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.’