Most single Christians participate in a lot of discussion on the topics of marriage and family. Unfortunately, the reverse situation (married Christians participating in discussions on singleness) isn’t always true. In Singled Out you seek to encourage the church as a whole to consider how it can be a supportive community, which not only acknowledges the single Christian’s existence, but also values their participation. In addressing our married readers, how would you encourage them to love and care for, as well as encourage and challenge their single friends as they labour alongside each other as ambassadors for Christ?
I think a good first step is being willing to participate in the discussion of singleness in the church. I get so frustrated when married individuals respond to the topic by saying, “Well, I’m not single, so it doesn’t have anything to do with me.” I think we all need to be involved in discussions of singleness just as we are all involved in discussions of marriage in the church because it is part of living together in community and seeing how God may work in whatever state we are in. Relegating these discussions to the singles group is problematic because it can create a “singles ghetto” where Christian singles remain excluded until they marry and become full members of the church.
Along with that, I think married individuals in church leadership need to consciously think about the singles that are part of the church as they plan church activities or recruit volunteers. Too often, singles look through the bulletins of churches only to find a host of activities from which they feel excluded. If family camp, mother-daughter teas, father-son baseball games, and family movie nights are the only activities in the bulletin, singles may have a difficult time feeling like they are actually part of the church community. And if they are never asked to participate in any of the ministries of the church, singles may feel as if their gifts are not valued within the community, which is not only a problem for the singles but also for the church that misses out on a valuable resource.
Finally, I think it is important for married couples to understand the complexity of singleness in today’s world and to respond to singles as individuals rather than to simply categorize them as “single.” Too often, the church’s approach to singles has been to try to get them married as soon as possible. Singleness becomes a problem that needs to be fixed with marriage, and it tends to become the defining characteristic of Christian singles. By looking past the label of “single” and getting to know the actual individual, married couples may then be able to achieve real friendship with this person and real community. They will be able to see the needs that this particular friend might have as well as the special gifts that this friend might be able to share with others.