This is not click-bait to raise your already jaded attitude towards church. This is a fact. A Pew Research Center study released in 2017 found that 42% American adults are living without a spouse or a partner. That number is up 3% since ten years ago in 2007, when it was 39%. The biggest change was found in adults under 35. Today, 61% of adults under age 35 are single. That’s five points up compared to where it was a decade ago, at 56%. Singles make up a significant portion of our population. Source.
But do these single people go to church? Because I know you believe you are not seeing that many singles at your church.
Another Pew Research Center number. Married people make up 68 percent of all weekly church attendees between ages 24 and 35. Source. Putting these two numbers together and I’m guessing there are quite a few single people who are over the age of 35 in church. And they may not be your crowd.
Another reality that makes you feel like church is all about married people only. Your church places a large emphasis on children’s ministry. This is because 69% of adults say they attend church so their children will have a moral foundation. Not only is that good news, this is also simply supply-and-demand marketing. Plus how many of those adults are single parents. Parenting is not just for married folks anymore. Source. (Note: your children’s ministry needs you to volunteer!)
Look around your church. Count the numbers. Probably half of everyone in your church is single. The difference between you and probably a lot of the singles at your church is that many of these singles are choosing to stay single. While you desire to be married, there are large numbers of singles who desire to stay unmarried. The two types don’t usually mix, right? Which is why this may be a new mind-opening thought to you.
This also means that if singles make up half of the church family they better also make up half of the church leadership and volunteers. Our churches need all of the singles to be involved! Church leadership definitely does not need you to wait until you get married before you can start your involvement.
Sadly not every church operates this way.
I’ve mentioned it here before (and I’m sure I will again) that if a church does not value what you have to offer now because you are single, it is time to find a new church. You are not incomplete until you get married. No authority figure in your life should be reinforcing that lie.
The future one you date also doesn’t need you to wait to get married before you start your involvement. Grow now. Be now. You are capable. You are gifted. You are needed. And you have the time. I know you probably hate that you have the time but this is a great season in your life. Not a waiting season til that “one day.” The local church has plenty of opportunities you can dip your toes in or jump in with both feet because you know you have a passion for children or you know you are a developer of leaders or you know you can lead a mission trip. The local church provides the place to develop you. “Live your life to the full bravely following after Jesus. Now. As you are living bravely, who is keeping up with you? That is the match for you.” This happens in your local church!
Attending a local church is a Brave Dating Practice.
So look around. Look around at how many single people there really are in your church. Maybe some of them are the 70-year old widows. Maybe some of them are the 50-year olds never-married. These are all people not in your crowd. But they are with you in church. Stop complaining that single people don’t go to church. If you feel alone in your church, get involved (do I need to repeat myself again?). Seek out people of a different age than you to be a friend to. I know it would be nice to have a safe peer group at your church whom you could be vulnerable with as you struggle with this stage of your life. But in my 35+ years of church ministry work, I have found such groups to be rare and temporary. Step outside the box of that wish because your local church needs you. And you actually need them too.
Here’s another thought. For most people, especially twentysomethings (and this very well may not be you, I realize the vastness of my audience), most of your relationships with people older than you are with people who have some sort of authority over you—your parents, your teachers, your bosses, your pastors. The new thing may be simply being friends with older people. You do have other commonalities to share besides age and stage of life. Plus these new friends can broaden your social circles. Maybe you will even get set up with someone. (Don’t be afraid of that, These are good people you have become friends with. They probably know other good people. Maybe a cute good person?!)
I have to end this article with a real question that all of these numbers don’t answer. So what? So what about the truth (which you didn’t know) that half of everyone in church is single? You are still lonely. You are still lonely in church. You still hate arriving to church by yourself (I still remember this feeling). You still hate not knowing who to call to ask to pick up that medicine you need when the flu has knocked you out and you can’t get out of bed (I’ve been here). You still hate not knowing who to ask about that noise in your car engine (This one I really needed help with and was lost). You hate that you are alone navigating these things that are out of your control.
Loneliness is normal. And it sucks too. But you won’t only experience loneliness when you are single. Loneliness also happens when you are married. Loneliness just is. We all get to sit in it for seasons of our lives. As much as it sucks for you now, it is better to feel “pathetic and lonely” now as a single than to feel “pathetic and lonely” as a married person. And you know that this happens. Loneliness just doesn’t magically disappear when you get married. It becomes a different type of lonely—and it is a whole lot worse than the lonely you are feeling now.
Get involved in your church. Grow now. Be now. You are capable. You are gifted. You are needed. And you may just meet your love for a lifetime along the way. Or at a minimum when you do meet that great match you will be that full-living person whom other full-living and healthy people will find attractive.
Live. Live life in your local church.
(photo credit: Pixabay.com)