Singleness in Church?


AT a time when the majority of householders will soon be single people, the church remains obsessed with being family friendly.

That’s one of the key findings from a major new survey on singleness in the UK church, completed by more than 3000 single Christians – the largest-ever on the subject. Starting next week (Thu 11 Apr), three talks will take place in London to present the initial findings.

After more than a decade serving single people through Christian Connection, founder Jackie Elton became increasingly concerned both by the lack of thinking in churches around singles and the difficulties her members experienced. Many have simply given up on church.

‘The world is changing, but churches aren’t learning how to reflect these changes,’ explains Jackie. ‘I was amazed at the huge response the survey received. The floodgates opened. The survey proves many churches are not meeting the needs of the growing number of single people.’

The 2011 Census revealed that, for the first time, married-couple households are in the minority at 47 per cent. Single-person households are increasing at a staggering rate of 166,000 a year. Yet many church services are often explicitly family orientated, in a way that can often marginalise single people.

‘In many churches, theology around singleness seems rooted somewhere in the 1950s,’ maintains Jackie.

The Christian Connection survey, which reflects the views of Christian singles of all ages across the denominations, discovered a major shift of attitude when a single person reaches 30 years.

‘He or she moves from being in the majority to the minority in friendship groups,’ explains Jackie. ‘This ushers in a number of vexing  questions.’

  • What if ‘God’s plan for my life’ mean being permanently single?
  • Am I as much part of the church as I used to be?
  • If so, where do I now fit?
‘We discovered single people, particularly those between 30 and 60 years, feel less accepted as they get older,’ said Jackie. ‘They would like more advice and teaching on being single and more social opportunities within church circles but in a way that affirms them and doesn’t pigeonhole them. At worst, some single women feel they are deemed a threatening presence by some married couples.’
They would also like to be affirmed in leadership roles.
‘Their “singleness” should not prevent them from being consulted and valued within church, but many believe it does,’ says Jackie.
Findings from the survey will be discussed at three events at Moot, St Mary Aldermary, Watling Street, London, led by David Pullinger who has spent the last three months analysing the responses to the survey. Until very recently, David was a single Christian who has written and spoken on the subject to Christian groups and festivals.  He also worked at a senior level for the Office of National Statistics and in strategic roles for both Church and Central Government.  He will speak about the findings of the survey around the following areas.
  • Online dating: How to make it work for Christians – April 11th
  • How to be happy as a single in Church (and outside) – April 23rd
  • Will God provide? The theologies of singleness – May 2nd
David will present stories from individuals with a varied set of perspectives and experiences and will point to answers as well as questions.
‘We hope these talks will be an inspiration, not just to singles but to all others in the Church – leaders and married couples who want to understand how single members can be welcomed and affirmed.’

By admin

Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst  (Lion Hudson, 2014; second edition in process) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.

2 replies on “Singleness in Church?”

Interesting post, Thank you for sharing.

As a single 30 something I can identify with many of the points raised in the article, including almost giving up on church.

Most seminars, teaching etc seems to be focused on helping single people accept themselves as such. I am sure this is helpful for some, especially in late 20’s or those newly single for other reasons. However I don’t think I am that unusual in being ‘happily single’ and my frustration is the generally pervasive attitudes of others in the church who are not single. It is wonderful that married couples and families are so happy with their life state, but they seem to look on singleness as some poor relation to pity, rather than a valid way of living. I think the bigger issues is reaching and educating the whole church in their attitudes towards singles. Even well-meaning comments are often misguided and unintentionally patronising/unhelpful/hurtful. (The number of times people say ‘I’m sure God has someone for you’…) I have been a part of several churches in the last few years and all have been a struggle in this area. One church actually put on a seminar for the whole church on this issue which was great, however it was sadly very poorly attended.

Great that such extensive research has been conducted and I look forward to seeing the developments and hopefully resulting change.

🙂 Happily Single – yes – that’s what I like! Be great to have more activities for the ‘happily single’ rather than everything seeming to be some kind of meet-up club!

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