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Including Single Adults

How well does your church do?

By Dennis Franck

Ask just about any pastor or congregation member if they want everyone to feel included and continue attending their church, and you will get an emphatic yes. Accomplishing those goals, however, requires more than good intentions, particularly when it comes to single adults. Face it, the larger overtones of church life emphasize marriage and family, not the single life.

Single adults need the church to realize that not all adults are married. Not everyone has family nearby. Singles need their fellow congregants to understand that they want and need to be accepted, perhaps even more than married adults who enjoy the support of a spouse. Singles need the church to know they want to feel and be part of the church family.

Let me suggest a few ways that these goals can, and cannot, be accomplished. I’ll give you the bad news first.

Marooned on Singles Island

I’ll call him Bob.

Bob arrived at Anytown First AG about 10 minutes before the service began, hoping to connect with someone to ease the butterflies in his stomach. It had been three years since he stepped into a church, but his recent separation and divorce made him recognize an emptiness in his spiritual life. He noticed a few people in the lobby talking and laughing together, but they didn’t move out of their circle.

Bob quietly slipped into the back row of the sanctuary. People around him looked straight ahead as if in a trance.

The service began. After a few songs and prayer, the leader asked people to greet one another. Bob turned to someone in front of him, but he was already talking to someone else.

A few seconds later, a couple next to him asked, “Are you new here? Did you come alone or is your wife here, too?” The word “wife” stirred painful feelings for Bob.

After a sermon on family life, couples were asked to stand together for prayer. Bob noticed many men and women didn’t stand and assumed they were either single or without their spouse that day. Nothing was said about those who didn’t have a spouse present. Maybe they didn’t matter as much. Bob didn’t enjoy the service. He probably would not return.

Part of the Family

Sandy had a completely different experience.

Sandy went to church as a girl, but it had been 14 years since her last visit. A persistent gnawing feeling inside her caused her to visit the AG church down the street one Sunday.

She was a little nervous when she arrived, but almost immediately her worries subsided.

“My name is Don, and this is Mary,” a man greeted her as she entered. “What’s yours?”

Sandy noticed they were not wearing wedding rings. She already was feeling more at ease meeting singles serving as greeters.

“I’m Sandy, and I’m just visiting today.”

“Wonderful,” said Mary. “We’re really glad you’re here. We were just going to go in. Would you mind if we sat with you?”

“Well … thanks.” Sandy had almost not come just because she didn’t want to sit alone. Another hurdle out of the way.

The service was actually more interesting and comforting than she thought it might be. Don and Mary seemed to sense Sandy’s confusion at certain points in the service, and offered short, simple explanations about why some people got excited, lifted their hands and prayed out loud.

At one point, someone welcomed visitors. Clearly, everyone was included in the welcome.

“Whether you’re new to the area or from here, married, remarried, single or single again, we welcome you! We want you to know you’re part of the family of God, and we’ll do everything we can to help you feel a part of it.”

I really need to feel part of a family, Sandy thought. Mine is 500 miles away.

After the service, Don and Mary asked if Sandy would go to lunch with them.

“A bunch of us have lunch together on Sundays,” Don mentioned. “We almost always have new people and would really like you to come.”

The lunch experience was good. Sandy met 15 single adults and learned they met weekly for teaching, discussion and friendship with one or two social events every month. She sensed this could be a group where she might develop some healthy friendships.

Sunday was a good day for Sandy.


Think of all the simple, but right, things that set apart First AG “B” from First AG “A.”

• Sandy received a warm greeting from individuals who related to her because of their singleness. The hospitality coordinators realized the importance of including single adult greeters.

• John and Mary extended the invitation to sit with Sandy, sensitive to how lonely it can feel to enter a church sanctuary alone.

• During the service, Sandy’s new friends didn’t assume she was accustomed to Pentecostal worship, and they did their best to make her feel at ease.

• The comments about being part of the family of God, no matter what one’s marital status, spoke positive affirmation to Sandy.

• The invitation to lunch and discovering a weekly gathering with other single adults with relevant teaching and discussion really “sealed the deal” for Sandy. She met many single adults who shared common experiences.

Experiences like Bob’s, on the other hand, are far too common in many churches today. As a single adult, what Bob needed was to feel included, to feel like he was part of a “family.” Family can be seen as a verb, not just a noun. Christians need to “family each other,” especially those who may not have a family due to the death of a spouse, death of a marriage, family living many miles away, or other reasons.

• If just a few people had sacrificed a couple of minutes with their friends and connected with Bob, he might have had a different impression.

• If even one person had asked Bob about his life, work or interests, Bob probably would have felt comfortable and accepted.

• If the prayer time at the end of the service had included some reference to singles and their needs, perhaps Bob and other single adults present would have benefitted more from the message.

Too many ifs can translate as too few singles in an otherwise-caring church.

You can make a difference!

Unmarried adults need and want their church’s involvement in their lives.

There are 97 million unmarried adults, single and single-again, ages 18 and older in the U.S., according to the 2006 census. Many of these individuals find it difficult to experience genuine community in churches that, many times, are marriage- and family-focused.

Will you help “family” these individuals who may not have family close by? Will you go beyond your comfort zone and reach out to someone you don’t know? Will you sacrifice spending time with a friend in order to sit with someone who enters your church alone and may need someone to befriend them?

Your simple steps of personal ministry could help change a single adult’s perspective of your church from one of being “family- and marriage-focused” to just being “people-focused.”

When the next single adult visitor walks into your church, how will you treat him (or her)?

DENNIS FRANCK is the director of Single Adult/Young Adult Ministries for the Assemblies of God.

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