Published Mar 07, 2023
In order to properly explore ways in which the church can and should love our singles, we first need to define the terms.
“Single” is the term for any person who is not married. . .for any reason. Some are single by choice or by calling, but that does NOT mean everyone who is single in the ministry is called to be single. Some singles are not single by choice, but by current circumstances. Others are single through divorce or are widowed. Each reason for being single needs to be approached and ministered to differently.
It also needs to be clarified that -in the ministry, being single is not easier than being married, just as it is not harder. Put plainly; it is simply different.
In my personal experience, circumstances were harder when people (whom I knew loved me) did not understand these distinctions.
While I choose to always believe their intentions were to be helpful, here are some actual things that have been said to me over the years:
- “It must be nice to devote all your time to ministry and not have to balance a family/spouse.”
- “If you would lower your standards . . .”
- “I love that you work for our church, but we don’t have any singles, so you should probably also go to ‘such-and-such’ church’s singles group so you can find a husband.”
- “You know, marriage is a woman’s salvation….”
- “You’re single?! You can run the childcare at the couples’ Valentine’s Day banquet…!”
Suffice it to say, in my years of serving in ministry, I’ve had to learn some hard lessons in finding contentment in my circumstances. So, here are five things I hope to help you better understand, so you can show your singles that you see them.
Know that family time is important to singles.
While some singles may not need to balance an immediate family the way a married worker might, many may still be single parents, have extended family members with needs, or have grown children.
Holidays and birthdays can be especially lonely times for singles of all circumstances. Some live far away from family and need extra travel time to be able to see them. Singles might be expected (or needed) to work for a church’s Easter/Christmas services, but most are not invited to anyone’s home to spend the holiday when they choose to stay.
Do not assume a single has nowhere to go, but gently talk to us weeks in advance and find out what we want or need for that time.
Give singles the same freedoms as everyone else to say ‘no.’
Just as it is okay to acknowledge that someone needs a day off for their family or just because they are tired, singles get tired and need a day off too. We need people looking out for us, making certain that we are not constantly giving so much of ourselves we risk resentment and burnout.
Understand that singles need people outside of the ministry walls to talk to.
Single friends, do you have someone outside your ministry to talk with, who can pour into you? Most singles do not have anyone outside of coworkers in the ministry to debrief with, bounce ideas off, cry with, rejoice, and celebrate with – so find someone outside the situation who can help you find emotional balance and health with the highs and lows of ministry life.
Help singles serve within their calling.
It is very important that we are working within our calling, gifts, and talents.
Oftentimes, people will put more and more on the plate of a single person so they can have spare time. I was guilty of this because I wanted my married friends and coworkers to have quality time at home too. However, despite the best of intentions, working outside of our calling and gifts is a fast ticket to burnout, resentment, discontentment, and conflict.
Singles need your hugs, cards, and meals.
This is not because singles have mouths to feed, but so we know we are seen, and someone is acknowledging our heartbreak and loss. Someone needs to check on us regularly, even months after the initial loss.
My biggest lessons in surviving singleness came during times of grief and health crises. Singleness in these seasons can be difficult and can amplify emotions because we are often going home to an empty space.
I learned how important it was to have someone check on me, stay with me in the ER for hours, drive me to appointments, give me a safe space to process the range of emotions, and celebrate with me when it was over. Having a community surrounding me made the situations easier to endure and continue working.
Being single in ministry is unique, but with the right support, it can be a true blessing. Do not assume every single has the same experience. Instead, ask us about our situation. Talk to us and get to know us.
…After all, there are some who just might love to meet with your godly grandson.