Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Single Women in the Church: Valued or Not?

Earlier when I posted about Patriarchal Movement in churches, I received an e-mail from Jennifer who shared her personal story with me.   I have learned so much from my readers.  When Jennifer shared her story with me, I was saddened and shocked that we, the church, have failed Jennifer and women like her.

What can we do to make single women feel needed and wanted in church?  Are singles valued as much as married women?  Does God value single women less than married women?  Of course not.  Yet it seems some churches don't quite know what to do with them.  

A while back, I read about the plight of single women who attend SGM churches.  At the SGMsurvivor.com site, I read of single women being told they should be serving families within the church in their spare time - as if their time wasn't their own.  Some singles were taken advantage of because they didn't have "family obligations".  They were guilted into babysitting (without pay)  church leaders' children, for helping new moms when they brought their baby home.  Is this reciprocated when single are sick or need help in any way?   

I asked Jennifer if I could share her story here and she agreed.  Jennifer is not alone, I am certain of that.   Reading Jennifer's story has made me much more sensitive to the plight of single women in the church.  I hope it does for you, too.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Jennifer's Story

Hi, I have subscribed to your blog via email for a couple of months now.  I originally subscribed because I wanted to be sure I found out the outcome of your trial, but I have continued reading because I think this is a huge issue in the church and am encouraged to see how you and your commenters handle the issue.  

I wanted to leave this as a comment on your blog, but I don't know that it goes as far as abuse.  The Patriarchal Movement affects single women as much as it does married.  I have experienced this first hand and rather than divert the topic of your blog, I thought I would just email you my story and maybe you could address it later, if you think it is fitting.

I am a single, 38-year-old woman.  I no longer attend church regularly because I have found I have no place there.  Due to health issues, I realized long ago that I would not be able to have children.  Without my biological clock ticking in the background, I found I did not have the urgency that most of my friends did to get married.  

In my church, both young men and young women of college age were encouraged to build their spiritual gifts.  We were trained in leadership and served in leadership roles in our "college and career" group.  A number of my friends got married over the course of a year or two.  They were told they had to leave our group and start attending the young marrieds group.  It was quite the change.  All of the women found they no longer had a place to serve in the church as their role was to serve in their families.  Luckily most made the transition well.  My closest friends', who had decided they would not be having children, did not do so well.  For them, the change in attitude was more apparent.  They also no longer attend church regularly.

It is jarring to live in a world where we as women are required to have careers to support ourselves and our families and go to churches that expect us to be good, little women.  We have to cultivate our skills, intellect and leadership roles in the real world and then pretend to be spineless and ignorant in church.  I am not saying the Bible is antiquated, but I am saying the church's view of women is.  I am the head of my household.  The church doesn't really know how to reconcile that.  Because I don't really have a desire to just be married, I must be living apart from God.  Don't get me wrong, I would love to find a guy, fall in love and get married.  But I am not going to say "I do" for the rest of my life to whatever guy comes along.  I am attractive and fun to be around; I am also sick of hearing people ask me, "Why have you never been married?"  I am pretty sure what they mean is, "What makes you so defective, that no man has wanted you."  No one ever considers the fact that men have wanted me, but I didn't want to settle.  I was taught to have discernment, but am now being punished for that discernment by being ostracized by the church.  

I can go to church, but I am forced into bible studies for singles.  Because if I am not married, I need to be looking for a marriage or else be treated as a possible home-wrecker.  You can dress up those bible studies any way you want to but it doesn't really matter.  Looking for a marriage comes first, seeking the truth of the word comes second, if at all.  But until I am married, I will not be allowed to attend a real bible study.  Until I get married, I will never fully be accepted into the flock.  

Even worse, if I am accepted as a whole person unto myself, I risk losing that identity as soon as I do get married.  There are some churches that do accept me for who I am.  Those places are even scarier, because I simply have to look at how the married women are treated.  I can have respect and acceptance, but only if I remain single.

This is a really long email and I am not sure if I am even making myself clear.  I guess the crux of it is this:  the role of women in the church is messed up.  As long as churches treat married women and single women differently, then there is a problem.  And it seems to me that whenever I show up in church, I become a magnifier for that problem. The best thing for me is to be ignored.  The worst is to be treated as a project because then people look at me like I need to be fixed or married off.  I would just like to find a church that loves me for where God has led me.  I don't really think that is too much to ask, and in theory everyone agrees.  But in practice...

I hope that makes sense.  I am not the only one.  There is a huge population of women that are pretty much ignored by the church.  I am not against homeschooling, but I do know that I become very wary the minute I realize that I am in a church where the majority of people attending are homeschooling families.  It is like a huge, flashing danger sign to me.  I need to retreat immediately because I do not belong there.  And I think that it is kind of sad for any Christian to feel like they don't belong in church.

Thank you for your blog.  I realize that my issues are not the ones you and your commenters are dealing with, but it is a safe place for me and I appreciate that.

Much love,


 photo credit: fensterbme via photo pin cc


  1. Jennifer, does my heart ever go out to you. You hit it out of the park.

    I found the same thing in most churches, that they didn't really know how to deal with single people so they shoved them into Bible studies, Sunday School classes, and socials, as if singleness were something that needed to be quarantined. I was over 30 when I got married and have also moved a lot, so I saw this in a lot of churches.

    However, right out of college, I was in a terrific church. While there was a singles group, there were also multiple evening fellowship/Bible study groups. I was in one with several empty-nesters, several childless couples, and families with children of all ages. It was good for me to interact with, and learn from, them, and I later realized that it was good for them to be around and learn from me too.

    I'm not sure most churches even give that much thought to how they treat single people and instead corral them just out of precedence, but I wish they would take a page from my old church and realize that we're all a part of one body. Churches, and believers, should never regard single people as belonging at the proverbial kiddie table.

    As for the experiences of single women who were told that they "needed" to provide free childcare or help in any way, shame on those people. I would never dream of dictating to another believer where he or she should serve. How arrogant of anyone to do that. And to assume that single people have more time on their hands because they don't have family obligations is bad thinking. Single people do it all--earn the living, take care of the house, run errands, mow the lawn, get the car fixed, coordinate home repairs, everything.

    As a long-single woman, I heard a lot of (I'd like to think) well-meaning people say that we as men and women were created to be married, but I left that up to the Lord. I loved being single, I enjoyed answering only to myself--other than God, of course--and I encountered some toads and even some princes who just weren't God's choice for me. I didn't know if the Lord's plan for my life even included marriage, and I surrendered myself to His plan, whatever it was. Yet many, including friends, felt the need to comment on my singleness or just singleness in general, as if I were somehow less of a person because I wasn't fulfilling God's ultimate design.

    So Jennifer, I understand your comment that this may not classify as abuse, but it's definitely an area where the church can fall short. Thank you for bringing it to the surface. You struck a chord with me, obviously, as I've written a longer comment than I intended.

    I would also like to tell you for the record that if you are following the Lord, then you are exactly where you should be. I know you already knew that, but sometimes it's nice to hear.

    1. Jess - Thank you for your heart-felt comment. I knew people would resonate with Jennifer's story, sadly. But let's hope something positive can come out of this!

  2. Jennifer,
    Sadly I must say I understand a bit of your pain and frustration. I am a 35 year old single woman. I have been in Churches where I was excluded from many bible studies and instead lumped into the single only group. I was told I could not associate at all with any of the males (longstanding friends) once they were married as I could not associate with a married man until I was also married. Not a phone call, nothing more than a passing hello in the halls.
    I see the benefit in having single groups available like developing friendshps, others who understand being single, safe activities. However I am not a leper and I do not feel I should be relegated to single only activities. Thankfully my God has freed me from the churches who do not love all of me! Today I am rejoicing and praising God that I am in a healthy church who loves me as I am while helping me to grow in my walk.
    I pray God will bring you a church where you can be loved as you are. I firmly believe 1 Corinthians 7 applies to women as well.

    Julie Anne,
    Thank you! I have had some experience with spiritual abuse, I have dealt with it in a personally un-healthy way. Your situation, blog, lawsuit and strength has been an inspiration to me as I am now willingly begining the journey of seeking healing and no longer accepting all the blame. There are days I feel so overwhelmed but I know God uses you and all your commentors to assist in lifting me while I walk and sometimes crawl down this path. May God continue to bless you and this ministry.

    1. LoveYou - Thank you for your encouragement to Jennifer! I also loved reading about how the blog has benefited you on your spiritual journey. Knowing that it is helping others is a real joy to me. Thanks for letting me know.

      I was wondering if you'd be able to be more specific about what has really worked in your healthy church? What made the difference between your current church and unhealthy churches? Is it that the people are healthier? Or was it something specifically the church did (ie, activities/programs, etc)?

  3. Julie Anne- Oh that list may be so long. I will attempt to keep this brief.
    Some of the differences between my healthy church and my unhealthy churches... First thing to pop into my mind is first and foremost Love, my church is about loving you where you are and walking with you as you grow. While I may be a Christian of many years I have many areas of my walk where people see strength, those areas are used to help others struggling in that area. The many many many more areas where I am weak and seeking are the areas where others come next to me and help me learn, seek and walk. All done in Love, none of us are perfect and we all need accountability and strength from our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    I have to say we are not exclusive... We partner with other churches for different things (Oh my goodness say it is not so) I know that seems a bit odd, however we are the church all of us. While I may not agree with 100% of the doctrine of another church we are all striving to be Christ like and reach out to others who need and desire to learn about our real God and who Christ really is. Just because I prefer my church over the church down the street my teen daughter attends does not make my daughters church bad. Quite the opposite, she is growing in her church and I am growing in mine. I get to be involved in her church and she in mine. In my church we believe other buildings of believers can and are instrumental in Christs church. With that being said, we can not partner with just any church as we all sadly know not every church is God seeking, God fearing and God loving. However I love that we activly seek relationships with our fellow different building members of Christs church.
    Third our leadership is amazing!!!!!!!!!! I believe this leads to positive spiritual health. See our Pastor admits he struggles, our elders admit they also struggle and are human. We do not always have easy sermons, but even with those hard sermons we are either convicted, reminded or in denial. Regardless the biblical foundation for those painful lessons are real and we need to hear the hard part of being a Christian as well as the amazing parts. Regardless of how hard the lessons are we are surrounded by people learning and walking with us. When we have a question or when we need help processing the application to our lives there are others there to walk with us and help us and for whom we may also help.

    Accountability We have small groups that do in depth study on the sermons. Each one of us who choose receive copies of the scriptures referenced and we are encouraged to ensure they are not taken out of context. We have the freedom to speak with the pastor or any of the elders regarding a question or a concern. Our leadership are not "yes men" if they do not agree they have the power to speak their disagreement. When things come before the church (i.e. current building project) we have meetings on multiple days during differing hours to ensure anyone who desires can come and learn and ask questions. If someone disagrees they are encouraged to disagree in Love. There are many ideas in the body and not everyone will agree on everything but we respect others who disagree while still being respectful and loving brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Sorry to be so long. Maybe the words God Loving, God Fearing, accountability and genuine would have sufficed.

    1. Part two sorry I was too long winded.
      As I alluded to above I am a single mother. My daughter is 15 and attends a different church that is right for her. I have experienced such judgment and condemnation for being a single mother I cry at times when I think about it. perhaps that is something I need to delve into healing on as well. Anyway I have been kicked out of a church for being pregnant. I have been told I am not allowed to participate in any church activities with my daughter and I have been excluded from everything but sunday morning services in other churches. My church now knows I am forgiven and they love me just the same. The painful judgment from other Christians is a sensitive subject for me, my sin is obvious to the world. Hello I have a child and no husband this is kinda obvious to those who know me and kinda hard to hide. I no longer partake in the activities that lead to my being pregnant, have not in years I think people like to assume I am running around and playing. The difference for me is I know everyone sins, it is just mine is visible to the world. Yes I know I was wrong, yes I know I have caused my daughter literally a lifetime of hurt, no I can not change that however I know I am forgiven. If others sins were as visible as mine I wonder if we would have less judgment and abuse in the church. If a pastor had to stand in front of a church with the words tattooed on his forehead, luster, gossiper, wolf, liar and whatever other sin they may have committed on their forehead would they be allowed to be as abusive as they have been allowed to become? Would the leadership allow them to attack their flock verses loving their flock? Would I be able to sit under them as a pastor? I am not sure, however, just because my one sin can be viewed by all it does not make me any less of a Christian. I am just as forgiven as they are.

    2. LoveYou - My head is in shut-down mode, but I just wanted to acknowledge your wonderful response and thank you for sharing. I'll try to add more tomorrow :)

    3. LoveYou - Your current church sounds very welcoming, loving, and grace-filled. I am so glad you are in a good place where you are free to grow, give, learn, share. That is wonderful. The theme that I kept reading beneath was unconditional love. That is what is so lacking in so many legalistic and abusive churches.

      I was very saddened to read about your experience as a single mom at church and the judging, condemnation you felt. I have been to churches where you would have been treated like that. What a travesty that you would be judged. Sadly, perhaps the gentleman down the pew from you might be addicted to porn and no one knows about it and he is treated respectfully because his wife and family "look" like they have it all together. This is wrong.

      Just as you have shared your story here, I have no doubt that God will use the pain you have gone through to help others. Thank you so much for sharing here. You have really given me more insight and much to think about. Who are we to judge? That thought just keeps spinning around my head. We have no clue what people are going through. Oh, that I would stop and just listen, accept without judging, and love the people God brings into my life.

      I pray that you continue to grow in love and grace and that God will nurture your relationship with your daughter and bring you two closer together than ever before. I've had to apologize to my kids a lot lately and humility goes a long ways in helping with relationships. We will never be perfect parents, whether single or married.

  4. Sooo happy to see this post! Thanks so much, Julie Anne for tackling this angle of the larger mess of spiritual abuse. I hope that those reading this who haven't given much thought to it before will see with new eyes how they can better love us unmarried, fully whole individuals without first seeing the lable SINGLE.

    As another single woman in my 30s, I can empathize with Jennifer's story so much, and feel so sad and mad about Love You's treatement as a single mom. From my experience in the warped patriarchal church world, the top of the pecking order is male leaders(married of course), then regular married men, then single men, then married women, then single and widowed women, then "other" (kinda like the question of ethnicity on official forms): single mothers, people questioning their sexual identity, people struggling with.. fill in the blank.

    I knew it was time to leave when I realized Jesus was all about the "others" and his list of priority in spending time with was exactly opposite of this order.

    I can sympathize so much with not feeling like there's a place for me in most churches, even the most well intentioned. It feels as though most have chosen to overlook 1 Corinthians 7 and instead, elevate the cultural idea of marriage being the highest form of godliness. I actually heard that at a wedding recently from the pastor's mouth.

    This kind of teaching is the same kind of thinking that has led Christians who ascribe to the likes of Pat Robertson to wear their (hetero)sexuality as their identity instead of their identity in Christ alone. The effects of this are elevetaing homosexuality as a greater sin, esteeming marriage and a particular brand of marriage and family as the solution to all societal problems, and ostracizing anyone who doesn't fit the mold.

    1. Great reply, RP. I was just thinking, isn't it interesting that Elisabeth Elliot gets so much accolades for being a single mom on the mission field, yet our single moms and singles are treated so poorly in churches here? Singles sometimes have less time constraints than those married with families and can be doing amazing work for Christ right where they are in the community, in their work, neighborhood, etc.

      I think you nailed the warped pecking order and frankly, it makes me sick. I am so glad to hear from you, RP. Keep talking. You will have a voice here.

  5. So often, women have had to make the decision to 'leave' something. They have had to make the decision to leave their home church, to leave their denomination, and for some, to leave the institutional church altogether.

    The woman’s issue in the church is serious and everyone needs to work to see answers and to minister to women who have been wounded through senseless ways of ‘doing church.’

    One pro-active thing that people can do is 'to listen' to women’s voices and hear what they are saying. Jesus led the way in honoring women. The Apostle Paul valued the various contributions of women in the churches where he ministered. It is time to get back to a biblical model regarding how women are treated in the church!

  6. I love the idea of simply listening to women as a proactive way to address these issues. Listening is something the church should do a lot more of in regard to many ostracized people, both in and outside the church.

    Thanks for the virtual sounding board, Julie Anne! Since you're listening..., I know you were praising single people in your last comment but I did want to vent for a moment. One of my pet peeves is the assumption that singles have more time on our hands. I hear what you're saying and appreciate the recognition that single people are contributing great things to their communities. However, I think this is a bit of a misconception, and frankly, I think it may be at the heart of some of the tension between married and unmarried people in the church. As single adults, as a prevous commenter mentioned, we are the breadwinners, the housekeepers, the money managers, etc of our households. In order to live a responsible adult life without a spouse, much of my schedule is devoted to working extra hours to make ends meet, in addition taking care of all of the details of ordinary life (car maitenance and repairs, budgeting, bills, laundry,meals, shopping, etc). In many ways, my schedule is tighter than most of my married friends.

    However, the little amount of "spare time" I have is much more flexible without children. I choose to spend a good chunk of that time ministering to others, and recognize that it would require creativity to make that time to still serve out in the world with children to take care of. However, I while I agree that for many, their children are their primary mission field, I disagree with the idea that children and family should be one's ONLY mission field. I've seen so many women live their lives this way, using the busyness of family to isolate themselves from seeing the needs of the world outside their homes.

    I know each person and family's schedule is unique and it's hard to generalize. But I did want to bring up that point that the misconception of time can lead to further seperation of the two lifestyles.

    1. Recovering Pharisee - I can't believe I worded that so wrong above. Just 5 minutes ago, I was sharing with my husband about this post and how I had read on SGMSurvivor site about how they expected singles to have all this extra time to devote to busy families when they might have their own ministry work, activities, things to take care of. In fact, I was telling him that singles may have more challenges because who is going to do any household repairs, car repairs, etc, if especially if they have a full-time job. No, I get it. You are so right - you as a single are doing what a couple would do to maintain a home/car, etc. Thank you for the correction.

      We had a really neat arrangement with a lady/friend I met at a church choir years ago. The kids would have been 12 and under then. She was sad about missing her grandchildren and I said we were said about missing our grandma. She offered a deal: she would take our kids overnight or for date night once a month if my husband would help her with household/car repairs. This was so mutually beneficial.

  7. I could totally see your heart was to reach out and I wasn't offended. I just wanted to point out that misconception as it's a pet peeve of mine. You clearly have made a point in your family to have friends in different stages of life. That's such a neat and simple way of including one another in your lives. I just saw a elderly friend this week who I know struggled with simliar things being a widow and therefore not fitting the mold in a similar type of church. I love listening to her wisdom! Caring for widows... another future post perhaps?

    1. Well, I'm glad you weren't offended, because when I reread my comment, I thought what was I trying to say? LOL I know one thought that came to my mind is that with kids come lots of interruptions which is something singles wouldn't have to deal with.

      My dh was in the military for quite a while and we've always made an effort to open our home to singles - especially on holidays - because we were all away from "home". When we lived overseas in the military, I thought a number of times that the military "family" treated people better than Christians. I think some Christians/churches could learn a thing or two from the military!

      I love the idea of a post on caring for widows. Any widows who would like to send me their story? hint, hint!!

  8. I am sorry I am late getting to the game, but I wanted to thank everyone for their responses to my story. I am glad that I did share and thank each of you for also sharing your stores. I wish I could write more, but I am not feeling well. I just wanted say I appreciate the encouragement!

    1. Jennifer - I'm so glad you felt well enough "stop by" briefly. I know you haven't been feeling well. You've been in my thoughts and prayers.

  9. (part 1) Hello. I'm in my early 40s, a Christian woman, and never married. I had hoped to be married, but it just has not happened yet.

    I come from a Southern Baptist background, and the Southern Baptists are just as bad about either ignoring older singles, or treating them horribly when they bother to take note of them.

    I have a blog where I discuss these issues, so I will try not to get into it too much here (but I might ramble on a bit, my apologies). I just wanted to verify what Jennifer wrote and echo it. I could've written much of it myself.

    Due to being being treated poorly by most churches and Christians in general over my singleness (in addition to not receiving the encouragement I needed after a family member died - after I approached Christians for support after the death, some of them brushed me off or judged / criticized me), I almost walked away from the Christian faith.

    I'm still in an angry place over all this but am trying not to stay there (my anger occasionally comes out on my blog).

    I am in agreement with conservative Christianity over most theology, but most conservative Christian denominations treat anyone who does not fall within a certain paradigm or demographic (i.e., married in their 20s with children, for example) as complete outcasts.

    The time issue (and related ones) and singles that was mentioned above works both ways. It depends on what church you attend.

    Some churches over-work their singles, and exploit them. They expect and demand their singles to wait on and minster to the married people, as though singles are slaves to the married.

    And churches don't seem to expect the married couples to wait on and serve the needs of the singles.

    Or, some churches do not put the singles to use at all, which can make the singles feel very bad too.

    (I have volunteered my talents at a local church I went to, and they did not take me up on the offer.)

    If you are a female, most churches will only allow you to baby sit children or do other kid-centric things. They have almost no other roles or activities for a single woman to do.

    I do not like babies or children. I have never had a baby. Being a Christian woman who is not maternal does not compute with most conservative Christians. They cannot fathom a Christian woman who is not interested in babies.

  10. (part 2. The blog wouldn't let me fit in all my comments in one post. Sorry about the length).

    If you read the book "Quitting Church" by Julia Duin, she interviews singles who express both types of treatment towards singles:

    Some churches wrongly assume that singles have tons of free time, or are not fully mature, so they treat them like slaves...

    While other Christian singles reported that their churches never asked them to do anything; it's as though these second type of churches think that singles are not of value or they have no abilities, or they cannot conceive of a way that singles can be put to use.

    One area where I might disagree with Jennifer slightly is that I was taught (by Christian parents) that an appropriate place to meet a Christian mate is at a church, not in a secular environment such as a nightclub, so I do not think it's necessarily wrong or bad to view church as a place to meet a future spouse.

    I do not think the Bible says that the one and only function of a church is to teach Bible studies or to spread the Gospel. The Bible says churches exist for Christians to fellowship and support one another, among other reasons.

    I am not saying churches and Sunday School classes should become "meat markets" or sleazy hook- up joints, but really, other than lame dating sites that don't work, where else is a Christian single woman supposed to hope to meet a single Christian man to get married, a random encounter at a grocery store?

    Not only do most churches and denominations ignore (or mistreat) singles, but so do do other avenues of Christianity.

    For instance, most Christian blogs, Christian magazines, books, Christian television talk shows, etc., cater to married people, or to the *topics of* marriage and parenting (and occasionally divorce).

    In the eight or more years of watching lots of Christian TV programming, I've seen one - count it, ONE lone - Christian TV talk show where the hosts devoted about 25 of 30 minutes of their program to talking what Christians over the age of 30 who have never married face (they also discussed divorced Christians over the age of 30).

    (Also, about a year ago, the daily Christian program "700 Club" ran a week-long series about Christian singleness, and I think one of those five- minute segments mentioned older singles).

    All other Christian programming, sermons, and professional Christian blogs focus on MARRIAGE (and parenting).

    We older singles (who don't have children, who have never been married) get NO encouragement, attention, articles, etc.

    1. This may not be a "professional Christian blog", but you are welcome to comment here and perhaps do a guest post. I don't understand why this is happening in our churches :(

  11. (part 3)
    You'll see lots of Christian articles, blogs, and TV topics for and about Christians and divorce, prayers for single mothers to cope - but never prayers for the over- 40 crowd who has never had a kid, never been married, and who want to be married.

    I could write ten more pages about how badly most Christians and churches treat Christians over the age of 30 who have never been married, but I'll end it here.

    People can visit my blog ("Christian Pundit") for more, I guess. I've filed some of these things on my blog under the tags of marriage/ singleness, etc.

    To Jennifer: I'm sorry for what you've been through. I'm only a few years older than you and have experienced exactly what you described in your blog post.

    In my opinion, and this is where I disagree strongly with Candice Watters of "Boundless" (Boundless is an off- shoot of "Focus on the Family," a site for 20-something single Christians), one way the church can make older single women (and men - the older single males have said they feel excluded, too) feel welcomed is to lay off, or decrease, the non- stop emphasis on marriage and children topics in sermons, programs, literature, blogs, etc.

    The unmarried don't mind the occasional marriage (or parenting) sermon, but *most* sermons are about marriage (or mention it). This makes singles feel very excluded or forgotten.

    Every time a preacher uses an analogy to make a point to his audience about God or Jesus or the body of Christ, the fall- back examples they always use are either marriage or parenting.

    And to the unmarried with no kids, those constant examples sting.

    Most church activities are built for and around marriage and parenting and assume every one visiting the church is married with a kid.

    There needs to be a lot less emphasis on marriage and children in churches and from the pulpit if you don't want the single Christians to feel excluded- that would be a start.

    1. Thank you, christianpundit, so much for sharing your words and insight here. My eyes have really been opened. I feel sad and angry that this seems to be such a big problem. Can you give some practical ideas of how churches/pastors could better meet the needs of singles?

    2. (reply part 1)
      I'm sorry to have rambled on so much, but this is one issue I've really been having to deal with the last few years, as well as the death of someone very close to me a few years ago.

      I am very disillusioned and disappointed with the lack of help from other Christians about both issues, and with the faith itself. I don't feel as though God has helped me with any of this. He isn't answering my prayers.

      I have almost left the Christian faith over some of this. I'm still struggling to hold on to the faith, actually.

      Some of the posts at my blog have tips on how the church can help unmarried adults - some of the blog entries have links to such information.

      There is a book called "Singled Out" by authors Field and Colon (the book is sold online) that has a lot of tips and advice on how Christians and churches can reach out to singles and meet their needs.

      I don't agree with all the authors views on all topics, but it's still a good book. Their book also has numerous examples of how most Christians / churches ignore or discriminate against unmarried Christians who are over 30 years old, and some of the situations they mention I related to, since they happened to me.

      A few tips on how the church / marrieds can help the Christian unmarried:

      Play match maker. Do you know an unmarried guy the age of your single friend you can set her up with?

      (But ask her about this first. Some singles are offended when church friends just fix them up without inquiring first. Some are truly happy being single and don't want to date or get married. However, most unmarried Christians would welcome the help, but are too embarrassed to bring this topic up first.)

      The biggest thing churches can do is stop assuming every one over the age of 25 is married, has been married, and has children.

      They also need to stop assuming (as they usually do) that being married by 30 years old is "normal," and that being never-married past age 30/40 is "wrong" or "weird".

      Many sermons are about marriage, or use marriage as analogies in their lessons. Preachers need to stop that.

      Change church activities so that anyone feels welcome - do not call the Pot Luck supper "Family Pot Luck Night." Scratch out the word "Family" on the bulletins and don't use that phrase in announcements and simply call it "Pot Luck Supper Night."

      Do not limit church events to family units, make them so that they apply to anyone. An unmarried person should be able to participate just as easily and comfortably as the marrieds at any church event.

    3. (reply part 2,
      How the church can help unmarried Christians over 30 years old or at least stop making them feel like outcasts)

      Christians need to stop with the cliches' and platitudes at the unmarrieds. Don't tell singles stuff like:

      "Jesus is all you need"
      "Just pray and trust the Lord, and he will bring you a spouse in his timing, and you want his best"
      "Stop thinking of yourself and your needs and serve others, don't make marriage into an idol"
      "The Lord is your husband"
      "Singleness is a gift"
      "Maybe God gave you the gift of celibacy"
      "If you haven't been married by 40, God has called you to lifelong singleness"
      "Lose ten pounds and fix your hair, wear lip stick, grow your hair long [insert other advice about how you should change your physical appearance],"
      "Stop looking for The One and Be The One"
      "Be content in your singleness"
      "Get out of the house more and get out there"
      "Join dating sites"

      -we Christian single ladies hear this stuff all the time.

      Some of those cliches imply we are at fault for being single, which is insulting or hurtful. We also just get tired of hearing these platitudes and pat replies constantly.

      Many unmarrieds are deeply lonely: invite them to your house once a month, or every month or so, just to watch movies or chat over a cup of tea.

      (Some unmarrieds are pretty much fine being alone and are not lonely, but many are.)

    4. (part 3)
      If she (the unmarried Christian) is a regular church attender, and you notice her missing a Sunday or two in a row (and make it a point to notice if they attend or not), phone them and say,
      "Hey are you sick? Are you okay, should I drop by with some soup? Missed you at church last Sun."

      Show that you notice when they are not there. Most churches do not do this. It's one reason unmarrieds feel invisible / unwanted.

      Invite unmarrieds to your home for Thanksgiving and Christmas (many older single adults have no family because both parents are dead or in nursing homes). They are lonely. Have no one to spend holidays with. Mail them, or give them, a little present or a card on their birthday, Valentine's Day, Christmas.

      When you see someone walk into your church alone, or if you see a woman sitting by herself at your church, talk to her.

      Take an interest in her, ask her questions about her life/ job. Ask her if she wants to sit with you and your family during the service and in following services. (This all sounds very basic, but most Christians don't do any of it.)

      I once when to a church picnic thing, I went alone, of course. Not a single church person greeted me, though it was clear I was alone. They all sat with their spouses and kids. Not one person waved at me, said hello, asked who I was or said "glad to see you here".

      (And I had been going to that church about every Wed nite for 2 yrs, and many Sun. morn. services.)

      Being left out like that, and by a large group of so called Christians, made me want to cry. And I'm a shy introvert. It took me a lot of courage to go to their picnic all alone in the first place.

      I almost left the event early due to being ignored but stayed for the two or three hour picnic.

      Most Christians only care about marital status - the first question out of their mouth when I walk into a church (if they don't ignore me) is-

      "Where's you husband"
      "How long have you been divorced"
      "how many kids do you have"

      And the minute you say to them, "Never married. No kids," they get a cold, glazed look in their eyes and immediately walk off, or some act confused and embarrassed and walk off (they cannot fathom a world where a woman is 40 years old with no kids or hubby, or no ex-hubby).

      They want nothing to do with you after you tell them "No hubby, no kids". Some are uncomfortable with me- they act like a single woman over 40 with no kids is an alien from Mars; they cannot relate for some reason.

      They act like the only thing Christians can have in common is marriage, that is the only thing they are willing to chat about, so once you say "No, I don't have a hubby" they walk off.

      Ask the unmarried new visitor at your church stuff that has nothing to do with marriage/kids, such as:

      "How long have you lived here?
      "What is your career?
      "Have any pets?
      "What is your favorite movie?
      "What is your fave TV show?
      "Seen any good rock bands in concert lately
      "What brought you to our church, any reason in particular?
      "Do you have any hobbies, what are they?
      "Do you have any family, like siblings or aunts that live close by?
      "What do you enjoy for fun in your extra time
      "Where did you go to college
      "Do you garden / knit / sew / paint
      "Have you been to the art museum downtown? Would you like to go there with me sometime?

      -etc. etc (singles are humans too, they are quite easy to talk to! There is more to a person than if they have a spouse or a kid or not. You can talk to an unmarried person about the same topics you talk about with your married couple friends.)

      Churches need to let unmarrieds work in the church - find out what their skills/talents are, and find a place in the church where they can use those gifts, even if it means putting them in leadership positions. Often, churches think only marrieds should lead.

      The "Singled Out" book I mentioned in my last post has more advice and tips.

  12. Thanks for your post. I am a 45 year old single and stopped going to church about 9 months ago. I got tired of shallow attitudes toward singles and marrieds. I long to be married, but the problem is that there's a severe shortage of men and the church does nothing to reach out to them. I read one sociological study in which it was found that 75% of the single men ages 18 - 70 did not attend church. There is a whole mission field to reach these men, and the church does NOTHING. The great numbers of single women in the church bear witness everyday to the churches failure to obey God and reach the lost with the gospel. The church will send missionaries overseas to reach the lost, but they ignore the lost men right under their noses. Furthermore, I know that because of this shortage, the price of marriage these days is premarital sex. No one in church believes its wrong, and everyone knows you must do this to get married. Never mind that the Bible teaches that premarital sex is wrong - the attitude is don't ask, don't tell. Just get married and everything will be fine. I came across yet another study in which 80% of evangelical christians admitted to having premarital sex with their current spouses; 60% of the pastors did not think premarital sex is wrong. If you believe the Bible and follow the Lord on this teaching, and don't get married young, you most certainly will be left behind. And then the church has the audacity to judge you for obeying God, as if you rejected marriage and did something wrong. You wonder why the church is weak and lacking in love - there's no repentance for this sin. I got tired of attending Sunday school classes where some married couple, by virtue of marriage, were deemed qualified to teach the singles. Twice the wives wore tube tops and mini skirts. And their husbands seemed to enjoy that other men lusted for their wives. I finally couldn't take it anymore.

    I know I need to go back to church, but it is hard because I don't know where to go. And honestly, what I tend to find is depressing. I wish the people would open their eyes.

    1. Anonymous - Thanks so much for your heart-felt comment. My heart really goes out to you. I tell you, posting on this subject has been very eye-opening to me. I have been living in my own cocoon with my family and oblivious to this problem in the church. I am so thankful for the honesty and vulnerability that you and so many other singles have shared with me and readers here.

      I wish I knew the right thing to say or could fix the problem. I've never heard the statistics you mentioned on premarital sex in the church. Those are pretty shocking. The loneliness must be very difficult for singles. I hope we keep talking about this issue. We need to do better.

    2. To Anonymous, December 10, 2012 7:04 PM.
      (part 1 - blog limits me to about 4,000 letters per post)

      I wrote a blog entry about the issue of the hypocrisy and insensitivity about of the American Christian church towards celibacy.

      You can read that entry here, if you like (I hope this link works. I'm not sure how to make links in blog replies):
      The Contemporary Church Undervalues Celibacy / Virginity

      On the one hand, most pastors go on and on about how fornication is a sin - they particularly hit the teens to 25 year olds with the "fornication is wrong" messsage.

      And yet, on the other hand, if you do remain a virgin to age 35, 40, or older, most Christians (and pastors) act like you failed, or as though you are a loser or a weirdo - your virginity is not honored or supported by the church at all.

      When is the last time you heard a preacher say during a sermon,
      "and if you are over 35 years old, have never married, but your virginity has remained intact, bravo to you! We commend you. I know it's tough, but you hang in there! We here at XYZ church are so proud of you!!!!"
      -Never, right?

      One young female Christian virgin wrote to a Baptist minister (I think it may have been SBC president Al Mohler) about how wounded she was her sweetie she was engaged to was not a virgin.

      This Baptist preacher chewed her out over her hurt, pain, and anger. He said she was "making an idol of virginity" and should learn to forgive her sweetie. If it's no big deal not being a virgin, that young lady might as well just start sleeping around with whomever.

      Usually, celibates over the age of 30 are totally ignored by the church (we get NO encouragement at all), but when the problem of prolonged singleness is addressed on rare occasions (like by the "Marriage Mandate" advocates), we older Christian virgins/ singles are ridiculed, insulted, blamed for our own singleness, etc.

      So, the church claims they believe in celibacy (and some pay lip service to singleness being good), but in practice, they repeatedly show they do not.

      Many preachers and lay persons in the church assume that all Christian unmarried adults are having sex - even though some of us are age 40 and still virgins.

      If they are going to assume all unmarried Christians are having sex, well, okay then, I might as well begin having sex outside of marriage.

      And, as I mention on my blog, you will notice anytime unmarried Christians admit to sexual sin, the immediate response of most Christian TV hosts and pastors is an "easy forgivism" response.

      The typical attitude toward sexual sin by most pastors and Christians is, "Don't worry about fornication! God still loves you and will forgive you, even if you have slept around."

    3. (Reply to Anonymous, Part 2)

      Most preachers fully expect unmarried Christians to commit fornication.

      Therefore, over- 35- years- old virgin- Christian me hears that kind of thing repeatedly and thinks, "Okay then, I guess I can start committing fornication. No point in holding out any longer."

      Anon, you said,
      "I long to be married, but the problem is that there's a severe shortage of men and the church does nothing to reach out to them. "

      Which is why I am no longer limiting my self to Christian men. I will now be dating Non-Christian men.

      I don't care anymore about the "unequally yoked" Bible verse.

      By the way, if you visit blogs for abused Christian wives, a lot of so-called "Christian" men (men who attend church weekly) are physically or abusing their Christian wives when at home.

      My older sister has dated some atheist or agnostic men over her life, and they treated her very nice.

      So, I've come to the realization that it doesn't matter if the guy you date/marry is a Christian or not, so long as he treats you with respect, doesn't cheat on you, or abuse you.

      A church-going "Christian" man is not necessarily going to treat you any better than a Non Christian one. Also, based on a lot of news articles I have read, the divorce rate among Christians is just as high as it is for Non Christians.

      So dating or marrying a Christian man is no better than marrying a Non Christian and is no guarantee of a lasting marriage.


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