Why It’s Important to Welcome Singles In Your Church

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If you’re familiar with my work, you know the importance I place on reaching young people in the church. And when you think about the unmarried believers in your church, I bet you’re likely to think of them as the younger Christians in your midst. But that’s no longer necessarily the case. Did you know that there are now more single adults than married adults in the United States? If your congregation is like many in the country, you may have missed this reality, because the evangelical church often continues to focus primarily on serving couples and families. That’s why I’m so grateful that Gina Dalfonzo, editor of BreakPoint.org and blogger at Dickensblog, has written One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church. Gina has taken the time to explore common misconceptions and stereotypes about singles, and the subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways they are often devalued. This is an incredibly important topic, so I asked Gina to allow me to interview her about her new book:

J. Warner:
“Gina, I know you as an excellent ambassador for the Christian worldview and as a committed contributor in the battle of worldviews, but some people in my audience might not be familiar with your work. Can you share your journey a bit and tell us about your present ministry and professional life?”

Gina:
I’ve always loved to write, ever since I was a child. Though I had many career aspirations at various times (at one point I was going to be both a ballerina and a concert pianist!), somehow I always came back to writing. So I’m thankful to be able to use that skill in my career. I’m now the editor of BreakPoint.org at the Colson Center, where I’ve worked for 15 years. I regularly write book reviews for the site, and I’m also a freelance writer. My work has appeared in Christianity Today, The Atlantic, The Weekly Standard, Guideposts, and elsewhere, and I write regularly for Christ and Pop Culture. In my free time, I run a little blog about Charles Dickens, my favorite novelist.”

J. Warner:
“You’ve written an important book, and one that’s relatively rare in the Christian case-making or ‘apologetics’ community. Tell us why you decided to write a book about ‘singleness’?”

Gina:
“One by One grew out of my own experiences as a single Christian, and the experiences of many of my single friends and relatives. There’s a lot going on with this population that the rest of the church isn’t aware of, and needs to know about. Single people often feel left out or even pushed aside by the rest of the church, and that’s really hard, because that’s exactly where we should be going for help and support, and to offer our gifts and contributions as well. The Body of Christ can’t function well unless all its members are allowed to work together, so listening to and incorporating single voices isn’t just good for the single people, it’s good for the whole church.”

J. Warner:
“I appreciate the way your book is structured. In one section, you talk about some of the stigmas and stereotypes that accompany being single in the Church. Which of these stigmas do you think is most damaging when it comes to welcoming singles into the Christian family?”

Gina:
“If I had to pick just one, I think it would be the misperception that single people are selfish. This is a message that, unfortunately, has permeated much of the church. Several prominent Christian leaders teach – sometimes by implication, sometimes openly – that marriage is God’s biggest way of spiritually maturing and refining us. And family life in general is talked about as something that takes the selfishness out of you, because it means you’re constantly caring for others. The flip side is that, if all that is true, then those who don’t get married must not be very mature or selfless! We’re seen as people who have unlimited time and resources that we squander just on ourselves – which in most cases couldn’t be further from the truth. We single people have responsibilities and relationships and demands on our time and energy, too, and we have plenty of opportunities to put others first. (Ask any single woman who’s been in multiple weddings and bought dozens of baby shower gifts, all without knowing whether she’ll ever get a turn.) We’re living proof that, even though marriage is a great way of becoming less selfish, it’s not the only way. God still works in our lives to mature us, just in different ways.”

J. Warner:
“You also do a great job of describing how we, as a Church, have gotten to the place where we may have marginalized those who aren’t married. I thought it was interesting to read about the impact you think ‘courtship’ models have had on the views held by the Church. Can you explain this to our readers?”

Gina:
“The courtship movement was supposed to be a healthier, holier way of getting young Christians to the altar. In many cases – as even Joshua Harris of I Kissed Dating Goodbye now admits – it ended up paralyzing them instead. There were so many rules and regulations and hoops to jump through, and you were supposed to know at the very start of a relationship if you were interested in marrying the other person – no wonder people freaked out! There were even married Christians who wrote about how they should have done things differently and followed more of the courtship rules, and that was discouraging, because if even these good and faithful people who got the results they wanted had been all wrong, what hope was there for the rest of us? I’m not blaming the increasing rates of singleness solely on the courtship mentality; I think there are a number of factors involved. But I do think it played a part, and I wrote about that in my book because I think the church needs to be aware of it and start to rethink some of those teachings.”

J. Warner:
“Your book is ultimately helpful and optimistic as it provides readers with some good ideas about how we might move forward. Can you highlight one or two for us?”

Gina:
“My book calls for change on both the institutional and personal levels. On the institutional level, we need to be allowed to be part of various ministries, even to serve in leadership positions (you’d be surprised how seldom this happens), and generally just bring our point of view to the table. On the personal level, it can start small – by inviting us to sit with you and your family in church, asking us to be part of social activities like lunch after the service, or just letting us hang out with you and your family. Even little things can have an enormous impact and make us feel like we really are a welcome part of the church.”

At Summit Worldview Conference, we often say that our effectiveness is built on the union between truth and relationships. This approach is important for believers of all ages. It’s not enough to simply teach people what is true, this must be done in the context of deep and meaningful relationships. Gina’s book reminds us that there are single people in our midst. It’s not enough to simply provide them with the truth; we’ve also got to engage them in serious, heartfelt and intentional relationships. I highly recommend her book; it will help you understand the dilemma and take the appropriate steps to be part of the solution.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, Christian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, God’s Crime Scene, God’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith.

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