The Apostle Paul tells us the church is the body of Christ. Ever since I was a kid, whenever I read 1 Corinthians 12, I’ve pictured actual pieces of human anatomy acting out the metaphor on a stage. The foot stomps around and pouts, “I’m not a hand. I don’t belong here.” Then this giant eyeball rolls and says to the hand: “Get out of here. I don’t need you.”
Sometimes the inside of my head is a little dramatic.
But Paul’s point is that God has given believers a variety of gifts to use to work together for the glory of God. Each part matters, because each part brings something unique and vital to the body.
While the passage is talking about spiritual gifts, I believe Paul’s point is also true for believers in different seasons of life. Everyone, regardless of life stage, is vital to the health of the body because we all bring a different perspective to our unified calling. We need older members to share their wisdom with the younger generation. We need younger members to bring fresh ideas. We need married couples to demonstrate godly relationships to those who aren’t yet married.
And we need singles.
This isn’t a universal truth, of course, but sometimes singles can fall through the cracks in church ministry. The kids have their activities, and the teens get together on Wednesday nights and play the kinds of games you’d only play at youth group (to this day, I still get a little freaked out by Lifesaver candies). There’s usually a college ministry, maybe something for couples and a senior adult ministry.
That often leaves the singles floating in the in-between, looking for a place to connect.
I believe engaging singles gives us a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the body of Christ and display the gospel to a watching world in a beautiful way.
Full disclosure: I’m coming from the perspective of a single, never married female in her twenties, but our churches include singles of many different ages who experience singleness for many different reasons. My purpose behind sharing my perspective with you is to genuinely walk alongside the church as we incorporate all life stages into the mission of the Body of Christ.
So here are four ways to integrate singles into your local church body:
Just as marriage mirrors Christ and His bride, singleness showcases the sufficiency of Christ.
1. Teach godly singleness as a picture of the gospel.
The church places high value on marriage – and it should. After all, marriage is a clear, beautiful picture of the gospel. Ephesians 5:21-33 tells us that, like Christ, a husband is to be the head of his wife, loving her through servant leadership as Christ sacrificed for His bride, the church. Likewise, a wife is to willingly submit to her husband as the church submits to her Bridegroom. In this, we see how marriage is an intentional reflection of a divine relationship: Christ uniting with His bride, loving her, serving her and leading her in a way that allows her to grow in holiness.
I don’t think any of us would say a single Jesus follower is a less genuine believer than a married one. But sometimes, singles might ask themselves questions like these:
- Is marriage the fullest way to display the gospel?
- Does a wife mirror the Good News of Christ in a better, more complete way than I do because I’m single?
- Am I incomplete as a witness because I have a cat instead of a husband?
That’s why it’s important to point out how God is at work in godly singleness, too.
Marriage is designed to be a beautiful picture of the gospel, so that when someone looks at a godly marriage, they are pointed to the love Christ has for them. Likewise, godly singleness also communicates some gospel truth:
Just as marriage mirrors Christ and His bride, singleness showcases the sufficiency of Christ. He is enough. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, He is all we ever need.
Whether or not a single is waiting on a spouse, she learns to find fulfillment in the Lover of her soul and anticipates His return.
Remind singles in your church of how they have a unique way of communicating our Father’s love to a watching world. Look to marriages in your congregation for a picture of Christ and His church, and look to singleness as a picture of His sufficiency.
When we’re able to see how the gospel is reflected in each other’s lives, we’ll be able to encourage, admonish and build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11). And when that happens, we’ll live out what Jesus prayed for us in John 17 – we will truly be one, as He and the Father are one.
2. Offer opportunities to serve.
It’s important to recognize what singles can bring to the table – and to let them know you recognize it. If you serve as a leader in your local church, gather a focus group of singles to hear their perspective and their hopes for the church. Learn their struggles, ask for their ideas, let them know they’re heard. Come to the meeting prepared with open areas where they can serve. That will be an encouragement to plug into an area of service for the singles who are floating, trying to figure out if there’s a place for them.
Here are just a few ideas, based off unique gifts a single member might have:
- Leadership: Ask them to put together a team and coordinate a church event.
- Teaching: Ask them to lead a Bible study.
- Ministry/Missions: Serve them by helping them receive seminary training or raising support.
All of this involves knowing your single church member as individuals. When you think about it, that’s the key to involving every member in the life of the church.
3. Provide relevant application points.
Recently, a single friend and I were talking about this topic, and she mentioned this to me: Many sermon application points are directed at ways to live out the message in your family – with your wife, husband or kids. If you pastor or teach, look for ways to extend the application points to friends, roommates and adult siblings for those who aren’t married or raising kids. This simple consideration goes a long way in helping a single church member feel heard and included in the message.
That’s the ultimate goal: the glory of God in all areas of life, whether we’re male or female, young or old, introverted or extroverted, married or single.
4. Encourage mentorship.
While it’s so important for kids and teens to have teachers and role models who live out godly marriages, it’s also important for them to have role models who display godly singleness. Teens learn about honoring God through their interactions with the opposite gender, and they usually get a few lessons on waiting for marriage. So why not give them the opportunity to see what that looks like? Recruit singles of various ages who are gifted in discipleship, leadership or teaching, and provide an opportunity for them to lead a Bible study or simply hang out with your church’s teens.
I’m thankful to be a part of a local church body where I’m known. Where I’m given opportunities to serve my brothers and sisters in Christ alongside members from all ages and life stages. I’m also grateful for a small group that’s made up of husbands and wives, singles, young parents, grandparents and kids. There’s joy in sharing our experiences with each other, even though we’re in different seasons of life.
The goal of walking alongside singles and providing specific opportunities for them in our churches isn’t to create a separate singles ministry. It’s for the opposite reason, actually: so that all believers are united in the body of Christ, using our God-given gifts to serve and encourage one another and to reach the world with the gospel. That’s the ultimate goal: the glory of God in all areas of life, whether we’re male or female, young or old, introverted or extroverted, married or single.
This article originally published on June 21, 2018.