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
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
• 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
• 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
You can make a difference!
Unmarried adults need and want their church’s involvement in
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
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.
E-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.