After experiencing similar frustrations with how churches often treat single people, gay or straight, Kevin and Adrian sat down for an honest conversation about their singleness experiences in the church and how the church can be better and move forward.
KEVIN: Near the end of 2020, my church had a sermon about being better husbands. The pastor assured the congregation that “this sermon is for everybody,” because it was still about the Gospel. So, I held off my skepticism.
But as his sermon continued, this pastor said several things that gave me red flags, things that clearly left me out along with many others — single females, wives, and even husbands outside the pastor’s stereotypes. I felt isolated as a single, gay Christian.
I vented to the young adult pastor after the service. He agreed that the sermon, and church in general, doesn’t do a good job talking about singleness.
I vented to you too, Adrian, and a while later you came back with an email from your own church.
ADRIAN: Yeah, last year my church had created these Advent boxes for people to take home and celebrate Advent while we still held completely virtual services. These Advent boxes were directed specifically at families, which disappointed me as a single person — we had been left out once again.
I sent an email to a couple of my pastors, and it was surprisingly very well received. They said they wanted to do a better job including single people, because the pandemic had been hard for everyone, leaving single people very isolated.
KEVIN: The pandemic has been an amplifier of isolation, for sure. Both for singles and people not physically close to their communities.
ADRIAN: At the beginning of this year, one of my pastors reached out to get my thoughts on an upcoming sermon series on marriage. My church wanted to address marriage because the pandemic has put a lot of pressure on married couples.
Once again, I felt frustrated that they would be doing an extended series directed at married couples. I wasn’t sure how they would include us as singles. I had pretty low expectations since their last series on marriage felt really isolating.
KEVIN: Yes. Churches were disappointing both of us — because weren’t singles also feeling the pressure of loneliness with this pandemic? But it isn’t always this way. And church doesn’t have to be so isolating.
ADRIAN: It really doesn’t have to be, but sometimes as single people we have to be willing to be the ones to take the first step and open the door to conversation.
KEVIN: At one church, I chatted with the pastor about trying to find a small group that made sense for me as a single, “older” young adult. I didn’t want to be with the college students, and the next step up was young married couples. So, where did that leave me??
Thankfully, there were some other late twenty-somethings also asking that question, and we were able to form a new group out of the need for our space.
After another move, while looking for a new community, I grew disheartened as each church I visited seemed to leave out my demographic: young adults who were out of college and not married. Or any such meetings only happened Sunday mornings.
Being single seemed to put me at a disadvantage for community.
ADRIAN: I’ve run into the same problem. My church recently wanted to start a young adults group, but when it launched it was just for college students. A group of young adults from my church gets together, but their meetings are pretty irregular and aren’t really promoted by the church. Other small groups I’ve joined have never really filled that desire for church community I’ve been looking for.
KEVIN: Despite some missed opportunities, I’ve also had a church meet me well in my singleness. An engaging couple invited me to their small group, and it was one of the healthiest church communities I’ve enjoyed. We were a group of couples and singles, and the diversity left room for singleness, without the pressure of dating or marriage.
“Singleness in the church was a problem even before the pandemic. A lot of single gay/SSA Christians deal with isolation, loneliness, and lack of physical touch. It seems, however, that many of our churches just expect us to fix that problem ourselves.”
So, regardless of a pandemic happening, what are we as single gay/SSA Christians — who may remain single for life — looking for in churches and small groups? How can they meet us, celebrate us, and encourage us in our singleness?
ADRIAN: I think the most important thing churches can do is be willing to listen to our needs as singles. The last thing I want is to be thrown into a group of singles looking for their future spouses at church. It’s important for the church to recognize that some of us may choose to remain single for life and that lifelong celibacy is an acceptable choice.
KEVIN: Yes, listening is so important. And per our initial frustrations, churches need to give singleness a chance. The way leaders talk about singleness sways how the community interacts with the topic and singles within their community.
I would love to see a church present singleness as a viable, worthy option for any member.
ADRIAN: When it comes to groups, I’d love to see more people my age engage in small groups. What’s important in these group settings is to know that as single people we still have a seat at the table, and we are just as welcome in group settings as married couples.
KEVIN: Agreed. Earlier in the pandemic, Daniel Marquez looked at the biblical case for community, or chosen family. After citing some Scripture, he says:
“Early Christians did life together every single day like a real family. They didn’t just meet on Sundays and Bible study nights; they worshiped together each day. They lived shared lives so that no needy persons existed among them. I’d personally classify such needs as spiritual needs, monetary needs, emotional needs, social needs, and physical needs.”
While we may not have all the answers, I think we can both agree it’s important to get the conversation started and to make our needs as singles known. We are all looking for connection, and church should be a place to find that community.
To find the people who live life with us, encourage us, challenge us, and grow with us with God.
What are some ways you have experienced the Church interacting well (or not so well) with singles or the topic of singleness? How do you think churches can do better?