How to Redeem Your Singles Ministry

Article
12.14.2022

Being single in the church can seem like a “waiting room” for those who have entered adulthood but haven’t found a spouse. For those who haven’t figured out their life yet, welcome to singleness.

But the singles in your church are gifts, not consolation prizes. How do you care for the singles of your church without them feeling like they’re attending a Christian speed-dating event?

I don’t know what your church does, whether it’s singles ministry or events. But many churches would be helped by watching how you care for singles, not just what you do for them.

1. WATCH YOUR TONE

How would you preach this to your singles? In 1 Corinthians 7:8–9, Paul, a single man, says, “I say to the unmarried and to widows: It is good for them if they remain as I am. But if they do not have self-control, they should marry, since it is better to marry than to burn with desire.”

Usually, we’re quick to jump to the latter half, that people who lack self-control should marry. That’s true, but let’s not skip verse 8. Paul’s preference for singleness may not be shared by some singles, but his perspective is that singleness itself is good.

Even more, look at whom Paul addresses. Paul’s audience isn’t limited to those who have a supernatural ability for asexuality, but to the unmarried and widows. He views singleness as so good, he’s even willing to encourage widows—who have been married before—to remain single! It’s not that singleness is good for a select few, but singleness itself is good. It is good to remain single.

What are the unique advantages of singleness? What are the ways you’ve seen singleness practiced in your church well? How do singles fit into the life of your church?

How you answer these questions will color the way you speak about singleness to your church. Singleness is not a problem to be fixed, but a gift to be celebrated.

Would your members say the tone with which you talk about singleness affirms its goodness?

The way we talk about singleness communicates how we value singleness. A husband who consistently speaks disparagingly of his wife may claim to love her, but he functionally dismantles her. A husband who encourages his wife and celebrates her gifts builds her up. In the same way, we have an opportunity to build up singles with our tone. Cherish your singles through your speech.1

2. MAKE GODLINESS YOUR PRIMARY AIM

What’s the end goal for singles in your church?

If we make our primary aim marriage, we miss the mark. For one, some singles in your church have already been married. Some who have same-sex attraction may not see biblical marriage as an option. Others will desire marriage for decades and not be married. If marriage is the destination, they will be stuck on a perpetual Ferris wheel of dating tutorials, marriage advice, and calls to “move on” from adolescence.

Now, marriage is a wonderful gift, like so many other good gifts that God gives. But our singles ministry should aim at godliness. Would Paul, a single man, be able to benefit from your singles ministry? Would Jesus?

Your ministry will be shaped by its goals. So aim for godliness.

That may mean focusing less on where someone may desire to be in the future and focusing on where they are now. Help your singles be captivated by Christ.

Help them practice godly contentment that acknowledges the difficulties of singleness, sees the blessings of singleness, and trusts Jesus in every circumstance, not just for a future marriage. Help your singles leverage their undivided attention to soak in God’s Word, think deeply about Christ, and prioritize prayer. Help them leverage their flexibility and freedom to serve other members in the church.

One way I do this is by using our church covenant. I regularly sit down with single members of my congregation, read through the church covenant, and ask, “How can you obey this church covenant in ways that married members can’t?” Empower your singles by giving them a vision of a godly single life now.

3. INTEGRATE YOUR SINGLES

Jesus promises in Mark 10:

Truly I tell you … there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, who will not receive a hundred times more, now at this time—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and eternal life in the age to come. (Mark 10:29–30)

Jesus’ promise of family isn’t just for the new heavens and earth, but for today. When we integrate singles into the family life of the church, we display the fulfillment of Christ’s promise.

There are unique challenges and blessings to singleness that deserve special attention. But if your singles ministry is primarily oriented around young single folks discipling and sharing life with other young single folks, then you may be showing your singles a deficient view of a flourishing single life. Dividing a body by demographic diminishes its unity found in the gospel.

I’ve been blessed by so many church members who have welcomed me into their lives, married saints who have invited me into delights and conflicts, and families who have shared their chaotic and cherished moments. I’m happily an adopted son and uncle, dozens of times over. The privilege of seeing the mystery of the gospel displayed in married life is a grace to me. I need these families in my life.

Your married members also need singles in their lives—to provide perspective that married members no longer have. Singles serve as physical reminders that in heaven, we will “neither marry nor [be] given in marriage” (Matt. 22:30). Children who spend time with flourishing singles get to see satisfaction greater than finding a spouse who “completes them.” Married couples get to see faith in the sufficiency of Christ. As Sam Allberry says, “If marriage shows us the shape of the gospel, singleness shows us its sufficiency.”2

Lead your church in praying that married members would share life with fellow single members. Encourage married members to dismantle the need to show an ideal home life. Encourage single members to go beyond their comfort zone and reach out to married members (even inviting families into their home!).

Mark Dever has remarked that his own church has experienced the health and growth it has in part because of the many singles. They’re available for discipling and other good works in a way that married folks can’t always be.

Singles in your church aren’t in spiritual limbo, stuck in a waiting room until they graduate into marriage. Rather, they’ve received a unique gift from God for this season to serve and love the Lord. Help them to see that their single life for Jesus is absolutely worth it.

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[1] I’m deeply grateful for so many pastors who have encouraged and built me up in my singleness. Thank you!

[2] Sam Allberry, "How Celibacy Can Fulfill Your Sexuality". TGC. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-celibacy-can-fulfill-your-sexuality/

By:
John Lee

John Lee is a pastor of First Baptist Church in Artesia, CA. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnHBLee or email him at hhjohnlee@gmail.com.

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