Singles and the Church: Why It Sucks to be Unintentionally Overlooked

In the movie Bridget Jones, Bridget is having dinner with some pretentious married people. One of them says to her “Bridget, why do you think there are so many people over thirty and single these days?”  Bridget looks her straight in the face and says “Well, I guess it doesn’t hurt that we have scales under our clothes.”

We singles often feel like we have scales under our clothes in our churches. Not a gross disfigurement that makes everyone stare. Not an outward, in your face prejudice that is thrown at us. But something more subtle. Something that makes us feel like even though we look pretty normal on the outside, there is quite possibly something wrong with us underneath the surface.

According to an article in the New Yorker, there were four million adults living alone in this country in 1950. Now there are thirty one million, almost eight times as many. More than half of adults in the United States are single at this point in time.

We could safely say then that half of our church congregations are also single. And yet this huge demographic is often overlooked. Why is this?

I want to be careful with this post, because I don’t want to point fingers at anyone. I love my married friends, I love my pastors, and I don’t think they have ever meant to hurt us. I don’t think they have ever meant to leave us out.

And yet, we have been hurt. We have been left out.

Maybe we can look at some of the reasons that this might be happening so we can help the single friends in our lives and churches not feel like they have scales under their clothes.

Reason #1- People underestimate the difficulties that singles face.

I have talked in past posts about the idea of disenfranchised grief.  Instead of mourning over something that happened, disenfranchised grief is mourning over something that has never happened.  We have never lost a child, but we have never had a child. We have never been through a divorce but we’ve never had a spouse.

It is a strange kind of grief because most people don’t recognize it as a validated loss.  Singles often feel a deep sense of grieving, and yet we don’t feel like we deserve to be grieving because nothing concrete has happened to us.

And so, people are unaware that there is such a deep grieving going on. They don’t understand how much we need this grieving to be addressed.

Another problem is that most people that are married remember their singleness with a lot of fondness. “All those fun dates! All that freedom!” They don’t often realize that once you hit 25 and are waiting five, ten, fifteen years, it is a whole different story. There is a long history of dating ending in horrible heartbreak. Freedom is there in abundance, but only because we don’t have a family. Most of us would trade in our freedom for a family in a heartbeat.

There are funny ways that church culture reflects their unawareness of our disenfranchised loss—not in what they do give us, but in what they don’t give us. The sermons that aren’t given, the prayers that aren’t offered, the books that aren’t written. As if what we are going through is not that important or difficult.

Think of all the great books out there about marriage or about parenthood. Then try to think of all of the books out there about being single. There are so few good ones. (Unless if you count my book Getting Naked Later! Wink wink!)

The books that are offered to singles often try to convince us that we need to be thankful for the gift of singleness, a stance that can make us feel ashamed of the grief we might feel. Or they are books that give us formulas on how to get married, which often sends the message that we have to get married to arrive as a human. These books for singles are often written by married people, which again gives us mixed signals on the validity of our life experience.

Now, think of all the good sermons you’ve heard about marriage or about being a good parent. Think of the vast array of seminars that are offered. Then think about all of the sermons you’ve heard about the trials of being single and how to deal with them. I honestly can’t think of one single time I’ve heard a pastor talk about this after twenty years of being a regular church goer. I’ve never heard of a seminar that deals with the problems singles face. If singles make up half of our congregations, shouldn’t our problems be addressed more often?

Reason #2- Influencers in the church are not often single.

This brings me to my second point: the people writing the books and the people giving the sermons aren’t single. The problems singles face are far from these leader’s minds because it’s been such a long time since they have been single.

When you think about this, it begs the question “Why aren’t there more influencers in the church who are single?” I recently read an article in The New York Times in which a single pastor named Mark Almlie was interviewed about how hard it is for him to find a job. He had applied to 500 jobs to no avail. “I’ll get an e-mail saying ‘wonderful résumé,’ Once I say I’m single, never married, I never hear back.”

Think about it…is there any other job in the US that is so biased towards married people? I can’t think of one. In all of my fifteen or so years of working in the church, I have heard of two senior pastors that were single. One of those was twenty when he started pastoring, thus nullifying the “you’re over 30 and single so there must be something wrong with you” effect.

This can easily send us a message that says “your voice is not as important if you don’t have a family. You don’t have enough wisdom to speak to the rest of us if you aren’t married.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post. Part of the reason I wrote this was to help us singles feel validated , but I’d love for us to talk about it more and talk about how things might change…

Here are some questions:

Do you think that there is a bias towards married people in the church or am I overstating the problem?

Why do you think singles are often unintentionally overlooked in the church?

Have you ever felt ashamed for feeling so much grief over being single?

Have you had experiences in your church body or with your pastor where you felt seen and validated?

Have you ever struggled with being a leader in your church or in ministry because you are single?

What can we do to give a voice to single people in the church?

Let me know what you think, because my next post will probably be based on what you all say on this topic.

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248 thoughts on “Singles and the Church: Why It Sucks to be Unintentionally Overlooked

  1. great article Kate, i can still remember what it was like and as you know this stuff is huge on my heart – really appreciate you putting words to it and good just to get those who are married to pay a bit of attention and hopefully hear and try figure out the best way to come alongside…

    strength in Him and much thankx
    love brett fish

  2. Pingback: Taboo Topics: Singleness [Intro] | Irresistibly Fish

  3. My FB post after reading this article:

    Most of the time, I can ignore it.
    Most of the time, I can forget that I am alone.
    Most of the time, I can push the frustration of being 32 and single back.
    Most of the time, I can remember that I wouldn’t have this amazing career (I’m a pharmacist) if I were married.
    Most of the time, I feel welcome in my church and in the Christian family even though I am single.
    Most of the time, I can ignore the fact that guys think I am ugly and unlovable.
    Most of the time, I can remember that, even though I’m very overweight now, I have been a normal weight before, and still not been attractive to men.
    Most of the time, I can not care.
    Most of the time, I don’t feel lonely.
    Tonight is not most of the time.

    • Awe…stay strong…all that really matters is that God knows your heart. You are an amazing person in Christ and God is probably still getting the guy for you…ready:)

      • Or He is inviting her to come closer, to experience His love for her. to truly believe that without a “guy for you,” she can still be valuable, lovable, worth it all… Praying for you Ali. It is not easy. But God is not afraid of your feelings. He is ready to welcome you with love.

    • Um, are you me? lol No, really, every single line was true for me in 2013 when you wrote this. (And in 2015 except the age)

  4. Thank you for the post, Kate! Here is a great sermon by a single senior pastor on singleness. He talks quite a bit about singles & ministry. http://vimeo.com/47970434. It’s one of my favorite videos to share. I think the church can be one of the hardest places to be single, which is ridiculous when you think about what God intended the church to be.

    • Hey I thought I was dreaming when mulling this over about being single, overlooked, and invisible in the church. But you know what I have experienced this invisibility in applying for jobs isn’t that illegal to discriminate. I have been unemployed an looking nonstop. I thought I was losing my mind. I
      am single not by choice but an education mattered more to me in the early nineteen ninetys and then finding out that I had a brain tumor on my pituitary gland ended my hopes of bearing children in my early thirties.
      My inability to have children cost me a chance to get married a few years ago. It was a few weeks before my father died. My church family says its ok you can always have your brother walk you down the aisle. I basically do everything I can to look younger but it doesn’t matter. I resolved to living out my life being single and alone. Which is pretty sad.

  5. “Have you ever felt ashamed for feeling so much grief over being single?”
    Yes, absolutely. I’m 28 and single (still, always, so far, hopefully not forever). As a Christian, I feel like I’m just supposed to be content with where I’m at and wait for God to bring that “special someone” into my life. I have a lot of good things in my life, but a relationship isn’t one of them right now, and sometimes, that hurts. But when I’m feeling pain about it, I’m also feeling shame because I am blessed in so many other ways.
    As far as singleness being addressed in church, Pastor Rick (at Imago Dei in Portland, OR) did a great sermon last year. It’s available here: http://www.imagodeicommunity.com/sunday/sermon-archive/love-sex-god-week-2/. I remember crying because it was the first time I’d heard someone address singleness in a real way in church.

  6. Disenfranchised mourning. YES. I was telling a friend yesterday that I was unhappy being single and she said, “Yeah, but at least you haven’t been divorced like some people who got married a few years ago.”

    It didn’t help.

    I’m a pastor. And I’ve preached about being single. And my single parishioners are so so grateful each time. But most older members don’t get it and keep assuring me “You’ll find him. You’re still so young.” Thanks….

    Thanks for this post.

  7. Thanks for raising this issue. I think there is a huge bias toward marriage in our church culture, which blatantly ignores biblical teaching about the value of singleness. And I think your reasons are right on. There is such a focus on marriage and family, that we forget what Paul said. (One exception is Timothy Keller, from whoom I heard a great sermon on how Christ freed us from the cultural/spiritual need to find our worth in our progeny… it’s free on the podcast downloads.)

    To the ‘grief’ factor, I would add that simply walking into church alone feels lonely. Even a church where I know some people somewhow makes me feel isolated in the crowd. And I say that as a married woman whose husband travels a lot. I always think of my single friends (or divorced or widowed) who must feel that alone-ness every time. I commend you many people who have continued to attend church, even moving and having to start again at a new church!

    One big barrier in ever bringing up the subject is the many potholes that I can fall in. I know of a lot of things I shouldn’t say. Can you (and youur commenters) give me the ways you would LIKE for the subject to be raised. Because it is a source of grief for many, I want to affirm the unfulfilled desires. Yet I also don’t want to imply that somehting is wrong or incomplete in a single person’s life. Do I just need to get to know you first. Or can I ask, “Is being single a joy or a source of grief for you right now?”

    • I think different people may react differently. My first suggestion would be inviting a single to go out to eat with you or come to your home and have a nice cooked meal. You could build the relationship from there. I kind of doubt at first that they will share their whole story with you, as most friends, it takes time. But I think that is the starting point. Also, I would suggest whoever does the inviting be the same sex as the person you are inviting (and that both spouses are ok with it beforehand, just to not have the whole invite and dis-invite issue potentially).

      Secondly, instead of a single and newly/young married classes/groups, I would put anyone 20-30, 30-40,. etc. in the same group. Doesn’t matter if they have kids, are divorced. All these classes do is promote the idea that married with children is the highest good. However, if we do it based on age and career, I think this brings everyone to the same level. This gives all people chances to now those different from them but still have a voice with people in their age range. In addition, not only will single people still be aware of others who are single, but they will get to see that being married isn’t all roses either. I was at a church that had it mixed but then the married people broke off into their own class, leaving the singles behind. I was disappointed.

      • Or better yet, mix up age ranges! I was a part of a church once where our small groups were of all age ranges….young marrieds, old people with lots of wisdom, single people in college, single people in their 30s. I didn’t know why we hadn’t done this before! We all learned so much from each other! I honestly think it would be cool to have a church where there was a contemporary service and a traditional service so people’s worship tastes would be addressed, but then have cell groups as mixed up as possible. We seem to be scared of people relating to each other, but I LOVE getting to know older people because they have so much to teach me. I’m not sure why we don’t do this more often.

      • Yes! mixing up ages would be great as well. I really think everyone should have one group they go to based on age or marital status and then another group/activity based on similar interest (if possible). In my last church I was in the choir. We had a great program and I got to know many other people in the church. It was so fun! They even said goodbye to me and gave me a gift when I left. I have moved many times and never got so many goodbye cards or gifts as I did from that church. I miss it!

      • I knew how to cook when I was single. I didn’t need treated like a charity case and I didn’t need a “nice cooked meal”. In fact, I still deeply resent all the people who implied that I was single in my 30s because I didn’t have enough “wifely” skills like cooking. The key is that people in church need to stop treating single people like a separate species and treat them as equal members of the congregation. –sincerely, not married until 37.

      • Agreed, in my church, there is a youth class, then there are classes by the married, and even during camp meeting classes, all unmarried are lumped in this class, and guess what, it has 18 year old kids, going all the way up to whichever age, as long as one is unmarried. So uncomfortable I stopped going all together.

        2 of my single girlfriends who attend the same church have formed their own informal group. How do I at age 33, sit with an 18 year old and be taught about the basics of courtship over and over and over? And the fact that the pastor asks, who is engaged, who is dating? And the giggles…

        I think the Church should reorganise itself and recognise that there are those over 25 and 40 who are not in the married bracket and need church programs that suit their needs!

    • “I think there is a huge bias toward marriage in our church culture” YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES

    • Singleness is a joy and a blessing to people who WANT TO be single. And there are both men and women out there who want to be alone….so them, singleness has GREAT VALUE. But to those, who want a family to love and love them in return, it (SINGLENESS) is a great source of pain and grief. Speaking as a 42year old woman, who will never nurse a baby on her breast, and we are talking about babies that I have been dreaming of loving, since I was a 5 and 6 year old little girl, there is no pain greater, than hoping for something like this all of your life, and then someday coming face to face with the realization that there will be no husband and no children, no grandchildren, or great grandchildren for you. No rationalization, or Jedi mind tricking twist on perceptions, can heal that pain. It s a very disenfranchised pain that you find yourself walking through alone. I have done my entire life ALONE, and it seems that if there were any JOY and FULLNESS in it, that I would have found it by now. I should have run into it like slamming into a brick wall, so I don’t need anyone trying to tell me that the pain I feel is just in “my head” or just a matter of perspective.

  8. Have I felt ashamed of feeling grief over it? Absolutely! One of the really unhelpful things people say is “but you’re still young!”. It’s not encouraging and completely invalidates the fact that someone might already legitimately find it difficult (and has possibly done so for some time). It’s like telling someone “It’s no big deal that you haven’t been allowed to eat at all for a week. Your body is capable of surviving another 6 weeks without food”

    I think another one of the big reason is that the church doesn’t know what to do with the issue of sexuality and single adults so tried to avoid the topic of singleness in general. The standard tactic of purity rings, scare talks about young pregnancy and waiting for your prince to come work when you are 14, a time when you haven’t been waiting long, having a baby would ruin your life and not being sexually active is normal. They don’t help when you are an adult who has younger, thriving friends with babies, know of non-Christians who find purity at your age bizarre and have been waiting for a long time without the vaguest hope on the horizon. Helping adults negotiate purity in an emotionally healthy way requires much more nuanced theology and advice so I suspect that sometimes singles and their issues get thrown in the “too hard” basket.

    • Even though I am in my late thirties one of the hardest times I’ve ever gone through being single was when I was 24. Seeing so many friends get married was really hard for me. Even when you are young it can be so hard.

      • Yes! It can get easier! I am 37 next month and in the last five years it has been much easier to be single than it was when I was in my mid twenties. I am now an elder in my church, I teach Sunday School and am part of the mission team. There are quite a few active singles in my congregation, it is easier when you are not the only one in a sea of marrieds.
        In my case, the event that has made it easier was breaking off a relationship with a man who said he loved me – but I didn’t love him. We were not a good match. Being strong enough to walk away from someone I could have married (although I did not feel strong at the time – at all) has made me realize that singleness has been a choice all along.
        It is a choice, the other choice is unhappily married. I choose single with a chance of happiness.

    • It’s like telling someone “It’s no big deal that you haven’t been allowed to eat at all for a week. Your body is capable of surviving another 6 weeks without food”

      While the (married) one telling you this is seated at a banquet table groaning under the weight of a delicious feast piled high, stuffing course after course after course of that DELICIOUS FOOD into his mouth. “Be warm and well filled; I’ll Pray For You.”

      P.S. Have you noticed that everyone telling you this all married at 18?

  9. whoooo theres so much to be said. youre going in the right vein, for sure. theres a catch 22 in the church. those of us that are older in year and faith need to start being those leaders in the church and pushing for the change. its going to take alot of very God-assured singles , stepping out and being very prominent in the church to even break through that “ice” and get the church to realize that we arent children. when they see that we can minister “normally” and not have affairs with married people or seduce a teenager, then they will give us more attention.
    this next part really isnt in line with what i just finished saying, but its on my heart.
    its a harder struggle to do relationships when you arent married.
    i have a friend that is a missionary, and ive been thinking about going into missions. he has hurt me repeatedly in different ways; most recently he promised a specific time to talk through some missions questions i had, and to just touch base, and said that he would let me know if the time didnt work out. i havent heard from him all day.
    my point is this. im having to now bring up a communication issue in which i am feeling like im whining, like he should be treating me better. [ do you hear the guilt?] i feel like i shouldnt be feeling this way! why? because somewhere along the line, we’ve got it in our heads that married people should only have to deal with deep emotional hurts like this. ive heard too many times that our expectations toward our christian brothers should be lower- we’re placing marriage expectations on them. NEWSFLASH – if both parties are single, we still should be treating the other with respect and care. even more so, since living singly and celibate-ly is hard. we should all- men and women- walk with care toward the other. i think too that when the church sees single acting responsibly and closely and still celibate-ly toward each other (i.e. healthy relationships), there will be some change. it has to happen within church gatherings and there has to be singles present for that to be seen! catch 22. singles dont come to church often because of the marriage pedestal and lack of support. ok sorry. its late and im tired and i just rambled. but i like where youre going with this. lets get a movement on!

  10. I think, as a married member of the church, it’s always important for us to LOOK AT OUR OWN HEARTS. How does THIS message apply to ME? How can I internalize this message? Though on the surface it may seem only for married couples, but, if it is from God, IT IS FOR YOU!!! Maybe you can’t relate it to a marriage relationship just now (and those of us who can are regularly thinking of how our SPOUSE can improve, not ourselves, usually!), but you CAN relate it to EVERY other relationship in your life, most likely, which is what God is doing – preparing you for the second most relationship ever after yourelf and Jesus – your spouse!!

    • I agree that we should be looking for applications even in messages that are not specifically for us, but I think that misses the point. A big part of the issue is that if marriage almost always being the focus or illustration (and singleness almost never is), it unintentionally but powerfully sets up what is considered as normal and a shared community identity (eg. a community of people who are married). By creating a social norm about what people in the group do or are, you inevitably create a situation where some people don’t “measure up” and therefore don’t belong. There doesn’t have to be any concious disdain for single people, the presence of a subtle norm that places some people on the outer can be enough to start exerting an influence on people’s behavior and how community interaction is structured.

    • Julie I don’t mean to be rude, but no, that is yet another cliche’ we singles have to be with. I am a never married woman who is in her early 40s. I wrote a post about this topic at my blog, called “The Obligatory, “Oh, but if you’re single you can still benefit from my marriage sermon” line.”

      Preachers never, ever sermonize about singlehood, it’s always about marriage. I have a feeling if suddenly your pastor began making 100% of his sermons about singleness and the unique struggles we face, you would not be so agreeable with having to figure out a way to make the sermon work for you. Churches cater far, far too much to married couples, and it needs to stop.

      • SOOOOOO TRUE. I made the point that church is really geared towards family at my church and I was labeled as a bitter complainer. Why should I go to the CHURCH FAMILY PICNIC, to sit alone with married couples and their children, just like I sit alone every sunday in church. Only to see couples and their families called down to the alter to have thier family unit prayed for. So tired of it…It is like I don’t exist.

      • @Tia Thompson. About Family Picnics, etc.
        Yes, I’ve experienced everything you mentioned. You show up to a church service on a Sunday morning, surrounded by a sea of married couples.

        I went to a summer picnic event by one church – it started late afternoon, went into the evening. This picnic event was advertised on the previous Sunday morning service; the pastor reminded everyone about it and invited all to show up.

        I showed up alone to this event (being single and all). Most everyone at the picnic was married with children. I was there for the majority of the event. I showed up in day light and left at night. Not a single person greeted me or invited me to sit with them, except one family guy did offer to loan me one of his family’s lawn chairs. Nobody else spoke to me, asked me how I was doing, asked for my name.

        I’m an introvert by nature. I find it hard going out to social functions to start with, but to walk into a church picnic thing along took me a lot of courage, and it was out of my comfort zone. Had the church people bothered to welcome me and invite me to sit with them, it would have been a lot less awkward and uncomfortable.

        There is a blog post I did with a link to another woman’s blog page about how too many churches use “family centric” language in their sermons or notices on bulletin boards, which can make un-married adults feel excluded… everything in most churches, on the signs, bulletins, etc, says “Family This” or “Family That,” as in “Family Pot Luck Supper Night.”

        They could so easily make single adults feel welcome and more included if they would stop using the word “FAMILY” in and on everything.

  11. Kate, I LOVED this post, and I LOVED your book. It’s been good for the heart and soul. I wrote a blog post on a similar topic back in April. It’s a letter to “The Church” from Singles–well, from me, of course, but I wrote it from the perspective of singles. It answers a few of your posted questions if you’d like to check it out: http://justmeamyerickson.blogspot.com/2013/04/dear-church.html

    In addition, in answer to the question:

    Have you ever felt ashamed for feeling so much grief over being single?

    The answer is an overwhelming YES! When friends have miscarriages I feel miserable for them, but I mourn at the same time for the pregnancy I’ve never experienced. When a friend named her little girl the name I’ve had picked out for years, I grieved over the fact that I didn’t yet have my little girl with the same name. With each new marriage and baby, the celebration is accompanied by silent grief for the family I do not have. I can even say (as crazy as it sounds) that I physically miss my “future husband and children” at times. They seem so real and so close to my heart, my desire for a family is so strong, that I feel as if I miss them–just another way to grieve, I suppose.

    The tragic part of all of this is just as you mentioned in your post–it’s disenfranchised grief, silent grief, grief that is never expressed.

    I would never take away from the grief of a mourning mother, but what about us? Enter the guilt, the shame. We haven’t been “allowed” to grieve in this way, so we’re left with guilt. And that, my friend, is a true shame.

    Thanks again for this post (and all of your posts). It is so validated to be reminded that I’m not the only one.

  12. Hey Kate! Love the bit about disenfranchised grief, very insightful! Was just thinking – perhaps you SHOULD write that book:) Maybe that is a gap that can only be filled by people who live through these issues; and much as it sucks not to be ministered TO, maybe it’s a huge ministry opportunity waiting to happen..

  13. I really enjoyed this, thanks. It’s weird because MOST of the time I am actually grateful for being single – besides the obvious benefits, its a lot easier to put God first in your life when you’re not trying to balance him with a girlfriend/wife. But there are (many) times when, as you eluded to, it feels like there HAS to be something wrong with me that has caused me to still be single, when everyone else seems to find no trouble moving from relationship to relationship. Thanks for putting words to this feeling.

  14. Approaching turning 40 and never having had a date, I connect with your words about grief. You give me permission to call it that, even though I don’t have a face or name to connected with that loss. It IS a loss not to be a wife or mother, which is our design even if it’s not our ultimate.
    I wrote a book for singles too. =) Yours is on my wishlist!

  15. This is exactly what I’ve been needing to read. I go to a tiny little church, full of families. Every couple has at least two children. I’m the only single. I’m 24, but I’ve still been single for what feels like forever. It feels like I don’t belong there. Or at a church anywhere. I don’t fit in the youth group, I’m not a kid, and I’m not married, so where am I supposed to be, what am I supposed to do? I feel like I have no place in the church and it’s been extremely disheartening.

    I also find it physically painful to watch the couples hold hands during hymns, to see the little kids on their parents laps. Because you’re right. I would trade in whatever “freedom” I supposedly have for that man to hold my hand and those little ones to crawl all over my lap without even thinking about.

    • If you are in a church where you feel God has you, then you’re in the right place 🙂 A friend once joined a church as a single – even though many other friends suggested she be part of a bigger church with more singles in it. She chose to stay in the small 30-person church because she felt God’s call on her to be there. Little did we all know that God would bring her a spouse to the tiny church congregation. They made up the only two young adults in the church. (They were in their late twenties.) I watched all this happen and smiled, knowing God knows what He is doing.

      • Knowing you’re where God wants you is a comfort, but at times it is such a small comfort it scarcely counts against the discomfort of feeling like you have no place to belong among your brothers and sisters in Christ. I firmly believe His will to be manifested in all aspects of my life, but that does not combat the effects of a church and congregation that are either unwilling or unable to address the concerns of their singles.

  16. This is a great post. Although I am married, I have been involved in ministry for many years and I often see the singles being overlooked. I have had umpteen coffees with amazing single friends and I hear their grief coming out and then see their apology all over their face once they have expressed it. As you so rightly said – how do they express a grief over something that hasn’t actually happened to them? The internal conflict is sometimes unbearable but they have no means to communicate it.

    My hubby and I are planting a church next month with a number of singles walking this awesome journey with us. They are close friends and amazingly gifted people and I would love to find of ways to ensure that we aren’t another community where their voices are lost or completely ignored.

  17. Love how you put it Kate. One thing that does grieve me is not having my own children, but as a single person that’s not really allowed as you should be praying for your husband and not thinking about that, it’s as though the thought is not even allowed until that happens. In church it’s open for us to prayer for the fertility of couples trying to have children, hmm random thought here, what about those still single, wanting children and age is not on their side, or is that just too much? I know, tall order as you are praying for two miracles here, both a husband and fertility!
    Your post really has helped me to validate my grief in this area, thank you.

  18. I don’t like the notion that single people are all waiting around to get married. Do you think that’s how it is, Kate? I definitely have some single friends who are in that stage, but others who have pressed on and are living really great, full, single lives. I admire them.
    Then on the other hand, I ache for my friends who desire to be married but aren’t. The only thing I can equate it to is my own want for a child(ren), and not being able to conceive one.

    • I think this is very much how it is. The older singles (of which I am one) have learned how to deal with the pain. We don’t talk about it so much but it’s ever-present. If we focussed on it, we would not survive, so we make sure we live great, full single-lives.

      But it doesn’t mean we wouldn’t give it up in a heartbeat if the chance for marriage to a Godly man came along.

  19. Being single was a huge hindrance in my search to be a Full-Time Youth Minister. Once I said I was single (or didn’t put my wife’s name, along with my children’s names on my resume) I was ousted. I couldn’t get a lot of ministry jobs because I hadn’t had previous full-time expereince but I also couldn’t get any because I was single. I put my resume out for 2 years and finally decided I had enough and went a different route. Now I am a hospital chaplain and loving it, because no one really cares if you are single or married as a chaplain. In two years I only had one person ask for someone who was married.

    I had one instance when I was a part-time youth minister where a mother complained in an e-mail about something and told the pastor, that she knew he cared/understood because he had children (and of course, by the opposite: I did not care nor would I understand because I did NOT have children). It hurt when he forwarded that e-mail to me, as I wanted to resolve the issue but knew me being single was always an issue under many things.

    Now, while I enjoy my current position, it is still very difficult to find a church with a good singles/young adults group. Either people are in college or they are singles who are 40-50+. It seems like singles 25-40 simply do not exist in churches. I just moved, so I am having a difficult time and really want a new church home. I do hate visiting by myself and sitting by myself but I do it anyway. You would think another person or family would invite you to it with them but they dont. While you talk about scales, I feel like I am wearing a sign on me that reads “Single and Lonely/Alone”.

    Writing helps and I talk about it sometimes, but it always feels like I am whining. It feels like people in a relationship can complain or find grief, as well as those with children.. but it is like the moment I share my frustration my feelings are thought of as nowhere near those with a “higher social status” than me. The ironic thing is I enjoy hearing married people speak about these things. But I dont get the impression a lot of married people or parents care the least about what is going on with me. And that is the rub :/

    Good Blog here Kate!
    You always encourage me to keep writing about my own thoughts and struggles as well!

    • I totally understand the difficulty of parents doubting the abilities of a single youth leader! It happens to me all the time. I get it. I really do. And it really stinks.

    • @Daniel B
      When I was in my mid 30s and tried a bit of church shopping, I noticed that too. Their “30- 50” age group Sunday School classes was mostly comprised of mid to late 40s divorced people, who spent all class time complaining about their ex spouses.

      I am in my early 40s now, and it’s just as bad when you are in your early 40s.

      Most of the classes advertised by churches on their web sites as being for 35 – 50 age bracket are actually filled with mid to late 40s age, a sprinkling of 50- 60 year olds.

      So, even classes that are advertised as being “40 – 50” are no such thing, there are no, or very few, 40ish people in there.

      Or, all the 40s in some of these classes are divorced with kids. I’ve never married, or had a kid, or had sex, so I cannot relate to their divorce stories or childcare stories.

  20. It is sad how so many in the church put boundaries around people, limiting and otherwise enforcing invisible rules in order to maintain their own sense of value and order. It angers me.

    The truth of the matter is that Paul, perhaps the most famous single pastor/preacher of all time, made clear the value of singleness to single-mindedness in faith. Todays married pastors and leaders can’t imagine being single without an overwhelming sexual appetite (in fact, truth be told, many/most of those married people experience that sexual challenge daily, which is one of the reasons they believe it to be overwhelming for singles!), and so they can only assume that the sexual issue would over-arch any good work, and would lead to “issues” for the church.

    All of this is ridiculous, but part of the “dumbing down” of the church I see rampant today.

    Kate, FWIW, you are one of the few voices from my church experience that I listen to. Most of the others have disqualified themselves. Dig deeper, though. It’s not merely singleness (as I mentioned on your Facebook post)! It’s an us/them mentality that enforces a human classification system for the comfort of churchgoers and leaders at the expense of the Kingdom coming.

    Blessings!

  21. I think the thing that bugs me the most about the lack of single leaders is that I always hear it justified with the argument that pastors and elders have to be married so that they can effectively minister to the couples and families in the congregation. The assumption is that because they were single at some point, of course they can still effectively minister to those who are single. Being married for 3 years and being married for 15 years has different challenges; why do people assume that being single at 22 and being single at 35 are the same thing?

    Also, a lot of the time I feel like I live in two different worlds being single because I’m only 27. Among my Christian friends, I am one of the only ones that is single (and of the people I grew up with, I am THE only one). Everyone expects me to be really sensitive and upset about it, even though most of the time I actually enjoy my singleness. On the other hand, most of my non-Christian friends that are around my age have no desire to get married any time soon and they think it’s weird that I want to be (and that I’m celibate, but that’s a whole different ball of wax, as I’m sure you know). I’m not sure what point I was trying to make there, but it just feels weird to be me a lot of the time 🙂

  22. I agree there is a bias. I was single not so long ago–single and 26, almost all my friends were already married. And had been married a while. I remember how frustrated and confused I was. I was dating a guy who was completely wrong for me, but so hopeless and terrified of breaking it off, because I was afraid I would never find anyone who would love me and understand me, even though, in retrospect, my boyfriend didn’t really understand or respect me. :p shortly after I broke up with him, God brought my husband into my life, and shortly after that, we were married.

    I have a lot of empathy for my single friends, who are searching for their place, seeking God and waiting on Him. It wasn’t that long ago that I was in their shoes. I recall the hopelessness I felt. And I know what it’s like to be in the minority in a church, and to be discouraged by the fellowship opportunities available to me. I still don’t have any great ideas on how to solve it, except to say that the time my single status didn’t matter as much to me were the times when I was so intently focused on God, filled with his Spirit, and excited to minister to anyone who crossed my path, confessing sin in a small group, praying like there was no tomorrow. Not that singleness was a nonissue, just that I was so on fire, I was willing to overlook it. I wanted more of God and to follow His leading. I had finally surrendered my singleness to Him. That happened right after I broke up with my boyfriend– the wrong for me guy I was terrified to let go of.

    Being married isn’t easier in every way. I’m constantly confronted with my sin. I’m so selfish, prideful, determined to be right. We mess up. We hurt each other’s feelings. We have to apologize, confess sin. It’s a different kind of difficult.

    I guess what I’m saying is we all need more grace. More of God. More of his Spirit. The deeper I walk with Him, the more I learn to listen to His Spirit, the less I’m focused on myself. Not that my circumstances or difficulties stop mattering, but He gives me joy in them, day by day, in the good and the bad.

  23. Thank you! I’ve been trying to engage church folk in this discussion for years. And years. The fact is, the church today has made Family an idol. (Just check out all those church web pages with their self-descriptions of “family-centered” fellowship.) Certainly, absolutely, definitely families are important and they need support from the “Church Family.” But, it has flown to a new level, where “family” becomes our sole goal in life. Jesus, Paul, and all those other single Bible guys would never get a job in today’s church. Singles over the age of 25 are looked at with suspicion (usually, unconscious suspicion). I’ve asked quite a few friends in the ministry to point out to me some major figure in the Bible who had what we today consider a “normal” family life… No names so far.

    Whether we are single by choice or circumstance, the Church is missing out on a HUGE resource. A group of people who desperately want to serve and use the gifts that God has given them. And who have the ability to focus on it. But, what is happening at an alarming rate, is that singles are abandoning the organized churches. So, even though singles make up more than 50% of our population, we are just a tiny portion of the church population.

    As a single, I don’t want a “Singles Group.” I don’t need sermons tailored to me every week. I don’t want to be segregated. I don’t want to go to those “Women’s Teas” where I listen to 2 solid hours of toddler stories. I just want a church family made up of all kinds of people: male, female, old, young, married, widowed, kids, seniors, teenagers… Just like a REAL family. Folks I can learn from, folks I can support, encourage, and teach. Kinda like what we see in Acts.

    • That sounds great! I agree that a healthy mix would be so much nicer than this segregation. I love going to church, but I stopped going for about 5 years just because standing in the lobby after the church service was the only time I ever felt lonely or abandoned. Everyone else gathered to talk about their kids, who they had just picked up from children’s church, and I was the only one left alone. Even trying to initiate into those after-church talking clusters did not work (even though I knew them all from choir, the prayer team, and other things I served in). Even though I loved being single and never felt lonely at other times, I just ended up feeling lost and depressed every single week at church. Since in that particular church (the only good one in my rural area) I wasn’t getting fed at the teachings, and wasn’t really needed or wanted in the ministries, I just didn’t see any reason to keep driving all that way and spending all that gas money just so I could feel lonely and left out and go home depressed every week. So, I quit going to church. As an on-fire devoted Christian who used to go to every service, I never thought I would ever see the day when I’d quit going to church, but that’s how and why it happened. I mention this only because I was (and still sometimes am) one of those statistics of singles who stopped going to church because of the “singleness” problem – how the church body relates to us. After 5 or so years without church, only hearing sermons on the radio and singing praise songs along with online church videos, I can tell you – I LOST a lot of ground spiritually. I didn’t notice I had slipped away or that compromise had infiltrated until a crisis came along and tested me. Boy, had I lost ground! There is no substitute for our church body. We simply have to keep meeting with each other. I found that out the hard way, but what is the answer? Fortunately, I moved to another town and found a church where the teaching is great, so I’m getting fed, but there is still the problem of those parent and married people clusters after church and feeling lost if I let myself notice it. I just leave immediately after the service now. I’ve learned to expect NOT to be asked to lunch or to after church activities like all the others in the lobby. I mean, how could I be? Restaurant chairs only come in sets of two, right? You can’t ask a woman alone to join you for lunch because she doesn’t have a mate to talk with your husband, right? I’ll tell you what, church. Just ask a single person to join you. We don’t have leprosy, really. We’d love to come to lunch and have someone to eat with for a change, or come to dinner and have a home-cooked meal. We’d love to be invited somewhere – anywhere – for Thanksgiving. We can even bring a stuffed animal to put in that extra chair if it’s that important to you. Please, church, remember those in prison, or widows, or orphans, and single people!

      • Thank you, thank you.
        That loneliness after the service is the reason I take extended breaks from church once every couple of years.

      • Kris, just a thought: why don’t *you* initiate one of those lunches? If you “just leave immediately after the service” how can you expect people to invite you to lunch? Why not seek out other single people and invite them to a restaurant or even home-cooked lunch? I say this as a 33-year-old single person. Yes your church culture may have a weak area here, but since you see it, you’re exactly the person to step up and change it. People aren’t going to change unless they see a need for change, and being upset about it but doing nothing about it won’t facilitate that change. Yes I’ve gone through my share of being resentful about people not inviting me places, and I’ve learned: why not be that person inviting? Absolutely nothing stops a single person from inviting other singles or even families! I pretty much guarantee you’ll feel better and probably even make some new friends.

      • I make a bee line for my car too. I cry all the way home after service. I tried standing there at the door, and everyone just grabs the hands of their mate and their children or the family cliche groups and walk right past you like you are invisible.

  24. I applaud you for speaking out on this very critical but very overlooked topic. I think you’re correct that single people are ignored, except when there is nobody else to volunteer for things like children’s church, because of course, married people are too busy, right? Single people probably have empty lives and therefore nothing else to do, right?. It amazes me how the apostle Paul urged people to remain single because it was better for ministry, and yet we do not see pastors or other leaders equipping and mobilizing the singles. I think you’re correct that the general attitude is there must be something wrong with us. Singles do face unique challenges, not just the ones you mentioned, but also things like the lack of built-in accountability, or built-in prayer partners that married people have with their spouse and/or children. Heck, even built-in meal partners for those who dislike eating alone. I think singles face many challenges in the workplace, in church, and in the community that are not being addressed at all, by anyone, unless it is to “volunteer” us for the disagreeable jobs that nobody else wants, or to try and match us up with someone so we won’t be single anymore. Even the few good singles groups I’ve had the privilege of meeting with, mostly only meet for social events like movies or dinner and such, never to address the deeper needs. As a single person, I have to admit that part of the problem is that we as singles are not quite sure what we need because it’s such a vacant area. Our needs have never been met or addressed, and since we usually have to squash them down and suppress them, we are out of touch with what they are. I know accountability is one need, spiritual and general encouragement is another, a pat on the back sometimes would also be helpful (as we don’t have spouses to encourage us), I can name a few things like that, but in my heart I know there is much more – I can feel it – but I don’t know how to put a name or suggestion to a lot of my single-rooted needs. I hope this discussion might include ideas to expose what our needs are, what we are missing, as well as to give suggestions for how to address them. Thanks for writing a wonderful blog (as always) and for jumping head first into this taboo topic that most people would like to ignore. We singles are supposed to be a force to be reckoned with in God’s army, but it’s hard to be that force with no support, understanding, or encouragement from the body of Christ. Thanks for shining a light. 🙂

  25. ….oh, and I forgot to mention…single people also often face greater financial challenges because of not being able to split the major expenses like housing and utilities. Making it on one income is really tough these days. We also have challenges when we are sick because there is nobody to bring us groceries or other daily necessities when we are too ill to drive or shop, nobody to take us to the hospital if we need surgery or similar. Holidays are another challenge. I’ve gotten used to spending birthdays alone, but I had to really brainwash myself to get used to Thanksgiving’s alone. It’s also challenging to try to fix certain things around the house, because sometimes you need more than one set of hands. I know these things are not “spiritual”, but they do add to our load, and they are unique to being single.

    • I have started having my own Thanksgiving celebration, made up of people here and there that I think might not have other Thanksgiving plans. Some are family, and some are random friends. I never have everyone make it, but there’s a random and eclectic group of people (single and married) and we all have a good time together. (I usually do this the Saturday after Thanksgiving so those who have other plans can still come.) Don’t know if this would help or just make it harder, but thought I’d put it out there just in case.

      • Absolutely! I’ve done the same. So fruitless to be lonely and miserable wishing someone would invite you, why not seek out the other people who are feeling that way and bless them. You will be blessed double in return.

  26. Fantastic article, Ms. Hurley! I found it in a link in a friend’s facebook post. I do think you’re onto something here, both with the part about grieving our singleness (an interesting idea that I hadn’t considered before) and with the part about so many of the influencers being married.

    I’d very much agree that there’s a bias toward marriage and against singleness in a huge chunk of the Church in North America–though of course the opposite bias, which prevailed during the Middle Ages, wasn’t any better. As a 34-year-old single Christian here and now I’ve certainly seen my share of examples of singleness being handled badly, at the level of whole churches, small groups, and even rooms full of married Christians acting under the leadership of nobody in particular.

    Some churches get it, though, and that’s the main reason I’m commenting. Those stories should be told.

    Several years and two moves ago I was attending an evangelically-minded PCUSA church that was very good about making marriage and family resources easily available without waving them in our faces. One week the 60-year-old, married senior pastor preached a sermon about marriage, a topic he didn’t address from the pulpit very often (partly, I suspect, in deference to the range of household compositions our congregation included). I don’t remember what he said about marriage, but I remember vividly how he began the sermon:

    “I’m going to preach about marriage today, because it’s an important topic that we as the Church need to address. But before I go any further, I want to make something absolutely clear: There are people in this congregation who are single and glad about it; there are people in this congregation who are single and sad about it; there are people in this congregation who are married and glad about it; and there are people in this congregation who are married and sad about it. There are plenty of good examples in the Bible of Godly people who are married and Godly people who are single, and also of un-Godly people who are married and un-Godly people who are single. It is not my intention to tell you that either marriage or singleness is better or more right or more Godly, nor to tell you that you are wrong to feel the way you do about whichever state you’re in. Rather, it is my prayer for you that you will seek God wherever you are, that he will meet you there, and that you will follow him faithfully wherever he leads you.”

    That was the single most validating thing I’ve ever heard said from the front of a church about marriage and singleness, and I’ve been thankful ever since that that pastor and the church’s leadership team had the wisdom not only to start the sermon that way but also to make that statement out loud at all.

    • Wow I love that! See, it’s not even that we need tons of sermons preached….we just want to be aknowledged as valid. It sounds like that pastor did that and it was really validating for you…

      And the idea that it used to be opposite and it didn’t do any good either is a really good point. I’m going to be thinking about that.

    • Wow Andrews, that is great! I remember a few sermons that were about marriage and the pastor talking about it being “God’s plan” for everyone. I always thought as Christian we primarily were to be Christ followers, not get married = ???. I was also sad when the singles blog boundless’ budget was cut. No more e-mails and then it was put under “focus on the family”. Now every blog is about pursuing marriage. None of them speak to the struggle or some of the deeper issues involved… and none of them are moderate or liberal, they are all really conservative. I was happy when they finally stopped talking about courting and started speaking about dating. I felt for a while like I was back in another time, lol.

      I am thankful for finding blogs like Kates, and even writing myself, has helped me a lot in processing what I am going through.

      • I don’t like the “Boundless” blog, one reason of several is that they, like the rest of conservative Christianity, when they do bother to address singles and singlehood, they only address people under age 30.

        Once you get past the age of 30 (some singles start feeling alienated by their churches or overall Christian culture after they graduate from college, while others begin experiencing this around their mid 20s), you really begin noticing how churches and Christian culture ignore, or do not care about, un-married people past the age of 30.

        If you’re age of 30, 35, 40, 45, 50+, and still not married, there are zero “Boundless” singles-type blogs for you.

      • Hey! I’m still on your blog page, reading through the responses. I was going to leave one of my own, just discussing my own experiences. I do appreciate your page. This is a topic that is not discussed nearly enough. It perturbs me how whenever a single past age 30 does discuss it, the married Christians come out of the woodwork to scold the person for it, or to say you must be exaggerating it, etc – they cannot even validate our feelings and struggles!

      • Don’t you know, ChristianPundit?

        Christian Marrieds were BORN Married.
        They have ALWAYS been Married.
        Not like us Defectives.

    • Thank you for sharing that Andrew! That pastor’s words are great. I’ve been to a lot of churches and it seems there’s always a big “Marriage” sermon series at some point. The last one? The pastor said he’d address singles, too…one sentence out of four weeks is definitely overlooking. So hard.

  27. After reading these posts and asking my own single church family members these questions, I have come to learn two things.
    1.Women who are married- Don’t be afraid to pray for your single girlfriends in person! Pray for their pain, pray that God would give them a husband, pray that He would give them children! (If married people can pray that their kids will learn to be potty trained or that a barren woman will conceive, then we can pray this over them!) Ask them if they want this prayer.

    2. Listen to their pain, valudate it and give them a hug! Remember, Christ called us to love others like we love ourselves. That means your single friend is yourself. Give them the hug you want (for that hard time in marriage or with kids.)

    I didn’t really think about most of the above at all. Thanks Kate for challenging especially us women to support each other.

  28. I really appreciate your voice and the awareness you are working to attain for the singles in church. I can definitely empathize to some extent. But please be careful not to assume this experience is the story of everyone who is single. I’m in my early 50’s and never married, and have been an ordained pastor for 21 years. Yes, early in my single life, I did feel *some* grief about not being married or having children, but that has not been the case for most of my life. I’ve never had a problem finding a call because of my single status. I have never preached about being married or a parent, or single for that matter either. I preach about LIFE, not marital status. I preach about relationships in general – as in our human relationships with each other as children of God, not as married partners. During my internship, I did experience a supervising pastor who did a whole series on parenting, and I definitely called him on that as a single person. Of course he didn’t give a crap, but that internship did not last long either (for a variety of reasons – and thankfully he did not continue long in ministry either, not by his choice.)

    There really are congregations and churches that are not all about the married folks. I know that’s hard to believe based on the television ads I see around here in the Dallas area that emphasize the family stuff, but please keep searching and don’t give up on all of us!!

  29. What a great blog. You share what many are feeling, but you have the ability to put it into words. The comments give people a chance to speak for themselves. God has given you a voice and I am so glad you are using it! On my way to see Carson tomorrow and to head to Seattle on Tuesday. keep praying for a miracle in his bile duct!! Cheryl

    • Oh man Carson and I have been playing phone tag for a long time. Is something happening with his bile duct? A surgery or something? I will be praying….I will try to get a hold of him tomorrow.

  30. Oh Kate! Once again you hit the nail on the head with this post. I have written about this on my own blog and have left 2 churches because I felt that they wouldn’t acknowledge my grief or do anything to help me find a place to fit in.

    I spoke with a pastor about my struggles to fit in and she suggested I start a singles group. I left soon after. I echo what most people are saying here. We don’t want a “singles” group; we just want to feel part of the family. We just want to know that we are being embraced for who we are and that we are loved instead of being treated like some sort of pariah. It was so hard for me to leave that church because that meant I had to find another one and the thought of going to churches alone was terrifying.

    Sometimes I think that churches don’t want to talk about it because it represents their deepest fear and being alone and/or lonely isn’t something that they want to acknowledge or discuss. I’ve also found that people don’t know what to say to me either. I have friends who 5 years ago I shared how much I struggle with being single and the shared with me their infertility struggles. They now all have 5 year olds and I’m not only still single but more broken in relationships than I was 5 years ago. I think telling me “you’ll find a great guy; he’s still out there” sounds fake and empty because they’ve been saying it for so long. Or maybe they don’t believe it anymore either. Or maybe they just expect me to be “over” it. I don’t know. I really don’t. But it is hard and I wish churches did more to acknowledge it as real “grief” instead of a temporary stage in life that one will be passing through and should “enjoy” while it lasts.

  31. AMEN! AMEN! Well said, Kate! The day of the week I feel most alone & aware of my singleness is on Sunday. I walk into church alone, go to Sunday school alone (in which 80% of the time people leave an open chair between me and them as if I have some sort of disease or something) and then church alone. Families NEVER invite me to sit with them. I have to ask and I do this so I can at least sit by someone who might talk to me. Then I go home alone. What really gets me is when I see all of the women waiting by the door on a rainy day while their husbands run out to get the car & pick them up. Meanwhile, I have to go to my car by myself. I admit I feel a small sense of pride, too.

    I think part of the problem as one other commenter mentioned, is that we often don’t know what we want. And I struggle with the answer to this question, too! In the end, I think the answer is both to be segregated AND be together with others from the church. Marrieds and singles provide for each other what the other does not have. I like to think that I help my married friends remember that they are more than just parents of children; they are people too!

    Last Mother’s Day, my pastor talked about parenting & how you can also have an influence in a child’s life even if he/she is not yours. He gave the example of his aunt & how she was so influential. As I listened, I kept thinking that there isn’t one child in my life that knows me well enough for me to have an influence! I have no nieces or nephews and either my cousins don’t have kids, don’t invite me over, or don’t live close by.

    I also don’t think people in the church realize how lonely a single’s life can be. I think people tend to assume that singles have better/more interesting things to do than to be invited over to watch a movie or play a game. WRONG. For those of us without a family of our own, playing a game & laughing with others sounds WAY more interesting than sitting on the couch watching TV.

    Churches seem to think that if they just organize a single’s group, this group will solve the “problem” of what to do with them. Somehow social events are their best guess at what singles want while expecting the singles to find their own ways to find community & spiritual leadership. Meanwhile, the married adults get seminars & support groups. Where is the support for singles? Why not have the church staff meet with any/all singles to find out what they want and to share ideas? Organizing social events is not the equivalent of support. Ugh.

    • Somehow social events are their best guess at what singles want …

      “Social Events” like DANCES DANCES DANCES?
      (Just like high school…)
      Don’t give me flashbacks.

    • I have several single friends, and so I am reading through these comments and really appreciating how open everyone is being. Despite how much I love them and how well I know them, I have often felt lost trying to find the words to say to the gals who would like to be married but haven’t met the right guy when the topic comes up. So nearly all the comments here are very helpful and insightful. That said, I’m replying to yours specifically because you said this:

      “I like to think that I help my married friends remember that they are more than just parents of children; they are people too!”

      YES. Yes a thousand times. Let’s pretend you are one of my single friends so that I can have the space to say this: “YOU HAVE NO IDEA how much more WHOLE I feel after I have spent time with you. I have been married 9 years, but I spent all the rest of my life before that as a single person with her own sense of identity that was NOT tied to anyone else, or her role as a mother, wife, home-maker, etc. I’m sure it’s my own fault –I’m probably bad at boundaries or whatever– but that sense of me being a complete person, regardless of these other people in my family, is something I am bad at retaining. Then I spend time with you, who are so complete, and you treat me as someone who is also complete– you are not meeting up with me so our kids can have a play date, or so we can do our little, private, marriage-support pow-wow thing… nope, you’re hanging out with me because you seem to LIKE me. ME. Not my station in life. Me. My thoughts, my humor, my interests, whatever. And that has the most validating, amazing, life-giving, restorative impact on my soul.”

      I’m not doing justice to how strongly I feel about this, and I wish I could. I could probably analyze to pieces why it is that my single friends have so much more of a healing effect on me than my married friends. But I won’t do that. I’ll just let the facts stand as they are.

      I very strongly appreciate your honesty about how you feel families in church respond to you, and I personally feel like my eyes will be more open for those singles who might be attending and feeling the way you describe. I think previously I would see them and think, “Look at them! They are so WHO THEY ARE. So whole. I wish she would come over here and be interested in ME so that I could feel like more than my ‘role’– so that I could feel as whole as she is. But I bet she thinks I’m not interesting any more because I’m a mom-wife.” Now I know that I should be more outgoing.

      Meanwhile, please know that your role in your married friends’ lives is profoundly deeper than you might imagine it to be.

  32. I just read your recent post and processing some of the questions you raised. Really appreciated you noting disenfranchised grief. Im 33 and single and have never really dated or had anyone pursue me. Did a secular undergrad, then went to bible college and just graduated from Seminary with my MDiv in Pastoral studies.

    A recent book I’ve come across is Celebate Sex by Abbie Smith. She wrote it as a single and has some great meat in it with scripture and theological reflections and thoughts.

    It feels like your ripping out a page of your own diary and confirming the thought processes you havnt been able to say out loud.

    I was skeptical at first. Its not a long book but leaves you thinking a lot at the end of each chapter. Worth a read!

    Blessings

    Shelley McNab

  33. Hi Kate!
    I may be the exception commenting here. I read this article because it strikes me as interesting…I have other single friends in their 30’s who feel the same way. I have many friends who were not married until close to 30 and some in their 40’s. I have heard beautiful stories of how people have found love and some horror stories about those that have been hurt by spouses. I’ve known ladies content with singleness and those so discontent that it makes me cringe. I have a close friend who married and lost her husband to a blod clot in his brain on their first anniversary…she remained single and is now in her 50’s.

    I got married young and I wish 13 years later that I could say it was the best decision. I wish I could say that faith has carried us through hard times, etc, etc. but frankly, that’s not true. my heart often hurts and the loneliness that I feel in my marriage can be excruciating. I think it is sometimes assumed that when you have a spouse, you aren’t lonely, you have someone to rely on, etc. but honestly, I believe more times than not, that just isn’t the case. It almost seems more insulting some days because I shouldn’t feel alone and unwanted and invisible with 2 kids, a husband, a church, ministry, work, etc.

    As humans, I think we want an explanation for how feel….especially when we don’t feel positive feelings. Maybe the underline issue is not single-ness or married-ness….but just loneliness…pain…hurt…etc. As humans, we want someone to carry our burdens and understand what our individual, unique hearts are feeling but reality is that there probably isn’t anyone who really understands our own hearts. Sometimes, my own burdens seem like they will swallow me whole. As God grows me and I wish it was easier some days but most days, it’s a heart battle to stay grounded in a faith that says “He sees me & knows me”.

    I think the point is not what we have or don’t have…but rather, every single one of us struggles and hurts in one way or another…my hurts don’t negate yours, vice versa. Our world is really broken and our culture faces a heart poverty that threatens our churches and our ability to love the way Christ loves us. We all hurt, struggle, or face things that seem impossible. When we start labeling them is when we start comparing them. There are things I have been through that are horrible but there are also things I hope I never, ever have to face. I believe wholeheartedly, that God walks us through our lives for a reason and to develop our hearts for Him and loving other people. I encourage you to not separate the pain of singleness by analyzing it too much. It is still pain & hurt that God can and will comfort.

    • Thanks so much for this comment. It poses an interesting question: do married people also feel ashamed that they feel lonely because marriage is uplifted in the church? Do they feel like they need to mask it if their marriage is suffering? Thanks for sharing your heart.

    • Wow do I think you are absolutely right. The pain and loneliness we all feel is displaced by singles (including me at times) as the lack of a spouse. Sure it’s nice to have someone to care about you, but thanks for reminding us that marriage is not the “answer” to our fundamental brokenness and need. Jesus is. Our problems won’t be magically solved by marriage.

  34. Yes, I think there’s a bias to marriage and family. Perhaps because people recognize that marriage and raising kids are tough and are looking for help. And specifically because they want to give their kids some moral training in hopes that it will help them to be good kids. Also because marriage and family are more common traditionally, and the church in general lags behind our culture in change. Yes, I feel embarrassed to share about being single, in part because of the people who say you should be content, use that time for God, etc. I had some good pastors whom I consider friends, so yes. I have struggled and have rarely been allowed to have an official leadership position. I don’t know if it had anything to do with being single. In order to give singles more of a voice, specifically ask and request single people to be a part of decisions and/or decision making discussions. I hate the story of the pastor who couldn’t get a job because he was single. I think the unspoken reason has to do with christians’ fear of sex. They think a single pastor is dangerous because of the perception (probably incorrect) that a single pastor would be more tempted.

  35. Lately I’ve seen lots and lots of posts from the 30, single, and not loving perspective. And honestly, I’m torn.
    Yes, it is HARD to be single post college. It is a JUNGLE. There are a lot of comments from the peanut gallery, some good but more not helpful. Yes, pastors talk about marriage and kids a bit more for various reasons. Yes, guy/girl interactions NEED to change from your freshman in college days, and some people don’t realize that.

    But part of me thinks you’re viewing this from a jaded lens. Part of me thinks you don’t want to hear it from married people anyway. Part of me thinks in a small way, you are making yourself feel worse than you have to because you are letting yourself feel like a victim.
    Can I lovingly point out that the single world is not alone in feeling like they are alone and mis-understood in their struggle? How many sermons have you heard about dealing with a chronic illness? Being widowed? Re-integrating after a traumatic military deployment? Having a child with special needs? There are struggling groups all over.
    I know it is hard. But what do you want people to say? You don’t want to hear about the “gift of singleness” or how to be content while single. (Understandable) You don’t want to be told how to get married sooner. (also understandable) All there is left to say is “walk this difficult road in faith, leaning on Jesus for wisdom and grace.” (I bet you’ve heard a sermon about that) Pastors would be walking shaky ground giving a message on how to practically navigate the romantic world of a single individual, because every situation is different. VERY different. I would say the best person to speak into that arena in your life is a trusted mentor. One who loves the Lord and loves her Bible and knows you VERY well. I would hope you have one. That individual is just as qualified to helping you seek God on how to thrive as any pastor would be.

    I don’t know about “discrimination issues” Our church literally has about 3 singles over the age of 25. I am very good friends with one and fairly good friends with another. And all I have to say is, “I love you friend, yes, it REALLY must stink. As soon as I can get a burger, lets go grab a burger and watch a movie.”

    • Thanks for the comment. I agree with a lot of what you are saying. I don’t want to be navel gazing too much. I don’t necesarily want there to be some crazy revolution where singleness is talked about every week. I know everyone has their own problems and that those problems aren’t often specifically addressed in church either. But I think singles are longing for some aknowledgement of some sort. Just knowing that people see us. That’s all we really want.

      I’m less frustrated with sermons I think….it is hard to address everyone in the congregation because everyone has such specific things they are struggling with. But it is kind of crazy how few books there are. It just makes singles feel overlooked, is all. But I’m glad to hear you say what you are saying because I want to be careful to not make it all about us.

      • I do agree and do see that it is part of the human condition for all humans feel lonely and left out sometimes, and sometimes even feel that way often, but that does not negate the fact that there is also definitely a couple bias in our church and in society, and I think that is what this topic is about. I don’t feel bad about being single (I really like it and probably have the “gift”), and I almost never feel lonely, but I absolutely see the difference in how singles are treated. There’s no question that this problem exists. It’s not just a jaded lens, although I will admit that that can happen, too. I was married for 16 years (about 14 years ago), so I’ve traveled both sides of this issue. After being single for about 7 years, and experiencing this problem, I then had a guy friend for awhile (just a pal, we were not dating) and suddenly got invited to all sorts of things because I was now a double. It was the same people doing the inviting, and they knew me, not him, so it wasn’t because I just was not liked or anything. It’s a chair issue. Chairs come in sets of two. Unless a person can fill two spaces, they don’t get invited to things, or included in things. I enjoyed all the invitations when my guy friend was around, but after he moved away, I quickly went back to being left out of things. If anyone in a couple thinks I’m exaggerating, just ask yourself when is the last time you invited a single person over for dinner? I mean, when it wasn’t a whole party. What about Thanksgiving? Out to lunch with your group after church? There you have it.
        (and yes, I do take initiative and invite other people to lunch and movies and things, but they are usually busy with “family” or “my grandkids are over” or similar. Married people just never have time. Why should they? Their need for community is usually met. Even if it’s not being met in a perfect way, it is still met)

    • But I think you hit it right there. Not one married person/couple in church has ever come to me and said, “Hey, come eat with us.” Hey, lets go out to eat sometime.” I had one friend I made in grad school I became friends with because we went to the same classes and worked at the library, later I did get to know and become friends with his wife. But it took time and it meant him inviting me more deeply into his world (note: he was already invited into mine I felt). At that point our relationship became deep because I would talk about my life and being single and he would talk to me about being married. The problem is this is NOT the norm in the church and I think it should be.

      A LOT of my married friends stopped talking to me after they got married, because I guess it is more acceptable to have other couple friends. It really makes you feel betrayed. But you cant express those feelings, because you only end up sounding whiny and lonely, so its a double-edged sword. So you bury those feelings because you dont know where to let them out. then you do something like.. I dont know, write a blog about it 😉

      I think what singles want is community. Reciprocal friendship. A lot of times when I am around married people, there are little things they say that make me feel less or belittled. There is a way to be friends with someone who is married or single, a way in which you share life together. I think that is what singles really want. But a lot of times in our churches we are pushed to the side, left in a room with other singles (if a singles group even exists), hoping one day to meet someone and go to the freakin couples class already. But why are there all the separations? Why cant we be friends and talk freely? Is it because the singles dont want it? Do they need it? Is it because married people need to have their own class? Is it because those with kids dont think singles will care to hear about their problems with their children? I think it would do the church a lot of good to start tearing dont these lines, not completely, because there is nothing wrong with those connections so long as they dont separate us completely from one another.

      Sidenote: This really makes me think about creating a bible study/book study group that is open to everyone, all ages (teenage to elderly). But I wonder if anyone would show up? Are we to use to being divided? How do we work on fixing those partitions?

      just some thoughts.

      • Dan said, “…But I think you hit it right there. Not one married person/couple in church has ever come to me and said, “Hey, come eat with us.” Hey, lets go out to eat sometime.”

        That is so true! I’m so glad you offered that, because to me, that’s one of the critical issues. I don’t think married people have any idea what it’s like to eat every meal alone. Eating together is a fundamental comfort activity for humans – it’s in our DNA – and it’s something single people really miss! About 4 years after I became single, a married couple I’d known for many years called to invite me to dinner at their house. I cried. Seriously, I broke down and cried on the spot. It was the first time anyone besides other singles had ever asked me. It’s still extremely rare after 14 years on my own. When you go eat with a family, you feel like you’re part of a family, more like part of the human race. It’s hard to explain to those with families, but it really does feel different – even if they’re not your family. I have several friends with kids who I stay overnight with when I travel, and eating meals with them is a highpoint in my life. The family dinner table is something sacred from all of our childhoods, and it still has the power to minister to people in a very deep way. Single people need to be included in family meals sometimes. It’s really important. You folks with families have no idea what a huge thing that is!

    • Here’s the thing though–I HAVE heard sermons on suffering and hardship consistently mentioning chronic illness, widowhood, death of a child, etc. I HAVE heard pastors address issues regarding the struggles of many of those groups. Because they’re know to be hard, they’re known to be painful. But how often do I hear a pastor ever come right out and talk about the struggle and pain of longer term singleness?

      Very. Rarely.

      Because in most people’s eyes in the church, your single status is just something you’re choosing, because you like the freedom, you’re not willing to grow up and get married, you’re too picky, God has far more for you to do single than married so you’re turning away viable options left and right for the kingdom, etc. Or there is something seriously wrong with you that you’re not willing to work on.

      It’s not something you have to trust God with. It’s not something you work through, it’s not hard, really, you’re just enjoying your freedom too much to really buckle down and enter adulthood (marriage). So while you’re living in your childhood still, could you go watch the kids in the children’s ministry so the parents can have their Sunday break? Thanks.

      I think it’s not that singles are looking for special treatment. I think they’re just looking to have a church actually come along and encourage without chiding. Without being told “just suck it up and go sign up for the mission field”. Without yet another reproof from pastors on contentment and not making marriage an idol.

      They long to be acknowledged as in a difficult spot they can’t necessarily control, just as people with illness can’t control their illness, people with special needs kids can’t control they have special needs kids. It’s not that they want to be coddled, they just want to know the church stands with them WHERE THEY ARE, not where the church THINKS they should be. That if they admit, for one minute, to the marrieds around them that they hurt from loneliness, they won’t hear about how there are people with illness in the church, people with special needs kids in the church, people coming back from deployment in the church. They’ll just hear that they are loved, they are prayed for. And that their pain matters too.

      For the record, I love church ministry, I love working with kids, and I’m huge on community in church. But seriously, singles often are so patronized in the church, it’s no wonder so many don’t bother going.

  36. I guess I would also wonder if much of the guilt and shame over grieving your singleness is largely self inflicted.
    I was married at 27, and have been married almost 6 years. It honestly wouldn’t cross my mind to shame someone for voicing that feeling. Of course if its someone I don’t know very very well, I would try to encourage them about the positives about their life. That is true for ANY situation – bad job, bad husband, lack of a husband, crazy kids, whatever. But that doesn’t mean I would shame or judge them for having frustrations. In any situation, what you FEEL someone is projecting is often not what they are actually projecting. And if you are already feeling insecure and venerable in your singleness, it’s natural to feel judged. I often feel judged in areas I feel venerable. It doesn’t make it accurate.
    I don’t know a single married soul who would say “man, it must rock to be 30 and single. They don’t know how easy they have it.” We really do have compassion. We really do believe you when you say it is hard. But as I said before, I’m not sure what you want!

    • I’ve been thinking about what you said. I appreciate your openness and being able to say what is on your mind so I know what people are thinking when reading this. I like when people don’t just write the easy things to write but challenge me. I have a few thoughts in response…

      First of all, I really have tried hard to not make every post on this blog a big party of feeling sorry for myself. If you read my book also, I tried hard to talk about many other things than how much it sucks to be single. I limit that kind of talk to one chapter. In other chapters, I talk about trying to be grateful what we do have, and I devote an entire chapter of my book, the longest chapter in the book, to listening to the advice married people have. It’s called What Married People Wish Single People Knew. I interviewed many married people for this chapter. So I don’t think I am closed off to hearing what married people say. I have been very open to it and I honestly, with all of my heart, want to listen and learn from my married friends. I think very few of my single friends totally write off everything that married people say. We want to learn. But we also don’t want to be overlooked. I don’t think that’s being jaded, I think it’s just wanting to be heard.

      I only occasionally write a post like this, where I talk about some of the frustrations we have as singles in the church. But when I do, I get dozens, even as much as a hundred and twenty five more comments than any other post I write. These topics are obviously something people are hungering to talk about, and that is something we need to look at. Why do singles want to be heard so much when it comes to people aknowledging that what they are going through is difficult? This is an important question to ask.

      You say that you and your married friends wouldn’t think that being 30 something and single is easy, and I believe you. But from my perspective, I can’t tell you how many times I have mentioned my deep pain that I feel as a single to married people and they say “but marriage is SOO hard….” I have probably twice had someone respond with “Yes Kate. That must be hard because I love being married.” I get that marriage is hard, but it’s not fun to have that be the response instead of “wow. I can’t imagine what it feels like to realize that you may never have husband or children.” Do you understand why this is frustrating for us?

      I think you made a great point saying that there aren’t many sermons about children with disabilities, chronic illness, etc. I think it would be wise for pastors to be creative in their sermon giving and book writing and address real felt needs that are in their congregation. I can speak with true compassion in this area because I was chronically ill with lyme disease for 7 years. I was incredibly sick, and you’re right, that wasn’t addressed in sermons that I heard. But here is the thing….I didn’t expect my chronic illness to be addressed in a sermon because there were so few people in my congregation who were chronically ill. I knew that this would be something that would need to be addressed one on one with someone who loved me, and I got a lot of that.

      With being single, it is different, because HALF of the congregation is single, and it is still not addressed. There are a growing number of thirtysomethings, fortysomethings, and divorcees who are single, and it is just simply a huge population of people that are feeling overlooked.

      I don’t feel like I am playing the victim. I am just wanting this issue, a real issue, to be addressed. I can say that never understanding what is like to be intimate with a man, to have a life partner, is harder than 4 years of chronic, severe insomnia. I can honestly say that the thought of never having children is harder than all of those years wondering if I would die young. I know that is extreme, but I am trying to get across what a devastating loss it can be to face a lifetime without a family. I say that at the risk of knowing you may think that I feel so sorry for myself. But these things need to be said! People who are facing these things need to be heard!

      Sorry, I am not usually confrontational like this and I know that you mean well. I just needed to get some of that out. You say that you want to hear what we want….well that is what we want….to aknoweldge that our pain is valid. Do we dwell in that pain? No….but to have someone tell us that the pain is real would mean so much.

    • @ LizHouser said, I guess I would also wonder if much of the guilt and shame over grieving your singleness is largely self inflicted.

      But there are plenty of married Christian adults who do indeed shame and judge single adults for being single, and it’s not always overt, but small things – and it’s not always not by what they do but by what they do not do, as the original post explained.

      Singles are ignored, overlooked or not asked to, or not permitted to, serve in leadership positions in some churches. Married couples rarely ask singles out for lunch, etc.

      Christian singles are not making this stuff up, it is not a figment of our imagination that we are treated poorly, or else ignored, by many churches and by Christian culture.

      You see many of us in the comments section here, from different backgrounds, different ages, in different parts of the country, yet we all have similar stories. Obviously, there must be something to what we are saying about singles being guilted and shamed over being single if so many of us have similar testimonies about what it’s like to be single in Christian culture.

    • May I say thank you for being one of the marrieds that would truly accept a single meaning it and not chiding when they say singleness is hard too? Because that is rare. It is. If you and your married friends are that way towards singles, God bless you. Keep up the good work.

      Most singles do get the subtle eye rolls and the “you have so much free time, how awesome is that” response if they say anything about their struggles. Most singles in the church do get lectures on contentment and being purposeful in their singleness from the marrieds if they admit they long for marriage. Especially pastors wanting to fill up mission trips. It’s just an automatic reaction for a lot of people. Which leaves singles hiding their pain and struggles and pulling away from the church because of shame. So keep on believing the singles around you when they say they struggle. Far too many people in the church don’t believe them.

  37. OH Kate, I love you so much! I SO appreciate that you are having this discussion. I don’t check in regularly b/c I know I am going to love your writing and want to comment on every point, so I don’t come visit here as much as my heart resonates with everything you are saying. I also (and this can be some data for you re:disenfranchized grief/difficulties unique to singles) don’t visit often be/c I resonate so much with the conversation that I’ve learned that I shouldn’t stir myself up to think about it if I’m not thinking about it already. It can get to the point where I can’t find my thankfulness and trust sometimes. This is not a correction of you; it’s a compliment to how deep your words go. If there is anything wrong in that scenario, it is my own thinking patterns and absence of a heavenly perspective as I actively [or at times disgruntledly] wait for trust and thankfulness to return.

    I love that you do not sacrifice honesty about real pain in the name of avoiding “victim mentality”, while at the same time, I see you trying to find proactive solutions to how to hold our hearts in ways that glorify God, bless others, and bring life to everyone. That’s pretty amazing. You probably hear this all the time, but I am continually surprised that you are not currently being pursued by an awesome man. Or 5 of them. I have felt that way ever since I met you, probably 8 years ago! You are one of the most vibrantly alive people I have ever met; I believe you have great treasure in heaven, and great influence on earth. I pray that you, and I, and the dozens of other truly amazing single folks who are still desiring marriage – that we would be given encouragement from God to have whatever heavenly perspective we each individually need – to stay encouraged and running the race with joy. Thank you for giving a voice to everything I feel when I can’t quite reach that joy. I love you. And it was fun to see a video of Will on your page. 🙂

    Now for the book I have written in response to your questions 🙂 :
    _______________________________________________________________________

    To answer your questions: Yes I feel a bit of a bias in that those preaching usually give us vignettes of their marriages to illustrate their points (b/c they are usually married.). That often shuts my heart down. That is partly my own problem. But do we constantly talk about alcohol in front of someone in recovery? Not *exactly* the same, I know, but the inner pain feels similar to me. So yes, bias, but yes I also agree with the points about married or single, believer or unbeliever, you can be lonely or happy, and that there are many hidden griefs that can slip through the cracks of specificity from the pulpit (PTSD soldiers reintegrating, disabled child, chronic disease, etc.) so we all just have to rally try to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice as an act of service to the Body and worship to God. I still have trouble happily saying yes to attending one more wedding though…I am working on the rejoicing part, as I know I need to.

    Why do you think singles are often unintentionally overlooked in the church? Honestly? I think if I were the devil I would work really hard to cause the church to overlook half of its population, leaving them in a vacuum in which they are open to attack on their identity and significance. I would isolate them from close and/or multigenerational fellowship, and make everybody think that trite advice is helpful and prayerful, gentle, matchmaking is taboo. I would want to prevent the formation of godly families by using all kinds of tactics, one of which would be making sure that Christians are afraid of their own hearts, afraid of their God-given desires for marriage, afraid of sex, and afraid of each other. If I can’t get them with pornography, homosexuality, abortion or unbelief, I can get them through fear and shame. I would hide what I’m doing from the Church so nobody rallies and prays. Yeah, I think the reason is the enemy’s hatred of humanity and our willing or unwitting agreement with his strategies to destroy us.

    Have you ever felt ashamed for feeling so much grief over being single? 1000 times YES. It was a major inner healing moment to realize it was shame I don’t have to agree with. I still fight it though, b/c the message from the church seems to be that if we are sad, we have an erroneous perspective. And that’s kind of true; if we could really see everything about God and His plan all the time, we would never be sad. But there is the space between the now and the not yet that seems to be valid for other sufferings, but not for the single desiring marriage.

    Have you had experiences in your church body or with your pastor where you felt seen and validated? Yes. My multi-generational IHOP “friendship group” (groups of about 20 who meet weekly in homes – what an answered prayer that is totally revolutionizing the “community” in this community!). There are marrieds, widows, unwillingly divorced people, and singles, ranging from early 20s to early 70s. They are aware of this issue as a corporate Body problem and are contending in prayer with us, as we are with them in their unique situations. So awesome.

    Have you ever struggled with being a leader in your church or in ministry because you are single? For me, it’s just that running my own life alone takes so much energy that I don’t feel able to support others that are not in a committed “family” relationship with me on a regular basis. I need to be poured into in order to pour out, and I am a preschool teacher, so believe me I am pouring out all day long. I can and do get much of my ‘pouring in’ from God, but we were designed to function *best* in stable community. Like, a village with grandparents & kids, not singles’ group for 3 hours every sunday night, where 2:45 is icebreaking until you finally, if ever, feel the courage [or permission!] to bear what’s really on your soul.
    And there are all these elephants in the room distracting you – is that person single? wait I’m not supposed to be thinking about that. but maybe they are? but if they are, if they know I’m thinking about that, they will think I’m spiritually immature and not want to come near me anyway. plus, I’m a girl, I can’t approach them, they’ll think I’m ‘dangerous’…, but I can’t be closed off to talking to men at all, we need them as friends too, but am I being a friend or a pursuer by these thoughts even crossing my mind? AAAhhhh! What’s a sheep to do??
    _____________________________________________________________________
    NOW FOR SOME HOPE:
    About what I want to do to give the single person a voice – I have a long term goal and a short term goal. Long term first: I’m living in KC right now, working as a preschool teacher, but involved in the House of Prayer community. Some awesome girl friends and I who are in this single-of-good-vintage place are beginning to wonder about what it would look like if us single folks prayed about committing to each other as a family here – relational things like celebrating Thanksgiving, and practical things like a network of ppl to help some of us get hot meals and some of us get our gutters cleaned when they need it. Right now this conversation just involves girls, but I’d love to involve guys in the idea too. And in addition to the practicals of home-upkeep, we are also wondering what it would look like to possibly adopt some kids as a “family” of singles. Of course, realizing this idea is far down the road.

    In the immediate present I am thinking about ways to create a culture in my Christian community where guys and girls are aware through community discussion that awkwardness is OKAY, that it can actually be a forgiveness and encouragement ministry to each other if we embrace it rather than fear it. There could be great heart healing to be had here! I want singles to know that we don’t need to be afraid of each other, or ashamed to admit that we are “looking”, as if “waiting on the Lord” unequivocably means “take absolutely no action whatsoever.” It can, but not always,, for everyone. What if we started going on dates to practice learning about what our brothers and sisters need in a spouse and then praying for them? If we are the answer to that prayer, cool. If not, we have one more intecessor on our side pulling for us. I wonder if that would do some damage to the “rejection” factor and begin breaking the fear stronghold. It could be a dating revolution! Bill Johnson at Bethel gave a message recently about the enemy’s attack on godly families by many devices, one of which is keeping good men and women apart. That encouraged me that perhaps my situation is less my own fault than I feared, and more of a corporate spiritual battle that God is inviting us into as an entire Body. That’s a lot more exiting. And purposeful! So many blessings to you and everyone reading. We all have a beautiful part to play in caring for the Body of Christ as a whole, and I’m excited to see more of God’s strategies for Love released as the Church starts to corporately pray about it. When we pray, we often become the answer. 🙂 Bless You, & “Lovin you!”

    [….This is why I avoid coming here and posting. I can’t shut up! 🙂 ]

    • First of all, thank you for such wonderful compliments, Natalie. It’s good to hear such encouraging words, especially when I don’t feel all that beautiful. I have always loved your incredibly tender heart….

      Thanks so much for the other comments as well. I was especially encouraged to hear how your community is doing it right….I actually make a challenge in my book for singles to build communities that support each other and love each other. It is so awesome to hear how your group of friends is doing that. And I love that you have friends from every walk of life that are coming together and learning from each other. I think that is the way the body of Christ is supposed to be.

      Bless you, my friend!

  38. The problem is, I wanted to respond to every single comment! This is my favorite subject, because it allows me to share a gift God has given me. And this is a story, but hopefully a story where God speaks.

    When I first left my parents’ home (and my parents are godly, nearby, and believe that God must have some amazing plan for me or I would have been snatched up a long time ago), I was lonely. And as I moved around, many times I stayed lonely by my own choices. I didn’t know that, at least much of the time, you get out of church what you put in, that you can’t get to know people if you don’t volunteer to help or play church softball or SOMETHING. I know many of the posts on here are from people who have learned that lesson, as they mention being involved with choir, etc., but I also have many friends who have not. They know no one at church because they only attend.

    I learned. And I was blessed: in one church, two older couples regularly invited me for meals. In my second church, full of families and with only 2 other singles (one of whom was my roommate), we all spent a lot of time fellowshipping with food and projects at church, but again, I had a couple of dear friends (moms a few years older than I) who made it a point to invite me over occasionally and assure me I was welcome for holidays. Sermons were not an issue. Yes, I heard sermons on child-raising and marriage, but only in the context of a passage and my pastors would always say, “And if you are single! This applies in another way….”

    But I had lonely moments. I used to tell my parents that if I didn’t have a job, no one would notice if I disappeared. And sometimes when I was so tired and needed someone to laugh with or listen or remind me that life was not about me – I had no idea whom to call or what to do. I wasn’t feeling that singles were overlooked, I was feeling that I was overlooked. Partly because I hadn’t learned my other lesson, and I hadn’t received my gift.

    Then I came to my tiny town. For all of you advocating for mixed age churches… try a small town. It’s inevitable. We are a cell group as a whole church (we’ve gone from an average attendance of 10 to an average of 50 in 3 years, by the way); we are families, widows, widowers, old couples, young couples, teens attending without families, children tagging along….. Anything we do as a church requires all of us to participate. Right now we serve lunch every Sunday. I’m on the September planning committee, with a married grandmother, a 3x divorcee in her late 40s, and a single mother of 6. I am usually alone when I arrive and alone when I leave, but often I find someone needing me to sit with them. And it is a WONDERFUL thing! Yes, mix the ages!

    When I came to the church, they desperately needed someone younger and more energetic, yet someone who’d been a Christian a while. I had to practice hospitality because they couldn’t, but when they did do something, I was sure to be included. Shortly afterward, the Lord brought a new pastor; I don’t think they need me as much now, but the ties were formed early! I know I am seen because I know someone has to cover for me when I’m gone. 🙂 And I don’t think my single status is ignored, it’s just not important to my role in the church. I know many don’t know why I’m single, whether I want to be married or if there’s other issues. A few weeks ago as I held a baby while the mother ate, a “sister in Christ” walked up and said, “You should be married! You just look so right with that baby.” All I could do was laugh and say, “Well, pray for that!” Another time, my pastor was talking about another young single who “needed” to be married and I said, “Well, sometimes my Dad says that about me.” My pastor’s response was, “Well, at least you can take care of yourself!” Hmmmm…..

    Loneliness became less of an issue, but there was still that “single thing.” I didn’t need a place to go for the holidays, but I did need somewhere to know that someone not “stuck” with me by blood welcomed me and wanted me and would rescue me – and could relieve my stress and pour into me some of the Living Water that work and ministry required me to pour out.

    And here in this tiny town, God gave me my gift. All you marrieds seeking to help out singles, here is your example! My landlords’ family here is Christians and have been very sweet since the beginning to invite me to community events and assure me they’d be glad to help me out. The proximity of our homes and the fact that we are in a small town meant that our paths crossed often, and as time went on, they’d run into me at an event and invite me over for supper, or their teens would ask me to come over and play spoons or watch them practice with their horses. Still, I wouldn’t have said it was like having a family, until one night as I was apologizing for the 100th time that I happened to be there at mealtime, the dear Mrs. looked at me and said, “You are always welcome in our home. We always have food and there is always a spot for you.”

    That was my gift. Because she meant it and she has lived it. My lesson has been that sometimes I have to call. I have to ask to come over and admit that I need help and I want someone to laugh with me. I have to stop apologizing for imposing. Not that they’ve left it all on me. They still call and invite me (I eat with them at least 2x a week), they come to my school’s events, they ask about my job and my day and my relationship with the Lord – and they call and ask me for help, so I don’t feel like a leech. I clean, I cook, I run errands. And when I’m tired and sad and feel like no one cares if I’m around or not, I call and ask what I can do for them or when I can come. I’ve been invited to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with them; they’ve spent 2 Easters and a New Year’s at my house. And, if I want to discuss being single, we discuss being single. If I don’t, it’s a nonissue. Because there’s no formula for following Jesus.

    So, the lessons. 1. Get involved. 2. Serve. If you are willing to serve, people are willing to receive. You will be welcomed and missed. It doesn’t mean you’re the do all or the gopher. It means you look for opportunities to bless and you take them. 3. Receive. Admit you need help and you need people. Take people up when they take the time to talk to you. I know not everyone has the gift I’ve been given – but perhaps these are some steps toward change. I highly , highly recommend the book DID I KISS MARRIAGE GOODBYE by Carolyn McCulley for ideas on changing your own environment in these regards.

    LIke Ali, I have to say that this is a “Most of the time” post. Most of the time, I’m happy with a family who needed a big sister and that’s a role I’ve filled. Most of the time, I’m thrilled to be a key in a church that is shining the light of Jesus. Most of the time, I’m willing to wait for God to do something else.

    But there’s no sure-fire solution. I’m still lonely occasionally. And I have married friends who are, too, so maybe singleness isn’t the only problem. I do grieve sometimes over what it seems I cannot have. Occasionally, I sit in church and wish someone was seeing it from my perspective. Then, I have to remember to count my blessings, as David did in the Psalms, recalling all the goodness of God.

    Liz, I’m not a whiner – but it’s a lot easier not to be when you are interacting with people who care about joys and troubles in every spot of their lives and yours, rather than leaving you to battle on your own. God says He’s a Husband to the widow, a father to the fatherless… I pray every one of you on this blog finds the people He’s called to live that out.

    Thanks Kate, for opening Pandora’s box and for allowing people to think and dialogue on something that really does matter.

    • I was glad to read this comment because I was getting really sad for all these folks in the other comments. I’m 37 and single but don’t really experience much of these problems most of the time. I’m pretty lucky in that I have been going to my church since I was 5 years old, so it has always been my go-to community & extended family. I am an elder and very involved in the life of the church, and I don’t think my singleness has ever been a hindrance. My Sunday School class is all married with kids, but I don’t feel like an outsider – I know they care about me and take an interest in my life just as I care and take an interest in theirs. They invite me to dinner, birthdays, etc. and I invite them. I also love and interact with their children – they are important to me, too.

      I’m not saying I never feel lonely or wish for a companion to experience life with, but most of the time I experience it as wistfulness, not pain.

      Maybe it would be different if I moved and had to find a new church, but I would hope that by becoming involved and participating in that give and take of relationships that I would create a new nurturing community.

  39. Perhaps it is incumbent upon the modern Christian Evangelical movement to host a large ‘Aiming at Marriage’ convention in Denver, Dallas or Atlanta. It is time to say that the church and America need Christian marriage and many strong Christian families. The single men and women of the church should be welcome to go IF and only IF they are looking to get married. Everyone who shows knows everyone else is there to build a domestic church with the right man or woman. In his name. To strengthen his Kingdom. To strengthen America.

  40. Thanks for this article. It is really good to think about, as I am married with a 2 year old. However, where I live, with the smaller house churches being the more popular route, there isn’t a place for me and my family. This model is better suited for people without kids, and a lot of folks aren’t married. Perhaps we should switch living areas with you but that wouldn’t solve the problem! I am so thankful to read your article as we are checking out new churches. Single people are just as important as married people and those with children. I hope more churches will realize this and have a place for everyone.

  41. I agree with you Kate. I have had many, many discussions on this topic. The typical evangelical church does not seem to be structured practically or relationally to ackowledge or address the needs of singles. Generally, if you’re “still” single after a certain age, there’s not a place for you in the church. Who ever decided that we needed to be segregated at church based on age, marital status and family status?!

  42. Great article. It is good to challenge the status quo in this respectful manner. (Something I am bad at). Regarding your statements about disenfranchised grief. Don’t count divorcee’s out on this one. My marriage only lasted three years. I identify this as I was largely grieving my unrecognized dreams for my marriage. Also, some food for thought on your next article: http://convergemagazine.com/26-unmarried-and-childless-8736/ I find many young women seem to think there is something wrong with them if they want to get married (ie the fondness married people recall their single days). I can go on and on about what churches don’t have the fortitude to do well these days, and working with singles is one of them. Part of which is a lack of fortitude to be a biblically moral pillar. Many liberal protestants don’t want to hear the message of Genesis, that God made man and woman to be stronger in relationship with one another. Recognizing the disenfranchised grief you speak of recognizes this. We are mourning a lack of fulfilling God’s plan. Not that all people are called to be in relationship. Paul is very clear on this matter. However, those called to celibacy and service will not feel a great loss for what they are not missing. They may have pangs of ‘being normal’, but somewhere they realize it is not God’s plan for them (ie Theresa of Avila). I know my experience as part of a single’s group in an otherwise ‘good church’ exposed me to many of the tings you refer to. I felt like a pariah, the group was largely unsupervised by Pastors, and even the lay leaders (a married couple) were run off by a faction of the group, and the Elders just let it happen…best to keep them quite…separate but equal style. Meat marketing, rumor milling, and social cliquing, were the order of the day, and single and divorced are largely lumped together (our group was fairly evenly split, but probably leaned toward the divorced side) I found the behavior of this group and the lack of fortitude by the elders so distasteful, I left my home church of 5 years (about 3 were as a married man, and 2 as a separated/divorced man.) I have attended other churches since, but have ultimately become un-churched. Partly due to my own skepticism after the dreadful experience I had at my old home church, partly due to geographic moves (finding new churches is very draining if you do it annually), and partly due to the lack of outreach to singles in a structured spiritually meaningful way (ie leadership lacking in recognizing what you term disenfranchised grief). I am not quite so opinionated on your secondary reason, as several of my single friends from seminary are single pastors now, but I am not surprised that many congregations feel more comfortable with family bound pastors (as they can better identify with related issues). I would think however, that many young pastors might do well to seek associate pastor slots. And, honestly, it seems within reason to me that there is a bias toward married men as leaders of church bodies, but again I know that doesn’t fit the theology of many protestant liberalists. Although much of the bible consternates those folks. Anyway, I would be happy to discuss this further with you, if you find my insight of use. However, if I continue on at this point I will probably just go on a tangent (if I am not doing so already)

    • Thank you for this comment! I am so sorry that your singles group went wrong somewhat…I was in a really great singles group. You were in small groups with mixed sexes. Dating was encouraged but it didn’t feel like a “meat market.” We talked about really intense things like sexual abuse and porn. I was able to see into the men in my group’s heart. I loved that group because the leaders trusted that I was an adult and didn’t try to protect me from getting close to people. I loved it.

      I already read that article the other day and I must admit I was really disheartened by it. Someone who is 26 and childless has so many years left to have children and marry. In fact, I think that’s around the national average. It made me really sad to think how impossible it is for me…someone who is 12 years her senior. Pain is pain and I get that, but it felt very premature to me.

      Thanks for the comment!

  43. Yes its hard topic.
    Yes there are no clear answers.
    Problem is much deeper then it appears.

    There are probably multi factors why this is growing trend but Id like to address couple of them what I have observed.

    I see less and less man being men in church – taking responsibility, leading, acting like a man and I see more and more women in church trying to fill men’s role. This is not true in the church only but elsewhere as well.

    Seems like men in church are enjoying that there are 5-10 girls per every single men in church.
    And that enjoyment of being looked at by many girls keeps them acting weird, not being man and pursuing their one and only girl. Men are struggling to be a man.
    It should be that men are making steps and trying to win girls heart and to be the one who provides for family and protects her.
    All this taking away and men are suddenly acting stupidly – hanging with many girls in the bible study and not being able to pursue one and to commit to her. Just enjoying the company of many beautiful women.

    At the same time women in church are trying to fill the gap what is created by poor behavior by men and that only amplifies first problem.

    I was part of discussion in one singles group bible study about this topic. These women in the group imagined that while dating they are independent and a picture that men as a head of the family is not valid for them as long as they are dating. And I agree to some extent with that statement, but I cant hide the question that while dating you want men’s role then you are fooling yourself to think that after getting engaged or married your understanding will change totally and then it will be easy to submit to your husband.

    World has changed – equal rights has changed not only what it was supposed to change. It was meant to be wake up call that men and women are equal to stand in front of God, but equal right has redefined different responsibilities and roles. Men and women are equal in front of God yet created for different responsibilities and different roles. To mess up Gods given different responsibilities we will create more problems then solutions. And seems that mixing up roles and responsibilities has created problem that more and more people do not know how to find spouse.
    More and more single are now then ever before and the yearning to find your spouse will be not fulfilled. And of course this is hard for singles but not only for them. It is also hard for me (and other who are married and having family) because I have friends who are singles and they like to be married and to have family. And it is extremely hard to share their struggle because they think that married people do not understand this. Actually, married people understand you. My friend is grieving to have spouse and kids and does not have it – of course I understand that. But it is hard to express to singles that we share their burden. Seems that it is filtered through some filters and message often gets stuck in fact that “you are married and have kids you do not understand” mantra.

    Yes being single is hard I understand that. And there are no easy and quick solutions what would fix these things.

    I’m married and we have 3 kids and I understand that the topic is hard and there are no easy solutions.

    There is little thing I have done. I have challenged my friends to be a man. Love the Lord, take responsibility, pursue one girl, stay pure and get married, lead family and love your wife, enjoy your life and be faithful.
    Some of them have started to act like man… but sad to say that some are not. That’s the reality.

    I wish there is magic solution, but there isn’t. Only solution I see is that more and more people learn from Bible how God has created us, men and women with different roles and responsibilities, and let that influence us more then mass media and modern trends are talking to us.

  44. I agree with your article about being single in the church. I am an ELCA pastor and was single until age 32. I spent over 4 years as a single pastor and single person. I felt that grief and lonliness you speak of. It is difficult to be in church as a single person. You don’t have anyone to sit with. Families and couples are busy with family and couple conversations and activities. We will be starting small group ministry at my church this spring, and I hope to have small groups that singles would enjoy, as well as intergenerational activities that would bridge the gap between generations and singles/marrieds. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

  45. Really good post thank you for your encouraging honesty as a single 30 something it’s good to share that journey with others and realise you aren’t alone and like you say grieve together. I too feel really passionate about this subject, and the importance of encouraging the whole church to be all they can be to live sold out full on lives for Christ. I agree it’s not an attack on one church but something that we as a church family need to be aware of a sympathetic to and aim to teach well on, so as to strengthen the whole body of Christ, as if we are weak in one area we as a body are weak.

    I blogged on it earlier this year as a guest post on a friends blog. http://admiralcreedy.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/guest-post-single-life.html .

    I wish I could say that it was my original post however, what I wrote has now been censored by the church I go to, as they sadly saw it as an attack on them but you get the general essence.

    So I’ve kept my head down since then and been a good little single person and I not complained after all it is my issue! So I have served and tithed, and gone to small group and in the process I have been to more weddings and baptisms (and been happy for those who have been blessed) and I have cooked meals for new parents, and baby sat for tired parents who wanted to go out on a date, and helped with wedding prep for friends, and had play dates with lots of little people that I am God parent to, and been excluded from conversation by my married friends because I don’t get it. And all the time I have hidden my disenfranchised grief and not complained when those who preach, talk again about marriage and family but omit to talk about singleness, And on mothers day I refrained from going up to for prayer when they called women who were mothers or married people who wanted to be mothers up for prayer, as I didn’t want to embarrass anyone, even though yes I’m 36 and a would love a child but each day, each month, each year that passes I have to mourn that unlikeness a little bit more, but all the time I unlike married people, and parents have to remain silent through fear of rocking the boat.

    And it’s not like I am always sad that I am single, quite the opposite I have great friends, I am really busy, I travel and go on exciting day trips, I live a really fulfilled life, I have a great job, my own home and many other blessings, the charity I run is changing this city with God’s love by actively reducing drugs, alcohol, anti social behaviour, gang, and domestic violence crime, we are making a lasting impact on this city for God’s kingdom (exciting stuff) far more than many of my friends who are married and have children will ever do. I am using my time wisely …. but I still grieve, I would still like to share all that with someone, and that hole that disenfranchised grief, that aloneness will not go away with prayer, with trust in God, with friendships, I too have given it to God more times than I can tell you, I have fasted and prayed for myself and for friends to get married or have children and felt the pain when they have got what they wanted they and I have not and they have ceased topray with me and for me as their lives have moved into a new dimension. I have wrestled with the theology of it all and been left with unanswered questions and deferred hope. So thank you for all of us who are courageous enough to share our pain and in doing so share God’s empathic love and kindness.

  46. I was just pointed to this article. I think you’ve got some really good insights. However, one caution I might bring up (and I haven’t read the comments, so maybe it’s already noted): I think your statement, “we can safely say over half of the church is single” is not safe at all. I would suggest you take a survey of the local church – I suspect that MOST churches have a very low % single (and most of those are women). Megachurches might be different but even there, the dominant number of people will be marrieds. Most of the singles are children under the age of 16.

    There are a number of reasons why this is so, but exploring those would require a whole ‘nother post. But I would suggest it be looked at!

      • I’ve read that about 45% of the US adult population is single, which of course includes Christians, but in other books and blogs I’ve read, most (evangelical / Baptist) Christian singles do not attend church.

        I am sorry I don’t recall off the top of my head what the number is, but it was a very small number. There are a lot of Christian singles, but many of them don’t bother going to church, or not regularly.

  47. I really enjoyed your post and I agree with you on many of your points. I am in seminary and will be ordained in the Episcopal Church in May. I am 36 and I am single!

  48. I really agree that most churches tend to have this air about them! I really love the church I started attending a year ago, Fellowship Denver Church, because I have never felt that way! I think it has to do with our amazing pastor, Hunter Beaumont, who happens to also be over 30 and single. He even did a series on singleness (http://www.fellowshipdenver.org/resources/audio/series/info/redeeming-singleness this is the link to the sermons online, they are so great!) followed by a series on redeming sexuality (http://www.fellowshipdenver.org/resources/audio/series/info/redeeming-sexuality) which I love so much because he makes all of his sermons, these included, to apply to singles and married couples. I think it is easy for a pastor who is married to forget that singles really need the church, and sermons to apply to them too! Our church has a great attitude that follows this, as there are many people who are looked up to, that are also single.

    • I will definitely check these out Kristen! It has been awesome having this post because I’ve heard about this pastor and another who are senior pastors that are single. It is encouraging! I’ve been listening to sermons people have sent me all week and they have been great….

      Just as a side note if you think your church would ever be interested in me coming and guest leading worship or even just playing a few songs off of my new album (or even speaking about singleness!) I am always looking for places that might be interested in the Denver area. I am just up the hill in Boulder. Or if the church isn’t interested, maybe you’d like to host a house concert? They’re really fun! Hope that wasn’t too many questions…

      Here is a free download of my music

      http://noisetrade.com/katehurley/2-cd-sampler

      If you email me your address via my website (katehurley.com) I’ll send you a free CD and book to give to them. (You can listen and read first, of course!)

      Blessings! Can’t wait to hear these!

  49. You know Kate, the Bible talks about how a single person can be more focused than a married person on the Kingdom. But – in the church today – singles are not looked at as people to appoint, and send. Especially single women! I watch so many women around me get affirmed in their callings and giftings *with their husbands* but the church seems afraid of single women, like we are all “lone rangers” or something even when we don’t want to be – perpetual children that need to be watched carefully, but not handed trust and responsibility to do the things the Lord is calling us to do.
    Watch a married couple write a support letter and raise finances – churches allow them to come speak. But a single woman? It’s sooo much harder. And the worst part is not wanting to be single.
    And then of course, getting older, and now being overlooked by guys because they are looking for younger women….yeah, that’s the next thing that sucks.

  50. Reblogged this on a crowned knot of fire and commented:
    I just read the attached article and was consequently inspired to share a story that happened to me recently. You can either read her post first or mine–it shouldn’t matter. I am in a new place, now, if you didn’t know. I have moved once again, and once again have to find a new church (and no, I’m not military; they aren’t the only people in the world that move around). So I heard of one that may be good in the area. And I still go there and like it. Here are my experiences, somewhat streamofconsciousness:
    Sunday #1: By myself. Made it on time. I know no one. Good music. Good sermon. Young pastor and pretty young church overall. A young couple is sitting in front of me. Younger than I am. I’d bet they are 21 and 22. Communion, I go up, guy asks my name and talks too close to my face; thanks, I go sit back down. Benediction. Eye contact. Nope, not enough. Everyone turned to talk to everyone else.
    Sunday #2: With Hannah. On time. Good music. Good sermon. Same young couple in front. Communion, we go up, same guy asks my name again, same guy talks too close to my face; thanks, I go sit back down. Benediction. No eye contact yet, but couple in front turns to us immediately. He says hi and welcome what’s your name. Ten minute conversation.
    Sunday #3: Alone again. See Sunday #1 for reference. Caveat, I have already met said couple. Oh, never mind. It didn’t matter.
    Now sure, I need to just assert myself. But I only really have to assert myself if I’m alone. Because if I’m alone, I’m that weird guy that…I dunno…comes to church alone, and stuff, right? What are people afraid of? It’s not that I’m a stranger, because when I was with Hannah, there was no problem. I honestly don’t know what it is. That’s all I got for now.

  51. Would you consider this an accurate summary:?

    Single people in the Church have been left out and are hurt (by married friends? by the church?).
    This is possibly because single people have unique difficulties non-single people don’t care about, and because non-singles disregard the influence single people could have (if they were allowed to influence).

    The Bible talks a whole lot about the Church and actually a fair amount about single people and a lot about caring for others. I’d be interested to see a post from your perspective that took what the Bible says about it into account.

    (My guess would be your research uncovers that the Bible puts a lot more of the onus on single people to be involved and to be serving the others in the Church.)

  52. I, for one, have been out of a relationship for 20 years; my ex-fiancee didn’t even believe in God. I left one denomination (the Southern Baptist Convention) because they don’t think very highly of their single members, except maybe in the Southeastern United States, where they are strongest. I was being pressured to marry before my 30th birthday; breaking off the engagement made that an unrealistic proposition. The other reason compelling me to leave the SBC: the fundamentalist takeover of the denomination in 1994. I considered myself to be a moderate; that was the very group that the fundamentalist faction wanted to weed out of the SBC.

    I’ve been a Roman Catholic for over 18 years, and while they’re very accepting of their single members (the single life is recognized as a spiritual vocation by the Roman Catholic Church), some of their singles groups embrace the extreme right wing of the Church, and are too cliquish for the average single. The Catholic Single Adult Club of St. Louis is one prime example of a group that’s too cliquish for me to fit into. I was a member of that organization from 1997 to 1999 and from 2010 to 2012. The first time I left was because of the lack of faithful, single Catholic women in that group. Too many women let the size of a man’s bank accounts, not the strength of his faith in God, guide her in making a decision on who to marry. I believe that it is wrong. The Bible tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil, and that you can’t serve both God and wealth. The women who let a man’s bank accounts be her guide serve wealth, not God. The second time I left? The group’s leaders refused to weed out the “bad apples” in the group. How many of us have tried joining a church-sponsored singles group, only to find out they don’t fit in?

    How many of us have also tried online dating without success? I can tell a major horror story about these sites. I paid for a one-year membership in Catholic Match in 2005. The trouble was that the selection of faithful, single Catholic women in my area (St. Louis, MO) was lacking. I found this true of all the online dating Web sites I checked out. It got too frustrating that I canceled my membership (suggested by a spiritual director) after just three months. These groups claim to be “free”, but there are so many hidden costs that it’s just not worth it. I was especially outraged by the $180 membership fee charged by Ave Maria Singles.

    One of my friends from college shared this article with me, and I was compelled to read it. All denominations need to reach out to the single population, and learn more about what’s keeping us single.

    • @ Eric.
      I am sorry you are having a terrible time meeting eligible ladies, but per your comments about them caring about your bank account: a lot of Christian men place far too much emphasis on a woman’s looks and sometimes on their age.

      Men need to date women who are within five to ten years of their age, not ruling out women who are the same age, and not chasing after women who are ten or more years younger than they are.

      • Agreed, and also perhaps be open to singles who are not in your immediate geographical area? That would open up the pool a lot.

  53. Yes, thank you for articulating this. I feel you took the words I’ve been thinking (and saying) for months now right out of my mouth.

    I go to a wonderful, progressive church in a fun, artsy city. I have gotten connected with a home community that meets weekly and there are so many ways to serve. But things have started to bother me just a bit. And I think it’s about the church in general, not just my church.

    Why is it that even home community leaders are generally married or a married couple? And like you said, pastors are generally married. This bothers me because Paul is very clear in his letters that unmarried people are much more able to serve and be focused on the Lord because they aren’t distracted by the “things of the world”, i.e. a spouse and family. So why has the greatest value in the church become a spouse and family when Paul himself calls those things “cares of the world”? My good friends and I desire to be married some day but we are also conflicted because we very much want a partner who will serve and love other people alongside us. A relationship takes work! Kids take work! Enough of my siblings and friends have gotten married and had kids for me to see this, and it’s a lot harder now for them to be involved in ministry, even if they were highly involved with ministry before marriage and kids. So why put another expectation on married people when there are a plethora of wise single people that have tons of time to put an excellent job into serving, teaching, and ministering? Things might start getting more riveting for everyone if the teacher has priorities, hobbies, and life experience outside of the same old, same old kids wife blah blah blah.

    When I started coming to my church, the very first series was on “Love, sex and God”. It was a great series, but like most sermon series, it spent most of the time emphasizing marital fidelity, and then there was the token “singles sermon” tacked in there somewhere which basically said, “yeah, I know it’s tough but don’t have sex with your boyfriend/girlfriend, ok??” OK, my pastor was a little more heartfelt than that, but good grief do you married people have any idea how little help those sermons give people like me who want to be close to someone to the point of seriously considering friends with benefits? You just want to feel something sometimes and it’s hard to take advice to remain chaste from a dude you know that has seemingly (from our perspective) free, unashamed sex from his wife on a regular basis.

    Are there fewer single people in church because you start feeling like it’s a place for people who are married with kids? Or people who are on the verge of being married? It starts to feel like that sometimes.

    My married friends are great, and they try to make helpful comments like, “I have no idea why a great person like you is still single!” I appreciate their intentions, they are usually happily married and wish their single friends were also happily married. Worse comments are along the lines of, “man, I wish I could get as much sleep at night as you do now that I have a baby!” or “hey I know this great guy…” (barf….and why are you talking to me about it? Did you mention me to that guy? probably not!) While many single people deal with disenfranchised grief, a lot of it I feel is grief that is put upon us because people ASSUME we hate being single, thus all the comments. Did it ever occur to you that I struggle with being single probably similar to how you struggle with being married? Did it ever occur to you that I am not willing to give up this stage in life for just anybody, but am waiting for the person who will make it worth it? Did it ever occur to you that there are a lot of great things about being single and I’m trying to make the most of them (so stop raining on my parade by trying to hook me up with the next dude that happens to be breathing and carrying a bible?)? Did it ever occur to you that we are all just PEOPLE, not married people and single people and divorced people and widowed people? We all experience life, and while our walks are different we all have ups and we all have downs. No one has it better than the other because we all have our own struggles. I’d rather be known as a woman who is loved by Jesus Christ, not a “single woman content in her singleness” or a “single woman that will make a great wife someday”. I don’t want my marital status to be my main label because it’s not the main thing about me. The main thing about me is my relationship with Jesus, my love for my friends and coworkers, my love of the outdoors and my love of cooking and hospitality. That’s what I want to be known for. So stop making me known and defined by something as superficial and trivial as my lack or possession of a man in my life.

  54. I’m 37 and single never married no kids and a regular church attendee. Over the years I’ve been part of the singles groups and 100% of the time they are led by a married couple. Don’t get me wrong they have all been wonderful Godly people I’ve been blessed to know, but only one came close to being able to relate as she was 35 when she married her spouse. I believe the church leaders are so far removed from the life of singles they wouldn’t know where to begin. In the city I live in we have a high singles demographic. However in the church for several years we couldn’t even get a small group recognized by the church. And when asked about topics we’d like to see covered the lead pastor acknowledged the request to address singleness, but when it came to it the singleness part of the lesson was only a few lines. As singles of faith we have come to realize we are largely on our own. It is up to us to reach out to those like us. It is up to us to acknowledge the grief and loss we feel over things that have never and for some may never happen. We all need to take responsibility for bridging the gap, for making our leadership teams aware of our needs and for reaching out to the community of singles afraid to come to church where they feel like they have scales under their clothes.

  55. Thank you for acknowledging that disenfranchised grief is real and painful. I was at a wedding last night, and when the officiant talked about how the bride and groom would now experience double blessing, I sat there and felt so lonely, so un-blessed in my life of singleness. I hate when people try to make me feel better by telling me that “it’ll happen.” That doesn’t make me feel less lonely, less undesired right now.

  56. So true. I’ve been in situations at church where I just feel like a complete failure as a human being for not being married and having children.

  57. I have read this post with great interest and the comments about inviting people over for a meal with your family or even just to sit with us during church has really struck me. I will definitely do that. I see that single people are excluded, and I cringe when someone says something horrifyingly insensitive, but I have never really known how to help. Even “helping” feels a bit condescending.

    I feel like my personality has been largely sucked away in the business of babies and sleep deprivation, and I have very little idea about world events, fashion, movies, etc. So I feel like I have nothing very interesting to offer, but we do have family meals. We do indeed, and I would LOVE to have some friends over to share them, and I’ll keep in mind that what is chaotic (preschooler interrupting, dropping the fork, spilling the milk, me needing to rush off in the middle of the meal to nurse the baby) and imperfect hosting might not be so offensive even to someone who isn’t in the same situation.

    I do tend to imagine that singles get together to have leisurely meals and intellectual conversations with large groups of friends that extend into the evening, careless of bedtimes, homebody husbands, etc but I suppose that is as romanticized as thinking that my husband and I have a homecooked feast every night with our gorgeous and smiling offspring before tumbling into bed for a romantic interlude. Meaning, it probably happens sometimes but it’s not the normal.

    • Thank you so much for this comment. This is exactly what I wanted to happen with this post…us understanding each other better. And doing something to change it like eating meals so we can know each other. I loved that last bit, I might use it in my next post if that’s ok…..

  58. I have been single in the church for many years, and I realized very early on that the church was very ill-equipped to serve singles. Especially the smaller churches. The larger churches have a higher population and thus a better chance of finding relatable people who are in your same position. But the smaller churches were very family oriented and didn’t have any idea what to do with you.

    I remember the first time I attended church on my own, right out of college, with no friends or family with me. I knew no one at the church and saw no one who even looked approachable. I went home and cried, feeling lonelier than ever. It got better after that, as I found out what kind of church worked for me.

    I had a slightly different experience than the author in terms of people’s reactions to my singleness. I wasn’t the type of person who felt a deep grieving. I just wanted to find a place I could fit in and enjoy worship as an beneficial part of my life. I found people to be unnecessarily sympathetic to my singleness, as in they wanted to pity me for not having what they had. That made me angry. I wanted Christians to remember that marriage isn’t the end-all be-all, and I still wish for that.

  59. I have read through most of the replies and can relate to many of them.

    I am in my early 40s, a woman, never married (though I had hoped to be married), accepted Christ as my Savior at a young age, but in the last few years have been doubting the Christian faith, in part because of how poorly Christian singles are treated by Christian community (but I have totally unrelated reasons to that).

    Most churches, and Christians (especially the married ones) have numerous stereotypes about dating, gender roles, marriage and singleness that ironically contribute to keeping Christian singles single, and to increasing the amount of pre-marital sex – a lot of Christians claim to be against pre marital sex, but some of their very teachings contribute to it.

    A lot of conservative Christianity has turned marriage and having children into idols.

    I do not believe there is anything wrong with marriage or having children, but that most churches place so much importance on both that even God Himself never intended, that singles and singlehood get the shaft as a result.

    Your question:
    “Have you ever felt ashamed for feeling so much grief over being single?”

    Yes. Also for grieving that I am still unmarried in my 40s. (There are stretches of time where I am fine with being single, however.)

    I go online searching for posts about the topic, I’ve read a few books by Christians for Christian singles (some of the books were by singles, which is rare).

    Some of these authors basically tell you if you desire marriage but are still single to suck it up and just deal with it, and they guilt trip you for still wanting marriage, especially if you are past age 35 or 40.

    Perhaps my biggest pet peeve has to be how on the one hand Christians (usually married) make an idol out of marriage, but if an individual Christian admits to wanting marriage and seeking after it, she will be shamed or scolded for it.

    The single Christian who admits she desires marriage will often by told by Christian sources that she is making marriage into an idol, that she must be content in her singleness, Jesus is all she needs, the ‘Lord is your husband,’ and all the other cliches singles receive.

    Ten times more annoying to me are the older Christian singles (and I am one myself) who lecture us that we should not seek after marriage, we should just let go of that dream/ desire.

    Or, they lecture us that wanting marriage past our late 30s is selfishness, we should only care about “serving the Lord” in the here and now, and not care about our earthly happiness.

    And sadly, yes, I’ve seen older Christian singles, the ones who have given up on marriage for themselves, sit about lecturing other post- age- 35 single women to basically give up on wanting to be married.

    If you are someone who is 35+ who is truly fine being single, I have no problem with you. I am talking about the Christian single women who try to shame other women of the same age for still wanting marriage. (I don’t agree with such singles, the ones who have given up on marriage, trying to force their personal choice on me or other women who still want marriage.)

    I have had it with churches. I don’t bother to attend anymore since it’s very hard walking in alone, most sermons are about marriage, and there are next to no other singles in attendance. I don’t know if I will ever attend a church again.

    One common misconception I see brought up whenever a Christian single mentions Christians singles being overlooked by churches (and I saw it in a post above by someone else): some married person inevitably jumps in to say,
    “But hey, I’m infertile [or I have problem ‘X’], and I don’t expect every sermon to be about infertility [or about X]!”

    Well, no, singles don’t expect every last sermon to be about singleness, nor do singles ask that the church to be all about the singles all the time, or to totally ignore married couples. This objection is a strawman argument married Christians frequently make, and I find it obtuse or deceptive.

    Asking that the preacher not make every other sermon about marriage is not the same thing as if singles were to demand that the church be about singleness all the time.

    I have already abandoned the Christian belief that one may only marry another Christian. Many news sources say there are more single Christian females than there are males.

    Then I began noticing, after visiting Christian news sites, and blogs for Christian domestic abuse survivors, that there is no benefit to marrying a Christian man anyway, as a Christian is just as apt to commit crimes, abuse his wife, etc, as a Non Christian is.

    I am sorry for writing such a long post and could go on and on, but I’ll stop here.

    I’ve been blogging about some of these topics for a few years now on, a blog I use as a sort of journal. My blog is
    Christian Pundit.
    If you visit, you might want to read the “About” page first to get an idea of my background.

    As I said, I come from a Christian background, but am kind of agnostic these days. My blog is not a happy, sunny, G-rated, sugar coated, Christian-y blog (though it kind of started out that way).

    I tend to blog about the singles topic on my own blog when I’m bent out of shape, so yes, some of my blog posts come across as angry or ranty. (I explain some of that in the “About” page.)

    I use that blog as a place to vent and not to argue with people who disagree with me about whatever. I generally only allow comments to be published that are not argumentative (as that’s not the purpose of the blog).

    Thank you very much for giving adult singles a place to talk about these things.

    • Where I said, “(but I have totally unrelated reasons to that)” in my post above.

      I meant “in addition to that.”

      In other words, adult singles being treated horribly by Christians is not the only reason I’m having doubts about the faith. It is only one reason of a few, but it does play a role.

  60. Great post. I think you’re right. I like to joke with my husband sometimes that the church is “couplist”. Yes, I’m married, though I never thought I would be and I can completely identify with what you posted. There’s a definite bias against singles. In many ways singles are seen as subversive, dangerous. The church I grew up in had a policy of only hiring married pastors, because single ones (especially youth pastors) were a sex scandal waiting to happen. Good on you for getting this conversation going!

  61. Pingback: Singles and the Church: Why It Sucks to be Unintentionally Overlooked (from The Sexy Celibate blog) | Christian Pundit

  62. I am a single woman, after being married for over 30 years. I very much feel disenfranchised from the church. People seem to feel it appropriate to ask me questions like “After 30 years why did you leave your marriage.” Mind you these are not people I am close to or know well. I have no intention of telling them about the abusive relationship I left. My pat response to such rude questions is “I have issues with commitment”.

    Perhaps if I were widowed I would garner more compassion.

    I have been treated like a piranha because I am a single woman, there is no place that is valid for me to fit in except teaching Sunday School. (not something I feel called to do) Women’s bible studies that would allow me to connect with other women are always during the day. I work full time to support myself. The evening bible studies are always couple studies. They focus on relationships and such using books like “Love Language” since I am in no relationship currently this really doesnt edify me.

    I have had Christians tell me why God is withholding a man from my life. Of course it is because of my lack of………..fill in the blank with faith, prayer,etc. I finally left my “Christian Family” to attend a Unitarian Church, there my singleness is accepted, I am not asked embarrassing personal questions about why I am single nor does anyone suggest it is personal lack of connection with God that keeps me this way. Sad commentary on the Christian Church

    One of my favorite quotes sums it up quite nicely (I only wish I could remember who said it.) The Christian army is the only army that takes it’s wounded out back and shoots it.

  63. It’s an intriguing predicament in the church for sure. Several months ago I stopped attending a church (for various theological and doctrinal issues) that required pastors to be men who are married. This is what most people would consider a mega church so they have many pastors (teaching pastor, leading pastor, connections pastor, etc.) This is a pretty homogeneous group (not to mention I’m pretty sure all of them were Caucasian) with what I feel to be a limited life perspective considering the diversity of most urban area congregations.

    In another church I attended recently, the pastor seemed to constantly make spiritual analogies with what it’s like to be married (baptism as a symbol much like a wedding ring, disagreements in church much like when spouses disagree – we still love each other, etc….) I felt like this also provided a limited perspective and alienated much of the congregation. If you’re single, I think those analogies first of all may or may not click right away and also just become downright annoying after a while.

    Meanwhile in the Catholic church you must commit to a life of singleness to be a priest, so that bias obviously isn’t there. It’s interesting that many “Protestant” churches have swung so far the other way and become so much about marriage.

    Paul (who was single) addresses singleness and marriage in 1 Corinthians 7 and while I personally find a lot of it to be confusing, he seems to flip the emphasis of what the attitude is in most churches. While many churches seem to come across as, “Being married is the way to go, but being single is okay too,” Paul seems to say, “There is a lot of value in being single, but it’s okay to be married” (paraphrasing). The main thing that I can comprehend from this passage is in 1 Cor. 7:7 – “….each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.” I think churches would be good to remember this.

    • Meanwhile in the Catholic church you must commit to a life of singleness to be a priest, so that bias obviously isn’t there. It’s interesting that many “Protestant” churches have swung so far the other way and become so much about marriage.

      When the subject came up on Internet Monk a year or two ago, one of the commenters traced this back to the Reformation Wars, when having married or single clergy announced Whose Side You Were On. With the addition of “Enemy Christians do X, so We Must Do Not-X.”

  64. If the church is driving away singles who are Christian, what does that say about outreach to singles who are not Christian? We are not making disciples if we’re only doing so by “breeding” as someone says above. This is wrong. Of course, raising a family focused on Christ is imperative, but if we are ignoring those in our community – and for some of us, it’s more than 50% – we are failing.

    My boss yesterday told a dirty joke starting out with “a guy walks into a bar and was feeling kind of lonely…” Why do singles hang out at bars and clubs? Ultimately, for good or for bad, because they are in need of companionship, and yet the church sneers at these people for their immaturity and sinfulness rather than having any level of compassion for them. But the single person who shows up for every family event at church is ridiculed as well. Pastors encourage volunteering to singles as a way of spiritual development and refreshment, but volunteering does not replace intimacy and a single person still goes home to an empty house.

    If we’re not inviting singles from the church into our homes, we’re definitely not inviting those who are lost – our colleagues and neighbors – into our homes and it’s only perpetuating the problem. We should be the ones bucking the trend of Bridget’s ‘smug marrieds’ of the world and inviting singles into our lives.

    I say “we” but count me as another fed up single who recently left the church. I have a great love for my city though and I do what I can to share Christ with the people I come into contact with. I pray that one day the church repents, but it’s too depressing to be there myself.

  65. I am thankful that the Lord is stirring other hearts in this way. I’ve recently been drawn further in with the Lord, and we have been talking about singleness, chastity and celibacy a lot.
    I’m sitting with these things, allowing my heart to break for a lot of different reasons and people (including me).
    So glad you’re part of this conversation.
    Let’s continue it!

  66. Pingback: 6 Good Questions About Singles And The Church | Christian VagabondChristian Vagabond

  67. Pingback: 6 Good Questions About Singles And The Church Pt 2 | Christian VagabondChristian Vagabond

  68. I think this is a really interesting topic. My father is a pastor and my mother recently posted to FB asking why we thought (her children specifically) that so many young people leave the church at 18, but only half return by 30. And, of several ideas, I suggested that its partly bc of this specific issue. Lots more people are remaining unmarried and the church doesn’t make a place for them. :-/ My two best friends are single, so this is an issue near to my heart. We’ve known each other since Christian college and are very, very close. They are my “bosom buddies” and sometimes its a hard topic to broach as a married lady. Part of me doesn’t want to be patronizing and ASSUME its a problem in their lives. If they are happy than I am happy! And then part of me wants to be a good friend and gently probe if it IS a problem. Its hard, bc I don’t want to paint marriage as a fix all, or as something that will profoundly improve their lives, but at the same time, I am profoundly grateful that I met my husband. Its like having a kid (which I am currently incubating). I HATE how everyone is like “It will make your lives so much BETTER and FULLER” as if someone without a child can’t experience a full life. Having a kid is just ONE WAY to profoundly affect your life. My single friend moved across the country and THAT profoundly affected her life! And I feel that way when the church talks about marriage. Single people have profound lives too! My husband and I have been talking about this a lot lately. How the church venerates marriage and parenthood and how that is sort of weird. Since there isn’t anything spectacularly SPECIAL about being a married or a parent.

    • You know, I actually sometimes really like hearing a person say that they love being married, that they are grateful they met their spouse. Today, a friend of mine said “when I met my husband, this deep longing inside of me that has been there since I was little was filled. The aching was really actually gone” She didn’t add a “but” or anything like that. She said it and didn’t have to qualify it with anything else. I liked that. It did not make me feel like she was saying I was an incomplete person. It was honest, and it gave me hope that marriage can be a beautiful thing.

    • I have been crying for three years now (age 42 and never married, moving into menopuase), over the sense of loss I feel over knowing and having to accept that I will not be a mother. While being a parent may not be anything particularly SPECIAL to some people, it is EXACTLY that to others. Consider how valid and worthwhile your thoughts and feelings about that topic are to you…..the opposite is just as true for the woman who has been dreaming of being a mother since she was a little girl. Not because anyone told her it was special or she has been trained to believe it is her role, but just because it is her very own heart’s desire.

  69. I’m Eastern Orthodox (Christian), and I relate to some of these things, and others less so. Clergy have to marry before they’re ordained or remain celibate (and only celibate priests can become bishops, though they can be widowers), and both marriage and celibacy are honored. The churches I’ve been to are very understanding of people who are neither married nor monastic, though a lot of congregations strongly recommend that at a certain point people enter into one kind of covenant or another.

    I grew up in evangelical an homeschooling community, and they had much stronger expectations about how things “should” go (marry early, have children, stay at home with children if at all possible). I don’t feel that I’ve been harmed by that, but I was never very deeply invested in it, so I took off for other states and countries, rather than waiting for a man to show up, and do believe that to be an acceptable thing to do. But I have seen a current in that subculture that disapproves of women going off on adventures or earning degrees, which is surely very demoralizing — between that and the mainstream culture, girls can end up in a no-win situation.

  70. Yes, I do think we married and singles see each other with rose colored glasses. I cannot even imagine the pain and grief one would feel at the thought of not have a family that your heart truly longs for. It is definitely a “real” pain and should be acknowledged.

    However, as a married (13 years now) and as one married young, I do have to chuckle at some of the ideas singles have about marrieds (and vice versa I’m sure!!). We definitely have an idealized or like a previous commented said “romanticized” view of our respective lives.

    What my single friends must see as a “snub” for not inviting them to lunch, I see as a mercy “gift” to them. Not to endure lunch with two small children, who truly only enjoy McDonald’s (which helps our budget as well). I cannot even imagine inviting any friend (single or married) out to McDonald’s, HA! As parents, we are fully aware that no interesting conversation will happen at this meal of chaos. All thoughts will be interrupted with phrases of “Stop that”, “Sit down”, “Don’t lick the floor!”.

    On the flip side, I imagine that my single friends all go do lunch together at posh places with awesome conversation, laughing, and fun! Why on earth would they want to endure my families torture when they could do that?

    I will make a mental note, that perhaps, someone might take me up on my McDs lunch and that what I see as chaos, might be company to another!

    As for inviting to the home dinner, haha, I don’t know about others families, but we are far from the Walton’s – sitting down for a nice home cooked meal. My husband rolls in about 8pm most nights (after dinner), and I generally eat after the kids because I’m tired of eating cold food after getting up for the 100th time for another spoon, cup of water, or napkin.

    Actually, now that I think of it – I COULD use some company, because nights are super lonely for me. So I am going to invite some friends over during our “2nd” dinner when it’s just me hanging out in front of the TV eating my dinner, haha.

    The only reasons I usually don’t invite people over (married OR single!) are because (A) the house is wreck (B) honestly, do grilled cheese sandwiches and gold fish really count as a meal, and (C) I don’t plan that far ahead, as you can tell by point (B).

    But, we should be doing life with people (married or single!) and I am going to make it a priority to invite others into my life. The ones that want to be in it will stay, the others will run for the hills at my son’s first fart at the table!

    I love my friends (married and single!) and I wouldn’t want anything I did to be misconstrued as a slight against them. I truly can’t relate to all aspects of their lives, as I haven’t lived in their shoes. I also know that what they think of my motives and life isn’t completely accurate as well.

    I am married with 2 children, a husband I only see for about an hour every day and he’s exhausted when he gets home. No time for nookie! One of my children has special needs and I spend a lot of time working with that. Yes, children and spouses are a blessing. But they also come with their own challenges. As does singleness I imagine.

    So I promise not to envision your life as going night clubbing every night, traveling the world or enjoying awesome girl brunches every weekend, and maybe you can promise not to think my kids behave every day and my husband and I love each other every minute of the day!

  71. I didn’t read all the responses – I read some great ones but there are so many! My thought is this: If you care about me and know that singleness is hard for me, then INTRODUCE ME TO SOMEONE YOU KNOW if you think that person is a good guy. No, I won’t blame you if we don’t like each other, or if we date for 5 years and then break up. Don’t worry. But if you never think of me when you meet good guys, then it is clear that this need is not on your radar.

  72. A fantastic blog. I am 32 and still single and I’ve been in the church my whole life and experienced almost all of this. I will share three examples: 1) I’ve experienced the phrase “when you stop looking you will find him”…this was said to me by a co-worker (in ministry) who has been married for 30 years and met her spouse at 19 years old. Really, did you stop looking at 19 for a guy to date? I’m guessing not. While I am in a much better place than I used to be regarding being content in my current cirsumstances, my guess is that if you desire to be married, you don’t just “stop looking”. 2) Several years ago I was interested in becoming a marriage/family Christian counselor. I was told I wouldn’t be a good marriage counselor because I haven’t been married. Isn’t that like saying I can’t counsel someone about their addiction because I haven’t gone through their addiction? 3) I worshipped in one church for several years and did everything I could to be involved. My pastor who has known me for 8 years never once asked me to lead anything…I believe it was because he believed it’s better for married couples to be leaders over a group rather than a single person. What I like most about this blog is that I never realized other people felt the same way. I just thought there was something wrong with me because I felt out of place.

  73. My pastor addressed this issue as part of a sermon series.

    He reminded me that our Savior, Jesus Christ, was single. Paul the apostle was single. AND he told the married people to (paraphrasing) lock it up and stop insinuating that there is something wrong with us single people. It was one of the most validating experience of my life. This notion that your life as a woman doesn’t start until you get married and have a family drives me crazy or that I should be sad and miserable because I’m single. It feels as if people think there is something wrong with you if you are single while also telling you that if you aren’t content in it, there is something wrong with you.

  74. I had the same problem when I was 28, so I decided to take matters in to my own hands and start a Datingcourse called ‘The Sense&Nonsense about Dating’ in my church, Crossroads International Church in Amsterdam (The Netherlands). I used Henry Clouds book: ‘How to get a date worth keeping’ initially (it’s a great read!) and have written my own coursebook now, called Meaningful Dating (not translated yet). It turned out to be a MAYOR hit. Within an hour we had 60 subscriptions for our first course, three years ago. I have given the course six times since, and it’s being given by people I have trained this fall in three churches. Singles, especially when they are over 25, need good, solid advice on how to deal with the challenges on singleness and dating. And you cannot expect such advice from pastors who have mostly married well before 25. You have to forgive them for their ignorance and bless them with what you know singles our agegroup need. My pastors were and still are very thankfull for my initiative.

    This summer I married a great and wonderful guy. He is not my type, and he didn’t fulfill a lot of criteria on my list that turned out to be superficial (age – he is 5 years younger, level of education – I have a double mastersdegree, he has a bachelors) but he did fullfill the important charactertraits I was hoping for (honesty, openness, trustworthiness). And yes I am very happy to be in a loving relationship. Period. My life is better for it. More challenging in some ways, but definitely less challenging in loads of other ways. I have met my husband in one of the courses I gave 🙂 I’m working on a coursepackage for everyone to use in their church. If you want to be updated about that, mail me at amvanabbema @ gmail.com

    Keep hope! Seriously. That was my biggest wrestle with God and myself, to keep hope. But it is what God gives you. You are never too old to date, and to find someone to share the next part of your life with, whether it’s a short or long part..

    • I like your attitude…sometimes we need to quit whining and so something ourselves. I will probably include that idea in my next post.

      I wrote a study guide for my book that is not out yet, but I am really excited about it. It goes really deep and can be used in just women or co-ed groups. It’s 8 weeks. It’s good to hear the success of your study, as I am really thinking that it is needed to have good studies for singles.

      How did you get yours out there? Was it an actual book?

      Here’s a link to my book if you ever want more ideas for singles groups! It would be a great read. (I liked how to get a date worth keeping, by the way!)

      • I think it’s very important to stop whining and create the space you need. I just started the course, and as it grew to be a success it developed into a more mature course off which i have first written a book called ‘Single in Church’, addressing the balance between singles and the church, and the struggles and opportunities there. My second book is appearing in two weeks time and is the coursebook of the course I have developed. It’s called Meaningful dating. I hope to get it translated, especially since Alpha UK has shown interest in further developing my concept. I’m still talking about the opportunities there with Nicky and Sila Lee, founders of the Marriage and the Premarriagecourse. Exciting times! And yes, much needed.

  75. This was insightful, thanks. A few months ago I’d written a blog post along a similar vein. I’m in my mid-40s, male, single-never-married, with no evident prospects on the horizon. I’ve had my fair share of run-ins with well-meaning churches’ attempts to “deal with” singleness, which usually involves some variation of the idea that singleness is a problem that needs to be fixed. Matronly ladies of the church would cluck and say, “I just don’t understand why a fine young man like you has never gotten married.” The reality is, I have nothing to say to that; I don’t really understand it either. I might be able to write it off in terms of unconventional life situations that have made “settling down” harder, but that doesn’t really answer the real question–“What’s wrong with him?”

    But I think the spiritual “concept” that triggers the most indignation is when someone will casually say something like, “You just never really grasp the depth of God’s love until you get married (or have kids).” And I don’t deny the reality that God can and does reveal himself in unique ways through those relationships; but the unspoken implication is that since I’m not married, I miss out on the deeper experience of a relationship with God.

    That’s why I appreciated your term, “disenfranchised grief.” Hit the nail on the head. People will also say, “Well, you don’t really miss what you’ve never had.” [Insert appropriate expletive.] And while I don’t advocate the idea that “singles of a certain age” have any more right than anyone else to self-serving introspection, there is something very disheartening about struggles that receive no real validation in our churches, let alone constructive ministry.

  76. I was going to leave a really long, thought-out reply, but WordPress made me log in and now the original comment got lost. So there are two main things I wanted to say:

    1.) Thank you so much for posting this! It was so encouraging, and I teared up while reading it at work. It speaks perfectly and directly into why I feel so alone as a single person in a church full of married, engaged, and dating people, and I resonate so clearly with your statements, “It is a strange kind of grief because most people don’t recognize it as a validated loss. Singles often feel a deep sense of grieving, and yet we don’t feel like we deserve to be grieving because nothing concrete has happened to us… Freedom is there in abundance, but only because we don’t have a family. Most of us would trade in our freedom for a family in a heartbeat.” You couldn’t have put it better, and to raise awareness of this issue, I am going to reference post your post, and share your post with others who have told me to “enjoy the freedom of being single,” or “find the joy in singleness.”

    Which brings me to point number two:

    2.) C.S. Lewis once said (or wrote; I don’t know because I’m just reading it): “My own idea, for what it is worth, is that all sadness which is not either arising from the repentance of a concrete sin and hastening towards concrete amendment or restitution, or else arising from pity and hastening to active assistance, is simply bad; and I think we all sin by needlessly disobeying the apostolic injunction to ‘rejoice’ as much as by anything else.” And that statement leaves me with great tension after reading your post, because I’m still wondering: what does God say about my singleness?; specifically, how is He glorified in it? am I actually sinning by recognizing my disenfranchised grief and asking that it be recognized by others? I know C.S. Lewis was not a perfect man, so maybe this statement wasn’t very Biblical, or it was taken out of context, or I just want to be hopeful that I can feel the way I feel and not be sinning, but I’m in so much turmoil over why I do feel this disenfranchised grief when the Bible does clearly say to rejoice in my suffering? Is this considered suffering? Can you rejoice and still grieve over singleness at the same time?

  77. Oh Kate. I wish I knew you. This pricked my heart – just as it did so many others! I am 34 and single. My only real dream in life has been to become the quintessential prairie wife. I want to quaint house with the picket fence that opens into a bountiful home garden that feeds my husband and house full of children. I have an extreme passion and love for children, and work vocationally as a Children’s Minister. I am on staff at a large church where I am the ONLY single staff member. No one there really gets me or understands. And as much as I know they love me, I very often feel unloved because they can not relate to the world I live in. Disenfranchised grief is a perfect phrase! Feeling undervalued because of my singleness is a daily struggle. I have to PROVE myself to the families I work with as a valid source of information and support for the struggles they face as parents. No, I do not have a spouse and I do not have children, but I know the pains of longing for one things and getting another. I love the Lord with all of my heart and soul, but in that heart beats a hope and a desire for a companion. People in the church need to become ok with addressing the needs of the single members. Don’t isolate us and put us in a back room alone. We are alone enough! Look us in the eyes, speak to us as equal citizens, and don’t underestimate the power and authority that we have in the Kingdom of God!

    • I wish I knew you too! It sounds like you are trying to “build your own family” with the kids you work with at your church, which is a beautiful thing to do. I pray God’s peace for you.

  78. Wow. Look at all the comments on this post! That alone says something.

    Thanks for writing a few words that open up a place that needs opening.

    Our church held a seminar for singles: How singles can be a good part of the church. I was excited for this issue to be addressed and discussed… and then the seminar was full of dating advice and icebreaker games. What a disappointment! I was frustrated, discouraged. I’m convinced I’m not the only one who really wants to offer my skills to the church, not just be “fixed” by marriage. I fight to not feel like I’m less valuable now that I’m single again. It’s really, really hard sometimes.

    Yes, I seek out the Spirit’s voice to me in every sermon and all the books, but often I’m hungry for a word that doesn’t need to be twisted a little to apply to my situation (I’m a “parent” to my nieces! I’m “in relationship” with everyone I meet!) Now, I don’t expect anyone to cater to me. I despise whining and I do not look for ways to be offended. But still, I believe the point is valid: often, adult singles are somehow overlooked. I don’t think it’s intentional.

    I feel sad because I see so much potential good flowing from adult singles, and I feel in some ways like we are an untapped resource because of this overlooking. Let me just note that many singles do offer their skills to the church anyway; this is our responsibility, regardless of others. But also, I really believe there is something else here worth considering. What if the adult singles were validated, supported, acknowledged? What if we became a strong force in the church? How would it be different?

    A small note: I find it really difficult to explain this struggle of being divorced, especially. Once I was married, then I became Christian and he left, and now I am not just single but divorced. It’s extra sticky somehow.

    • I know I wish I could write a whole book for divorced people just so that they would feel loved but I don’t know enough about it. You have experienced the joys and the incredible pain of both stances. We as the church need to listen to people like you….you have so much to teach us.

  79. I’m tired of people telling me if Jesus was really #1 in my life He would have given me a husband (always said by married people, of course, who are so much closer to God than I am, because they have spouses). I have to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and THEN, not before, will all things be added unto you.” I once had a pastor (of an enormous megachurch) tell us women we were fooling ourselves by not marrying (as if single men were banging down our doors asking) because “there is a time for every purpose” and that then we marry “too late and discover we can’t have children, that we have tried to trick God and failed.” That we focused on our careers to the detriment of marriage. No, we focus upon our careers because we have no family.

    And yes, I’ve read the Pollyanna “How to Get Married” books by married Christians that tell you to pray one up, and we he doesn’t appear it’s our fault for not having enough faith. Or just show up and God will drop a husband into our laps. Do they really think I haven’t prayed, haven’t gone to every Singles Church function, haven’t asked my friends?

    I blame the Prosperity Gospel, which tells everyone they deserve the best of everything. Every guy in the world, no matter how old, fat, bald, homely, uneducated, minimally employed, thinks they deserve a woman who looks like a model and is 15-20 years younger. Then they get angry that those women aren’t interested in them, and say women only go for looks (which is exactly what they are doing). Secular men ask me out all the time, but I keep telling myself I want someone who shares my Christianity.

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  82. “disenfranchised grief”

    Oh my word, yes! Somebody named it! Hallelujah! It is a REAL THING! I very distinctly remember my kindergarten interview. The counselor asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Well, I wanted to be a cool, young mom, just like mine (awww! Yes, I’ve told her this), but I knew that wasn’t the “right” answer. So I said “Marine Mammal Biologist” (yes, when I was 4, I knew what that was). I have a zoology degree and work with water filtration so..meh…I got pretty darn close.

    And then I turned 25, having never gone on a real date. I realized that I had to say goodbye to my dream of being a “young mom” like mine, and I GRIEVED that loss–big time.

    And then I turned 30, still never having had a real boyfriend (I managed a couple of sorta-kinda-maybe-this-is-a-real-date dates by this point). I had to say goodbye to “married by 30” too, and I’m still griving that one.

    Disenfranchised grief is a real thing, and it is no less grief than the grief of infertility or the grief of marriage troubles, but nobody seems to recognize it or acknowledge it’s reality in our lives. Thank you, for recognizing it and telling people that it exists.

    • I keep reading these disenfranchised grief comments, especially from people who’ve never really had a relationship. And I get it. I do. At the age of 34, I’d never had a boyfriend or anything close (one blind date). I lived with the grief of a lifelong dream of being a mother – lost.

      That year, I got involved in a relationship. And it was precious. Until it was broken. And my heart broke.

      Pretty sure I preferred the grief of never having a relationship.

      Not making light of anything, but I want to remind everyone that we can’t ever gauge the depth of someone else’s feelings.

      And in any case, i do know – God is good. He is good.

  83. I feel like there is an enormous bias towards married people in church. As a woman, I feel like it’s tied to ages old misogyny. My “place” is attached to a man through marriage and shepherding our offspring hither and thither into being good little Christian boys and girls, and if I’m not doing that, then my contributions to the church are nothing.

    I think if sermons concerning love and marriage are not applicable to all of the people sitting in the pews, the problem is with the preacher, not the message. Marriage in the bible is not only used to talk about the marriage between two people, but as a metaphor for the relationship between Christ and the church.

  84. Thank you also for the phrase “disenfranchised mourning.” It put to words a feeling that I’ve had for many years now but was never able to put into words.

  85. I have been married for nineteen years, but we have “adopted” several single ladies into our home and family over the years, so this topic is dear to me. I just recently finished the book “Limited Church, Unlimited Kingdom” by Rob Rienow. In the chapter titled Elevating Singles Ministry, I believe he gives the best treatment of this issue I have read and the only real way to move forward. Thanks for sharing your heart!

  86. Kate Hurley – This is by far the best article I’ve read on singleness in quite a while. Of course, the main problem is that marriage and family are worshiped as idols in the church today. The Baptist’s “faith and message statement” purposefully excludes singles and exalts the nuclear family as the “building block” of society. Yes, I’m very familiar with the Mark Almay story. I’m afraid it’s even worse than that. In the state I live in there are zero single pastors and most all of the job openings are for “pastor and wife team with two children.” As to why we’re not in leadership positions? The answer is a catch-22. Most churches gladly support their “youth” up to 21-22. At that age, they try to get them to channel all of their energy and time into pizza parties, AWANA, True Love Waits, beach parties, and on and on. But after 22-23 years of age, your on your on. To most of the older generation in church, the very word “single” has lost all meaning. They think every single man is banging up every woman in town on the weekends. So, to them the word has no virtue. You might as well be a single book on their desk. If it’s not with the girls, then it’s got to be with the men. I’ve been told by multiple church leaders that “well, if you’re not married by a certain age, it’s just assumed that your gay.” So, if a community does happen to have a virtuous single who is waiting for marriage before having sex, a real biblical single who has standards, a single who could make a difference in the lives of their youth — they are laughed out of the parking lot. The church’s level of distrust effectively shoots them in the foot. The truth is that our pornographic and adulterous society has filled the churches with distrust and suspicion. I don’t think Apostle Paul would make it up the steps of the church before being knocked down. An unkempt single man, no ring, no wife, no children, no story, no history. He wouldn’t stand a chance. But your article does give me a little more hope. Thanks for writing that. John, 52, waiting until marriage

  87. Thanks for writing this. You forgot one huge point – what about all the young couples who have regular meals together but never invite the only two single young women in the church. I’m 29 years old. Sometimes I feel as if I’m invisible – I’m invited to ‘girls nights’ but only if there is going to be another single girl there but I can’t remember the last time I hung out with more than one married couple at one time who are my age. In fact, there is only one young couple in my church who have invited me for a meal in the past 4 years but again, that’s just them and me – they still meet with the other couples on a regular basis. I have grown accustomed to been forgotten by my peers.

    I love my church and wouldn’t change because of this but I would strongly advise couples to include the single person / people.

      • Well… just checking – have you invited anyone over to eat with you? I often felt as you did during my early “uh-oh-what happened I’m not married” years, although I had some precious “grandparents” who took care to include me, as well as a few families who occasionally extended an invitation. When I moved to my current small town (= step back to the culture of my childhood), I realized I could work things the other way – and it does work. Yes, it’s a little awkward if it’s just a couple and you, but it can be fine and if it’s not, invite two couples or some families the next time! Back when none of us were as busy, I often hosted my pastor, his wife, and 3 children, or some friends (originally, acquaintances) who were a couple or my precious “second family” (at the time, I just knew them as “my landlords and their kids.” ) Now, I usually only have time to host out of town folks or my two parties a year ( New Year’s and Easter), but somehow as I invited people more, I got invited a lot more (I now only eat about one dinner a week at home). Do your part! 🙂

      • Not really sure how to take that last comment. And I’m not really one to argue, usually. But I know lots of couples who don’t get invited anywhere either (I think our culture is losing the art of hospitality) and I just figure as celibates we can, sometimes, help ourselves.

      • Rebecca, 100% agreed with you. It is good advice. Whether single or married, a basic principle of friendship is to offer it to receive it. Jesus said it’s more blessed to give than receive, and I’ve certainly found that. It helps nothing to sit around being bitter about what you don’t have. You’ll be amazed how blessed you’ll be when you instead take the initiative to reach out and offer it to someone else (“do unto others…”)

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  89. Thank you for this article. I am single and turned 50 last year. I’ve never been married and, at this point, unlikely to ever be married. I have been actively involved in church(es) for the past 30 years. Until recently my singleness has not bothered me but lately I’ve felt more invisible and ignored. For example, I have been home ill for the past week and people from church know it. Yet not one of them has asked if I need anything or shown any concern at all. I find it interesting that my unchurched friends from work have shown more concern than my fellow church-folk. I am currently considering giving up church in exchange for becoming a bar fly. Perhaps I’d have more in common with the other bar patrons. Of course, I’m kidding (I think 🙂 ).

  90. Your blog is a breath of fresh air. So so true.
    I think married people think we’ve got it made. All the so called freedom we have. No ties. Can do our own thing. I get this from those who have been married 15+ years. I don’t think the church believes we have issues. Thanks again for your honesty and Insight.

  91. What I hate most is people who criticize and question single adults who share the family home after they turn 18 or so! I lived in my family home until I was 29 no boy friends to speak of, left a church where I as the ONLY single person at 19, and went to a church where another family gave me a second home, they had 3 sons and we were friends never anything more, but I felt validated by them as well as by my own parents. Not that I wanted marriage early, my parents’ was awful. I met my husband, married at 30, and have had a pretty difficult time of it. Single, married, it has to do with making life outside yourself. My sons- one who has a girl friend share this home…it is theirs as equals, and I make sure to provide emotional support and have them bring their lives into THEIR home. Gladly my other son is determined for a Christian girl only, has a special friendship with a Christian girl who is not ready for a romantic relationship, and attends a church with a good mix of relationships. I want to see him happy, and if staying in his home, mixing with his family suits, him, it suits us. What a joy to see him and his brother forming into wonderful adults, share their friendships, and make friends with them as equals, that. I had with my beloved mum. So, leave him alone, why abandon family if you are an adult, treated as an adult, and always sure of company, acceptance and love. They are welcome to stay, go, return, entertain, live life to the full and not be alone. They can rely on us as a unit always, 24 and 25 is not an issue,perhaps I should leave, I am 59 and the oldest person here, maybe the old folks home is calling! I love them bringing their friends, hobbies, activities, griefs amd joys here, it keeps me on the hop, and financially, they are getting a great start for the future, what about this is there not to like? Their dad is a dad to many young adults who visit here from broken homes, our sons bring them here on purpose. Live and let live I think,

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  93. Hello.

    I found this blog by doing a google search for the search terms:

    Christian+singles+group+”over 30″

    I did so because I have found a church with a very good senior pastor, but the singles group is restricted only to people under the age of 30. I am appalled. Why am I being prevented from attending the singles group just because of my age? Is this a new thing in Christian ministry? Is it even scriptural?

    I wanted to do this google search to see how common this is.

    I do not know WHY this church is choosing to exclude anyone over 30 from the singles group. But in the end I have no one to fellowship with in this church.

    They started to do small group Bible studies last year and I went to one, and discovered that everyone in the group I was placed into had grandchildren. Everyone. Even the group leader. I was the only person there who had never been married and never had kids. I had very little in common with any of them. They were nice people, but there was just no connection.

    Why is this church doing this?

    Is it because the pastor I charge of the singles group is very young himself and doesn’t feel he can minister to anyone over 30? If so, then he needs to step down and allow someone else to be the singles pastor.

    Is it because someone somewhere did some “research” and discovered that today’s generation of American 20-something Christians have no desire to hang out with people over 30, so they are structuring the group to fit with that research?

    Allow me to rephrase the above by changing the words around, and after I have changed the words, tell me if this is godly.

    Is it because someone somewhere did some “research” and discovered that today’s generation of American white Christians have no desire to hang out with people who are not white, so they are structuring the group to fit with that research?

    Seriously, is this scriptural to push away unmarried people over 30?

    • ugh i had the opposite problem….i went to the “singles” group at my church which ended up consisting of a bunch of old women over 55+ and 2 men who said they didn’t even attend the church in the first place…

      and that was at a LARGE church of over 1,000…it was such a turn off.

      churches should have some sort of speed dating….i’m not lying…women work and are too busy, and guys now are just so shy its pathetic…. half of the people cannot communicate since they are on social media all the time and don’t know how to even form friendships!

    • My pastor is over 50 with children and grand children. And the singles ministry was for the age group of 20 to 30. I am 42, never married, no children. Super lonely.

    • Age segregated singles groups are done to prevent age gap relationships from developing. It is totally unbiblical. Not only is there no prohibition against it there are examples of God ordained age gap relationships in the Bible. Age segregation among adults is no different than racial segregation.

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  95. Dear Kate,

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for your insights. You have truly blessed me. I am a never married woman in her late forties. I have desired marriage since my early twenties. Here is a bit of why your blog has been so helpful.

    I have attended a medium-sized family oriented church in my city for the past seven years. Though it was scary to walk in the door the first day, the second I did so, I immediately felt the presence of God, and knew I’d found my new church home after several months of church shopping. The pastoral staff is kind and loving, and work hard at discipling the membership. When I joined, I knew the importance of getting connected, and became involved in the choir. It was mostly a joy to help other people get into the Lord’s presence, but I began to struggle with my unfulfilled desires for marriage. Often times I would leave church or choir rehearsal in tears because of loneliness, isolation, and my own perceived marginalization as an older single woman with no children.

    My church also has a recovery ministry for those struggling with addiction, codependency, and all kinds of other hurts, habits, and hang-ups. I began attending to support a friend, as of course I didn’t need to go for myself, ha ha! I soon learned what a red-hot mess I was (I struggle with food addiction, and will stuff emotional pain away by mindless eating). Jesus lovingly and patiently brought me out of denial for my many emotional issues underneath the eating, and started to help me work on them, with a kind and loving support team. Jesus has peeled off many layers of hurt in me, but somehow, the pain of unfulfilled desires for marriage kept rising to the surface. It continues to do so, even after extensive Bible studies, journaling and prayer to put Jesus first in my heart, as my true husband and lover of my soul.

    Your blog helped me to realize a critical step I’ve been missing. As a recovering addict, I was still engaging in avoidance behaviors by not letting myself grieve being single. I thought, if I just stuff my loneliness down and serve more, God will give me the joy and life abundant that the Bible says I’m supposed to have. So I put myself out there, served as best I could, and kept re-opening my wounds every weekend. But I can’t give love away to other people that effectively if I’m one of the walking wounded.

    I can see now that I need to take a break from serving for a bit, let myself grieve, pour out to the Lord all of my anger, resentment, envy, frustration, and frantic desperation. I will ask him to heal my wounded heart, charge my empty batteries, and show me what is next for our journey together. And he will, because I matter to him, and he needs me to be his hands and feet.

    Lately I have been feeling very isolated, as there aren’t any other women in my recovery ministry who are older and have never been married. I felt there was no one out there who understood my struggles. Just last week I prayed that God would give me someone to whom I could confess my pain, to bring it out in the open so he can start the healing process. You are that person, Kate. Bless you, and thank you for being the answer to my heartfelt prayer.

    • Oh sweet Kathryn, this made me cry! It means so much to me to know that what I am doing is bringing comfort and healing to people that are in same predicament I am. Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know this.

    • Although I commend you on your realization that you needed to prioritize Jesus in your life, it just gets on my nerves when people try to make singles believe and accept Jesus as their husband. It is so cliche. Jesus is not a husband for single women. Theologically, he is the husband of the Ekklessia….the church. It is a metaphor that gets grotesquely misused. He did not come to be the single person’s date, companion, husband or father to their children….that is what HUSBANDS do. Jesus, God, the HOly Spirit, they fulfill our spiritual needs for communion with holiness, and becoming righteous in the sight of God because of the shed blood of Christ. But spiritual things do not take the place of natural things such as the Psychosocial emotional need for companionship that every human being that wants to love another person and be loved in return experiences. You can no more satiate that need with reading scripture, speaking in tongues, and blessing the name of the Lord than you can go into the kitchen and fix yourself a ham sandwich to satisfy the need for fellowship with God. Spiritual things satisfy spiritual needs and natural things satisfy natural things. I wish the Kingdom of God here on the earth (THE CHURCH) would gets some balance and understanding about this. Take a look at Abram Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (a christian psychologist) as well as Erik Erickson’s 12 Psychosocial Developmental stages of Life. The next time that some spooky spiritually deep Christian person tries to vehemently tell you that Jesus is your husband and that you should be completely satisfied with that fact….drop Abraham Maslow and Erick Erikson on them. And usually the people trying to tell you to be happy with your spiritual husband have their arms wrapped around a mate with children and grandchildren in tow….

      • This is brilliant! Thank you for saying this! I thought about studying Erick Erikson for a book I was thinking of doing on different stages of relationship with God but I scrapped that idea. But I love what you said….spiritual things satisfy spiritual needs but not always natural needs. God has given me great hope, but as of yet, he has not been able to give me a physical child.

      • Kate, I think that you exploring Erik Erikson for your book would be a wise and balanced avenue to take. I think that that area is one where the body of christ is failing people. No balance and not being able to deal with people wholistically. Throwing scripture around is not an immediate fix to things, and I say this as a person who takes my salvation and the completed work of Christ on the cross very seriously. Getting saved does not eliminate the problems and pains of life, it is something that is supposed to help us walk through these things more successfully. BUT church does not eliminate humanity, and that includes the very disenfranchised pain that Christian women who are not able to bear children feel. Because HEY……you are told over and over again, ALL that you are supposed to ever want is Jesus, and if you express pain over life’s issues then it is an indictment against your love and faithfulness to God. Soooooooooooooo, frustrating. Good luck with your book, and may God bless all of your endeavers and may you find healing and wholeness regarding the pain you feel over wanting a child from your own womb to love.

  96. I’m glad I could encourage you. And please know that I am not giving up on myself or my church. It is not up to me or my married pastors to fix me, only God can do that. But I can’t let him heal a wound if I say it’s not there. Thanks to the validation you’ve provided, I can move forward from this place of being stuck. I don’t know what the future will bring. Am I afraid of staying single my entire life when I don’t feel called to it? Of course I am. Is it painful to grieve the loss of the husband and family I’ve never had? Of course it is. But what can I do but trust God? I know something good will come out of this somehow. After all, in Isaiah 66:9, The Lord has promised me “…I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born.” (NCV)

  97. I know this was written a while ago, but thanks for writing it. It is difficult to talk about these things without seeming like you are complaining. When I have tried to discuss the issue of being in my 40’s and having never been married and having no children, many people label it the “grass is always greener” complaint. I’m sure being married has it’s challenges, at least that is what I see in all the books and in the messages in church, but I’m not sure that others are as aware of my challenges as a single, much less understand them.

    I usually do not ask the church to meet my needs as a single, because quite honestly I don’t think they are equipped and capable to do so. I’m not disappointed that way.

    The only real struggle I have is when the messages include something to the effect: “I didn’t fully understand God’s love and grace until I became a parent or spouse.” If this is true, then I guess I will never fully understand his love and grace, not to its full extent. I don’t believe God would hold himself back from me just because I am not married and don’t have children. It is is an example of what you say when it is “unintentional.” We try to understand God from our own backyard and don’t often try to look over the fence into someone else’s backyard in order to better understand their challenges, joys, victories, in trying to know God. I think this is a principle that “church” can get better at in general, not just with singles. Just because this is how God has demonstrated himself to you, may or may not be how he demonstrates himself to others, and the box you put him in might be a little small if it is just from your frame of reference.

    What if God is bigger than your experience of him? How would that change how we deal with each other, how we understand each other, and how we love each other.

    Thanks for the fair post.

    • Thanks so much for this! Very good insight. I especially like the picture of looking over each other’s fences. How about even knocking on the door and bringing cookies!

  98. Thanks for this post–though I realize I’m late in responding to it. I now live in a small town, attend a great small church with a quirky makeup of people from all walks of life and types of brokenness (we like to call ourselves “the island of misfit toys” and I love them for it) and so I feel welcome and loved. We don’t have any singles-specific ministry because I’m basically it.

    I’m a man, in my late 40s, (and still trying to process that), never married. I realize most of the responses to your post are from women, and I understand that there are reasons why many women seem to feel their singleness more acutely than men typically do, but this does not mean that it is not a struggle for men. I think people presume that single men of a certain age are single because they choose to be. That may be true for some, but not all. Certainly not me. I wanted–and fully expected–to be married by the time I was 25. When 25 become 30, I began to scratch my head. When 30 became 40, I experienced that painful dawning that I was “one of those people.” When I was twenty-something and looked at a forty-something never-married person, I wondered, “What’s wrong with him/her?” (It kinda makes me want to go back and smack my twenty-something self.) Being never-married in my 40s is a different ball game than in my 20s or even 30s. Yes, a few more years of spiritual maturity under my belt does help put things in perspective, but it doesn’t remove the grief. It doesn’t relieve the loneliness. And if my single status persists into the next decades (and statistically, that’s practically a given), I suspect I will encounter new levels of understanding, and not necessarily easier ones.

    I don’t openly share about it much, mostly because I am familiar with the typical, patronizing responses to it: “Learn to be content.” or, “Cheer up, you never know what’s around the corner, you’re not dead yet.” (And I don’t necessarily dispute the truth in those statements.) Or perhaps the ribbing I get from some exhausted married-with-kids person who envies my quiet evenings alone saying, “You wanna trade with me for a week?”

    I get that marriage and family is not a cake-walk. I think I’m an astute enough observer to have weeded out most of the unrealistic, romantic notions of marriage and family. I’ve been around long enough to walk with friends through painful divorces or the heartbreak of severe problems with children. I’ve observed enough situations to make me realize that there are far more painful things in life than being single and childless. But having said that, I would say for the vast majority of the people I know, they would not trade their lives (difficult as they can be) with my life of “peaceful solitude.”

    I’m approaching the age where many of my married contemporaries are beginning to enter the empty-nest phase of life, and are looking not too far down the road at grandparenthood. And in my own experience with singleness I too find that there is a phase-change. I find that the more urgent physical longings of my 20s are now playing a much less significant role than just a longing for companionship. The struggle may not be as visceral, but the ache is much deeper. And on darker days, it’s the fear of what the coming decades will look like. Loneliness is not typically something that resolves with age.

    So what I’m looking for in churches is not programs to meet the needs of single people; it’s authentic community to meet the real needs of all people. That includes validating the struggles of all people–the marital struggles, parental struggles, addiction struggles, the loneliness struggles, etc. My small church, which I love, does this in a clumsy, imperfect, and incomplete way (as if there were another way of doing it, I suppose). So most days, I am grateful for what I have, for what a good and generous God has seen fit to bless me with. And I’ve got no reason to believe He will abandon me in ten years, or twenty.

    But then there are other days…

    • Scott, thank you so much for your eloquent and insightful comment. Men being single and older brings on a whole new set of frustrations. I can’t imagine. I especially loved the part about churches validating not just our pain but everyone’s. I need to ponder that. You might see a blog post on it some time because it is such a good point. Praying that you can find solace in your loneliness.

  99. Wow – I didn’t even have a term for that feeling until reading this. Disenfranchised grief. Thank you for that. I do want to add… ugh… the people who talk to your family about it behind your back. I don’t know how many times my mom has been asked if I want a family or why I’m not married yet. It’s as if it’s shameful gossip and, because she loves me and I talk to her, she’s got the scoop. She always addresses it well and she’s wonderful – but that seems so unfair because I’m not unaccomplished or incapable of living as a single person nor does my ability to continue to live without crying out constantly for the things I want but don’t have yet mean that I don’t want marriage and family.

  100. Hi Kate! I can’t figure out how to email you directly via wordpress. I would like to repost your blog on our blog and also on our facebook page that has 1.2 million followers on it. (They aren’t a very active bunch when it comes to commenting so I don’t know what the traction will acutally be but we like your work here!) Our Facebook page is called The Christian Exchange Community. We’d be happy to give you a plug in the repost on our blog back to your blog here. Let me know what you think. You can reach me at info@thechristianexchange.org Thanks! -Sarah

  101. Being Single for many of us men is the worse thing, especially when there are really no nice women to meet anymore.

  102. Hi Kate, Yours is the deepest, most profound article I’ve read on the matter. I hate church now. It’s a pathetic institution in this country (USA) and represents a social support mechanism for insecure marrieds, most feeling the loss of control over their children. In response to the hostile environment our society poses to our precious little ones, churches have become obsessed with their own youth, idolizing them.

    The reason singles are marginalized stems theologically from the church trading the Biological Family for the Family of God. To be married is to be Christian. To be Christian is to be married.

    I am slowly developing alternate relationships, activities and hobbies to occupy the all-consuming role that Christianity and the church once held in my (meaningless) life.

    Thanks for your great article!

    Jon

  103. Pingback: Singles and the Church: Why It Sucks to be Unintentionally Overlooked – Blog post from The Sexy Celibate | I am Vikki Kate

  104. I read this ages ago and it resonated with me.
    I read it again today and it resonated even more so.
    I’m blogging again so I’ve linked this post to a bit of a brief reflection.

    I’m an Inclusive Education educator and it grieves me that our Churches have a heart for people yet can be so exclusive without intention. Not just for singles but for anyone who doesn’t fit into the “same boxes as the majority”.

  105. Kate, As a 50 plus male virgin, I can really relate to this article. I especially the part about our grief. NO ONE else understands. Particularly true of the modern American ” Marriage Mad ” Church.
    Thanks again.

  106. This applies to me today. The regular wednesday night community group I’m involved in has been taken over by a 6 week marriage seminar. I was the only single person in attendance and have never felt more left out. And I’m kind of feeling a little bitter about how single people seem to be overlooked for ministry leadership roles. I’m no longer in my 20s so I don’t fit in the college age group but I dont have a husband so i don’t get included in many of the other things the church does. Recently they decided to have small groups and no single people were asked to host or co-host a group. While there could be logistical issues those could be overcome. I’m just going to have to pray about this and ask God to remove my bitterness because I don’t think this problem is going away any time soon.

  107. You nailed it with “disenfranchised grief.” But how single people deal with it needs to be addressed. Are they angry? and at who? Are they confused? Helpless? Hurt? Do they take matters into their own hands? Sneak in a match.com date over drinks and wonder how you ended up in bed together? Even when you were both Christians? The condemnation and guilt that follows because you believe it was sin is powerful. It can cause you to wonder if you’re really a Christian at all. I’ve been there.

    As a single Christian man, I find living with celibacy the most difficult thing in the world to do. Being single is “great,” if you can sleep around like the world does. Nowadays, being single is an excuse to indulge in casual sex for most people. But the second you cut off that area of your life and recognize that God requires holiness to please Him…the dark night of the soul begins. That’s when wrestling with God really happens. That’s when tears flow and your prayers sound like cries instead of liturgy. That’s when grace flows. That’s where mercy reigns. That’s when you finally understand the Father’s love, for you.

    I wonder how many people, married or single, really know how deep that truth lies.

    • I agree Mitch. I have been shocked at the lengths that even Christians will go in order to avoid the pain of being single; what they will compromise and bend out of shape.

      May God bless the path of holiness you have chosen. Not the easier path but most definitely the better one.

  108. Well honestly speaking is that if there Weren’t so many very high maintenance independent spoiled and selfish women these days, then many of us good men would’ve been able to meet a good woman that Could’ve Accepted us for who we really are since many of us are Not Rich. And more women these days have very high expectations since many women want a man with Money today.

  109. Pingback: The three big elephants in the Christian dating and marriage room | Christianity and the manosphere

  110. In my experience, any discussion on singleness suggests that we are desperately seeking marriage. I was married once and don’t want to experience that pain again. Where are the singles groups that aren’t matchmaking hubs?

  111. Thanks for writing this post Kate.

    As a single in my early 40’s I have never before felt so alone when attending church. In fact it is part of the reason why I’m currently not attending anywhere (not the whole reason but definitely part of it). One by one my friends got married and disappeared into parenthood. Other friends and connections moved away. Soon I was walking into a church and felt like a total stranger. I tried attending a few different churches thinking that starting over in a new place might be a way to get connected again, but where? how?

    I haven’t given up on the church – I know I will be back again – but I have to figure out what church means to me and its role in my relationship with God first. Because I know I am going to have to forge my own way out of isolation and into relationships at any church I attend.

    I’ve written and re-written this post several times now as it sounds bitter – which isn’t where I am at. I am simply – right at this moment – sad and grieving the loss that never happened.

    • You don’t sound bitter at all. And thank you for having the courage to share so openly, and honestly. I know exactly what you have so articulately described. Church has become a chore, as I think more and more that it is really for the FAMILY than it is for singles. And if you say something about your state, then you get all sorts of dis-satisfied with your “GIFT” of singleness shaming for not being satisfied in Jesus alone, or not being spiritual enough to not allow yourself to be taken over by the “demon” of loneliness….there all all kinds of spiritualizations to discount and undermine your basic human need for companionship, family, love and affection. I can’t tell you how many times I have driven into church crying, dried my face to walk into church, sit ALONE, amidst all the parents and children, and then get up and walk out alone to my car, to cry all the way home. And I have spent some time crying myself to sleep at night. I will be 42 years old in December, never married, never pregnant. I tried to talk to my Pastor about the disinfranchised grief and pain I felt over knowing that I would never carry, birth, and nurse a baby. My cycle started to disappear this year, so I have to accept the reality that I will not be a mother, despite the fact that I HOPED and waited since I was 20 years old, like the MATURE SAINTS told me I was supposed to, for my husband and opportunity to be a mother. Hey….wait until folks start telling you, it is nothing to cry about, because you have a “church family” ad God will give you spiritual children. All these dumb comments always come form a person who has children or grandchildren or even great – grand children.
      I don’t know what to tell you to do about it, because the church is delusional about the fact that this is even a REAL issue for sisters in christ. I am surprised at the really unbalanced, non compassionate, non empathetic comments I get when I work of the courage to reveal the pain in my heart to some so called sister in Christ. It is just a pain that you have to some how find a way to just walk with day by day. The reality is that you will probably not find a church to help you walk through this. I wish that there was a real solution. I wish that God would at least wipe the pain out of the mind and heart. Oh, you hear claims that he heals the broken heart and binds of every wound, but there is something so deep and pervasive about this pain, that empty promises like that just doesn’t seem to touch. Quoting scripture, working at church and doing ministry stuff and going to church just isn’t killing it. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t heaven, and the opportunity to live a life worthy of Christ, but something about this part right here makes me feel like I just want o hurry up and go to heaven.
      I may not know your exact situation, but I feel like I heard your heart as you described your feelings about the loneliness and isolation you feel as a single seeking community in an arena that really does not acknowledge or accommodate the pain in the pit of your spirit. I pray for you to have strength to get through this, but more that, I pray that you don’t have to live out the rest of your life without companionship and motherhood.

  112. Just recently turned 50, and really loathe myself because as a young teenager and someone in their 20’s I hoped that God would give me a wife. Just wondering if Jesus love me so much to die for my sins, why didn’t He care enough to allow me the happiness of wedded bliss.. I don’t attend a church regularly because I feel like a leper there, it is always about the family, and I really hate hearing marriage people talking about the gift of singleness; if it is such a gift why did they get married.

    The gift of singleness is like those gifts of fruitcake people give, few if any really want it. I know some people are happy being single; but God would be more merciful if He gave me cancer. I know I should be more thankful, but i am so very miserable.

    • I hear ya buddy. I have no idea why they call singleness a GIFT, because it is anything but that. A gift, is something that brings elation and joy, and as a 42 year old woman, with no babies, and no hope of now being a mother since I am now moving towards menopause, I can somewhat relate to how you feel. It is not a gift, and I wish the people that have not been saddled with it, would stop trying to convince those of us who are broken hearted over the situation, that it is a gift. The last thing we need is a bunch of JEDI MIND TRICKS to try to convince us that we should be happy about an unhappy situation.

  113. i found this while searching for “single going to church” as I’ve been going to churches for 5+ year chunks (large amounts of time in my life).. and still am single. I’ve served on boards, committees, and am thankful for those communities. And still when I hear that I have to go to more bridal showers, engagement parties, and especially baby showers AND be put on a schedule to make meals for them because they can’t… I get frusterated and mad. And I think you hit the nail on the head, no one has ever told me it’s ok to grieve or cry or feel like that. I commented on an article about “where is the church for grieving” since I had many of my family members die in a short amount of time, and nothing from church. Nothing. Had a hard day? Come home to an empty, dirty house because I was too tired to get groceries and know I also have to do laundry at home? (I raise my hand…) where is my church making me meals?
    You’re right, the only single sermons I’ve heard are – just wait, stop looking, he’s out there, you’re awesome, hot pastors marry hot women, keep on running the race, keep on doing whatever ministry/gift/calling you like and you’ll find him there, etc etc etc.Which really I don’t think is bad, I’m just impatient and if I told my 20 year old self I’d have to wait at least 15 years I’d fall over and just want to go on a few dates instead of waiting waiting waiting for the christian men to date or ask me out or whatever it is they call this dating thing now a days.

    I feel it more because I live on my own now vs with my family. So day in and out, I go to work and come home. Vs when I lived with my family, even if we didn’t eat together (which I miss), I know there would be someone in the house with me.

    i’m listening to a song right now that sings: The future is still untold, Your story isn’t written in stone”

    I’m encouraged by everyone’s posts. . . I’m not alone in this.

  114. As a much older single of 50; it more than I can take to think that I trusted God in my youth for a female companion, now knowing it will never happen. Now I avoid church because I feel it is God way of rubbing in my face what I can’t ever have.

    That and so sick of hearing about the gift of singleness; if it is such a gift, accordding to the married people why did they get married? It is like a kid wanting a bike for Christmas and instrad getting fruitcake.

    • I’ve certainly been where you are; in some ways, still there. I’m male, almost 50, never married, despite having wanted to be. I’ve gone through times of deep hopelessness and despair, feeling rejected by God and others. Where things started to change for me was a growing understanding that A) God Himself is my greatest good, a good that makes any other good thing in life pale and wither by comparison; and B) What God calls “good” does not always equate to my immediate comfort or my fleeting whims.

      If this life is all that there ever was, is, or will be, then maybe there’s an argument to be made that this “twist of fate” is simply a cruel joke on God’s part. And there are times when I railed against Him–why did you do this to me? Why did you make me “undesirable”? Why did you envelop me in circumstances that made marriage an unrealized dream? And why did you seem to bless EVERYBODY ELSE IN THE WORLD with this, except me? But we are told to fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen–the promise that if God is for us, who can be against us? These words wouldn’t need to be written if they were self-evident. They’re not self-evident. If we know that the sovereign, all-knowing God of the Universe actually loves us and is “for” us, then there is a great deal of rest that happens when we fix our eyes on that. And it would be terribly trite if it didn’t actually work!

      It wasn’t an easy process for me. And certainly I still have my days. But I can’t tell you the peace and contentment that comes from accepting that God is for me. Not because everything goes according to my hopes, not because all my dreams have come true. But because I decided I just wanted to know who God really is, and the less it became about me, the more it became about Him, and that has made ALL the difference in the world.

      • Scott, what a beautiful perspective. I love that you have come to this place. And I think it’s the place all of us older unmarrieds have to come to. Are we going to continue worshipping and following Jesus because we love him and because he is good, or are we going to become bitter and resentful and give up because he hasn’t given us something we deeply want? Where you are is a good, good place to be, although it’s a hard place, and you’re an example for all of us.

  115. Really don’t have a home church as all the churches I have gone to are geared to the marry. As a single man pass my prime I feel totally betrayed by God.

    I know passages such as I Corinthians 7:2; and Hebrews 13:4 which when one is fighting an addiction to porn, just seem to condemn you even more. Now am to the point that I see my heart as the third ground in the parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-15). Wondering if God forgave me thru His Son Jesus, why am I totally bound by this everying more sickening and sickening sin.

    • James, What are you doing to fight this addiction? I doubt this is the best place to have this conversation. For some unknown reason I still get the Rss feed of this blog and comment feed. Regardless, it’s a good step to admit this problem. I believe you don’t need condemnation but winning this battle is worth it regardless of marital status. Many men in recovery for porn addiction are married and many of them believed marriage would solve it. As with any addiction in order to stop you have to really want to stop. I believe God has provided a way out but we often refuse his way because we want it removed some other way. Despite feeling alone, there are many resources and support out there to help you get the tools you need to have victory. I am not a professional but I am willing to try to help. If you want to respond directly use this 45aj54qas@use.startmail.com

  116. I have not read all the comments so please forgive if someone has spoken about this in previous comments. Now as a single adult I experience many of the subtle ways that Church leaders and others expressed a lesser status about my singleness. As well as all the gossip and slander that I’ve seen because i was single. The thing is I have nothing against marriage nor is it something that I am stringently oppose to doing. I am not searching for a man to married either. In those Churches where i was serving in leadership roles I overlooked many of the comments from the married couples serving but not all of them. I am careful cause i do believe marriage is a Holy sacrament and deserve the same level of respect as someone being single. Recently I heard this sermon in this Church which I knew they saw my singleness as a hinderance. Ahhh they even stopped me fro0m serving in any of the places in the Church afraid of the image I would send. I ignored this and went serve outside of the Church. They wre not pleased with that. However I was shocked to hear the female head pastor go on a rant about the single members. She kept stating that God sees us as Children for this reason we can not serve without supervision from our parents which is the married couples in the Church. That all single people who disagree with or who refused to followed what a married person says or commands of them is dishonoring God and breaking the fifth commandment. yes she went that far saying God states we need to be under married people cause we are children not mature enough to serve or to make up our own minds . Any single person who disagree with a married person in that church is being disobedient to God cause God set it up that way that single people are children that have no authority or domain in God unless a married person gives permission for them to have it. HM yeah I sat there and could not get out of my mind how many single people serve God including Christ. Christ was not married he was single with this line of thinking they without knowledge had discredit Christ himself.:( but what can I say I had decided to find a church where I could serve in ministry in some form inside of the Church as well as on the outside. I knew as well as many others that this Christian Church was not accepting of singles but never expected to hear ow much they were against single adults. As far as being married well it is a Holy Sacrament and it should be taken with some sense of the holiness of the sacrament meaning to many get married just to be accepted into society. I do not think just because someone is married that God gave them some superior status over those not married. It is a prejudice just as those Christian Church said the same things about Slaves they are stating the same thing and preachign sermons that support their hate against single. BUt those things are not of God. It is not just being left out or treated like an outsider but it is also being treated as a lesser form or a lesser thing inside of the Church…

    • Oh my gosh! What a horrible story! That lady obviously has some issues because none of that is true. Adults are adults and we should be treated like adults no matter what our singleness status.

  117. I am called to singleness and love it. My problem now is that I will be in a situation where at least 2 men will be pursuing me. The very thought caused me to feel depressed. I love being alone. How does one deal kindly with people who are grieving what never was when one does not want a relationship? If I sit and talk with the guys they will think I am interested in them!

    Another question: Why are some married people so hostile to people who do not want to get married?If we are fulfilling our calling them what is the problem?

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