Honest Thoughts On Singleness & Church

I rarely discuss the topic of singleness on my blog because to me it’s not a label that I wear. It bothers me when people categorise the world into ‘married’ or ‘single’. No, I’m not married but I am a whole person, comfortable being me and am not waiting for anyone else to come and (a) rescue me (be) complete me (c) start the adventure of my life for me.

Many of my wonderful single friends and I are not short of suitors. Yet each of us have found ourselves saying, in the words of Bono from U2, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”. People are fine with this at 20, but hit 30 and people start pressing you to try a bit harder. Someone even used the phrase ‘you’d better hurry up…the clock is ticking’ to me a few weeks ago. Yikes. Thanks for that ‘helpful’ contribution!

Maybe I’ll get married someday, maybe I won’t. I’ve never bought a Bride Magazine or dreamed about how every detail of my wedding would be (and no disrespect intended if you have). I guess what I’m saying is, for me the idea of marriage has never been elevated to fairytale level. I know hundreds of my female friends who see it that way. I guess I’ve seen too many of these fairytales end badly, so I know that marriage isn’t the fix-it solution for being happy.

However, I love the idea of sharing the journey of life with a soul mate and making amazing memories together. Committing for the long haul. Knowing you’ll wake up next to each other when you’re old and grey and that you’ll care for each other ’til death do us part’. That sounds great. So I’m not anti-marriage or anti-commitment at all, I’m just anti the idea that marriage is the solution to all life’s problems and the only goal everyone should be running after.

It doesn’t always feel like society promotes that though, with the steady media diet it feeds us of Rom Coms, the mass-commercialisation of Valentines Day and the women’s magazines full of wedding dresses. Culture needs to start affirming that people are just as complete when single as when married.

As a Church-goer I am very keen to see the Church do better in the way it looks after its single congregation members. Singleness within the Church seems fine when you are a teenager or a student. There are a plethora of groups and activities provided. Yet for the increasingly large number of people aged 25+  who are choosing to not get married yet, there is barely any organised provision.

Often all that’s on offer for singles at Church are (a) Mums and toddlers groups (b) “Wine and wives nights” (c) Dating evenings where you get match-made by well meaning people.

So I write this to encourage Churches to reassess what they are providing for the generation, who like the TV Show ‘Friends’, are choosing to marry much later and still want to feel valued as part of the community. This demographic is huge in the States, especially where I used to live in California. People there are getting married later and later, which is an interesting sociological shift.

Research has shown the divorce rate halves if you wait until after you’re 25 to marry. So if you have singles in your community it might not just be that they can’t find Mr or Miss Right. Maybe they’re waiting until they’ve discovered more of who they are, before they choose the right life partner.

There are hundreds of other possible reasons for singleness and Churches can be quick to assume it’s simply due to ‘not finding the right person’. It’s crucial that staff bear in mind the many options – abuse in people’s past, or having experienced a painful parental divorce, or going through their own divorce, they may be widowed, single parents, gay, bisexual, celibate for religious reasons such as monastic calling or Catholic priesthood, or perhaps they’re in a long term relationship but their partner can’t commit to marrying them. These reasons are so diverse and cannot all be batched together under the insufficient umbrella of ‘not married’. So treating all singles as ‘just needing to be match-made’ is really something that the Church needs to stop doing.

Many don’t ‘get’ the idea that anyone would choose not to be married. People constantly say to me and my single friends ‘I’m SURE there must be someone amazing out there for each of you!’. Yes, we know plenty of amazing people and I’m sure all of us could be married 10 times over by now if we wanted. But that’s very different from waiting to find someone who’s genuinely right for you, and you for them.

Others of my friends married young, as that was normal in our Christian circles. Lots of them are now divorced. They’ve told me they walked into marriage as people who didn’t even know who they were yet, let alone who was the right partner for them. They also told me that the Church painted too fairytale a picture of marriage and didn’t suggest they waited a while until they’d grown up a bit. There are great marriage courses out there now, so hopefully this is less prevalent today.

If you go to Church, or another faith based venue, how are single people treated there? Are they made to  feel like whole, valued people? Or just people who are waiting to meet their Prince or Princess Charming?

As a Christian, I hope that the Church in general embraces the fact that marriage isn’t for everyone.  I have several friends who have already decided they want to stay single. Paul speaks so highly of this form of living in the New Testament, yet the Church rarely portrays it as a celebrated option. A friend who’s chosen to stay single told me that upon making her decision known, Christians responded that she was selfish, not following God’s ordained pattern for humanity and failing to fulfil her womanly duty to have children! What ever happened to Paul’s idea that actually singleness is a beautiful and aspirational option, just as marriage is?

I live in hope that things will change, and soon Churches will offer more to single people than ‘mingling’ evenings, or tagging along with the eighteen year old students on their movie night.

  • http://twitter.com/TheAlethiophile Sipech

    Cheers Vicky.

    I have been put off a lot of churches because they were so ‘family-oriented’ they just don’t know what to do with me. If I walk into a church without a family, I’ve been treated like I have two heads. It’s just the “done thing” in christian circles to marry whoever you met at the university christian union.

    For context: I’m a bloke in my late 20s and not married. I don’t rule out the possibility, but I just foresee any set of circumstances arising whereby that may change. I work long hours and have an hour and a half commute either end of the day. So when the bulk of church activites are designed around the notion of ‘family life’ what it ends up doing is actively excluding the singles.

    Most mid-week meetings at any church I have been two start around 7:30-8:00pm, which is just not feasible. My free hours tend to be 10:00pm-12:00am but for families they are considered unsociable hours.

    Being the only young-ish single bloke in the church has its extra burdens. You can almost see the indentations in a lady’s back, left by her mother pushing her in my direction, desparate to avoid some kind of family shame of having an unmarried daughter, as though the church has its social etiquette derived from a Jane Austen novel. And as for the whispers of “is he gay?” I don’t want to get started!

    I get a fairly low-level constant teasing about my lack of marital status, though only once has anyone ever apologised for it, recognising that by not having time-consuming relationships I can make more time for discipleship.

  • Twince

    Hi Vicky,
                I really like your honesty. I am married and have been since I was 21, I’m now in my early 30’s. Like you I am only now really finding out who I really am but I have a husband who seems to be growing with me and is very supportive. If I didn’t I could have been another one of those statistics.

    Churches that I know and attend don’t have anything for singles, they once had a group that socialised every month but that folded. I think it’s something that our generation needs to look at and put into place so we can embrace those in our communities that are single.

    I don’t think being single is a bad thing at all, what we all need to remember is that for some people that’s their calling and we should be supportive in that.

    Maybe putting these thoughts out there will get many of us thinking differently about this and prompt us to do something about our attitudes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=656235160 Bex Lewis

    Hi Vicky

    Excellent post, and we’ve had convos about this before! Everything rings true, and I was talking to someone about it the other week, and they were saying “is it the church’s job to do this?” (as invariably are lumped in with the student/20s & 30s … most of whom have very different priorities), so people are forming their own groups, but it brings with it the danger of cliques, etc…

    Much to think about, but as I seek to ensure that I have a social life, I need to concentrate on my work tasks for the day .. LOL!

    Bex :-)

  • http://www.clairemusters.com Cmusters

    Hi Vicky

    Yet again I think your blog is scratching where the church is itching! I have seen a few things written about this recently, have debated it with a great many people and have realised afresh in the last few weeks that this is something the church deals with fairly badly. I am formulating an article idea as I’d love to be able to give churches some ideas about how they can better serve the singles (especially the 30+ singles) in their churches. I’ve heard from quite a few single people on this issue recently, including one who has written a book on the subject. I actually married very young, to someone from my church youth group. I don’t think we had a clue what marriage was all about at the time, but I don’t doubt that he was the right guy God had for me and, when we are working well together, there is nothing like the sense of partnership. But that’s not to say I haven’t struggled and fought against some of the things I’ve come up against in marriage. I wish people had been more honest with us before we got married. I am very grateful for the marriage courses that are out there these days – I wonder if there is anything similar about singleness – although I suspect it would be far too easy to sound patronising. That’s partly why I’ve held off writing about this yet – as an 18+ years married person I don’t feel particularly qualified, but I do feel it has been put on my heart for a reason. If you don’t mind I’ll watch this blog entry with interest to see what people’s reactions are – especially those who are single in the church and have some positive suggestions to make about what the church could do better…

  • http://twitter.com/colinmccaw Colin McCaw

    I think this is an excellent blog!! I am about to get married next year at the grand old age of 26 which oddly feels old in a church context in Scotland whereas for my mates who are not Christians – I am reasonably young!!

    The church needs to answer the questions that the world is asking and I am not so sure that it always is in the most helpful way possible!! 

    And we should celebrate singleness as Paul writes here’- http://bible.cc/1_corinthians/7-8.htm

    God bless your ministry Vicky!!

  • Kevin Keegan

    I found that when I got married, peoples attitude of me, in the church, changed.  I was included in more things and offered roles I had zero gifting in!!
    I always suspected this was the case, but I was shocked at how true the situation is!  However, I have no regrets about waiting as long as I did to marry.  As a single person I was able to serve the Lord, in a compleatly different way to now, as I could sacrifice my own comfort and time without having to consider the impact on my wife.

    Some people are called to remain single and following that call achieve much for the Kingdom.  We, the church, need to recognise and respect that!

    I am now in the position where I have been married for four years and my wife and I have no intention of starting a family for another two years.  This is generating comments in my church as all the couples that have married since us have started their families.  Will we ever be free of people forcing their expectations on others?  There would be so much less hurt in the church.

    Humans are horrible creatures (I’ve learnt that more through being married), but Jesus still loves us (PERFECTLY) and He has chosen us as his bride.

  • http://twitter.com/Robson21 Lisa Robson

    This is soo true!.. I feel the same way!.. I kind feel like a barlow girl HAHA.. you know, your waiting for the right one and you falling in love with Jesus.. Anyways.. Sometimes I feel Like I’m being to picky when it comes to guys.. but than i think Im 27 turning 28 tomorrow and ive waited this long for the best.. not just some guy but for the one God has for me Im not giving up now..

    B ut I do think the church needs to change there perspective on  singles.. and stop with the after thrity ur  done group :-) 

  • http://www.clairemusters.com Cmusters

    Ah that old chestnut. We married so young, and my husband’s job had such ridiculous hours (record producer) that we waited 12 years before having kids. Imagine the number of comments we got from both family and church family! We were the youngest but got married first in our groups of friends and family – one by one they got married and had kids early on and kept making comments to us about why we were waiting. I knew I didn’t want to effectively be a single mum so I held fast in my opinion on the matter. And I am so glad I did – I suffered badly from postnatal depression both times – the first my husband was around a lot – I really don’t think I could have done it without him – the second he was doing his last freelance project before going fulltime with the church – and I certainly didn’t manage – I fell apart. So I totally agree that people in the church, while needing to have the freedom to speak into our lives when necessary (I’m a great advocator of accountability relationships) need to learn to keep their mouths shut on things that are just a matter of opinion…

  • http://www.clairemusters.com Cmusters

    Ah interesting point. I wonder, as singles get older (and hopefully mature in their relationship with Jesus) whether the list of what they are looking for in a marriage partner gets longer and more specific? I don’t know – your post just made me ponder if that is true or not…

  • http://twitter.com/drjpresents Jason

    Alright Vicky!

    Love the post, honest, bold and pertinent look at culture both in and outside of the church. I think that it’s good that you’ve chosen to highlight the reality of this situation with regard to the ‘fairytale’ effect. As a guy in my mid-to-late twenties, I’m coming to realise how different I am as a person from my formative years and am actually relieved that I’m single now, looking soberly upon the person I was. It is difficult for single people facing pressures from both inside and outside the church (be it peer groups or well-meaning family members etc.) to ‘hurry up’, as it were. I suppose attitudes within the church have the potential to vary widely depending on context, particularly if a congregation spans 2 or 3 generations, attitudes towards being ‘single’ will vary with regard to engagement and intensity  I’m sure. In my experience of more family-centred churches, the most positive thing I’ve seen has been where ‘single’ people are welcomed to share in the life of families and community is fostered. I can say from experience that I’ve personally benefitted from a number of godly families welcoming me into their homes on a number of occasions, and it’s those times that really made me feel valued as part of the church most. Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough! My thoughts on the topic (as expressed whilst watching a wave of angst from some of the young people I work with on Facebook, on Valentine’s day this year are here: https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/note.php?note_id=495379871651) Thanks so much,Jason.

  • http://www.clairemusters.com Cmusters

    Oooh another great comment! Oh dear, getting very distracted from the
    book I’m supposed to reading through! ;) Anyway, I totally agree that the
    sense of community is what the church should be fostering, and am glad
    to hear that you, as a single person,  valued the families that did that. I know that all the single people here are saying that they were such different people when younger and are so glad they didn’t get married young. I understand what you are saying but I would also say that God does intend people to grow and mature and sharpen one another within marriage…

  • TheaC

    I find that one of the barriers to understanding in this area is that it’s so different being single in your teens and early twenties to being single in your early thirties and later. Some of the conversations I’ve had with people who married young(ish) make it clear that they just can’t (and sometimes won’t) get their head around how it feels to be single at 30,40, 50, which mainly seems to be to do with them remembering how it was before they were married. It’s really different being single when all your friends are single to being single when almost everyone you know is married with children.

    Plus, it would be good to remember that single can mean different things – just as it’s different at different ages, the experience can be different for people who have never married, who are divorced, who are lone parents, who have a long-term partner but aren’t married, who are gay, who are widowed etc etc – all of whom come under the heading ‘single’.

  • http://twitter.com/rufus2612 Ruth Robinson

    Well done Vicky for your vulnerability and having the courage to address this topic. It’s a massive thing in churches and I have many friends who live in the tension of a deep desire to share their life with someone who loves Jesus and also embracing the truth that they can live a full and adventurous life even if they don’t ever marry. I was single for many years and got married at 32 and I still remember how it feels.

    I don’t know what the answer is – many of my friends roll their eyes everytime a ‘singleness seminar’ gets put on at a conference and find ‘singles events’ hard. I guess it’s about trying to live each day in your calling to follow Jesus as you are now and finding fulfillment for today and resisting the temptation to think about what your future is going to look like. We as the church do need to listen to, love, encourage and honour our single members and not patronise them or pressure them.

  • Jonathan C

    I think the issue is that it’s difficult for the church leadership who may well have been married a long time, or are no longer in their 20’s/30’s to know how what single folk want. It’s certainly different to what it was 30, 20 even 10 years ago. 
    So are these single people expecting the “Church” to do something about it? They are the church, and in my opinion should be proactive in arranging the activities they want! Also they may well have more time or flexibility to do it too.I think in many churches, the Sunday Schools are instigated by parents who see a need for their children. Coffee mornings are organised by the retired folk, since they see a need for themselves to socialise midweek. I know when I was a single 20’s, it was my social circle who got together and arranged social events, or got ourselves on the various leadership teams and ensured we weren’t sidelined in the worship events.P.S. Well done on the brave post! :)

  • Tegan

    I think the Church should support both married and single people. We mustn’t exclude anyone, nor judge them by when they have or haven’t got married, and have or haven’t had kids.

    God has perfect timing, and we need to let other people make their own choices, and pray that they do, especially when it comes to lifelong commitments such as marriage.

    There was a couple in my Church that had been dating for about 7 years before they got married, and people responded with ‘about time’. To me, that says that other people know better, and take a risk and not worry about waiting for God’s timing.

    Often our attitude (all people) can be ‘if it feels good, do it’, but as Christians we should wait to hear what God says, and wait for His timing.

    We have many courses that aim to strengthen marriages and help marriages work well, but shouldn’t we be making sure people choose the right person in the first place.

    Also, we should have events that aren’t exclusive, that don’t exclude people that don’t have spouses or children. We are meant to be welcoming and encouraging, and that should be for all demographics.

    We need to meet people, both inside and outside the Church, where they are at. We need to support people in their choices, and not judge them according to our standards.

    I think that some very wise points have been brought up, and marriages are something that I pray for. I pray for my possible future husband, but also for the marriage of my parents and family members, and marriages within the Church which are being attacked by Satan to tear down the Church.

    May we stand in unity to support marriages, and to support all people. May we support decisions made by individuals, and simply pray that they will make the decisions God wants them to make, and leave the rest up to God.

    Tegan, 17, Australia

  • http://twitter.com/tpmayo Tim Mayo

    Other people have mentioned Paul’s commendation of singleness in his letter to the Corinthians and I think it’s really important for the church to teach that and practice that.

    I recently got married, and have a different perspective of the how our church looks at the issue, and we encourage the community to be actively sharing each other’s lives regardless of relationship orientation. Our senior leader is married but passionately preaches Paul and therefore is very encouraging of anyone who feels called to longer term singleness as well as trying to ensure a culture that doesn’t promote coupledom; members of staff are single (and over 25); and there is a large group of single people post-graduation and upwards, so I feel that we are living out the sense of community in which Singleness and ‘Marriedness’ don’t feel incompatible nor do they fall into some ranking order (although to some people’s eyes it’s the single people that are ranked above married people, because of Paul).

    It’s not true for all churches I’ve been to, but that critical mass of like-minded people who resist the ‘race to the altar’ has been a real eye opener for me when joining my current church.

  • http://twitter.com/rachwarwick Rach Warwick

    Great post Vicky – we need more discussions like this in the church.

    Really liked what you wrote about not marrying young, the suggestion that it might be wise to gain some maturity and a better sense of who you are before you attach yourself to someone else (who also doesn’t yet know who they are!)

    But…

    I also wonder if we ever really know? And in the context that marriage is a commitment to sharing the journey together, whether there’s ever a time that’s too early (or indeed too late?) to marry?

    Dan & I married youngish. I was 23 and he was 24. More foolishly than that, we married quite quickly. So we really didn’t know much of who we were, and especially not who the other was. All that “getting to know you” stuff that most people do before getting married? We did it afterwards. So it’s been an interesting journey. At times really difficult, though not all bad. The temptation to walk away, using the excuse of “I didn’t really know who I was then” has definitely been there sometimes. But we made a commitment that day when we got married – to ourselves, each other and to God. For better or for worse. That no matter how hard it got, we were determined to work it out.  So we did. 9 years later, we’re still married, much more aware of who we are, and probably even more stubborn than we were when we started!

    So yes, “Don’t rush into marriage” is good advice. But “Don’t rush out of it” is good too. Discovering more of who you are doesn’t have to be a divisive thing.

    (Disclaimer: I don’t mean to offend divorcees or anyone else. Totally understand that some people’s experiences are very different to mine, sometimes divorce is an option, etc etc etc. Just sharing my experience.)

  • http://ontoberlin.blogspot.com Hannah M

    At my church single people are very much valued. There is no
    culture of pressure for people in their 20s/30s to get married; there is no culture
    of treating single people as if they are deficient – thankfully! However I
    think that people put this pressure on themselves. I have a few single and
    unhappy friends. They see the happiness and the ‘fairytale’ weddings and the
    pros of being part of a couple and then beat themselves up for not having
    achieved that yet. They go to the talks on being happy and fulfilled and
    single, they know all the scriptures about it, yet they don’t really believe it
    and feel that finding a partner would solve their problems. I know lots of
    women who want a husband. I know lots of men who very much want a wife and have
    this very serious mindset about it; that they have to be actively ‘out there’
    finding their bride. But then they get miserable when there is no-one in the
    church that they want to take things further with. It makes me wonder if we
    place too much emphasis on finding a partner from within your church?

     

    I think the university Christian culture can be particularly
    toxic in this respect; you see the couples who get married the year they
    graduate; I also knew couples who got married while they were still students.
    When churches are full of 21-year-old students planning their weddings, it’s
    easy for those in their late 20s and 30s to get disheartened. I know someone
    who married when she had just turned 27. Someone else remarked to me that she “had
    to be so strong – it was difficult for her, waiting for so long while seeing all
    her friends get married.” I repeat, she had just turned 27.

     

    I feel the same way as you about singleness, but know a lot
    of people would probably say ‘well it’s all very well you saying that!’ as I
    was one of those Christians who got married young (aged 22) to the guy I
    started dating in Sixth Form, aged 17. And of course it hasn’t been a fairytale,
    although we are very happy together. There’s a lot to work through in the first
    few years of marriage, especially when you’re pretty young. But if you’re
    single, you have the opportunity to do so much with your life that might not be
    possible when you’re married because there is always another person to fit into
    the equation. Jobs, studying, money, travelling, where to live – you don’t have
    as much freedom in that respect once you’re married and you should take hold of
    opportunities while you can.

     

    I’ve never tried to set anyone up! It’s up to the people
    involved to take the initiative :P

  • http://ontoberlin.blogspot.com Hannah M

    Ha! Definitely agree with your comment about ever being free of others’ expectations. I have been married for four and a half years and am now pregnant after we made the decision to try for a baby this year. Ever since I married people have constantly asked “so when are you going to have children?” When we first got married it used to make me so cross; we were young, we had no intention of having children until we really wanted to. But, of course, we know couples who have been married for the same time or a shorter time and already have children, so people always want to know why you haven’t taken the plunge yet. So tedious!

  • Emily Brake

    Vicky – I know like you so many people who married young, met at the CU at university and divorced withing a couple of years of getting married and sadly are seen as damaged because of this.  I find that really sad, I find it really sad that people think that marriage completes them – you’re a whole person whether you get married or not.  My sister in law is a shining example of this, she’s 40 next year and has never me the right person, so she’s never married.  Her opinion is that actually she’d rather be single and happy than married and miserable – BOOM!! She has travelled, has an amazing career and just loves life, she’s not bitter that God never sent her anyone, and as for kids, well she’s the best aunty to my 13 month old i could ask for and he loves her so much. 

    I got married at 28 and I know felt pressured for years – I was the LAST of all my christian friends from Uni to get married believe it or not, I was the old one, they were all so ‘happy’ for me when i met Gareth.  Looking back I see what nonsense that was, I felt really hurt for years that people thought less of me than others because I wasn’t married – even in church, a lot of men wouldn’t trust me in leadership roles because I wasn’t married – which makes you feel incomplete.  Being used by God isn’t defined by your marital status.

    I have seen 2 couples I know get married and 1 couple I know are getting married and so I could be seen as a matchmaker BUT i don’t seem matchmaking out, with those guys, i’ve seen that there’s a bit of a spark and so have done things like arrange for us all to go out for coffee (subtle!) or a meal and it’s ended up in marriage.  With the guys who are getting married, the guy asked me after church to do some matchmaking, felt like I was back in school again doing it for him!!!  I think you have to be careful with this, I don’t believe people need to be married but if I see a spark I’ll happily help out!

    We have a specific 18-30 group at church which covers all ages and marrieds and singles, just a hang out time every few months, and lifegroups too, I think it’s great because it encourages everyone in this age range to hang out, share life and make connections just because of their age not their marital status.

    i do have a friend in her late 40s though who’s desperate to marry and hasn’t met the right person, it consumes her every waking thought and she actually is really down on people because they can’t hang out with her maybe because they have kids etc… I think she doesn’t help herself sometimes, my sister in law is the opposite, she chooses to get involved in church life and do other out of church activities – it can be a mindset.  I get from your post such positivity – you’re Vicky and that’s who you are, you’re not defined by your marital status.  We need to remember to remind people of this more, that marriage isn’t the be all and end all – we can fulfill God’s purposes for our lives married or single.  Full stop!

    Rant over!  Thanks for the honestly – brill!

  • http://twitter.com/Ruthmw Ruth Wells

    Vicky – thanks for your very honest post.  I am married but have been chatting to too close single female friends (both in their 30’s, both Christians) about singleness and Church.  They both have different experiences – which you’d expect being two different people (being single doesn’t make a homogenous group!) but a commanality was a frustration with the seeming discepency of the support offered to single women and single men.  They have said that single women seemed to be viewed with pity and are seen to be desperate – never let your husband near a single women! – but single men tend to be seen as pure, holy and just focused on God.  Single men, in their opinion, seem to get asked how they are coping with sex, whilst the same issue with single women is taboo (I am trying to encourage them to write a book on women and singleness called ‘women who wank’!).  Paul seems to say singleness is something aspirational whereas in our culture it is something to be seen as abnormal.  It’s great to hear voices of different people who are single encourage thought and discussion on this topic – thank you : )

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=801250121 Rolf Mason

    I want to write a fuller comment later, and I want to chew over the comments too.

    However, I want to recommend ‘The Search for Intimacy’ by Elaine Storkey. She has a fantastic chapter on singleness in the book, which supports the assertion that many people (mistakenly) assert that singleness is incompleteness. It’s not…I wish I had been less hung-up about being ‘alone’…

  • http://twitter.com/BiancaJuarez Bianca Juarez

    I like you just the way you are. Single and all. :)

  • Steve Parsons

    Good thoughts Vicky.

    As a church leader, I agree it’s an area that we need to seriously think about.

    We try very hard to celebrate singleness in the language of our church. Paul says that singleness puts you in a better position to minister and serve, not a worse one.

    One thing I would say is that sometimes, you feel like you’re in a no-win situation as a church leader. On one hand singles say they want to celebrate their singleness and on the other they don’t want to be made a fuss of. If I was to announce a “new event for Usingles” in my church on Sunday, I think half the singles would be delighted and the other half would quite possibly puff out their cheeks and give me the “don’t patronise me” look! So I think you’re correct in that language has to be used really carefully and thoughtfully.

    Also I would encourage personal responsibility to be taken. Somyetimes when people want ‘the church’ to start a new ministry, they want the benefit without putting in any effort to make it happen. So I would encourage those who feel the desire, to roll up their sleeves (with the support of the local church).

    A lot of churches in the UK are fairly small and perhaps cross-church collaboration might be part of the answer here too?

  • Vichanes

    I hink the biggest issue is that the church portrays singleness as a waiting period and marriage as an arrival. The church portrays singleness as a means to become a person that will be good in a marriage rather than a state determined by God to be for His purposes. So, many messages on singleness tell me that if I work on myself, then I will be a better partner and that’s when God will bless me with a marriage. That concept becomes a problem when you are over 40 because the reason for your singleness becomes your own fault as you still haven’t figured out how to fix whatever is keeping you from being a good partner.

    I really don’t feel like I need a singles group, however. I just would not like to feel as if I am an addendum or tag-a-long. I understand the need for couples or young families to have moments of shared community in order to share in the issues those life stages bring, but I’m not sure why we can’t find common ground just as members of the same body. People seem to gravitate to those groups and if you don’t fit in the box then you are kind of on your own. Also, just because others are single it doesn’t mean you are going to hit it off as friends.

    The toughest part about being single in the church is the walk out to the parking lot. You have spent time in intense fellowship and then you walk out to your car by yourself while others are still enjoying fellowship because of their life stage. That abrupt difference makes me feel lonely sometimes. But hopefully, if I view that thorn correctly, my fellowship turns to God. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t.

  • http://theocentrist.wordpress.com/ PB

    Great post! I agree. I’m single at 24, and intend to remain that way of a while, if not always. A few older mentors in my life are very encouraging and note how marriage and celibacy are wonderful things ordained by God, whichever way you go. But the church doesn’t appreciate singles or the gift of celibacy nearly enough. It’s like they’ve never heard of 1Corin 7. Being single gives you so much freedom to serve God, and a celibate would make a great pastor, but it is so hard to get a church to have a celibate pastor. “He can’t meet the counseling needs of a married congregation” or fears of him being gay or heaven-forbid he might date someone from the church and fornicate. On the other extreme is the RCC that requires you to be celibate. So weird. Can’t we just say both are good?

    Most of my friends are married or dating their soulmate already, which for some reason makes them feel they obligated match me up with someone. The way people treat singles is too-often annoying. At the same time, singles do need to have a thicker skin. Jibs about singleness or children is a very ordinary joke and harmless in and of itself. That said, this doesn’t excuse the church from celebrating singleness in a  biblical way, rather than demoting it. Instead of being annoyed at such comments, singles should be happy to have the opportunity to share with them what godly singleness is.

  • http://ontoberlin.blogspot.com Hannah M

    Ruth this is all so true. Lust is always the ‘big issue’ for single men; single women are always ‘desperate’ and slightly unhinged. I think we need to consider it more carefully and see that everyone is different.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=656235160 Bex Lewis

    Also find it insensitive that people are asking. For all they know, you may have wanted kids from when you first got married, and it may not be happening!!

  • http://phillsacre.me.uk/ Phill

    Vicky, I felt like crying out “YES” to some of your post. I honestly believe singleness is undervalued in the church and all too often single people feel like “second class citizens”, which is totally un-Biblical for starters, and more generally a pretty sad state of affairs.

    I’m a married person but I can very much see that not everyone is called to be that way, and being called to a single life (or married after your 20s) is not only valid but it is to be celebrated, as is marriage. Both are gifts – in fact, just yesterday I learned that the first two Charismata (gifts) Paul gives in 1 Corinthians are singleness and marriage.

    I feel like I can’t add much to the discussion though, let me just say that as someone who got married at age 22 (I’m now 28) – I believe it’s possible to marry earlier on in life and not become another divorce statistic. Another thing I learned yesterday: “Servant-heartedness is more important than gifts.” In marriage, patience and kindness are the most important things. If you wait until you know yourself completely before you get married, you will always be waiting.

    I guess I’m just saying that marriage is a big commitment whichever stage of life you’re at, and probably no-one is ever completely “ready” for it. You can’t go in with too high expectations whether you’re younger or older. I know that’s not really different from what you said, but still!

  • Jonathan C

    Just had another thought, that this post has shown me how short a memory I (and perhaps others?) have. I know before I met my wife there was some occasional outward pressure to find myself a wife. And then once married there was the expectation of children. 

    Now I am married with kids, I find myself looking at other people in those situations and thinking they should be married/have kids by now. Fortunately for them as a shy bloke I don’t actually say it to them! However this post now reminds me of my younger days, and I’ll just go slap my wrists for even thinking of being interfering! :)

  • http://www.cyber-soul.com/ Vicky Beeching

    Thanks for that – great thoughts!
    I just updated the paragraph about ‘Research has shown the divorce rate halves….’ to include your suggestions. Miss ya! We need to do coffee sometime soon :)

  • http://twitter.com/therevsteve Stephen M Day

    The whole church, not just the leadership, should be wise and sensitive enough to welcome single people as they are, without placing expectations on them, or trying to pressure them down some preconceived route. That should go without saying, but obviously, and sadly, it doesn’t.
    However, I would like to ask why you think the church should “provide community” for single people (or anyone else for that matter)?Community is not something that can be ‘provided’ – it’s something that happens within and between a group of people because those people want it to.Supposing that the single people of a particular church have enough in common that they feel themselves to be a community, and are committed to behaving in community-minded ways, then great. Otherwise, no amount of ‘provision’ is ever going to work.

  • Shelley

    I completely agree with this. I left my home church to do a gap year just over a year ago, and the only question people asked me when I went back to visit was “so have you got yourself a fella yet?!” as if that was the only reason I did my gap year! Ummm…no. At 19, I’m in no rush to get married, and I’m comfortable with this. Other people, particularly people in the church, seem to have more issues with me being single than I do! I’m not saying I never want to get married, but right now, I’ve got far too much going on for me to even start thinking about this! I find I struggle more with being single when I’m under pressure from people – when people don’t ask the awkward question, I’m fine with being single. It’s not until I start being bombared with expectations from other people that I begin to question if I’m happy or not, and this is an awful place to be – other people’s expectations of me should never get in the way of me being happy being single.

  • Lorraine Wall-Jones

    Hi Vicky,

    A while ago I posted a blog about homophily, the sociological need to form groups and flock to like minded people. The church is full of them.
    http://looscribbling.blogspot.com/2011/01/exclusion.html

    I was far more active as a single in church than as a married, I was a youth leader and local preacher. My issue is I work shifts, so cannot fit into the tidy rota. Shoved to the creche with my newborn baby, whilst my husband was allowed to worship with the adults. This lead to a period of being de-churched.

    Now my children are targeted, and my husband, with the false impression I will follow like a lap dog. I do sometimes. However, I am very much my own individual I do not need my significant other’s permission. At one time we were at four different churches as a family.

    I watch now as my son, a young adult male has drifted away from Church and Christianity full stop. My daughter now is too old to be a chorister, so elects not to go as she finds ‘Sunday School’ tedious and immature. She helped lead worship last Sunday, but although perhaps the strongest vocalist was placed at the back to ‘sing the parts’. I do not blame her for not being made welcome. 

    I see The CVM, and yes Dean Gray is a mate, tying to get Churches more male friendly, Pete Rollins wailing that there should be more male leadership in the emergent culture. Labelling me as a man hater as I highlight the patriarchal nature particularly of the established church. NB we still have no women Bishops remember? My daughter was offerred 30% less as a female chorister towards school fees. She did not go to the Choir School.

    As for being and staying married. You know yourself and your relationship with God first, you do not use Church as a dating agency, but to worship and serve. I picked husband up from mission work. David and I do not complete each other, we are. God sanctifies relationships and so should keep it sacred, place family first above Church. We have not seen Rev. Father-in-law for over five years, he has never been able to factor us into his life.

    Accept church for what it is, a big club. Interact on your own terms, and always place God at the centre.

    So Vicky shall we just fragment Church up into subgroups so we all have a part and feel welcome? I only think we can feel fulfilled if we are allowed as individuals to exercise the Gifts that the Holy Spirit that we have been given, otherwise we end up frustrated.

    We need to look at inclusivity. Not just for gays, but for all. Groups of worshippers should not impose their values on styles of worship and outsiders should not be ‘normed’ into a group identity, but that is what has happened historically through denominations.

  • Susie B

    Great to point out the no-win issue! In one breath we say we don’t want to label people as single or married….in the next we ask ‘What are you doing for the single people in your church?’

  • http://twitter.com/lindsey_flute Lindsey James

    I’m 25 and have never had a serious relationship. On bad days that makes me feel that there MUST be
    something wrong with me, and my worst fear is that I’ll never get married.On good days, I feel completely happy as God made me, and grateful that I’ve had the time and space to grow as a human being without being tied down to anyone.

    Growing up, older women often told me not to worry, because God has someone specially chosen for me. The truth is, God’s plan for me might well be singleness. I’d far rather that someone would pray that God’s will be done in my life than that he send along the ‘perfect’ man for me. Where in the bible does it say that God has someone selected for everyone,anyway? 

    I do think we put an awful lot of pressure on ourselves sometimes, by comparing ourselves to others, or holding up the ideal of a fairy tale marriage. At the same time I think there could be more support for living as a single person. It can be incredibly painful. How do we live through the pain? Who do we turn to when we’re lonely? What do we do when all we want is to feel someone’s arms around us, and somehow the fact that God is holding us doesn’t seem enough?

  • http://twitter.com/Shamrockofgod Adam C. Harper

    There is a terribly thought through initiative that somehow finding someone who is a “Christian” is good enough to get married to…end of story.

    In that people never explore finding true wholeness in Christ, they therefore jump into a marriage looking for another person to fill the role only God should, and can. 

    When there are two individuals that are still very self focused and looking for someone else to fill that void and turn to each other, you are doomed to have two people in a very dissatisfying relationship.  True this is a very general view, but the point is, why not become very reliant on God first?  Why not look to Him to make you a complete person?  Why not look to for wholeness through Him? 

    Through Christ we find our true identity, who we are, who He has created us to be, who this person is in this skin. 

    If we don’t know who we are how can we ask someone else to know how to love us?  In essence it is a “love me”
    “ok, who are you?”
    “I don’t know, you figure it out and love me.”
    “ok, sounds like a good idea, you do the same for me.”

    As I said, it is very general, but in hindsight i wish I had done a lot more personal journeying before I was married.  I say this because it would have made the early years of my marriage smoother, more intimate, and deeper at an early stage.  God has a plan and even if we rush ahead of it, He can still work through it by His grace and it is only by His grace we can make it at all. 

    There need be no rush, in the time of “singleness” we continue to grow and know who it is that God has made us to be.  Singleness is a gift just as much as marriage…so to the church, I say reel in the matchmaking.  Let’s leave that to God and those who are doing (or not doing) the searching. 

  • Ems

    Vicky
    Thank you so much for this blog- so refreshing.

    I’m a 42 single women in a church with mostly marrieds (except students and some young graduates and the youth of course). It’s hard. I would have loved to have met someone and married (not because of wanting to be married for marrieds sake but it was a desire all the same- but I have never and never will buy a wedding mag unless I was to be planning my own wedding, couldnt think of anything worse!).

    I’m no less a person but the church doesnt half have a good bash at making me feel that way on occasions (and I mean church as a whole and not my current one per se).  I have also continually had people and I’m afraid to say marrieds (partic. those who married v early in life) saying “oh don’t worry you’ll meet someone one day…it happens right though til peeople are in their 50’s blah blah blah” Now I appreciate that at this point this may sound like a rant and to some extent it is….”married people please be careful, you have had your desire blessed not all of us do. Your desire for children may or may not have been blessed/fulfilled, but mine and several other friends (inc.males) who are a similar age or older never will. Again something I would have dearly loved but sadly will not happen. I have some v good supportive friends who are married and know the deep hurt this has caused me (I have had numerous bad experiences with christian men Im sorry to say in the whole sphere of dating) and share their children most lovingly but I have others who say some things that simply cannot be repeated and they are Christians. It’s no surprise therefore that many women leave the church feeling wholly un-supported and un-loved because they are not married.

    Womens groups more often than  not take place during the day and during the week when we as single women have to work. We don’t live in the Jane Austin times any longer, so if we dont work we dont eat or indeed have a roof over our heads!!

    I’m intending to propose a Sat bi-monthly group (something my previousd church in London has and works very successfully)  where women both married and single meet and can feel a part of church where no labels are attached and where children will be with their fathers for the morning (ie child free zone to prevent the need for yet more single people to look after married people’s children!!). Issues that relate to women whatever stage in life they are at are addressed by someone invited to come and speak and chocolate and all things bad are consumed!!!

    People in their late 30s and 40’s are simply not at the same stage as students and those in their 20’s so its hardly surprisng there is resitance when they are forced into the same group just because they are ‘single’. Myself and a few others are now beginning to find a niche together at a quieter pub in town so we can chat and get to know one another where music is played but not blasted. Church shouldnt have to source these groups they can happen organically just as ours is, but I do believe the church has a role to play in supporting and encouraging them and acknowledging the needs/differences.

    Once again Vicky thank yo and for those who have commented.

  • Just me

    Dear Vicky,

    As a 40 something, abuse surviving, unmarried Anglican Priest, living and working hard for the past 3 years in rural East Africa, I have been on the receiving end of many fun comments aimed at trying to ‘encourage’ me in my singleness.

    The truth – I’ve cherished my singleness.

    God has done so much deep and, ha! painful work in me and has allowed me to draw near to Him in a deeply beautiful way.

    What greater joy than knowing my God?

    You write truth.

    Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/aggie.maxwell Aggie Maxwell

    Hi,

    I hear what you are saying – I had some strange comments before I married, including being told that I couldn’t have the gift of hospitality as I was single and lived alone, therefore it was inappropriate to invite people into my home! Its not just the married not debate though. As others mentioned, there is also the have children/don’t split too. In one church I worshipped in, you couldn’t attend the young adults group if you had children!! When I enquired as to why not, I was told to go to toddler group instead. I pointed out htat the toddler group didn’t have bible studies, or trips out to the cinema or other things I wanted to do with people my age!

    We need to just see people as people. My kids godmother once commented that she never hesitated to accept a dinner invitation from us as she knew she wouldn’t turn up to find another well meant “match” for her waiting at the table, we invited her into our home because we enjoyed spending time with her and for no other reason!

  • Chuckt

    Vicky,

    I think people need to understand “for better or worse”.  The “worse” part has a lot of meaning.  My pastor also says it is easier to be single and want to be married than married and want to be single.

    Marriage doesn’t always make life better.  Marriage just makes people married and it means more work because you are working for two and if you have kids then you are working for more.

    The other issue people won’t recognize is that if you marry then you are marrying a sinner and that it takes a while for people to learn how to love each other because married people will have trouble in the flesh.

    1 Corinthians 7:28   But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you.

    The good part about being married is loving someone else and being loved, being taken cared of and taking care of someone else.  Raising kids and your kids loving you and you loving them is all great.

    But it is a lot of work and you can be lonely and married because when you’re doing laundry for two, the other person isn’t always there and you are alone.

    And the person whom you are thinking of marrying can change and the person whom you agreed to has changed.

    Chuck

  • Christine (not waiting around)

    I’m 30 and single. I’m in the midst of finding a new church for this very reason. Not because there were no “activities” but because I’m entirely 110% sure I was the only single person my age. Yeah, young 20’s are great. Yeah, married with children is great. But in a church of 800 that gets frustrating after 6 years. Right now it just serves as a reminder of something I don’t have yet. It’s too painful. (I also don’t live in fairytale land) So, on I go. I am not bored. I have great plans! I do have awesome friends. Just time to jump ship into another ship with people I might have more in common with. (I.e. the church my Bible Study of not yet married late 20’s to 30’s is affiliated with)

  • Tiffany

    Vicky,
    Your post inspired one of my own.  Thanks for addressing what too few will.

    http://shadowsneedlight.blogspot.com/2011/11/living-single-and-smh.html

  • TheaC

    What did they think you might do to the guests you invited into your home?! Eat them?! The mind boggles….

  • Bethanyannbennett

    I think you’ve dealt fairly with the issues around singleness and provided a good spectrum of thoughts to help illuminate what singleness is; who and what for. As a woman in my late twenties I’m in pain and living singly. But I’m inclined to believe there are purposes to this life which I’m every now and then blind to see or too stubborn to seek out. As marraige is a construct of two individuals so is singlness. A construct of one individual. There’s no contract. Only a faith in God and Jesus and Holy Spirit. There’s no-one else to blame.

    Note to Church:

    There is an entrepreneurial spirit resident in singledom. Sadly, as a young businessperson can be frustrated by an unsympathetic bank; a bad accountant; no cash flow; bad business relationships; astronomical overheads and a lack of experience in running his or her daily schedule alone and accountable to only to himself, so can we Christians be prone to ups and downs as we negotiate the single ‘market.’ The question is, can we find profit in the single life?

    If I were a business person my company would have failed long ago but I don’t feel I have failed, because Jesus has taken on my debts. I resent the idea the only way to improve the single life is to quit it.

    Yet while owning my sour feelings I have to admit that there is a sense of destiny in singleness as much as I hope there is in marriage. I kind of feel Jesus put me here, and then left me here and now I have to cope, with His help. It often feels more like the heroism I see in a mum coping without a husband; a wife struggling to manage a house full of children, or the career woman ploughing ahead in the field she believes she is called in despite having to make personal sacrifices to facilitate her path. The crux is, exit from singleness so often ends in marriage. Or death, eventually. It would be nice if the institution of church could collectively accept the life of a single could end in a blessing. Church, we may not always bless you. But with your support I think we could start.

    I hope I’ve not been to heavy handed in expressing my opinions. I’ve tried to be light hearted but my own experience is the Church has a shocking record in this area. God bless you in singleness or whatever might be next.

  • Tad Eastman

    It’s not just younger single people that find it difficult coping in church. As someone in their 50s who now finds himself divorced and single again, I think it is even harder. My peers are mostly settled in families with teenage kids or older. How a single dad fits into that scenario is hard. In over two years I have only been invited to someone from the church’s house once…and that was a colleague from work who is also an outsider, not indigenous to the local community. The vicar, another incomer, often has me round for lunch and we go for a drink too, but I don’t think that counts!

    Part of the issue is about how easy it is to become inward looking and just concerned with making sure one’s family are OK, not considering those around you, but I think there are also issues about people in churches not coping with people that don’t seem to fit the “normal” pattern, if ever there was a normal pattern.

    I do find myself looking out for single women in church, if only because it’s not easy to be a single working parent and get to all the places where singles in their 40s & 50s might hang out. I didn’t choose to be single again and my kids had even less choice in the matter. Maybe it’s down to me if I feel like I stick out like a sore thumb, but when you turn up at church and everyone is sitting in their family groups and I sit on my own, it’s hard not to feel a bit self conscious.

    So maybe some teaching by clergy on how to be more inclusive wouldn’t go amiss?

  • Chuckt

    I was reading about the opponents on the news calling marriage a morality cage and I thought about it.

    People say they don’t have to please their spouse in marriage and they say that isn’t what marriage is about.

    I think when marriages fail, as painful as it is, I think that morality is essentially one of the many causes of divorce.

    And I think people will discover this problem in the Emergent Church where pastors are attracting 600 people in bars where people will listen to a message.  They don’t want to use the Bible because they risk offending people but at the same time, marriages are crumbling because they are afraid to really use the Bible.  They use it but the notes get thrown out every week because they didn’t use the Bible enough for people to use it.

  • Jo Dolby

    I enjoyed reading this post and I do agree that there is a strange sometimes unspoken view in churches that you’ve ‘made it’ when you’re married and that being married is somehow better than being single, which is not very biblical in my opinion. I’ve felt this pressure as a single person and increasingly so the older I get.

    There were two things that sprung into my mind whilst reading this and some of the comments. The first is that I think we have to be really careful not to approach church with a consumer mindset. Lots of people have said things like ‘the church doesn’t do anything for singles’ or ‘my church doesn’t value single people’, but the church is us. We are the church. So if you want events for singles, or you think single people should be valued more, then great, do something about it! It’s easy to complain about it but it’s better to be proactive in changing it. Set something up, speak to your church leader, organise a night out with a bunch of mates…be the change you want to see.

    The second thought I had was about church and about how we compartmentalise everyone into these little groups – singles, families, men, women, when we are all part of the same family. I love hanging out with people who are different to me. I have enjoyed playing with my friends kids, getting to know married people, having coffee with my single friends, I love the diversity of the body of Christ. It stretches me, educates me, challenges me. It keeps my perspective wider, which just wouldn’t happen if all I did was hang out with other single people. Maybe the problem isn’t about the church not putting on enough events for singles, but whether we as the church are truly living out what it means to be a Jesus centered community where there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female but all are one in Christ?

  • Pingback: Church and Singleness… | The extraordinary in the ordinary.()

  • Andy

    Really like this blog – sometimes it’s just nice to know that you’re not the only person who feels these type of things. My biggest frustration – couples nights. Ultimately it’s just friends hanging out so why the need to filter those in attandence by their marital status….does this somehow add to the night??!!?  I think a lot of the issues addressed in your blog aren’t just confined to the church, but society in general. The general attitude is that you are missing out on something by not being married, and this can in turn effect your happiness when you start to believe it. I fully trust in God that at the right time I will find the right woman and until then I will live a whole, happy and fulfilled life.

  • Pastorannamarie

    Vicky, praise God for the honesty of your post! It’s great to see comments from such a diverse group of people from different church denominations, backgrounds and walks of life. 
    I am single and turned 33 in June. I’ve never been married, not currently a student, nor am I a single parent, which pretty much means from a church perspective I was stuck trying to fit into social nights with people in either their teens or 20’s or married couples with kids [great for them, not so for me]. This was one of the reasons why after discovering my calling as a missionary to women, I choose to live and serve as a member of a missional community in Scotland. Here my uniqueness is accepted and I am not demonized for not fitting into a Christian mould. I am encouraged and valued for my contribution, but I am also challenged to live my single- life well. Whilst I am grateful to have had so much ‘time to work out’ ‘who’ I am, my needs and desires, my ministry calling, etc… at times I DO wish that I had a life partner to share this journey with and I’ve discovered that too much time on ‘self’ critique is not always beneficial. I, like many others, simply seek to be accepted for who I am and not for my ‘status’ – which often, is dictated by the will of God for my life, and not always by personal preference! :) I decided to call this my ‘Jesus Year’ because at 33 Christ really came into His own. It was the height of His knowledge, power, influence and fruitfulness. Christ was single and never married, yet that part of His life is hardly preached…So why should I be sad, depressed or embarrassed to be 33 and un-married?I’ve decided instead that I will try to emulate Jesus more powerfully this year than ever before. My focus is on the FRUIT of all my hard work in ministry and community service…no longer me working for distraction from loneliness or to the point of burn-out or where I am jeopardizing my health..but to demonstrate Jesus’ power and grace through my life. I am also learning how to be content with God’s plans for me [1 Tim 6: 6 ‘..But godliness with contentment is great gain’] . After 30 plus years of single-life, I am sure I have a thing or two to share with others about; being dependent on Christ, how to love Jesus wholeheartedly, and managing emotions. But in the current church set-up, a single man would be much more likely to be approached to do such a thing, than a woman.As Ruth Wells’ comment pointed out – many issues do NOT get openly addressed for single women of a certain age. And the stereotype is still prevailing that we 30 plus single women are all emotionally wrought, desperate, pathetic creatures, instead of precious, hard-working, committed, faith-filled sisters in Christ.I am blessed to belong to a community now where my voice and opinion matters and most importantly, I am loved unconditionally and understood. But community-living [a shared home/mission/culture] is not for everyone. So perhaps a good question is; Is this really the ‘work of the Church?’ If so, are Churches ready to listen? Or Is this the job of every individual Christian..?

    Over to you…

  • Anghaq

    !!! I get really fed up with ‘the church’s’ inability to accept folk post 30 who ‘haven’t settled down’. As you said, Vicky, in your 20’s there isn’t so much of an issue; but once you hit the big 30 – my highlight to date is the service held at a church I went to looking at ‘the pain of been single’. This consisted of a single person been placed in a group of marrieds and quized on the ‘pain of being single’ (deep joy)!!

    Being single isn’t a life choice…it’s simply where I am. I don’t believe I am any less complete because I’m not married nor am I desparately unhappy. I’m not against marriage and there are days when I think it would be great to share my life with a soul mate. However, I don’t follow some church teaching that seems more akin to mills and boon rather than biblical teaching and usually put forward by those who have been married since the age of 16 and are trying to recreate the happy Walton’s scenario.

    Psalm 139: “I am fearfully and wonderfully created” – no excemption to being single or married. The church doesn’t need to make assumptions about what life is like for single folk or create ‘services for singles’…just treating you as semi human would be a start.

  • http://www.jamesprescott.co.uk James Prescott

    Great post Vicky. I think the church does really need to look at this, because I know that even on a subconscious level it’s really easy to be intimidated as a single person in a church where there’s a lot of 30 somethings who are married with kids. My church has a wide variety of different types – there are quite a few who’ve married young then been through divorce, and are now single again or remarried, there’s a fair number of single guys (less single women) in their 30’s, although the majority are married in their 30’s with kids. 

    Singleness should never be seen second best, and I know in the past I’ve felt like a second class citizen or not respected as much simply because I’m not married and it’s been quite hurtful. Most of the group I hung out with at church in my twenties are now married or engaged, and it would be easy to get drawn into comparisons or see myself as less. 

    It’s good to be reminded that singleness can actually be a real blessing, and that’s I how feel about it. Especially now doing more and more writing and busy with church and other things, my life is so much busier and frankly I don’t have time to work on a relationship too. I know there will be a time where that changes, and where sacrifices might be necessary, but it’s not a priority for me right now. I am genuinely loving the freedom that comes with being single, and it’s such a blessing.

    You’re right about the Hollywood thing too – rom coms & modern media in a relationship/sex-obsessed culture really do a lot of damage, and if you’re not careful you get caught up in their fantasies and over-romanticised ideas of marriage or relationships, instead of having a healthy view of it, which is as a partnership, a covenant relationship, journeying together, doing life together. A partnership of total trust, friendship, commitment and joy, going on a journey together. Romance can be part of that but it’s just not like how Hollywood has painted it. I find it hard to watch any film like that now, they are just so unsatisfying and fake (although funny). 

    Thanks for writing this, it’s a real encouragement and an issue that needs tackling. Keep these kind of posts coming. 

  • Katy

    I love this post- it would appear that we are in a pretty similar boat! It’s nice to be reminded that I’m not the only single Christian our age, and not the only one who isn’t just waiting around for the ‘right person to come along’. I’m keen to make the most of all that being single has to offer me- and not be labelled as ‘the single person’. Loving your work!

  • Katie O.

    Hi Vicky,
    thanks so much for sharing your honest thoughts.  

    I’m no theologian – ha – but it seems to me that a lot of the frustration surrounding this issue is birthed from a lack of understanding in churches in regards to the leading of the Spirit. How many of us Christians have made major life decisions purely on a pragmatic basis, or an emotional basis (what I “feel” like doing), or even on a reactionary basis  – without taking into account the clearly Scriptural fact of Christ living and acting in us.  If he stirs one to be single, and one to be married, one to have two children and another to have ten… who are we to judge one another?   If he brings two people together at 20, and another pair together at 40 – who are we to judge?  If he decides to preserve a special intimacy with a person and call them to remain single, who are we to judge? 

    If we can stand in accountability, in the grace of God, in all conviction and say: “This is what God told me to do”… what better argument can we have?  It is not about asserting my right to my own choices. It’s about what the lover of my soul is stirring me to do, and being able to stand on his Word in making that decision – and that means whether I “feel” like doing it initially or not.  Word and Spirit, working together in me to lead me into his perfect purposes.

    How amazing is it that God WANTS to speak supernaturally into our lives!  Our confidence rests in him alone.

  • Debbiehill

    great question to ask and love your boldness to put yourself out there too.

    Part of the issue is that for most of us whether in the church or not grow up with the knowledge that one day you too will be married with a family, or maybe at least have your own children. So I know I grew thinking this would happen for me, but as yet as a single 42yr old it has not! And I am okay with it!

    I remember in my 20’s in lived in Manchester (now live in New Zealand) and felt very lonely because my church was full of married people, or couples dating or young people and I was the main youth leader, so all my time was given to  youth and they thought I was great. But the reality was the married people never invited you out, or around for dinner (unless to discuss church business), so I threw myself into youth ministry and God blessed it. However inside I was lonely and crying out for friendships.

    I have always been comfortable hanging out with married people or single people so for me it was never an issue, but others didn’t see it that way. When I moved to NZ God gave me a great bunch of singles to hang with, some have since married a few have not and so its not so glaringly obvious. 

    But I do see the church still not knowing what to do with single people, especially women over 35 who maybe have a voice, an opinion or a mind of their own! The church is still not geared up on how to mentor ladies like me, or release them into their destiny. But that is another issue

  • Debbiehill

    one more thing, when it comes to marriage sometimes we are more in love with fairy tale of the wedding day as opposed to understanding what marriage is.  I have also  seen when some people have married young and have children early they get to their mid 40’s and wonder who they are who did they marry, and this causes issues in their marriage.  Better to wait and know who you are, before jumping into quickly.

  • http://ontoberlin.blogspot.com Hannah M

    Agreed! There is nothing worse than people speculating ‘why so-and-so haven’t had a baby yet’! They might not WANT to talk about it.

  • http://twitter.com/lilstix Jane Kindlen

    Hi Vicky, thank you for taking the time to express yourself in such an open and vulnerable way. You raise and ask great questions…..your blog has got me thinking about all sorts of things, plus many of the replies already posted above hit a chord/ring a bell/touch me….. my, what a rollercoaster ride we all live on – the ups and downs, sometimes all too easy to identify what they are, whilst at other times the ups and downs are not so easy to get to the bottom of.. I was born and raised a Catholic, in my 20’s came to terms with identifying as gay, came out of the closet to parents/friends/colleagues etc… and tip-toed around the church at that scarey and painful time…

    …I found it difficult as a single, gay woman within church circles, particularly if well-meaning ppl made any vague (or overt!) hint that ‘wasn’t it time I found a b/f etc’?… I retreated into my shell at times, and found myself always looking over my shoulder worrying that I was going to be excluded from whatever parish I was trying to settle in if they guessed or found out I was gay. After student years, I lived and worked in a monastery, kinda like a residential youth worker I suppose, with a national remit. They were good days, it felt safe to be single, I felt alive, recognised my identity and had no wish to settle down…

    …I had long questioned whether I was called to religious life and entered a convent in my mid 20’s…. this period of time in formation aided me with more self discovery etc, but when I felt I had to leave religious life, I went into a downward spiral of depression – suddenly not knowing where my future may be leading was overwhelming… I wished my faith had been stronger to hold on and not be sucked into depression, but then such experiences I guess do help us and shape us in the longer term to better understand/assist others perhaps… fast forwarding to present day, well now I’m 40, and next week will see my partner and I reach the 6 month milestone after our civil partnership this year. This was not something that was entered into lightly, and infact at the time, we received love and support as well as affirmation from parishoners who knew of our plan, and we also undertook some sessions to offer us support and advice along the lines of a traditional marriage prep programme… sadly we are not currently attending a church, but that is another story – I pray and hope that we might find another place of worship where we can call home and not be at risk of being judged or marginalised……

    I think the church does need to develop more opps for single people to feel wholly involved and included in the church community. I think it is encouraging that judging by all the responses to your blog, that it is a subject resonating and being discussed by so many in their circles. So much more to discuss and share, but I fear I have rambled on quite enough, and off topic somewhat… blessings!

  • http://www.cyber-soul.com/ Vicky Beeching

    Thanks so much for your comment Jane.
    I’m a huge fan of convents too – love going on retreats! 
    Really appreciate you sharing your story.
    So glad to have you as part of this community!  :)

  • http://www.cyber-soul.com/ Vicky Beeching

    True!

  • Benjjj

    Vicky, I read this blog and instantly thought of a thousand things I could write here. This is an issue that as a single man about to turn 30 I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I even outlined a book called ‘Single Christian Male’ about this issue, that, for various reasons I never ended up writing. This blog post is so well written, so on the nose, that all I want to say is, it may be the most important blog that many young Christians ever read. Thank you.

  • http://www.diannaeanderson.net Dianna

    I really wish I had time to read through all of these comments. Oh man!

    I am 25 (26 in a couple months). This last summer was the first time I’ve ever had a boyfriend, and it was surprising to notice how much of my family (church or blood-relations) seemed to breathe an audible sigh of relief. And that was so insulting – it was as if they were saying, “oh thank God, she’s normal.” And I could almost feel the disappointment and “I told you so’s” coming through the screen when I had to explain to that same family that the boyfriend and I had broken up because I moved away for a job and long distance was too hard on both of us. It was a subtle wagging of the finger – “see, you chose a career over a relationship, and now where are you?” In an awesome city with an awesome job! That’s where!

    I really like what you have to say about getting married later being better because you know yourself more. Being both 25 years old, the ex and I were able to approach the relationship in pretty mature, healthy, manner – even though it was my first relationship, I was able to approach it without losing my own identity in him, and, now that I’m single again, I can look back and discover what I learned from the relationship in a mature manner (though, this is not to say that break ups when you’re older don’t suck; they do. I’ve just got a better outlook on it than I would if I was, say, 16).

    This feels kind of garbled and messy as a comment, but, yeah, I’m picking up what you’re putting down. I get it.

  • http://www.diannaeanderson.net Dianna

    Oh gosh, “women who wank.” Can I steal that? I’m doing a series on the way purity/lust teachings hurt women, and that’s just too good.

  • http://twitter.com/schwalms schwalms

    Thanks for the post!  I am a 25 year old single who has embraced what God is teaching me about singleness and waiting.  I have a desire to be married.  I actually can’t wait!  I mentioned this to my friends recently and they were surprised by such a bold statement from me.  I’ve embraced my singleness for a long while already.  I see that I have time to minister to the students I’ve been called to.  I have time to serve my family and friends.  I have time to be still with my Lord.  I wanted to encourage other people, especially women, that life doesn’t wait for a wedding to begin.  It may happen, it may not.  Either way, live in the meantime!  So I started this blog called “In the Meantime” and it’s all about embracing that journey of a full life as a single person.

    http://www.shellyschwalm.com

    I think it’s important to recognize that some single people don’t have the desire to get married.  God has set them apart for His purpose as a single person.  Some single people DO have that desire though.  Even when you are doing your best to life largely, let the Lord be your love, and be content where He has you, there can still be tough days where your happy couple friends highlight the wonderful things you long for.  That’s an increasing reality for me.  I can’t ignore those days, but instead I thank God that He is preparing my heart to be loved by a Godly man and preparing me to love as well.

    As singles of the Church, we must acknowledge our wounds.  There have been many times, most unintentional, that singles have been really hurt by the church or people in it.  It’s important that churches take note of their consideration of single people.  Singles don’t want to be pitied or coddled, but also don’t want to be excluded.  Our well meaning leaders who love to use marriage regularly as a sermon illustration need to consider what singles are hearing.  I think marriage is a great way to talk about our relationship with God, but let’s challenge ourselves to think outside of that one example.  It’s the same issue as being in women’s Bible studies and someone says, “you will really understand this passage when you’re a mom.”  There was even a time when a woman who is a mom led the study and used several “mom applications” in her teaching.  She was frustrated because most of the regular moms weren’t there and the singles/not moms “couldn’t relate as well” to what she was teaching.  This is hurtful.  It’s hurtful to assume that being a “family friendly community” would be the only appealing factor for me as I consider a position at a church.  It’s hurtful that the single person can work more evening services because “they don’t have a family to go home to.”  It’s hurtful when married friends say, “we’re so behind because everyone else here at seminary has children.”  It’s not intentional, but our Christian brothers and sisters need to understand that this can be a sensitive situation and comments made can be very isolating.  We should, instead, across the board, take steps to listen and learn about one another’s situations and how we can best love and care for one another.  We’ve been wounded by these words and thoughts and must let go and forgive those who have isolated us while striving to give them insight about our own story.

    My church has a value that says “no one walks alone.”  My pastor will comment from time to time, “this isn’t our promise to you, but something that we are committing to as a people.”  That means, SINGLES: If there needs to be a more welcoming presence at your church for singles, more events, gatherings, teachings, more singles in general, who better to do that than a single!  We know what we might need.  Let’s do it!  Let’s commit to supporting each other and teach others in our church about story.  I enjoy the groups that have lots of different stages of life and people represented.  When we are single in those places, we educate people in that circle about our experience and the more vulnerable we are in that circle, the more understanding that develops.

    One last thought…for those singles out there…the past few months for me have been challenging, but incredibly rich and I attribute that to one thing.  God was drawing me out to spend lovely time with Him.  There have been days where I’ve lit candles, had a glass of wine, and sat down with the Word to soak in the many ways that God loves me.  Something a kin to dates with God–relishing that relationship–where the God who created you can woo and love your heart in ways that nobody ever could.  If you’re in the meantime, I would recommend this as a rich meantime activity.  As you are grounded in His love, fewer are the times you hear you begin to believe you’re alone.

  • http://twitter.com/gabrielspence Gabriel Spence

    This post was very much on target for me and for the broad spectrum of singles in the church. Up until I joined my current church I attended churches that had no clue how to relate to singles or even people outside their age/family demographic. I now am an active member of The Village Church in Flower Mound Texas. They do not have a college & career or singles ministry but I they get singles and minister to them in a unique way. I think they do 4 things well that allows singles to look at themselves in the light of the Gospel and with a proper perspective. 

    1. Community – in multi-generational community singles are not singled out as out-of-place. They are loved, cared for and accepted in the presence of other singles or marrieds. 

    2. Service – we are given meaningful and vital roles of service in the church and happily give of our time and money to be a part. 

    3. Integration – there is no singles ministry or college and career ministry to isolate us or de-integrate us from the rest of the church. Whether we are single or married we are all part of Christ’s body the church. 

    4. Value – the ministers and elders of the church take care to voice their appreciation for the contribution of the single men and women who serve in the church. 

    All of this combined makes for an environment that does not single out single people but includes them as part of the body and the ministers and elders relate well to us. 

    Do I desire to be married? You bet! But as I near 30 and I have a good job, nice things and meaningful, deep relationships in addition to the above-mentioned life is good and I plan to enjoy every minute of it. 

  • http://learningfromsophie.com Laura Anne

    TOTALLY agree with this, and have had several conversations about it on my own blog – one a couple of years ago:

    http://learningfromsophie.com/2009/10/09/something-that-got-stuck-in-my-mind-recently/

    But also had some reflections on the gift of being single (and working part-time) has given me to support others that I think a lot of people in church don’t understand. If I had a £1 for every time I’ve been told “I’ll get married soon” or “when you have children…” or “That guy is just around the corner” or “I’m praying for your husband”…I’d be a very rich woman! :)

  • http://twitter.com/Megler MegRoberts

    THANK YOU!

  • stalfo

    I’m 26 and single and a youth pastor of my church of 200 or so.  I’d like to have a girlfriend but I’ve got issues I need to deal with first.  Emotional hang ups to overcome.  They prevent me from having romantic relationships, deep relationships with anyone, and seclude me.  It sucks.

    I wish more people would see the need to deal with their problems before getting married.  I wish more singles would read “Finding the Love of Your Life” or “Falling in Love for All the Right Reasons” by Neil Clark Warren.  I really believe our divorce rate would go way down if people would.

    I don’t feel like my church makes me feel excluded or pressures me into getting a girlfriend.  When they try and set me up it makes me feel kinda special although usually its with someone I’m not really interested in. 

    I guess the hardest part is being part of a rare demographic in a small church.

  • Jo

    Could not agree more with that last paragraph!

  • Jessica Paluska

    I agree w what you are saying. Totally. I am 32 & still single, trusting God for his best in my life. I know its always best to wait for His timing. As far as groups in the church. As it seems churches have children’s ministries,igh school youth, then “young adult” which generally stems from 18-29. After that you usually have singles groups or young marrieds. What about those of us that are still single but don’t want to attend obvious “meat markets” JUST because we are over 20 &I still single doesn’t mean there’s anything “wrong” with us. Are we not taught to walk in the fruits of the spirit? One of which is patience? But, it seems, generally, people want us to toss this to the wind when it comes to relationships because its “not healthy” or something, more often times is pointed out if the single party is female Ive noticed. What I have learned is just what we need be confident and secure in ourselves and in christ FIRST. &I there’s nothing wrong w that :)

  • http://cassidyrobinson.com Cassidy Robinson

    I love your blog, Vicky, because it fuels discussion and thoughts deeper than most blogs these days. I understand where you are coming from in this post. I have many single friends that are in their late twenties and early thirties too. I’m still a baben myself at 24, but I was married at 21 to my wonderful husband and wouldn’t have had it any other way! We’ve been able to grow up together, without having to rush into having a family, for one thing. I don’t want to clutter up your comment area, but I just wanted to thank you for this post and I’ll be continuing this topic on my blog as well soon! http://cassidyrobinson.com

  • http://cassidyrobinson.com Cassidy Robinson

    Very good point, Phill – if you wait till you “know yourself completely” or are “ready” to be married, you’ll be waiting forever. :)

  • Anonymous

    Vicky, thank you for your honesty. As the years go on, the distance grows between what we singles look for in Church and what Church provides. It is not easy to be a single and so many “well-meaning” married Christians make it worse by wanting to set us up or marry us off to the first eligible person who comes along. Let us be who we are and love us, please!

  • http://www.register-web-domain.in website registration india

    Yes i agree with you dude and love these thoughts.. 
    Great work and inspirable one..

  • Jude

    I agree that singleness is badly handled.  But more groups is not the answer.  Its probably that we all want because its easy but the reality is that the church is about the other.  Despite recent trends some of us still hold that the church needs to be the one place where we mix with, love, challenge, serve, care and cared for by people who aren’t like is.

    If we want groups of like minded people then we should join clubs, not church.

    It is hard but the problem isn’t solely about singleness.. and I speak as a single person leading a church with an age range of 20-85 of whom only ten percent are couples.

  • Chris32man

    im 42 and i feel there is no place in the church for me anymore, because im not married i have no children.

    im not young, im not a student, im not a professional im a apprentice chef. all the christtians i know dont understand why i havent got a successful career.

    i cant drive most christians i know think its strange that i use public transport to go everywhere. all the christians i know have their own cars.

    im a oddball in the church, i dont fit the mould so to speak. but when it comes to praying , reading the bible or singing songwriting.

    thats where i shine, i dont know why. yet if i want to go into full time ministry i would have to go to bible college study theology the hebrew the greek.

    whatever happend to follow me and i will make you fishers of men matthew 4:19 mark 1:17.

  • http://twitter.com/JosieHopes Josephine Pearson

    Aha, a blog post I so totally and utterly relate to.

    There are times where I think I would so like to have a partner to share life, God, etc with. It can be a bit lonely on occasions but it is only occasional. Most of the time it isn’t a massive issue for me to be single. It isn’t what I hang my identy on, especially as a Christian. And for some of my single friends in church it isn’t a problem for the most part either. If it becomes an issue I can always ring up a friend, got to their house or they come to mine. And to take the edge of it I got a cat. Of course it’s nothing like the same and sure, she’s not a exactly a great conversationalist (“meow”) but she IS company.

    I do have one friend though who seems to really struggle more than most with her single status. She hates it. In her mind she should have been married by now, started having kids and be well and truly on the way to blissful marital bliss. She set herself a deadline and she passed it earlier this year. What was her deadline? Yep, you guessed it- 30 years old. (Incidentally I too turned 30 this year. It was not a deadline for me).

    She and I have spoken about this and one of the comments she made was “Do you know how the church looks on single women?” I can’t say that up to that point I had. It wasn’t my concern.

    It was a very unsettling comment though and strangely barbed. How does it look at me as a single woman? Should it not be looking at me as a daughter of the Most High, beloved, treasured and unique, a living stone in the Church? St. Paul would have been fine with me being single, anyway.  

    I think when we set ourselves deadlines like that we trip ourselves up. We end up questioning God’s absolute goodness when He maybe didn’t promise us any such thing. We did that and were unable to fulfil empty promise. What He does promis us though is the very best for us. If for some of us the very best is singlness, than who am I to argue with God on that?

  • Pingback: What is the ideal age for marriage? | Cassidy Robinson()

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=181102106 Carter Lindsay

    Hi Vicky, I appreciate your thoughts on the subject of not being married. Being from Tennessee, I’ve found that the common expectation is; go to college, find girl (in my case) and get married. But I found it to be more of a pressure I put on myself. I Just graduated from a Southern Baptist college and there were people who felt they had to find the right person before they graduated and put pressure on themselves to do so. Being in that setting for the better part of four years, I could not help but put that expectation on me because I saw it happen time and again where people announce engagements or try to find the ‘one’. So thank you for helping lift that burden from me.

  • Shar

    Hi Vicky, thanks for the post!  It made me laugh because I can relate.  I got married at 26, but took a lot of hurtful comments from well meaning people until then.  My standard responses were “I am complete in Christ” and “better a happy old maid than a sad young bride”.  Since being married, it is still Christ who completes me.  Its just not fair to put those kinds of expectations on another human. 

    It’s sad that “marrieds” and “singles” seem to segregate.  When I was single, I had lots of single friends, and a few married couple friends.  When we got engaged, suddenly we were getting all kinds of dinner invites from other married couples, and our single friends seemed to expect us to drift away from them.  We decided to accept only the invites from couples who were our friends when we were single.  And when we were with our single friends, we made a point to show that we valued and wanted to be with them.  After we married, and started having children, we still make a point to keep those same friends, even though we often end up tag teaming – taking turns going out with them while the other stays home with our kids. 

    One result of our decisions is that we have been able to keep and strengthen our friendships that we’ve had for years, most of these friends remaining single.  Another result is that we have remained somewhat distanced from many other married couples.  We didn’t intend to choose a “marital status camp”, we simply were trying to remain consistent in our relationships.  After all, people cannot be replaced in my heart. 

    I wish the married/single thing wasn’t such a big deal.  It seems very ridiculous.

  • Hannah

    Soooooo true!  I love the way you handled it, and I love your refusal to be defined by your marital status, whether single or married.

    I’m a 30-year-old single women.  My 20s have probably been the best years of my life.  Today I met with my pastor because a year ago I met an incredible man and we’re considering marriage.  My only doubt is whether I’m willing and able to give up my single lifestyle and everything that comes with it.  What an amazing dilemma to have.  God is so good.  And Shar, if I marry him, I’ll definitely be taking your advice.

  • http://twitter.com/iamrichanderson Richard Anderson

    Thanks Vicky for this…brilliant. 

    I found this talk quite useful: – http://www.soulsurvivor.com/uk/momentum/think-see-hear/hear.html “Becoming the Right Partner” – Ness Wilson

  • Amy Graham

    Hey Vicky! Hope you’re well and feeling healthy and strong. Thank you for this post. I actually just preached a sermon last week and a lot of these ideas were a part of it. Here’s the link if you’re interested: http://www.districtchurch.org/media.php?pageID=14

    The church has done a HUGE disservice to singles and I think your approach is RIGHT ON! Lots of love to you!

  • Rachfitzpatrick

    I find it really odd when people get married, have a family and then get so busy they don’t seem to have time for family. I wonder if we have a right view of marriage? If you are single you have the freedom to go anywhere and do anything for God. This is so exciting and a life of adventure that is different for those who are married. I’m not saying marriage isn’t an adventure but it does change things. our emphasis is always about getting married but we fail to recognise the weight paul gives to a single life. I guess I am sick of seeing families lose out on having ‘family life’ because they are so busy. If you want to go off all over the world, don’t get married and don’t have a family….too harsh?

    Btw I am very happily married, I just have very strong ideas about committment and family life.

  • http://twitter.com/Colse Colse Leung

    Ok as ever firstly apologies if any of this has been already said (thats the problem with coming to the party late!)

    So a person walks into the doctor’s room at a surgery. The patient waits nervously. “I’ve got the results from your test… I’m afraid… it’s bad news…””What is it? What is it doctor?!””I’m afraid… you are single… and its terminal.”Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not meaning in any way to be disrespectful or hurtful to any one. That’s not my wish at all, so much so that I’m going to write in the first person…My singleness is not a disease. I am not-not-married. I am not-not-in-a-relationship. I am however single.My non-couple-ness is a not the issue. I, like many of my other friends (of all ages, stages & statuses) do get lonely from time to time. There I’ve said it! LONELY! and I don’t feel any shame or awkwardness about that. I’m pretty much the only single on staff at a busy city church, I have from time to time wondered about the whole “if I ever will (fill in the blanks with whatever here)”… and the reality is I’ve know idea. I’m not necessarily anti this or pro that. I literally just don’t know…Lots of people have alluded to the ‘better to be single’ quotes and I have had those things said to me on many an occasion but I wonder if the question is not just about being in a relationship and but also about the basic human need for friendship, community and let’s face it – Love in its wider more encompassing sense.I feel loved. I do. By God, by those around me. I know that’s not the case for everyone and I do empathise. I do understand the tension of what it means to be single in a surrounding that can sometimes accentuate that feeling rather than help alleviate it. It’s not an easy area and it can be full of mixed emotions. In our community, whenever its Mother’s Day we celebrate with those who are, yet we are mindful of those who aren’t married or who can’t.I’m not trying to “scape goat the church’s responsibility” here. I don’t think its that black and white. Established church does need to think of the whole yet I think we have our own part to play in it all. I think for many the typical model around family does centre around a couple and children naturally but I think when scripture talks about ‘setting the lonely in a family”, as with many things in scripture, we are givers and receivers. We live in and also propagate the culture. Whatever that may be. We are all church together and its a shared responsibility. Perhaps we need to extend, not limit or redefine our understandings and definitions of ‘family’.If you are reading this and you are single, I want to encourage you that God has so much available for you. I’m not sure on the reason why you are or are not right now but I do believe that God has more available for you. That more isn’t a replacement for Mr or Mrs Right, its not a ‘well you can’t have this so have some of that’ – its not a substitute. It’s bigger than that. Don’t get me wrong, we all have our good days and bad days about this. But we all have been called into a sense of ‘life to the full’. That’s the ongoing invitation…. 

     

  • Mark Colvin

    my sister, who is 35 and single wrote this article for the magazine that she works for. I think you two might have a lot in common! http://powertochange.com/blogposts/2010/05/13/i-only-feel-alone-at-church/  Hopefully it will make you laugh :)

    It is so important for us to be gracious and considerate to others in the way that we speak. Single people can be the greatest resource for a church!

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

    Paul seems to be pretty clear that being married is good, and being single is good – we in the church need to remember that!

    It’s fine when you are a teenager or a student. There are tons of groups and activities provided. But for the increasingly large number of people aged 25+ who are choosing to not get married yet, there need to be specific opportunities to be around people in the same stage of life.

    I wonder if this is not an indictment on the general ‘programme’ centric style of church these days, where we like to create nice neat boxes of ministry?

  • http://thingsfindothinks.com AndrewF

    I think you’re right, as well, that the church doesn’t help in painting a fairytale picture of marriage. The church is very good at telling young people to wait until marriage, and not very good at either preparing young people for marriage or supporting young married couples in their marriage (partly the old hangover of needing to have a house-deposit etc. before getting married!)

    I saw an excellent interview with Tim Keller about this recently: http://video.foxnews.com/v/1258887446001/defining-marriage-in-a-kardashian-world/?playlist_id=162726 (on national tv no less!)
    I like how he pointed out that we are never the same people as when we married, because marriage changes us. I would add that even without marriage, we change, and I’m not sure we can say at 27, 37 or 57 that we’ve arrived at who we are.. in a sense, we’re always who we are, even at 21.

    The other interesting thing, which I think is related to the average age of marriage getting higher, is the rather modern invention of adolescence – which is itself getting longer. 23 seems young to us because we’ve invented and extended this concept of half-child-half-adult.

  • http://twitter.com/LinJasonC Jason C Lin

     ‘you’d better hurry up…the clock is ticking’ I’ve heard that one before.  I am in my early 30s and people mainly outside of church keep bugging me about getting married. It seems like everybody around me is getting marred even my two younger brothers are marred, but I am still singel. Which I think is not a bad thing and I don’t want to rush in to something I’m not ready for anyway.

    The Chuch that I go to accepts me and all the other singels just as they would anyone else.  But outside the four walls of my church I think that you are right and can be castaways, put aside.
    But God sees us all the same why should’nt the Body of God do the same?

  • http://religionetc.wordpress.com Steve

    Honey, I know just where you are coming from. My step-grandfather (He’s deceased now.) used to always ask me if I had found a cook, that is, a wife. Well, I’m in my fifties now and still single. I’m not against marriage, but I think marrying someone just to be getting married could become disastrous. A lot of marriages do unfortunately end in divorce. I have seen some couples that people have thought that they would just stay together forever end their marriages in divorce.

    Celibacy is one option. We have monasticism in our Church. In fact, our priest is a monk. (Most Orthodox priests are married men though.) Everyone relates to him quite well even though he has never been married. One of the bishops in the Orthodox Church in America is a widower. His wife died when he was a priest. Priests and deacons are not allowed to remarry after the loss of their wives or even after a divorce. The one wife rule in St. Paul’s pastoral epistles is interpreted very literally in the Orthodox Church.

    There are others who have been married, but have decided to stay single after the loss of their spouse or after a divorce. Actually, the Orthodox Church encourages this, but allows for second and third marriages as concessions for human weakness. These widowers, widows, and divorced people seem to be getting along quite fine in the single state.

    In the Bible, Jeremiah, Daniel, Elijah, Elisha, and St. John the Baptist were single. According to Church tradition (or history), the Samaritan woman in St. John 4 became a Christian and never married again. St. Mary Magdalene remained celibate, too.

    Marriage is wonderful, but celibacy has its place in the Church, too!

    I’m in my fifties and I have really quit concerning myself with getting married at my age. Marriage is for mortals. It is a temporary institution that will vanish away after Christ’s Second Coming. A monk told me that monasticism is temporary, too. Monasticism is for spiritual warfare and there will be no more need for monasticism after the war has been won. So, I will just wait and see what wonderful things God has in store for His people in the resurrection. Something better than marriage and something better than monasticism. Let’s wait and see!

    Steve

  • Ben M

    Just found this, but yes!! I’m 22 and at a Christian Bible College, now some of you older single folk may want to castrate me for this but it is incredibly disheartening when there are so few single people of my age at the college! They’re all either married (normally before or around the age I am now) or planning to get married as soon as they graduate.
    My cynical opinion says they’re just pretty horny and have grabbed the first proper evangelical Christian they’ve found who is attractive (the emotions can come later, the enforced, enclosed environment can help significantly!) so they can ‘go into proper ministry as a couple’. But, but I’m single… Does that mean I can’t do ‘proper ministry on my own’?
    Meh, God calls us to different things at different times and each of those things and each of those times have their challenges.
    In brief closing, a lovely woman at my church once said to me (after I had joked about being engaged, which I wasn’t, I wasn’t even in a relationship), ‘Well, if you haven’t found someone after 3 years at Bible College then… *shrugs in a hopeless fashion*’. Sums up a lot of attitudes pretty well from where I’m at anyway!!!!
    Ben

  • http://twitter.com/bop8709 Stephanie

    I absolutely love this post, Vicky. I’m twenty-four, and I’ve found much of what you said here to be true in my own experience so far. Thankfully, my church has grown out of this somewhat, but it used to be very much into matching all the singles up and making sure we all had a “somebody”. Over the last year or two, however, the singles group in my church has started growing more in the direction of just hanging out as friends as opposed to feeling pressured by the married couples to hook up. It seems that most of the singles are fairly happy being single and it’s a welcome shift compared to before. I think the point you made, that it might be better to find out who we are while we’re still single, is right on. I think it helps to get some of that restlessness out that comes with being young so that marriage doesn’t seem like a cage in any way. Some are meant for marriage right out of high school and others aren’t meant to marry at all. The church in general seems to have set the prime marriage age to be between 20 and 25. Anything before or after that seems to give some married folk in the church an ulcer.:)

  • J Birchall

    Being part of a church that’s reviewing all its activities  – hitting the ‘reset’ button before looking to the future – this post is a useful p

  • Dan from Georgia

    Late to the party here.  I married in my early 40s so I definitely have a wealth of experience in being single.  I have seen churches with single’s groups, some healthy, some kind of weird, and some unhealthy.  I have also been to a church or two that doesn’t have anything specifically for singles, except to get involved in “Life Groups” – which I think is a GREAT improvement over the “so, you are now 25 years old and out of college..sorry we don’t have anything for you” attitude.

    What is truly sad from my experience is that many people don’t know how to relate to singles.  Many (most?) ministries and churches are led by those who are married, and married young.  They don’t know what to say to single’s as they cannot relate to a single person’s experience.  Worse yet is the unsolicited advice thrown at single people.  Jon Acuff at stuffchristianslike.net has a humorous take on this experience almost every single person has to suffer.  Who of us hasn’t heard the line “when you stop looking, that is when you will find your mate?”  So, are those who married someone while they were looking somehow out of God’s will?  This is similar to the unspoken belief that it is most spiritual to just wait around and God will bring your spouse to your door.

  • Dan from Georgia

    Good comment Ruth.  However, it seems like some single men are looked on with suspicion (“is he gay”), fear (“keep the kids away from him”), and disbelief (“there are NO good men left”).

  • http://religionetc.wordpress.com Steve

    Just something else to say on this subject. I remember that I once went to a singles group at a large church. (It was a Protestant one and I was Protestant then. I’m Orthodox now and have been so for over 15 years.) Anyway, I really got turned off by this group after I talked with a guy who had been going there. He told me he had been doing some very unchristian things with some of the girls who were a part of this singles group. I sort of thought to myself that if one wanted to find any girls who would do the kind of things he was describing to me, then one should look for girls like that at a bar and not at a church. I was really shocked and very much turned off by this “Christian” singles group. I sort of think that they must have missed out on the very basics of Christian morality in Sunday School! If this guy had been Orthodox and an Orthodox priest had heard him say the things that he said, he would have told him to come to confession and refused to give him Communion until he did that.

    Steve

  • don angelo wynn

    shalom vicky……….I have been a huge fan of your music since my youth………and I even recall when you was starting out on a site called worship together with songs and sheet music……and my dream was and still is to meet you one day…cause I love your music……and the song call to worship is one of my favorite I purchased from amazon music and also I bought great is the glory of the Lord such powerful worship songs…vicky your going to make such a amazing wife for what ever guy God pick for you…..what a blessing your going to be.

  • theslob

    I have a serious question I want to ask to the general audience here.  I’m older (50) & have been in the church since I was 16yrs old.   As church “culture” changes over the years I’m just curious if Single Christians still practice celibacy even if they have a committed boy/girl friend?   

    Again – serious question directed towards the general audience here.  Thanks!

  • Guest

    Great blog! I have to say I have never read this before but a friend posted it on facebook and it is something that is heavy on my heart at the moment so had a look.
    I have to admit I am not a late twenties singleton but I am surrounded by friends who even though I am 23 still think that I need to be sat next to their single male friends at their weddings and need to be set up. I am not always against it, I do’t think I am called to be single, I hope not anyway, but I do think I am called to be with the right man that God has chosen for me and I will wait as long as it takes for that man to come into my life and for God to show him to me.
    I have to say that in terms of having groups that are for singles I am not so sure about that concept. Any that I have heard of before I have wanted to run a mile because it feels like a massive set up. I feel that what needs to happen more is that there just needs to be more out there (for 20s and 30s mainly) who just want to hang out with friends without a label of “single” or “married”. Some of my best friends are couples and I will hang out with both of them as a three and it works really well. I think there is a danger of separating out people into single and married where it can work really well if everyone is happy just to muck in all together. 
    My friends who I have seen get married are still my friends and haven’t changed a huge amount since being married, we hung out when they were dating so we still do now they are married. My issue isn’t that there isn’t enough in the church for singles its that there is a separation of single and married where actually we are all brothers and sisters in Christ so should be able to spend time together without our marital status being a problem.
    Just as a side note I know it becomes different when children start coming into the picture but up till then why do we need these labels?!

  • Lorelei Gray

     Just stumbled across this, and nearly spit out my drink all over my keyboard. Women who wank, indeed…. lol
    (Also stealing this, just for general purposes.)

  • Bemydevine

    Vicky:

    As a single worship leader from the male point of view…RIGHT ON!  It is certainly tough to be around the family-friendly environment of our churches and not get the people who try to either set you up or make you feel bad for not being married.  

    Being in ministry, the one thing that I have noticed that would be helped by marriage would be initially getting into a church somewhere.  It is almost like the people hiring you want to ask the “so why no spouse” question but know they can’t.  It has also been tough relating to my volunteers who are single because of the looming image of white lace and doves releasing.  

    Keep on being you…God blesses us according to how He sees us and not how we see ourselves.

    Adam

    P.S.  Let’s get coffee sometime!

  • misslauraboxhopkins

    Hey Vicky!

    Thank you so much for this blog.  These could be my words on this page.  Was just about to sit down and blog about this very subject when I came across yours.  No need for me to blog and so instead I will share.  

    Blessings

    Laura

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  • Rebekah

    I love your first few paragraphs. and your little rant ( I have had the same rant so many times!) It was extremily encouraging and everything you said about marriage and singleness is just brilliant. I was just talking to a friend about these things today. I strongly belive that being single is a blessing and a time of my life where God can use me in ways that he couldn’t if I was with someone in the same way that God can use you in a particular way when you are in partnership with someone. What you said about wholeness, is so true aswell! We are complete in God, not through a relationship with a man, any insecurites that you have when your single, you’ll probably have  when you’re married. A man is only human, and can’t fix you in the same way that God can! I don’t want to waste my time frantically pineing of throwing myself at men in desperation but rejoicing in the freedom I have to serve God and persue the career that he has called me to whole heartedly and to presue my relationship with him whole heartedly, Believe it or not, I am actually only 21 but you would not belive the amount of unhelpful conversations with people that I have had and the uneccessary pressure there seems to be from people to find someone. I may get married some day and I will rejoice in that blessing also, but there is no rush.

    To whoever, the person who posed the question about celebiacy, yes there are still Christain singles that practice celibacy even if they are in a commited realtionship. I dated someone for 1yr and 7 months when I wasand we both remained celibate, which I am so grateful for because we did not stay together! I also have many friends in their 20’s who practice the same thing.

  • Rebekah

    In terms of what churches do for singles though, I think there needs be an attidude where you feel you can use your gifts at what ever stage of life you’re at. I have alot lof older single friends who use their gifts and freedom to serve, whether that be in worship leading, prayer minsitry, mentoring, kids work and there are alot more. Being unmarried doesn’t stop them from being in leadership roles.At our church there are also a lot of events that we have a s a church family, quiz nights, murder mysteries, bbq.s jazz nights once a month and everyone comes and mixes, whether their have a family, are a sudent or much older. This idea of a community wher everyone is included is exremely important and not necessarily helpful to bunch all the older singles together in a group just for them so that they feel like their in sime sort of sad, lonely singles club. We also have these things caled discipleship enviroments which are groups that meet each week with an interest in common and every second week there’s bible study.I’m in a performing arts one and theres a hillwalking one, and various other ones, this means that you’re not catergorised with regards to your stage of life but by what your intersts are and how you can use them to serve God. Its still finding its feet, but I think its workign well!

  • Sharon

    Thanks for this article Vicky. Really interesting. My church is very inclusive and everyone is accepted no matter who you are. I do agree with Jo though we have to be careful about a consumerist mentality and think about what church is really for. We are a church of married, widowed, single and divorced people. We have several women in their 80’s who are single from choice and are really enjoying life, they have clearly lived a very full life. I struggle with this whole ‘waiting’ thing, as it implies that we are not satisfied until something happens. I don’t think I am waiting – I am trying to live my life focussed on Jesus and am ready for all that he brings into my life – whether that be different types of ministry, friends, areas in which I live and different situations. So as single people let’s stop ‘waiting’ and start ‘living’.

  • umar

    thank you vicky. I’m 31 soon to be 32 this October. and I’m single. was in a relationship 3 years ago and it ended badly. she left me for my friend saying it was God who told her. ha ha ha. anyway since then I decided to stay single. but the truth is that I am scared of relationships. 1. my past and 2. other peoples relationships that end badly. I’m like neck no. I don’t need any drama in my life now. I’m in a band and I’m okay with that. travelling and making music. I’ve met a lot of ladies who want to date me but I panic and run away because of the. reasons above. most of all I want to know myself very well. it doesn’t mean I will never get married. maybe. maybe not. but I’m enjoying this moment. the message says where I am is where God wants me to be. and I He defines me. not my marital status. thanks.

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  • Ann

    I’m 33 and in the same boat – doesn’t get any easier.
    Healthy community helps but requires lots of work to maintain – depending on work hours/location/living conditions (flats/homes/rooms).

  • Ann

    Yes – the groups need to mix. Its been amazing to be in a diverse community with much older couples, younger families, singles, youth – that brings life and normality.
    It is hard when you walk into church and only families are all you see…inclusivity is needed and both sides need to reach out.

  • The Known Truth

    for many of you that were very blessed by God to have met one another and have a family, you should be very thankful for what you have since there are many of us out there that would had certainly wanted the same thing since we are having a very difficult time finding the love of our life to share with.

  • Tara Smith

    Great thoughts here, I am 43 and single ( by choice) I am amazed by the words that come out of the mouths of people I love. It seems the only ones who are concerned with my singleness is them, I think I lead a happy life I don’t feel like I should frantically searching for someone to complete me I am already a whole person. As of late I have been really feeling like I don’t belong in the church except to do ministry. I never get alases to anyone’s home or anywhere for that matter to do anything but then I go to church and have to hear of all the fun they had together. I have friends not in the church and they are the ones I socialize with because they don’t seem to care that I am single. Right now I am considering leaving church for a bit because for me right now seems to causing too much pain.

  • James

    You should check out what Kierkegaard says about marriage and celibacy in his journals. He’s pretty scathing of the way things had gone in the churches in Denmark at the time and probably overstates his case sometimes but there is something very true in what he’s trying to communicate. This taken from an anthology of his later journals:

    “…Take some examples from our life today. No honest man, with the New Testament in his hand (and the minister is bound by by oath to it), can conduct a wedding as as it is now done. No, remember that the New Testament is intended, with divine sharp-sightedness, to wound the natural man in the severest possible way. The pagan praised it as the greatest happiness to be in love, and to be happily in love; humanly speaking a pair of happy lovers is the most beautiful spectacle. But from the Christian point of view it is a funeral ceremony. If it must be a festival, then it should be like our present funerals. How sad, says Christianity, here are two people who want to unite in this way in order to belong more firmly to this sinful world, and to propagate this sinful race further with their offspring!

    So we have the kind of festivity in use today – and when the minister takes part we have, from the Christian standpoint, a lie, the most impudent lie. No honest man can take this from the New Testament – and the minister is bound by oath to the New Testament.

    With the New Testament as his teacher the minister should behave as follows. He should first call the lovers before him, and warn them that the solitary life pleases God more, is truer for the Christian, whose life is and ought to be a crucifixion. Then he can read Paul’s words to them, that nevertheless it is better – that is, better-pleasing to God – to marry than to burn [1 Corinthians 7.9].

    Let this be the text for the marriage ceremony – and a quiet sadness should be from the Christian point of view the ground tone of this sad occasion.

    On the other hand, no honest man, with New Testament in his hand (and the minister is bound by oath to it), can take part in the kind of ceremony that a funeral is today. From the Christian point of view it should be bright and gay, we should be dressed in white (as in the early church, instead of which we now put on white at weddings), here sounds of joy should be heard, blessed, blessed, blessed, as nowadays at a birthday celebration (the day of a man’s death death was regarded by the early church as his birthday) or at a wedding (and again, the early church regarded the day of death as the wedding-day, for the soul was then united to the beloved).

    And so on every possible point modern Christianity is a wretched lie, so far as it pretends to be the Christianity of the New Testament.”

  • Claire

    I really connected with this when I read it a couple of years ago, so thank you. I remembered about it when I read about you in the Independent recently and wanted to reiterate that your voice about how certain people groups are treated by the Church is really valued. Keep running for shelter in His embrace…