5 Ways to Support Singles without a “Singles Ministry”
In the 1960s, most high-school graduates had the same life plan: find a spouse, settle down, and start a family. In fact, nearly three-quarters of Americans over the age of 18 were married - most of them by the time they were 23 years old.
Today, the typical life plan for high-school and college graduates looks totally different. The latest statistics show that 51 percent of Americans are unmarried. And, those who are married have waited a lot longer to tie the knot - the median age of first marriage is 26.5 for women and 28.7 for men.
As you celebrate the graduates in your ministry this summer, you probably won’t have to worry about planning their weddings anytime soon! Most of these Millennials are more interested in furthering their education, building their careers, and taking time to live independently. All of this means that you’re probably seeing an uptick in the number of singles at your church.
But, don’t start looking for a Singles Ministry Leader just yet. Consider this quote that sums up what many churches are saying about traditional singles ministry:
“Singles don't actually want to be part of a singles ministry. Except for the rare individual who has the gift of celibacy, no one who attends a singles ministry wants to be there. Yes, they appreciate the group for the short haul and are glad it exists, but the end goal is never a long-term involvement. They always plan to exit the group as soon as possible.”
Traditional singles ministry separates these individuals from the rest of the church. Plus, today’s Millennial singles don’t really want to find their future spouse in the church’s singles group. Many of them are purposefully single and a singles group feels like a matchmaking session. What’s worse is that singles groups often bring together an awkward array of people - 18-year-olds fresh out of high school, 20-something single parents, middle-aged divorcees, and 50-year-old widows.
If a singles ministry won’t work, then what will? Your church needs to look beyond marital status. Listen to the interests of singles. Pray for their needs. Bring them together with their married and unmarried peers. In essence, support their faith with the Word of God and encourage them in doing his work.
There are many ways to support singles without a singles ministry. The best way to get started is to ask what the unmarried individuals want out of your church’s programs. Get to know them on a personal level and see what they say. These five ideas are a good starting point, too. They’ll work in almost any ministry.
1. Age-based ministries
You have a youth group so that teens can socialize with and support other teens. Why not employ that strategy with other ages, too? Start a 20s group, a 30s or 50s group, or a “forever young” group. Make it clear that individuals are welcome in these groups regardless of their marital status. And, instead of basing your activities on “couples” or “singles,” look for activities that appeal to the age group.
2. Mission work, volunteerism, and outreach
Singles have a God-given purpose beyond just being single. Make sure your church is encouraging them to use their gifts and talents! Many times, unmarried individuals have flexible schedules—this can really benefit your ministry’s volunteer program. Singles may be eager to go on mission trips, too. Inspire them grow in evangelism and you’ll see a difference in their hearts and results in your church.
3. Interest-oriented groups
Gather men and women, singles and married couples, together based on their interests. Plan a day of hiking for adventurous individuals, start a book club, host a knitting party, or gather to watch a big sports game. Singles and couples can bond through their shared interests, no matter their marital status.
4. Men’s and women’s ministries
This provides a chance for single people to find a broad base of support and form mentoring relationships. Design your men’s and women’s groups so that all ages are welcome. Then, encourage multigenerational interactions. A single woman can learn a lot from an 80-year-old widow. The same is true for male mentoring relationships. Many of the struggles and joys we face as Christians aren’t bound by marital status, but they do have a lot to do with gender.
5. Healing and recovery groups
Some singles chose to remain unmarried, but others have experienced hurt, trauma, and addictions that keep them from meaningful relationships. Don’t think that the main goal of singles is to find a spouse; they may be focused on overcoming the past, restoring previous relationships, or strengthening their faith.
And now, think about one final statistic: Barna Group reports, “One in five (21%) singles who are not active in or committed to a church are interested in going to church to have support during difficult times. One-quarter of singles (23%) would be motivated to go to church if they simply knew that anyone [single or married] would be welcomed into the church community.”
Refreshing your singles ministry is a huge opportunity to make a difference in your church and in your community - don’t let it slip away!
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