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3 Ways the Church Can Encourage Singles

How the Church can make everyone feel welcome, regardless of their relationship status.

I recently wrote an article for RELEVANT called “What Not to Say to Singles.” Immediately, it received an overwhelming amount of response from singles all over the country who identified and experienced the same type of interactions.

Apparently, I’m not the only person who endured the awkward conversations and discouraging comments from well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) people during my single years. What is it about singleness in our society that makes it so hard to deal with? Why is it so difficult to interact without conversation making its way to relationship status?

It’s time for us to stop seeing singleness as a disease and, instead, encourage our single friends.


With all the feedback I received regarding how flat out discouraged some singles feel from the community around them, I put out a question to my single readers asking how best we can encourage them during this time in their lives. The feedback has been so refreshing, and a good reminder that at the end of the day, a little love really does go a long, long way. Here are some ways that we can all connect with, encourage, and love on our single brothers and sisters:

1. Validate Them.
From all the feedback I gathered from single young men and women across the country, one thing stood out to me more than the all rest: People need validation. There is so much truth in that statement whether a person is married, single or somewhere in between. As humans, we long to be validated—to be looked upon as though we are worthy and valuable, as though our lives have meaning. Sadly, and no thanks to our society at large, many times this value gets attached to our relationship status. Those who find themselves standing alone end up feeling less than the others in some way, shape or form.

Of all the phrases uttered to single young men and women, most of them are a reminder of what they do not have—rather than a spotlight on who they are. One of the most important ways we can love singles is reminding them that they are special and that we (the world around them) have taken notice.

I think sometimes non-single (whether married, dating, etc.) friends—particularly friends of the opposite sex—find it awkward to encourage the singles in their lives because they don’t want to come across inappropriate or send mixed messages. While of course we need to have wisdom in how we address the people around us, it’s important for us to remember that everyone needs to be encouraged! It’s so important to notice their strengths, talents, skills and personalities and let them know.

We are all made in the image of God, and it is crucial to notice that image and call it out in the lives of the people around us. It’s important to validate our brothers and sisters in Christ by focusing far less on whom they are in relationship with and far more on who God has called them to be—standing alone. It’s time for us to stop seeing singleness as a disease and, instead, encourage our single friends by repeating and reminding them of how valuable they are right here, right now, no strings (or spouses) attached. Let’s never let someone’s relationship status inhibit us from seeing the beauty and wonder of who God has made them to be.

2. Invite Them.
We’ve all been there—the moment you realize that someone has just been dubbed the “third wheel.” As a married woman, I myself have found myself struggling with this issue—not wanting my single friends to feel like a third wheel around my husband and I. So instead of facing what could be an awkward situation, most people avoid it. If I’m completely honest, I believe that dealing with singles in this way is a tactic straight from the pit of hell. The enemy longs for us to feel alone and outside of community, and the way this happens within the Church is when people go off two by two, forgetting that those who aren’t in “a relationship” are still part of this valuable community called the body of Christ. One of the best ways you can love on your single friends is by inviting them into your homes and embracing them into your worlds. Don’t let your personal fear of them feeling like “a third wheel” rob them of the chance to accept an invitation to invest in your life and you in theirs. Leave that choice up to them. Open your hearts by opening your homes and being a place that reflects the love of Jesus to all who enter—no matter their relationship status.

It’s important for us to remember that single or married, we are all on this journey together.


3. Engage with Them.
I think there is a natural tendency to try and make conversation with singles by talking about their singleness. “So, you seeing anyone?” “How’s the love life going these days?” While there is a time and place for these conversations (trust me, I’m all about this when the timing is right!) I think it’s crucial to make it a point to go above and beyond with our conversations by focusing on the bigger picture. Ask them what God is doing in their lives and share with them what He’s doing in yours. Tell them about your struggles and trials, and ask how you can be praying for them. Share with them your heart, and then allow them to take the lead in sharing theirs. Do them the favor of remembering that they are people who are not defined by their relationship status, but rather by the One whom they are ultimately in relationship with: Jesus.

It’s important for us to remember that single or married, we are all on this journey together. Rather than isolating and devaluing our brothers and sisters in Christ, let us be the ones to speak value, life and encouragement into their lives in a world that can sometimes be lacking. Let us learn to love on the singles in our lives in the best way we know how and, by doing so, give them a chance to love on us. It’s time to do community the right way. It’s time to practically live out what it means to be the body of Christ—a place where the only relationship that matters is the one we have with Jesus.

16 Comments

Danielle Jeffcoat

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Danielle Jeffcoat commented…

I recently wrote a blog of similar content (though much longer). One of the primary things I addressed was the "third wheel" issue. I have been a "third wheel" to all of my friends since middle school (I've, for whatever unknown reason, never had a boyfriend). I never feel awkward being the extra person, wht DOES hurt though is when you find out your coupled-off friends have gone to do something without you - and i"m not talking date nights, I'm talking like, groups of couples, or when you've been asking them to go to a certain even with you because you have no one to go with and they decide to make it a date instead and you don't get to go at all becuse THEY feel like you'll feel left out. THATS when it gets awkward.

http://danielleinthecity.blogspot.com/2013/08/tales-from-inside-what-out...

That link is to the blog I wrote on this topic - though it's long.

Georgia Peach

6

Georgia Peach commented…

When I was maturing in the Church, there was this big focus on sex, marriage, babies. As a woman, it was pretty obvious that if I wanted to stay right with the Church, I needed to remain sexless or get married in a hurry. From my place in the pew, the focus on these things was really outsized. Probably a side effect of the Church being so involved in politics (opposition to abortion and gay rights, etc). Plus, controlling people's sex lives is a really effective way to control their thinking. I don't foresee the Church giving up either of these levers any time soon.

scott

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scott commented…

Thank you Captain Obvious. It's hard to have enough room to express how non-relevant this pap really is. A high school kid could come up with three better suggestions. Seriously, we are trying to engage culture in a relevant manner and the best we can come with is this Hallmark sentiment - encourage, invite, engage? Seriously? As a guy who was a single parent for almost a decade I get the points. How can you not? It doesn't get any more obvious. Sickeningly sweet obvious.

scott

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scott replied to scott's comment

and I can hear someone right now, "Well if it's so obvious why aren't we doing it?"

Sarah Branaman

5

Sarah Branaman commented…

I think these points are, unfortunately, things that need to be heard. It should be evident, but from the well-meant condescension with which I am often treated by my married friends, it needs to be said. I particularly like the 'validation' and 'engage' points. I once had a conversation with a friend. She asked how I was (by which she meant, "Are you seeing anyone?"), and I told her how much I love my job, am growing in Christ, and am completely enjoying life. Then she asked if I was dating, and when I said no, she responded, "Don't worry. You still have plenty of time." I felt demeaned, as if my happiness wasn't valid. I so badly wanted her to affirm and encourage me. There's so much more to my life than simply whether I am dating. Please engage with me!
I would suggest sensitivity when encouraging married people to invite their single friends, or at least, to be sensitive to your single friend when they are the only single in the room. I have been in many social situations where I am the token single woman, and I do feel left out or even embarrassed by the conversation around me. If you do invite your single friend to your home or to an event, be hospitable and don't make them feel like a third wheel.

Brett

123

Brett replied to Sarah Branaman's comment

Yeah, excellent stuff. Got married at 35 and so i understand the single vibe to a large extent and have some pretty amazing friends who are close to my age and still single and some of them struggle with the well-intentioned-but-stupid things people say - you have picked on some of the biggest ones...

i actually have a series on my blog called Taboo Topics where we look at topics rarely spoken of in church and Singleness is one of them and surprisingly became one of the two most popular that i've run - through sharing stories from some of my friends who share honestly about their journeys - REALLY powerful stuff here - [url = http://brettfish.wordpress.com/2012/09/04/taboo-topics-singleness-intro] For the stories on singleness[/url]

Also some of them end them with advice to married people that is really helpful - some 'this is what i need as a single person' stuff.

just so glad to see Singleness tackled in a place like Relevant and hope more people will continue to speak life and Truth into that area and stop putting marriage as the pedestal end result "prize" to which everyone is running...

keep on
love brett fish

Shel Thomas

1

Shel Thomas commented…

Wow! I have been single for 7 years since my divorce, so I understand both sides. What you have to say is so relevant and needs to be heard. Sometimes walking into church for a single person feels like its all for married people with children and the single person feels invisible.
Thanks for putting the word out there!

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