I recently had lunch with a group of Christian singles in OKC. Toward the end of our meal together, I posed a question. “Do you feel included and valued in your church as a single person?” All but one said, “No.”
I initially felt extremely valued in my church when I was single. My pastor approached me about leading the youth group. For a guy in college who had just turned 20, I felt honored.
Still, I had several experiences throughout my time leading the youth group that made me feel less valuable than if I had been married. Certain topics, such as sex or marriage, felt off limits to discuss with the youth group. It was never explicitly stated, but there was a palpable tension in the air whenever we preached through certain passages that discussed these types of topics. While being married obviously gives one more experience with these topics, there’s nothing in the Bible that excludes anyone from teaching any biblical principle.
The most impactful example of feeling inferior as a single person came when the church hired a full-time youth pastor. He was married and had a seminary degree. I didn’t realize how important those were on a Christian’s resume until I attended the announcement of his hire. Sure, I expected everyone to be excited, but this was different. Without going into explicit detail, I left feeling like I was just filling time and space until the “qualified” individual was hired.
This experience came full circle once I got married. Older couples in the church started speaking to me differently and listening to me differently. I don’t know how to fully explain it, but it felt like I had unknowingly been initiated into a new membership club where my voice had more pull and respect.
Hearing my single friends five years later share similar experiences, I realized this is not an isolated occurrence. We as the church can wrongly prioritize marriage over following Jesus. If someone isn’t married by a certain age, we are tempted to think (or maybe believe) something must be wrong with them. Marriage is an honorable, God-given institution, but it can easily be elevated to an unhealthy state. This subtle idolatry results in us not including and valuing our single brothers and sisters in our churches and small groups.
Our chief aim is not to be married. It is to worship God, enjoy him forever, and make him known to everyone. Let’s work to care for everyone in our church, single or married, and to ensure we are pointing our single friends to Christ, not just trying to figure out who to pair them with on a potential date.