A few years ago I was attending a fairly large church. In early September we had a ministry fair in the gym. There was popcorn and small children running around, and little tables set up for each of the church’s outreaches and activities. As I made my way round the gym I came to Ladies’ Bible Study table. “Oh Claire,” the lady at the booth said. “You must come to our ladies’ study!”
“I’d love to,” I replied. “When is it?”
“Tuesday mornings at 9,” she told me.
“Oh, that’s too bad, I’ll be at work then,” I informed her.
Without a trace of irony she tilted her head and asked, “Every Tuesday?”
By the grace of God, I kept my mouth shut and just smiled. "Only the weeks when I want to pay my rent," I thought. "Only when I’d like to eat."
I am not married, nor do I have children, which leaves me outside of a lot of the ministries my church offers. I don’t fit with the young moms, or the newly weds, or the college kids, or the under 25s. I am none of those things, but I am a whole person and someone who would like to be part of the church given. I’m sure it’s the same for adults who find themselves single again later in life.
The vast majority of churches are designed around families. The church I grew up in even had that as their slogan: “a place for families to grow.” It’s great if you are in a family, but if you’re not, it sends a pretty clear message that this is not the place for you.
I am single, but I am rarely lonely. I live with a roommate who is practically my sister. I have nieces and nephews, cousins and parents close by. I have a place to be on Christmas morning and someone to tell my stories to at night. The only place I feel alone is at church. Isn’t that exactly the opposite of the way things should be?
The church, they keep telling me, is all about community. That’s a lovely idea but it has not been my experience. I don’t expect the church to cater to the minority, but it would be nice to be considered, even just a little. Imagine if your church had a ladies’ event with no childcare? Imagine a men’s bible study at 9 in the morning on Tuesday. Would you feel cared for then? We’re supposed to be all about taking care of each other. I wish I could be included in that.
In her article, Single, But Not Alone, Jacqueline Overpeck asks,“How can marrieds interact with this vital and growing group in a way that they will appreciate?” She goes on to offer three practical ways to include single adults in your church activities. If you are an adult in a church community, take a minute to read it. Take a look at your own church’s activities. Is there a place for single adults? Are we part of the family too?