3.37% of the Christian singles in your church are gay.* At least a recent research survey of 504 Christian singles indicates this (Click here for research demographics and controls).
*3.37% checked the box indicating their sexual orientation as “LGBTQ (also check if you best relate with the term “same sex attraction”)”
If same sex attraction is not a sin, which it isn’t, and we are preaching to these Christians that they are to be single and celibate the rest of their lives, what are we doing with them from there? Are they left to figure out how to do this on their own? Are they to be lonely forever? Are they outcast? Are they look at as “lesser” because they aren’t married with children? These are the questions this survey explores.
A church that teaches gay Christians to be single and celibate but who doesn’t uphold and value singleness in robust ways is like the person in James 2:15-16 who sees a brother or sister without clothes and daily food and says, “Go in peace, keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs. James follows this illustration up with the piercing question: what good is it?
And of course there are plenty of heterosexual singles in our churches as well, 96.63% to be precise. Among the 504 Christian singles surveyed, 410 (81.35%) of them do not have a boyfriend or girlfriend, the truest definition of singleness.
45.83% of Christian singles feel devalued, like an outcast, or in a lesser life stage at church because they are single:
Singles who were surveyed put it this way:
My lifestyle is not known by the church. I do not exist.
I hate sitting through sermons on Marriage. Yes there is always the lone “Single people can get stuff out of this too”, but It’s hard when the whole time you think about being alone.
Churches seem more family oriented and I felt unimportant as a single.
I have sometimes felt that married folks were given some special status in ministry that singles weren’t.
Just being alone all the time. Everyone has their own life.
Feeling like I don’t belong to any group/ministry
As a single my most difficult experience was when I visited this church and the Pastor told me I should be ashamed of myself for having children and no husband.
Feeling left out of the family oriented activities.
Constant lip service to the value of the single life, but lack of actual cultural follow through. Maybe one leader at the church is a single person. The rhetoric and implicit narrative of much of the pulpit messaging is pretty clear that being married is more important and valued.
Holidays with no family to sit with. Families are central to the church and dominate culture, so many things are built around them, leaving single people to be on the outside of church.
At a previous small church a group for singles and young married adults was called Pairs and Spares. Need I say more?
Everything is done as couples: Sunday school, small group, church activities. It’s all geared towards families. Why would I want to go and be the one person sitting by themselves?
I think the hardest thing is sometimes just looking around and feeling like I am one of the very few singles, or times when married couples in the church don’t initiate with me as a friend. Sometimes I feel like the topic of casual conversation at my community group is totally revolved around being married/spouses, and I don’t have a lot to add to the conversation since that isn’t my reality. It sometimes feels like married people don’t know what to ask me aside from my job or if I’m in a relationship.
the idea that life is somehow incomplete or lesser without a significant other is prevalent.
What’s been difficult is hearing statements such as “when you get married” or “God hasn’t finished preparing her” or “there’s someone out there for everyone.” They don’t encourage but rather cause more pain.
I think more often than not I feel part of a “mystery” group – that my church doesn’t know how to minister to me or support me well. I think this is often manifest in subtle ways – not having support systems in place, not having singles who can pour into my life (not feeling understood because most/all pastors are married), and not being included in examples (e.g. sermon illustration focusing on your spouse/children).
These quotes could really go on and on (there were over 250 of them submitted!), but I hope you get the picture. The Church is badly swinging and missing on a very large portion of Christian singles out there. The sad irony of this is the New Testament, on two very specific occasions (one by Jesus and one by Paul, two pretty good examples of singleness!), teaches singleness as a higher calling than marriage. Yet in the Church, we often teach the opposite. We teach that marriage is the highest calling and if you’re single, you have a spiritual disease.
Jesus in Matthew 19:12,
“there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”
What he means by “living like eunuchs” is living unmarried. He has just finished a teaching on how hard marriage is and how divorce is prohibited (see Matthew 19:1-12 for full context). He then offers the choice of singleness as one that is directly associated with the cause and glory of the kingdom of heaven. Nowhere in Scripture do you find marriage talked about as being directly for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Think about all of the dormant Kingdom catalysts out there (Christian singles) whose flame for the Kingdom has never been fanned because they’ve been taught an opposite understanding about this text. Shame on the Church for this, for it is the result of an unbiblical teaching that makes marriage an idol and disregards Jesus and Paul’s teaching on singleness.
Jesus’ words go hand-in-hand with Paul’s in 1 Corinthians 7:
8 “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do… 28 those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this…32-35 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife–and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord…38 So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does better.” (emphasis added)
What was encouraging about the data was the correlation between Christian singles who do not feel like outcasts in their churches (54%) and those whose church leadership have advocated singleness as a viable and worth choice/path in life (55%). The percentages for the two questions are almost identical.
So if you aren’t preaching what Jesus and Paul said about singleness, you’d better start!
Preaching and teaching are extremely important, but there’s certainly much more to steering this ship in the right direction than that. So what are practical changes churches need to make to improve their singles ministries? The data indicates that it may actually be to get rid of the “singles ministry” altogether! Subscribe below to receive a data analysis and commentary of that question once it is posted.
Read Post #3 now, “Research shows 77% of Christian Singles are Waiting to Have Sex Until Marriage”
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Jim Decke says
I love you for caring enough about people to talk about this, and the many other issues that you discuss. I’m single and I love it, although that wasn’t always the case. I have never expected “the Church”, as a group, to reach out to me or attempt to meet my needs for companionship or validity. However, I am fortunate to have several very close friends. It seems like when the Church says, “Lets reach out to so-and-so”, it become a mission and the person is often left feeling like a project (at least I have felt that way). The power of relationships and having needs met, at least in my experience, has always come from an individual person who cared enough to want to be a part of my life.
“The power of relationships and having needs met, at least in my experience, has always come from an individual person who cared enough to want to be a part of my life.”
You’re a better man than I am. When I’m struggling in faith and feel disconnected from God, sometimes still look for validation in fellowship rather than believing in validation in Christ.
Years ago I was in a small church and one Sunday the pastor announced that one of the members, a single lady, had taken her life. I knew her in passing but didn’t know her well at all, didn’t know she was struggling. Hit me that it’s a lie that everyone else was connected. . . most people in church have few close friends to go deep with. Thinking most people want/need what you said. When living from faith, find there’s life in being the person who cares enough to want to be a part of others’ lives.