Statistically, single people are much less likely to attend church. I once heard someone say in a leadership institute, "the church doesn't know what to do with single people." While this is true, I believe the ways we connect with singles are applicable to the ways we connect with lots of different people:
- Be Hospitable to Guests. Be as welcoming and hospitable to someone who comes to your church alone as you would a family with kids. It's important that the person who comes alone doesn't feel alone (a key gospel component!) Don't ask if they're alone, just welcome them. Be glad they're present. Invite them to sit with you.
- Listen. Not all "singles" have the same story. Some folks are looking to marry; others aren't. Some folks are unhappy being single; others are perfectly happy. All people have different life experiences, and we should listen to those experiences with love and compassion.
- Self-Awareness in Small Groups. Small groups or Sunday School classes are tough for new people to fit in, especially singles. To go into a new group where everyone already knows each other is hard enough, but when most churches' small groups are made up of couples, for someone who isn't coupled to enter may be intimidating. When you invite someone to your group (which you should do!) or they arrive in your class and, upon getting to know them, you realize the topic you're discussing might not apply to them, change the plan and study scripture that day instead.
- Think Through Your Activities. In one church I attended, we had a Valentine's Dinner every year that really celebrated the married couples in the church. On the surface, it was great! As a young single person, it was challenging to find a place to fit into this event. Yet, one year we had a church member who had just buried his wife the day before and a parent going through a nasty divorce, and I thought that while this was uncomfortable for me, this event must be deeply painful for them. At churches, we should be aware of how people with life experiences different than our own might receive these activities or programs.
- Value People as People. It's important for the church to lift people (guests, volunteers, staff, clergy) up for the gifts God has given them regardless of marital status. As followers of Jesus, we are called to welcome and embrace all people. This means getting to know people, valuing people, and then thinking about how our words and actions (and for the church, our programs and activities) are received by people, particularly people different than us. If we don't do this, we may miss out on incredible things God is doing through God's people.
excerpt from an article from an Arkansas Clergy member, AR United Methodist Magazine
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