Let’s face it: finding a church home is not easy. There are so many variables to consider. And while no one likes the phrase “church shopping,” sometimes it feels like we’re doing just that.
There are some who might see a light shine down from Heaven, hear the “Hallelujah” chorus, and receive a definite Word from the Lord saying, “Go to this church, my child.”
Others of us have to fight through our flesh and our preferences and our frustrations to be able to discern where we need to settle in and start putting down roots.
As singles, many of us often have to make the choice between a singles ministry or not. If we choose to forgo the singles ministry, then we have to make small group or Sunday school choices, such as men’s or women’s small groups or mixed groups with marrieds and singles. Some of us love our local church but feel there isn’t a specific “place” for us, so we serve in the children’s or youth ministries and then we find community among other Christian friends who don’t necessarily attend our specific church.
Our hope is that if you are currently searching for community, you’ll be encouraged that despite the imperfections of the Body, it’s worth the struggle it takes to get there. (Romans 12, Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
Here are four ways singles are finding their place in community within the local church:
1. Singles Ministry
Most singles have a love/hate relationship with singles ministries. They hate having to be in one, but they love that they’re a vehicle to help them find friends who are in the same stage of life. Singles ministries serve many purposes, a primary one being that they give you a place to meet and grow with other believers who can identify with your struggles. Whether larger or small, singles ministries offer believers a place to connect, not only to each other, but also to the greater Body of believers with opportunities to serve in the larger Church context.
“It is almost an understatement to say that I love my singles ministry, to the point where I would probably grieve the loss of that community should I one day move on or ‘graduate’ (aka get married). The singles ministry has been my home within my church home for several years now, and I’ve grown from being just a casual Sunday morning attender to becoming a person who gets in and takes ownership of this little faction of my rather large church home.
Notably, it was when I made the jump from casual attender to active participant that I began to grow and love this ministry.
Not only is this the place where I’ve cultivated most of my current deep friendships, but it’s also the place where I turn to feel refreshed and renewed on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis. This ministry has taught me what it means to serve, lead, and impact my community. This is the place and these are the people I know I can turn to in times of joy or sorrow.”
::Linda Spratt, author of Lessons Learned from Flag Football: Intentions Are Meaningless
2. Men’s or Women’s Small Group
If you drop the term “singles group” in conversation, a lot of people—even the ones who are involved in them—will roll their eyes. Many don’t like being labeled by their lack of marriage; others complain that singles groups are less about growing in community and more about finding a date.
The reality is there are many people in smaller towns or churches who would love the opportunity to be a part of the community that exists in a thriving singles group.
And then there are those who, even if presented with the option of a solid singles ministry, would still choose a men’s or women’s group over a larger, co-ed one. The reasons are endless, but as you’ll see below, they can be equally as rewarding.
“I’ve been a part of all sorts of Bible studies, life groups, and home groups. The brothers and sisters in Christ I’ve gotten to know through all of them have truly been a blessing. Sometimes, it’s critically important to have people from all walks of life and perspectives from both men and women. For the time being, however, I’m involved specifically in a small men’s group rather than a co-ed Bible study.
Where I am in life, the accountability and honesty from a men’s group has been invaluable.
No masks, nothing to hide. And the smaller group allows for deeper study than sometimes is possible with more people in the room. I’m certain that there will be a time when I’m called back to a larger, more diverse study. But for now, the men’s group is exactly where I need to be.”
:: John, author of Single Men in the Church: Absent Without Leave
3. Mixed Small Groups
Sometimes singles can contradict themselves. We often hear each other say that we want to be a part of the entire Body and not segregated into a singles group, but some of those same people will be the first to say that their married friends just don’t understand what they’re going through.
In these mixed small groups, being around families doesn’t cause these singles to mope for what they do not have; instead, their small groups provide them with opportunities to learn from and be a part of those very families’ lives.
“My church small group is diverse in every way. We’ve got long-time married couples, newlyweds, and singles. There are middle-aged adults with grown children, young professionals, and even a couple of elementary schoolers (who, of course, hang out in the back room while we adults get our discussion on). The diversity is one of the main things that I love about my small group.
Diversity brings a wide-range of perspectives that I need in my life. Building community with just singles can be great, but I’ve found that often we are all struggling with the same gunk and see life from too similar a view to be helpful to each other.
The wisdom and life perspective the range of folks in my small group offers forces me to take my ‘single glasses’ off, even if just for a couple of hours every week.
They remind me that not everyone lives like I do. They have people who depend on them, which always challenges me to be dependable for others. They remind me that God is still at work when you get married and when you have children and when you retire, which pushes me to shut down the lies that many singles believe about marriage being some great completion of life. Besides, married people and those not close to my age are still people. Their ability to unpack Scripture, speak God’s truth into my life, and become like family to me is not any less just because they have lived twice my lifetime or have a spouse. And sometimes, they even come with cute kids who deem me super cool because being single just makes you ‘a grown-up kid,’ as one 4 year old small group member told me.”
::Libby Gifford, author of Living the Greatest Adventure of My Life
4. Thinking Outside of the Box
People can talk about being involved in singles ministries and small groups, but we fully realize there are life situations that sometimes cause things to not be so cut and dried. Moving to a new town, a temporary job placement, serving on the mission field, belonging to a church that doesn’t have a place for singles, or having a network of friends who do not attend the same church you—all of these things (and more) could be reasons that the more established methods for finding community don’t work for you.
“When God called me into missions years ago, I knew I would be living in a mixed community. I had no idea what to expect. Now I live with other single women, one man, two children and a married couple—all obviously at different stages of life. Some of us have never married, one was married and then divorced, one is retired, one is a student, two survived domestic violence, one is a single parent. Living together is an act of daily surrender; surrendering your own ideals, preferences and needs—in order to do whatever serves the community (or the person in the most need at that time) best. There is also a daily stretching beyond what you think your natural limits really are!
We work and minister in unison, serve side by side on outreaches, share all food and expenses, pray, bible study and house church together, laugh and cry together. We feel at times like a colony of aliens, adrift from their Mothership (this is NOT our home), curious to passersby, outsiders even at times, to conventional church.
But there is a steady rhythm and purpose to our work, even when at a frantic pace, a simplicity and a unity that is beautiful.
All these years on, I still love my community and am profoundly grateful for being called to live and learn about Jesus through each and every one of these precious reflections of Him.”
::Anna Hopewell, from On Advocacy, Healing, and Singleness
Yes, we talk about community a lot. And yes, we will continue to. We believe it’s biblical for everyone. But for the single adult, we know how hard it is to fight for it when you’re all alone. We’re just doing our part to keep encouraging you that your life was not meant to be lived alone.
How are you connected to community? What avenue has been the best option for you?