance at an almost 2 to 1 ratio.
Many women I interviewed argued that the ratio is far worse, even 4 to 1 in some churches.
And most women want to marry Christian men, someone who shares their faith.
This means that often by their mid to late thirties, women face the difficult choice: hold out for a Christian husband or date outside the church.
To make matters trickier, in many Christian circles women aren’t supposed to pursue men.
.. Feeling powerless to pursue men yet pressured to get married, women often resort to alternative means of attracting male attention…
….The pursuit of marriage wasn’t just because women wanted to be married – some didn’t. It was because marriage afforded women a certain visibility, even authority within the church, that they otherwise lacked. “They don’t know what to do with us!” exclaimed Stacy, a 38-year-old woman…
Without the validity that comes with marriage, single women don’t feel accepted in Christian contexts.
And more so if they are ambitious or career-focused, personality traits that are often recoded as “intense” or “difficult.”
Women described the ideal Christian woman to me: gentle, easy-going, submissive. And when they didn’t fit this description, it caused them to feel even more out of place. The word “intimidating” came up often in my interviews with single Christian women – an accusation launched at even the most unintimidating women. Julie, for example, worked as an events coordinator for a church.
Despite being a soft-spoken 37-year-old woman, she too reported that she had often been told by men that she was “intimidating” and that she needed to “tone it down.” It being her personality.
By far the biggest factor propelling women out of the church is sex. The recent #ChurchToo movement attests to just how damaging irresponsible handling of the Church’s messages of sexual purity can be for some women.
Even in the UK, where purity is taught much less, women still struggle with the church’s approach to female sexuality. “Where do I put my sexuality, if I’m not having sex?” one woman asked me.
“As single women, we aren’t even allowed to talk about our sexuality!” another said. “Christian leaders assume that our sexuality is like a faucet that you only turn on when you get married.”
Again, age is a major factor.
Single women in their late twenties, thirties and forties are caught in a no-mans-land: too old for Christian messages on abstinence targeting teens, and too single for messages about intimacy aimed at married couples.
Related Posts on this blog:
(Link): Another Christianity Today Magazine Editorial (2019) Expects Single Women To Meet the Needs of Married Women – Christians Never Ask the Reverse
(Link): Christian Double Standard – Pray Earnestly For Anything & Everything – Except Marriage?
(Link): Lifeway Research: Pastors Encourage Single Adults, Some Provide Targeted Ministries (How Churches Are Ministering to Adult Singles in 2022)
(Link): Ever Notice That Christians Don’t Care About or Value Singleness, Unless Jesus Christ’s Singleness and Celibacy is Doubted or Called Into Question by Scholars?
(Link): False Christian Teaching: “Only A Few Are Called to Singleness and Celibacy” or (also false): “God’s gifting of singleness is rare”
(Link): Article: 30 And Single? It’s Your Own Fault
(Link): Single Adults – Why They Stay and Why They Stray From Church – Book Excerpts
(Link): Really, It’s Okay To Be Single – In order to protect marriage, we should be careful not to denigrate singleness – by P. Chin
(Link): What Two Religions Tell Us About the Modern Dating Crisis (from TIME) (ie, Why Are Conservative Religious Women Not Marrying Even Though They Want to Be Married. Hint: It’s a Demographics Issue)
(Link): It’s Not Your Imagination, Single Women: There Literally Aren’t Enough Men Out There – Re: Man Shortage – Follow Up Interview
(Link): “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” – one of the most excellent Christian rebuttals I have seen against the Christian idolatry of marriage and natalism, and in support of adult singleness and celibacy – from CBE’s site
(Link): ‘Why Are You Single’ Lists That Do Not Pathologize Singles
(Link): Want To But Can’t – The One Christian Demographic Being Continually Ignored by Christians Re: Marriage
(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): Marriage & Motherhood Are No Longer The Milestones Of Adulthood. Now What? by J. Filipovic
(Link): Depressing Testimony: “I Was A Stripper but Jesus Sent Me A Great Christian Husband”
(Link): Stop Believing God Told You to Marry Your Spouse by G. Thomas
(Link): Never-Married Adult Man Named Stephen Asks Christian Host Why God Has Not Answered His 3-Decades Long Prayers To Send Him A Wife
(Link): Desire for Marriage is Idolatry?
(Link): Husband-Hunting is the Worst Part of a Christian Upbringing – Christianity Made Me Obsessed with Finding a Husband – by B. Ramos
(Link): Does God Require Singles to Be Perfect Before He Will Send Them a Spouse
(Link): The Right One – Do Unmarried Christians Only Need Jesus in Common to Marry ?
(Link): Single Adult Christian Pressured Into Marriage by Her Church – And Regrets It
(Link): Christians Advise Singles To Follow Certain Dating Advice But Then Shame, Criticize, or Punish Singles When That Advice Does Not Work
(Link): Christians: Please Stop Telling Singles that Their Singleness is “For God’s Glory”
(Link): Christian Blogger About Divorce, Pastor Andrew Webb, Thinks All To Most Mid-Life Never – Married or Single – Again Adults Are Mal-Adjusted, Ugly Losers Who Have Too Much Baggage
(Link): Codependence Is Not Oneness: What Christians Get Wrong About Relationships
(Link): Theme Park Bans Single Adults For Fear They Are All Pedophiles
(Link): Stigmas and Stereotypes of Single Unmarried Men Over 25 or 30 Years of Age – They’re Supposedly All Homosexual or Pedophiles
(Link): Stop Overlooking Singles in Church By Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence
(Link): Typical Incorrect Conservative Christian Assumption: If You Want Marriage Bad Enough, Mr. Right Will Magically Appear
(Link): Gender Complementarian Advice to Single Women Who Desire Marriage Will Keep Them Single Forever / Re: Choosing A Spiritual Leader
(Link): Consider The Source: Christians Who Give Singles Dating Advice Also Regularly Coach Wives to Stay in Abusive Marriages
(Link): More Anti-Singleness Bias From Southern Baptist Al Mohler – Despite the Bible Says It Is Better Not To Marry
(Link): The Holy Spirit Sanctifies a Person Not A Spouse – Weekly Christian Marriage Advice Column Pokes Holes in Christian Stereotype that Marriage Automatically Sanctifies People
(Link): According to Pastor Jimmy Evans It Takes One Man and Woman Married To Equal A Whole – so where does that leave Christian singles?
2 thoughts on “Why Are So Many Single Women Leaving the Church? by K. Gaddini”
I can tell you it’s no better on the other side of the fence. I, as a mature single man, was actually told I was being gossiped about by the pastor’s wife, and this after only visiting a church a couple times and revealing very little about myself. I was mainly watching and observing at that point. Suffice to say I never got past that point because I never went back.
I can only imagine what was being said, and none of it could possibly have been good. And for no other reason than being a single man.
Maybe that’s where all the men are: driven away, if my experience is any indicator. I’d bet good money if I’d been married with kids no such thing would have been said.
Oh, believe me, I know – many churches treat male singles like garbage too. I’ve done a few blog posts about it, and have mentioned it in the context of other posts.
But since I am a woman, I am more familiar with the discrimination and insults women singles receive more so than what men receive. Either way, it’s bad.
In my view, though, I think most churches are harder on single women than on single men, since biological men (obviously) don’t have the capability of becoming pregnant and giving birth;
a lot of conservative Christians presume that merely because most women have the physical equipment to become pregnant that being a mother is our ONLY purpose or value in life, so they do not acknowledge, honor, or respect women who don’t have children.
Sometimes childless and single men get pressured or criticized a bit by family-obsessed pastors or denominations to marry, but, I’ve found that your (men’s) value is NOT wrapped up in being a parent in the same way and not nearly to the same degree a woman’s is by these churches and conservative think tanks.
The only recognition women get from Christian culture is by marriage: we are expected to marry and submit to a husband.
(And we are also expected to become pregnant and give birth after marriage, if we marry)
Generally, men who never marry don’t get totally defined by their marital status or disrespected in the same way or the same scale as single women.
It’s like, if you’re a single man, most churches will still respect you on some level and acknowledge you are an adult with agency with dreams and goals in life – you are a man, so most churches (which are complementarian) think you are supposed to be “in charge” and go after goals, etc.
But women’s only permitted expectation in such churches is to be a submissive wife and to be a mother.
We women are not afforded the notion that it’s OK for us to have a career or hobbies or goals that reside out of the marriage and parenthood spheres.
(We’re considered total non-persons until we marry and have a kid. I don’t think men get hit with that as deeply as single / childless women do.)
There’s just this special sort of criticism or ostracizing and shaming we ladies receive by some churches and pastors (that men do not receive) for not marrying and for not having a kid.
But yes, a lot of churches, denominations, and pastors treat single men like trash.
I’ve done a few posts about it on my blog, like these:
(Link): Stigmas and Stereotypes of Single Unmarried Men Over 25 or 30 Years of Age – They’re Supposedly All Homosexual or Pedophiles
(Link): Preacher Says in Sermon that Single Men Who Play Video Games Are Losers Who Have Retarded Spirits and This Creates Dating Problems for Women
(Link): Critique of: Why Single Men May Not Be Having the Most Fun by W. B. Wilcox – (who tends to be a marriage idolater and anti-singles bigot)
(Link): The Study of Why Men Stay Single: What No One Is Telling You by B. DePaulo
(Link): Mark Driscoll’s Hypocrisy About Single Men – and other Driscoll stuff
(This reply has been edited to add more comments and to correct typing mistakes)