Lifeway Research: Pastors Encourage Single Adults, Some Provide Targeted Ministries

Lifeway Research: Pastors Encourage Single Adults, Some Provide Targeted Ministries

I’m afraid this is too little too late, and it also still sounds like a lot of pastors and Christians are apathetic about meeting the needs of single (especially never married) adults who are over the age of 30.

If you’re a church, or a secular or religious conservative, you need to meet people where they are and meet their needs where they are currently, rather than lambasting people for not being married, shaming them, or lecturing them about being single and the so-called importance of the Nuclear Family.

And stop putting the onus on single adults to meet their own needs and the needs of other single adults.

If your church has staff and devotes funds to minister to married with young children, drug addicts, divorced adults, or people in the grieving process,
you need to also set aside church staff and funds to set up programs and services to cater to single adults over the age of 30,
rather than making this hypocritical exception where you put the burden on single adults to set up single adults ministries and fund raise for single adult ministries.

To put this another way, many churches expect that older single adults who want more attention and effort poured into older single adults at the church will be told to take the matter into their own hands and to create and maintain singles classes and singles activities, rather than the church making it happen.

Most of you churches these days behave like international secular corporations, like a McDonald’s, where you cater to various special interest groups  (such as married couples, divorced adults, people in addiction recovery, or millennials or gen Z), but you’re telling me, you hypocrites, you cannot be bothered to view older single adults as another interest group you would be willing to market to and serve? That makes no sense.

I’m sorry, but no. That is complete hypocrisy.

If your church (like many churches) has classes, social functions, pot luck meals, and sermons devoted regularly to ‘married- with- children couples’ and THEIR particular needs and concerns,
and you don’t demand that married members set up these classes and provide elbow grease to other married couples (and you don’t), it’s totally hypocritical and infuriating to demand that single adults do the heavy lifting for single adult ministries.

If your church is willing to pick up the slack and provide services to married couples (and all of you do this, because you WORSHIP parenthood, natalism, marriage and the Nuclear Family), you can damn well also cater to the needs and interests of older single (and childless) adults as well, and stop asking the single adults to sponsor, create, manage or maintain the programs in place for older single adults.

Another news flash for churches and preachers:

You’re not going to diminish the phenomenon of delayed marriage or the increasing number of single adults by doing any of the following
(which you’ve tried before for over a decade now, these approaches do not work, and actually drive singles away from churches AND from the faith itself, in some cases):

  • shaming or criticizing single adults for being single and assuming they are still single because they are failures, losers, ugly, fat, too picky, selfish, or man-hating, career-obsessed feminists,
  • by yelling at them to run out and marry right away
    (that is not how marriage actually happens);
  • wrongly thinking dating sites are an instant solution to finding a mate, so advising all the Christian singles you know to “just try dating sites like e-Harmony!”,
  • lecturing adult singles over the age of 30 on the so-called wonders of The Nuclear Family and marriage
    (as though the reason they’re not married yet is that they dislike, or don’t value, marriage or The Nuclear Family – eye roll),
  • telling single adults bogus how- to- get- married advice that does not work
    (such as, ‘Just trust in the Lord, pray, wait, have faith, and in due time, He will send you a spouse!,’
    ‘Once you’re content in your singleness is when God will send you a spouse,’ etc)
  • refusing to help marriage-minded single adults who’d like to get married opportunities at church to meet other marriage-minded singles for the express purpose of dating leading to marriage
    (i.e., saying that doing so would make church a “meat market,” that church’s only purpose is to “worship the Lord”),
  • patronizingly instructing older single adults that their only or main purpose so long as single is to act as free labor to the church or to society in general (eg., to act as free babysitters to the married- couples- with- children, to act as free maid service to mop the church’s kitchen floor, etc).

(Link): Lifeway Research: Pastors Encourage Single Adults, Some Provide Targeted Ministries

August 16, 2022
By Marissa Postell

As the number of single adults in the United States continues to grow, so does the need for ministry to single adults in churches.

According to a 2020 profile of single Americans by Pew Research Center, nearly 1 in 4 (23%) U.S. adults ages 30-49 are single—not married, living with a partner or in a committed romantic relationship.

And the 2021 U.S. Census Bureau data on America’s Families and Living Arrangements reveals many of these have never been married.

More than 2 in 5 (43%) U.S. adults ages 30-34 have never been married, which means that adults in the U.S. are waiting longer to get married. In fact, the median age at first marriage has been on the rise since the mid 1900s. In 2021, the estimated median age to marry for the first time was 30.4 for men and 28.6 for women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

An increase in the number of single adults, and particularly single adults over the age of 30, brings with it a need for increased intentionality toward single adults in churches.

A study from Lifeway Research asked Protestant pastors how their churches specifically minister to single adults ages 30 and older.

Most pastors encourage these single adults to serve in leadership (92%) and volunteer (91%) roles.

Some offer small group Bible studies and classes specifically for them (45%) or plan social events for them (43%). Fewer than 1 in 3 (30%) offer large group Bible teaching times specifically for them.

Another 5% of pastors say they do not specifically minister to single adults in any of these ways, and 2% say they minister in other ways.

…Larger churches tend to do more to specifically minister to their single adults.

Pastors of the largest churches, those with more than 250 in attendance, are the most likely to say they offer small group Bible studies and classes (68%), plan social events (65%) and offer large group Bible teaching times (47%) specifically for them.

And pastors at the smallest churches, those with fewer than 50 in attendance, are least likely to say they offer small group Bible studies and classes (29%) or large group Bible teaching times specifically for them (19%).

Although the majority of pastors in churches of every size say they encourage their single adults to serve in volunteer roles, larger churches emphasize this more than smaller churches.

Pastors at churches with attendance of more than 250 (98%) or 100-249 (94%) are more likely than those at churches with 50-99 (89%) or fewer than 50 (85%) to encourage single adults to serve in volunteer roles.

… According to the Pew profile of single Americans, there are a higher percentage of single Black adults (47%) in the United States than single white adults (28%).

This breakdown is reflected in the Lifeway Research data, as white pastors are least likely to offer some ministries specific for single adults.

White pastors are the least likely to offer small group Bible studies and classes (42%) or to offer large group Bible teaching times (26%) specifically for single adults over the age of 30.

African American pastors (70%) are the most likely to say their churches plan social events for these single adults.

….Pastors of some denominations are more likely than others to provide specific ministries for the single adults in their churches. Pentecostal (66%), non-denominational (57%) and Baptist (50%) pastors are among the most likely to say their churches offer small group Bible studies and classes for them.

Pentecostal (49%) and non-denominational (41%) pastors are also more likely than Lutherans (25%) and Presbyterian/Reformed (21%) to offer large group Bible teaching times specifically for single adults over 30 years old.

And Pentecostal (65%), non-denominational (55%) and Baptist (48%) pastors are among the most likely to plan social events for them.

“The Bible teaches that every member of the body of Christ is important and helps the body function as it should,” McConnell said. “Those instructions about working together as a church are accompanied by commands to love one another deeply as brothers and sisters (Romans 12:10). Programs may help organize this, but the biblical challenge to honor each other is personal.”
— end —

One guy quoted in the article linked to above actually said this:

“Clearly, pastors want single adults integrated into the life and ministry of their churches”
— end excerpt —

No, they don’t. They may say they do, but they won’t put more effort into actually helping single adults.

Regarding this:

Most pastors encourage these single adults to serve in leadership (92%) and volunteer (91%) roles.
— end —

That sounds like a bunch of vague “do nothingness.”

What does it mean that more pastors supposedly “encourage single adults to serve in leadership?”

If it’s a complementarian church, and you’re a woman, you are out of luck there, because comp churches believe that “leadership roles” are for men only, so you will be marginalized not only due to your marital status but due to your biological sex as well.

This is especially true, if, like me, you are a woman who does not fit the gender complementarian version of “biblical womanhood” which actually is not biblical but built upon secular gender stereotype assumptions, such as (but not limited to), women love babies, all women love to baby sit babies and toddlers, women LOVE “domestic” work – such as mopping kitchen floors – women are naturally good at being maternal, nurturing, etc. None of that is true of me.

If you’re like I am and are more interested in research, tech, web design, photography, or other non-stereotypical (or neutral) gender pursuits, etc., etc, most churches are loathe to put women into those roles, duties, or anything associated with them.

Churches always want you, a woman, to do things like act as a nanny in the church’s “kid department” on Sunday mornings to watch over the little babies and toddlers in the church’s nursery.

I am pro-life on the abortion issue (abortion is morally wrong), but, that doesn’t mean I endlessly adore babies and want to change their diapers and watch them and listen to them cry, scream, and howl, either.

I simply don’t like spending time around people under the age of, I dunno, age 25 or so. Even when I was a little kid myself, I did not usually enjoy hanging out with other kids my age. I preferred talking to adults.

I don’t like spending time around gurgling babies or screaming toddlers, so no, I don’t have some God-given, built-in gravitation towards stereotypical womanly roles of “being nurturing” or “being better at” child care taking than a man.

When this article says pastors encourage single adults to take on “volunteer work” it’s the same old, same old.

What they really mean is that they expect the single adults to take over the menial labor at a church, to do things like mow the church property for free, mop the kitchen floor, or for the single adult women to babysit the children in the church nursery.

Like this:

Comment by Nancy Haag 

    • My favorite “Christian Single” comment was an associate pastor who suggested the adult singles should do the spring and fall cleaning at the church “because you don’t have a family to take care of and you have so much more time available.” All the Christian adults in question had careers that required way more than 40 hour work weeks.

About the denominational thing – my experience as a former Southern Baptist is that Baptists do NOT cater to single, older adults. Baptists just erroneously assume that it’s still 1955 and that all adults get married by the age of 24.

Many Baptists have no concept of the rising tide of single (never married) adults who are age 30+, and the ones who are aware (such as Al Mohler) insult older single adults for being single.

Regarding this:

“The Bible teaches that every member of the body of Christ is important and helps the body function as it should,” McConnell said. “Those instructions about working together as a church are accompanied by commands to love one another deeply as brothers and sisters (Romans 12:10)

I agree with those sentiments, and I dare say a lot of still-devout Christians would as well, but the problem is, most Christians do not practice what they preach, they do not practice what the Bible actually tells them to do.

Just in the last couple weeks, I got into debates with rabidly pro-marriage, rabidly pro-nuclear family Christian men on social media who are fine shaming, marginalizing, or neglecting anyone who is not married with a child, because they erroneously believe that marriage is a commandment from God (no, it’s not), that biblically speaking, marriage is a norm (not really; but that is a nuanced topic for possibly a future, separate blog post).

These guys – and I’ve seen other Christians like them before – are so extremist on their views on parenthood, marriage and nuclear family – they are willing to throw single adults under the bus in their misplaced crusade to promote marriage.

They don’t care that the Bible esteems singleness, that Jesus himself never married or had biological children, the Bible says marriage is too distracting from service to God but that singleness is not, so that singleness is actually the preferred state, theologically speaking (this is again according to what the Bible says on the topic, not me).

Such rabid marriage idolaters do not care to acknowledge the reality of the situation, that single adults now have either surpassed married with kids couples, that shaming singles about being single won’t rush them into getting married
(side note: not everyone who wants marriage can become married – you can spend years attending singles mixers, on dating sites, asking whatever friends you have to fix you up on blind dates and still end up single because you’re unable to find a compatible mate).

Such rabid marriage idolaters do not care to acknowledge that they are acting in favoritism (favoring married persons over single persons), which the Bible says not to do (see James 2:9, Romans 2:11, Acts 10:34, among other verses),
and they are placing their (incorrect) doctrine above the feelings and needs of flesh and blood people, something which Jesus criticized the religious leaders of his day for doing (see for example Mark 3:1-6 among other passages for examples).

More churches (and Christians and conservative think tanks and publications) could be doing more to help older single adults, but I have little hope or faith  that they will actually do so.

Churches and other groups of conservatives prefer to “focus on the nuclear family,” to scream and yell, in quasi- paranoia, about how “the left” is trying to destroy the nuclear family or to disparage motherhood, and to berate single adults for being single and to wrongly assume the reasons why single adults find themselves single at 30+.


(Link): Why Are So Many Single Women Leaving the Church? by K. Gaddini

(Link): Is Singleness A Sin? by Camerin Courtney

(Link): Celebrating Milestones in the Lives of Single Adults – by Anna Broadway

(Link): Top 13 Reasons Why People Don’t Want to Get Married Any More – and Why Staying Single Makes You Happier

(Link): Number of ‘Lonely, Single’ Men is on the Rise as Women with Higher Dating Standards Look for Partners Who are ‘Emotionally Available, Good Communicators, and Share Similar Values’, Says Psychologist

(Link):  Nearly 4 in 10 American Adults Live Without Spouse or Partner As Single Population Grows: Pew

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

(Link): Fewer Americans Think Marriage is Needed To Create Strong Families, New Poll Suggest

(Link): Why We Thought Marriage Made Us Healthier, and Why We Were Wrong by Bella DePaulo

(Link): Authors at The Federalist Keep Bashing Singleness in the Service of Promoting Marriage – Which Is Not Okay

(Link): Critique of Federalist Editorial “There Is One Pro-Women Camp In American Politics, And It’s The Right by Elle Reynolds” – Do Federalist Magazine Members Realize There Are Single, Childless Conservative Women?

(Link):  Otherhood – An overlooked demographic – the Childless and Childfree Women and Singles Especially Women Who Had Hoped to Marry and Have Kids But Never Met Mr. Right (links)

(Link): Federalist Magazine Staff Annoyed that Other Outlets Publish the Down Side of Motherhood and Are Requesting Sunny Motherhood Propaganda Pieces – As If Conservatives Haven’t Pushed for Motherhood Enough? The Mind Boggles

(Link): American Romance Standards Are Changing as People Have Less Sex and Marriage Rates Drop 

(Link): Rise in Singles, Who Face Economic Costs, Worry Researchers

(Link): Southern Baptist Al Mohler Intimates That Childless And Childfree Adults Are  Not Human (2019) – and He Thinks This is a Good and Biblical Worldview

(Link): What You Lose When You Gain a Spouse – What if marriage is not the social good that so many believe and want it to be? by M. Catron

(Link):  More Anti-Singleness Bias From Southern Baptist Al Mohler – Despite the Bible Says It Is Better Not To Marry

(Link): Do You Need a Partner to Have a Happy Life? by D. LaBier

(Link): Marriage-Pushing Zealot Wilcox Suggests that Being Single is Immoral: National Review Article

(Link): Marriage & Motherhood Are No Longer The Milestones Of Adulthood. Now What? by J. Filipovic

(Link): I Married Young. I Was Widowed Young. I Never Want A Long-Term Partner Again by R. Woolf

(Link):  Adult Singles Do Not Need A Marital Partner to Be Whole or Complete

(Link): How American Parenting is Killing the American Marriage by D. Teller 

(Link):  Dutch Apathetic About Marriage – and what Marriage Obsessed and Marriage Idolizing Americans Can Learn From Them (article)

(Link): An Assessment of the Article “Why the Religion of Self-Care is Really Sanctified Selfishness” – Christian Author is Indirectly Promoting Codependency, Which is Harmful

(Link): Marriage Does Not Make People More Loving Mature Godly Ethical Caring or Responsible (One Stop Thread)

(Link): Do Married Couples Slight Their Family Members as Well as Their Friends? / “Greedy Marriages”

(Link):  Supporting Singles and How Churches Can Help Singles Get Married – Lessons from Match-Making by B. Lea

(Link): Lonely Woman Wonders How to Make Friends (letter to Ask Amy)

(Link): Dear Prudence: “Help! My Sister Thinks I Should Give Up a Promotion to Continue Being Her Free Babysitter.”

(Link):  The single life: Some people never find the love of their lives. And live to tell about it.

(Link):  Celibate Christian Woman Asks Christian Host Why God Will Not Send Her a Husband

(Link): The Christian and Non Christian Phenomenon of Virgin Shaming and Celibate Shaming

(Link): Family as “The” Backbone of Society? – It’s Not In The Bible

(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):  Craigslist confessional: I’m in my 40s, never married, and a virgin—but I’m happy by Abigail

(Link):  To the Christians (especially married ones) Who Like to Instruct Single Christian Adults They Should Only Marry Other Christians, Listen Up (Re: Equally Yoked Rule)

(Link): Single Adult Christian Pressured Into Marriage by Her Church – And Regrets It

(Link): Even If You’re Married You Can Die Alone – Elderly Married Couple Found Dead

(Link): I’m a Christian Married to an Atheist — Here’s How We Make It Work by S. Allen

(Link): Coronavirus: Even Married People With Children Die All Alone

(Link):   Consider The Source: Christians Who Give Singles Dating Advice Also Regularly Coach Wives to Stay in Abusive Marriages

(Link): Tim Challies Needs to Shut His Pie Hole about Many Things, but Especially About Dating, Marriage, Singleness, and Now, Equally Yoked

(Link): Five Things Single Women Hate to Hear

(Link):   The Selfish, Lazy Husband Who Kept Blowing Off His Stressed Wife to Go on World War 2 Reenactments – Male Entitlement in Relationships: Why Women Divorce Men – and Churches and Culture Support This Male Entitlement

(Link):  Depressing Testimony: “I Was A Stripper but Jesus Sent Me A Great Christian Husband”

(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): Typical Incorrect Conservative Christian Assumption: If you want marriage bad enough, Mr. Right will magically appear

(Link): What Christians Really Think About the Church’s Relationship Advice by Anna Broadway

(Link): A Critique of – 10 Men Christian Women Should Never Marry by J. Lee Grady / And on Christians Marrying Non Christians -and- Unrealistic, Too Rigid Spouse Selection Lists by Christians

(Link): The Gross, Shaming Natalism Propaganda on Gab Platform by Its Rude Members, Including By Roman Catholics and Other Conservatives

(Link): Why Comic Characters and Super Heroes Can’t Marry – Marriage Makes People Selfish

(Link): The Nuclear Family Was A Mistake – by David Brooks – and Related Links

(Link): Woman Says She is Lonely in Marriage to Husband Who Ignores Her in Favor of His Job, Watching TV, etc.

(Link):  Five Unhelpful Things Singles Are Tired Of Hearing by R. Duncan / Eight Things You Should Never Say To Your Single Friends by K. Wilkinson

(Link): Really, It’s Okay To Be Single – In order to protect marriage, we should be careful not to denigrate singleness – by Peter Chin

(Link): The Irrelevancy To Single or Childless or Childfree Christian Women of Biblical Gender Complementarian Roles / Biblical Womanhood Teachings

(Link):  The One Thing Evangelical Leaders Don’t Want Christians to Know about Mixed-Faith Marriages (two links). by C. Cassidy

(Link): Pat Robertson’s Incredibly Insensitive Advice to Gail the Unmarried Woman 

(Link):  Single People Aren’t Problems to Be Fixed or Threats to Be Neutralized By Ella Hickey

One thought on “Lifeway Research: Pastors Encourage Single Adults, Some Provide Targeted Ministries”

  1. I’m right there with you. It took me literally years to find my church, and even then I was pretty gun shy. I finally started listening to the sermons on my phone when I was in the hospital ICU unit. After hearing the teaching, I visited and so happy to finally have found a church that teaches the Word in context and isn’t endlessly screaming about marriage and parenthood. But it was a long time coming. It’s probably not big enough for a singles group, and I wouldn’t attend it if there were (unless the Lord Himself drops someone in my lap, I’m done dating), but at least there isn’t constant yelling to go out and get married.

    They were actually happy I wanted to volunteer in the prison and food pantry ministries, and happily took me into them. It actually feels strange – sadly, because of the way much of the church in general is – that I haven’t been treated any differently than anyone else there.

    I hope you can find a “home” too. It may require looking outside the box though.

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