A Pastor's Apology To The Single Community

woman-alone-in-church

This is a message to all those who are single or who have spent any years in the Church as a single person.

As a pastor who has served in local church ministry for the past 18 years, I wanted to apologize to you on behalf of so many of us who minister and who too often have failed you.

I am deeply sorry.

I’m sorry for the ways we unintentionally distanced you from community; the times that we overlooked your deep needs and your unique challenges as we planned and prepared.

I’m sorry for the times we relegated you to the segregated ghettos of Singles Ministry, making you feel that was enough to hold you over until you eventually graduated from your relational purgatory.

I’m sorry for the times you felt like an afterthought in our worship services. 

I’m sorry for the times you felt unwelcome or extraneous in our small groups.

I’m sorry for unknowingly depriving you of the great richness of multigenerational ministry.

I’m sorry for the many times our sermon series lifted up Marriage and Family, and in the process ignored the awkwardness that might create for you.

I’m sorry for the way our programming and event schedules might have accidentally diminished your contributions and your worth.

I’m sorry for the way we so easily defaulted to lazy language that so often excluded you.

You need to know that this was never intentional, but even still I know it is incredibly painful.

You need to know that you are valued and treasured and appreciated, even when we have failed to let you know.

You are The Church.

You are not second class Christians.

You are not inferior members of our communities.

You are not worth less than those who have found married life a reality.

Your singleness is not a temporary affliction that you need to be healed of, or a sad fate you need to be rescued from.

It is not a sign that your faith is suspect or that your prayers are not earnest or that your goodness is at all in doubt.

It is not proof of your character flaws or your moral failings or your lack of value. 

It is simply this place and time in your story.

You may not remain single forever, however if you do, that is not a defeat and it is not a compromise.

You are a child of God. There is never wrong or loss or failure in that.

You are not currently incomplete, biding time, just awaiting to be made half of something else.

You are a beautiful whole human being, made singularly and perfectly in the image of God.

We in leadership in the Church have often failed to really see you or have fallen short of pastoring you well.

We may do it again, and for that too I ask for forgiveness.

Never ever doubt how priceless your life is.

You are deeply and fully loved; every single one of you.

 

 

 

 

 

photo credit: thegospelcoalition.com

 

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150 thoughts on “A Pastor's Apology To The Single Community

  1. Thank you for saying what I tried to convey to my church leadership, which continues to fall on deaf ears. I was the singles ministry leader for 5 years as a single woman and fully understood the needs of those singles who attended church. Sadly you are correct, the ministry to singles is still often overlooked and discarded.

  2. I do believe the apology/sentiments are real and heartfelt. Thank you. Now, what will our churches and our pastors do to support, include and embrace singles (regardless the reason they are single)? If true efforts are made to rectify this situation than further apologies will not be necessary every few months.

  3. Years ago when I was 30 and STILL single, I was given a book by my very religious mother titled Lady in Waiting about becoming one’s best for God while waiting for Mr. Right. Seriously? That is the worst title and premise for a book. How about a book about the wonderful freedoms and joys of being single and not bound by the chains of patriarchy? So few churches had anything relevant or respectful to offer or say to me in that season of life.

  4. I love this so much. Every one will stand before God as a single person. Every.ONE. I’m sick of how so many churches don’t’ have a place for people who are not’ married. How when you bring it up you are told this isn’t the direction the church is going in, not where they choose to focus. and how single people are treated as half a citizen. God isn’t that way. And in a society where more than half of the adult population is single. What is wrong with the church?????

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  6. You know what.
    My bible and my lord and savior says in his word that if(IF) you can handle staying single that is a good thing because a married man is concerned about his wife, and a married woman is concerned about her husband but a single person is concerned about the lord and heavenly things so I don’t understand why everyone is complaining about let’s be happy don’t worry and start a revival in the lord and try to bring this country and as many sinners to the lord as he permits. If you feel left out stop complaining and start a over 30 singles group in your church and don’t take no for a answer push until the pastor says ok lets be all one big family like we are supposed to be

  7. A friend shared this with me and all I can say is “Wow” and “Thank, you!”. I have read other articles/blog posts from pastors addressing singles like this but this is the only one I have read where I felt like the nail was truly hit on the head. Sometimes I feel like singles are treated as an afterthought and there are no messages to encourage us (at least not at my church.) It’s frustrating and I’ve even asked God why doesn’t the church even care about us. Also I feel like the church’s view of single people is too narrow. It’s assumed all singles want to get married. Whether we want to get married or not we need encouragement. Being a single woman in her late 30s has been tough. I’ve resigned myself to thinking I don’t matter as a single person in church.

  8. I go to a church in Los Angeles where 75% of us are single. That being said, there are places for us to go on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. I like this article. For our church, it would have to be to the married couples and families. Yes, we have them.

  9. Lengthy apologies might relieve some perceived guilt on the pastor’s part but it does nothing for the singles in the congregation if the church doesn’t change how it treats said individuals. An apology with no indication of even an attempt at initiating change in the church is questionable at best.

  10. This is great…but…how are you going to lead the church in a new way. I’m a single parent, always have been. I’m that weird place between single and not a “whole family”. Assumptions I’m a threat or want your husband. No! Have you met your husband? I’m happily single and feel more at home in the mess of a world than I am in church.

  11. This is all good, but now that you know the flaw, how can you *actively* help the singles? I have a suggestion to all singles pastors / priests / ministers on the planet. Let the senior pastor pastor the general congregation and let the Singles pastors live up to their namesakes and titles. Pastor the single people. Do not treat them as Christians who happen to be single, but as singles. Discuss issues relevant to singles. Most importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, you must invite all singles who want marriage to gather together with you in one place to engage in collective and congregational prayer for the blessing of their desire for marriage. It is your responsibility to pray OVER them, not just for them. There is power in collective prayer. Imagine ten thousand singles all praying the same prayer, that the would find their husband or wife. I think God would honor this.

    • Oh, please, a singles group is NOT for the purpose of finding spouses! A singles pastor/singles group is for single people to glorify God in the situation He has given them, whether they ever marry, want to marry, or not. Pray for each person to be committed to serving God, and becoming more like Jesus! “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added…” Concentrate on holiness, seeking God’s will, and if a spouse is part of God’s plan, that will happen in the course of obedience to His commands.

      • >Oh, please, a singles group is NOT for the purpose of finding spouses!

        I didn’t say it was.

        >A singles pastor/singles group is for single people to glorify God
        >in the situation He has given them, whether they ever marry,
        >want to marry, or not.

        I agree. However, that is not their only task. In my experience, single brothers and sisters in Christ tend to fall into one of the categories (not eventually distributed of course): those who are happy in their singleness, those who are indifferent to marriage, and those who, like in the vein of Hannah in 1 Sam 1, are begging God for a husband or wife. As to the first group, more power to them. As to the third group, that is where collective prayer comes in. Many are in horrible pain, like Hannah, because they are single. The difference, of course, is that Hannah wanted a son, not a husband. If a minister ignores that pain and doesn’t minister to it, they are not helping.

        Consider the Word of God. “It is not *good* for the man to be alone.” Seven times we read in Genesis, “and God saw that it was good.” Then the first thing God saw that wasn’t good was man’s aloneness. Solomon, the wisest man in history, wrote, “He who finds a wife, finds what is *good* and receives favor from the Lord.” Consider that Jesus compared himself not as the “parent”, but as the groom. Jesus elevated the spousal relationship above that of the parent / child relationship.

        If the decision to marry is the second most important decision a person will ever make in their lifetime, second only to deciding to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, then prayer, and I mean collective, congregational, and communal prayer, is warranted. Because if the Church does not involve God in the courtship and marriage process, the divorce rate will continue to be what it is amongst those in the Church.

        My argument is that if a church bothers to call the department the “singles” department, but then fails to pastor and teach to the specifics of that demographic, they are doing a disservice to that demographic.

        >Pray for each person to be committed to serving God, and becoming more like Jesus!

        Correct.

  12. I was single for over 18 years after a long marriage. Not one time was I invited by a layperson, in my church, to have lunch on a Sunday afternoon. Gangs were meeting. Couples. Friends. But as a single, attractive woman, I wasn’t welcome. The only ones to invite me was my gal friend, pastor’s wife & her husband.
    There was no change in me or my love for people & love for God. I didn’t have infectious sores all over my body. And I have no interest in your beloved husband. Hate & insecurity can break hearts & spirits. Especially in the row of singles you chose to ignore.
    Thanks for noticing us. We have been here making you uncomfortable for a long time. We are full of love & glad to share our insight.

  13. Churches are for families. Period. Full-stop.

    Churches also don’t want single men as pastors. Period. Full-stop.

    Churches also have extremely questionable expenses (particularly large churches, with full-time staff, fancy buildings, etc.).

    Churches also seem to favor nepotism/cronyism over genuine leadership, and when I see the pastor driving a car nicer than the poorest person there, there’s a huge problem.

    I love Lord Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit and God the Father more than anything else in this world…but the man-made Church is something I have little desire to be part of nowadays, as a single person or person who wants to make my donations go far.

  14. “You are The Church.” – If by Church you mean followers of Christ as a whole, then yes. If you mean the physical church, then we are not. We have been made quite aware that we are not wanted.

    “You are not second class Christians.” – Third class would be more appropriate. Many in church see us as best as inferior Christians, and at worst as some kind of garbage that is undeserving of anything God or the church can provide. And the older the single gets, the worse people think of them. And where does most of the hated of Christian singles come from? The prime, but certainly not only, source is almost always from the seniors in the church; people who got married as 16-20, because in their day that is how it was.

    “You are not inferior members of our communities.” – Tell that to those in the church, leadership and membership, who think just that very thing. Since we’re not married and producing children, we are inferior.

    “You are not worth less than those who have found married life a reality.” – Yes we are. We do not have kids, and families are what churches today are all about. All we’re good for is free labor, so as long as it does not involve any kind of ministry. And that is only true if the church tolerates us even being around.

    “It is not a sign that your faith is suspect or that your prayers are not earnest or that your goodness is at all in doubt.” – According to many, yes it is. Last church I attended, the pastor said this very thing, albeit with just a little different wording.

    “It is not proof of your character flaws or your moral failings or your lack of value.” – See above.

    “You may not remain single forever, however if you do, that is not a defeat and it is not a compromise.” – Many of us feel like if we never marry, it is a failure and defeat. We are lonely; we want to be able to come home to a loving spouse, our kids greeting us when we walk in, a companion to share our life with, a lover with whom we can enjoy a sex life as God intended, and knowing we will have someone, be it our spouse, or children or both, until the day we die.

    “You are a child of God. There is never wrong or loss or failure in that.” – Yes we are, but God is not physically here with us. We’re human, and by his design we desire human companionship.

    “You are not currently incomplete, biding time, just awaiting to be made half of something else.” – We may or may not be incomplete, but we sure feel like it.

    “You are a beautiful whole human being, made singularly and perfectly in the image of God.” – Tell that to the countless people who see anyone over 25 and single as being some kind of grotesque monster.

  15. And to explain by fairly cynical comments above. Sadly, this article does not change anything. Churches will continue going on as always, rejecting singles and only focusing on families, kids, and seniors. The last church I attended decided to actively get rid of all singles that attended, and at the time it was probably around 100, not counting undergrad college students, the only singles that churches still love. They did everything they could to get rid of us by making the church as unwelcoming as possible. On top of that, a “marriage” sermon was delivered that was really just the final straw that resulting in the number of single people left after that to be countable on one hand.

    The sermon said that those of us who are lacking “God’s gift of marriage” are because of “unconfessed sin,” “weak/lacking faith” or aren’t really Christians and God is punishing us. To be told that when we are lonely, hurting, and desperately wanting the happiness other have, it is like driving a knife right through our heart and through our faith.

    I have no desire to attend church again. As a single, I am not wanted so why should I give up one of the two days I actually get to sleep more than 3-4 hours to go be around people who at best will whisper behind my back, or reject me to my face at worst? I can worship God on my own.

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  17. Just recently I left a church I had been going to for four years. I felt like the Pastor owed me an apology. In the whole four years that I was going there, it was never a great experience. The Congregation was mostly very old people and they were very clicky. There were lots of times when I would be at the reception/refreshments area and no one would talk to me.

    I had a counseling session with the Pastor and I told him that I feel lonely. He told me, “people avoid you because they sense that you don’t feel comfortable with other people”. I was very floored when he said that. Needless to say, I didn’t go back after that.

    I am 60 years old and never been married with no kids. I have been going to church a little over 35 years. After I turned 30 it was all downhill. I don’t remember a real nice experience at a church for a good long time.

    I love God and worship Him. I never want that to ever go away from my life. Also I don’t want to give up on church either, even though it makes sense for me to do that.

  18. Thank you for this! Thank you for acknowledging singles! I have been single, never married, and a member of my church for over 12 years and not once have I expressed my feelings on the subject to my pastors until just very recently. I belong to a very small church (about 40 members) in a very small town (less than 500 people) and we have about 6 singles (myself included) who are single for various reasons.

    My pastors have stressed the importance of family – husbands, wives, kids. I support them because I know that their heart is for families to be restored.

    One night during a bible study on the importance of family, I decided to ask how singles fit into the family dynamic that they were talking about. I expressed how singles are now a large percentage of the population and how we sometimes feel marginalized or forgotten within that traditional framework.

    What was the response? I was told that singles can have an independent spirit and not understand family. Um, what? (I realize that some actually can have an independent spirit but not all). I was then reminded of how God originally intended the family to be, how women were never supposed to leave their fathers, how husbands were to leave their parents and cleave to their wives, and how Jesus is our bridegroom, regardless of whether or not we ever get married.
    While I understand the original intent for families, I also understand that our current culture is very different than that original intent and that we live in a fallen world. I understand that Jesus is our bridegroom no matter what our relationship status is.

    What I struggle with is when the traditional family of husband, wife, and kids are always stressed and nothing else. Without at least acknowledging singles in that equation, pastors are missing the boat on a chance to minister and encourage all of us on what it really means to belong in the family and body of Christ. We don’t always fit into a nice, neat, little box.

    Jesus and Paul are a great example of singleness with a clear purpose and mission. Do we marginalize them and their contribution because they were single? Of course not!

    Just to make it clear, my church has no singles ministry and the functions are always geared towards traditional families, children, and/or the youth. This makes sense because the majority of those attending fall into these categories.

    Having said that, after expressing my thoughts and feelings on the subject of singles, I felt completely dismissed, misunderstood and basically shut down for voicing my concerns. What I had to say or how I felt didn’t seem to matter. I understand that it’s not all about me. I also understand that the body of Christ is where we are supposed to support, encourage, challenge, disciple, love, grow and help others. That’s what families do.

    My senior pastor then went on to comment on how he’s tired of people not being transparent with him and just giving him lip-service. At that moment, I could’ve told him exactly why but I didn’t. I don’t want to be disrespectful or paint my pastors in a bad light.

    I just believe that they really have no clue what singles experience because they are so focused on the traditional family and they’ve been married for the greater portion of their lives. How can they experientially understand our struggles if they’ve never walked in our shoes? They can’t any more than I can say I know what married life is like or the struggles that are unique to it. While I believe they mean well, they come across as very callous, indifferent, and insensitive.

    I don’t want to be segregated or receive special treatment but I do want to be acknowledged as belonging to the family. I don’t want to just be an afterthought or expected to be involved more often in functions because I “have more time.” Don’t get me wrong, I want to serve and I want to do it with the right heart.

    So, thank you again for taking the time to acknowledge some of the struggles singles face and the failures of some pastors and churches to recognize it .

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