There are legitimate frustrations that come with singleness, and many single people have gifts to lead and to teach that aren’t be utilized in their churches and small groups because of their marital status. I encourage you to listen and to seek out opportunities to elevate the concerns and voices of single people in your small groups.
Bridging the Divide
“I think the biggest challenge is that in relationships, we leverage vulnerabilities and difficulties as a way of creating connection,” my friend Ben says, as I was venting my frustrations in writing this article. Why can’t we bridge the married/single divide more easily in small groups? What’s holding us up? How do we make it work? His diagnosis is pretty straightforward: “When couples are together, the other couple's vulnerabilities are very familiar and obvious because we share many of them. Finding and empathizing with vulnerabilities between single and married people is a little harder and takes more intentional effort. And frankly, we’re not good about pursuing those things. It's easier to be lazy and focus on connections with people who it is easiest to connect with.”
It’s easier to connect with the fellow moms than it is the single guy across the table, but what’s easiest isn’t always what’s best—or what’s most beneficial. After all, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” (1 Cor. 12:21). So whether your church decides to offer singles-only groups or integrated groups, I encourage you to consider the following ideas as you work to intentionally incorporate singles into your ministry:
Not all single people want to be married. Not all single people are avoiding responsibility. Not all single people are free in the evenings. It’s hard to break through a lot of the stereotypes floating out there, but take time to develop relationships with the single people in your church, and then build a ministry that meets their needs, not one that ministers to myths.
2. Figure out what the people want.
You might be the first person from your church staff to actually welcome them. Find out what they’re looking for. They might be wanting community with other singles, or they may be longing for intergenerational groups. Either way, don’t make the decision for them.
3. Make your intentions clear.
A friend of mine joined a small group because in their description the first line read, “Singles welcome.” If you want singles to join your small groups, don’t just set the times and hope they come—invite them, put it in the group’s purpose, go out into the community. If your church isn’t taking the lead on this, blaze the path yourself.