The Church Needs Single Men To Stay

So last week while I was writing some thoughts about what we as singles could maybe do about being angry with the church, Donald Miller was writing about how he doesn’t go to church, and then some people responded – ok a lot of people.

So I thought since I’m on a roll with singles and church, I’d offer a couple of thoughts.

First, two quick points that don’t have anything to do with singleness, but I have to say them.  1. What planet were all these people on that they were surprised that Miller doesn’t regularly attend church?  I mean when I see people say they love his books but were disappointed by him sharing that he doesn’t often attend church . . . what the H . . . are you sure you read the books?  2. I always find it mildly entertaining when protestant people in denominations (or “non-denominations”) younger than me try to drop the authority of the church angle on people like Miller.  Yeah that’s consistent.

Ok, just had to get that off my chest.  Moving on.

Miller shared a lot of thoughts, many of which I agree with even if I don’t agree with his conclusion (although to be fair, he was only making that conclusion for himself).  But one of the things that I think he left out, but I would think that he has experienced as I know I have, is that is church is hard as a single person – especially once you hit your late twenties.

Miller like myself lived his thirties as a single man.  And I would say that a thirty something man is in the most awkward spot in all of the church.

Here’s the reality that evangelicals refuse to deal with.  Single people (and especially single men) don’t go to church.  This isn’t a new phenomenon by any stretch.  At least in my lifetime all the research has always pointed to the fact that people in their twenties go to church less than any other group.  What would happen essentially is that people would leave, but then when they got married, or at least when they had kids, they’d come back. Because the Church is the “family place“.

The problem is, that when you don’t have that family or even get married, you don’t come back.  A funny thing is that whether you keep following Jesus or not, you get used to not going.  The longer you’re out there, the less likely you are coming back.

When I was in my earlier twenties I never thought twice about it.  Church was fine, everyone around me trusted my leadership as a young man and we all thought I just hadn’t met the one yet.  But as I grew older, that view, both mine and others, changed.

What’s ironic is, in a lot of churches, including many led by the people attacking (lovingly challenging in their words) Miller, he would actually have been limited in what he could be a part of there.  In many churches singles aren’t really allowed to lead.  So we should go, God only works through his local church, we can’t have real community without it, but we shouldn’t have access to it all until we get married.  Yeah that’s a good sell.

Add to this the stereotypes and messages that are sent to single men (men are bad, non committal, only care about sex, are more immature than women, is he gay, etc) and you’ve got a recipe for single men leaving the church.

Single men are the most watched, judged and ostracized people group in the evangelical congregation.

But this is where I want to circle back to what I said last week. For the sake of the body of Christ, we need to not run from the church.  Whether they like it or not, the church needs it’s single brothers to hang in there.  While understanding that the church will not change for us, perhaps we could impact the church for the men that come behind us.

Let me be totally honest with you.  For seven years I rarely, and I mean rarely, attended Church.  It wasn’t all because of the singleness issue, but it played a significant role.  Like Miller, I had just as good of community then as I do now.  I did stuff in the kingdom, even though I wasn’t “plugged in” to a church.  So why did I come back?  Why for the last eight years have I stayed?

For starters, I found a church that didn’t care as much that I was single (they do exist).  For the most part, they treated me as an equal.  But more than that I realized that there were bigger issues at play than my comfort level.  It was for me, more about communion than community.  In other words, while I can get community, teaching, and impact outside of the church, I can’t get communion and that particular connection to the larger body there. Secondly, I had a role to play.  If I invested, eventually I could have impact, not only in how I was viewed but in how singles that come behind me will be viewed – and there are a lot of them coming.  I will not abandon them.

Bottom line to this post as well as last week’s posts is this:  If we all leave, it won’t change.

18 thoughts on “The Church Needs Single Men To Stay

  1. You mean it’s not all about me? Whoa. Mind is blown.
    Maybe Miller just needed a bump in views or perhaps he wants someone to invite him.

  2. Two thoughts:

    1. I couldn’t agree more with churches wary of letting single men lead. When I was searching for potential youth ministry positions, I often came across a requirement of being married or in a committed relationship. Many churches would disregard my application simply because I was single. I know we live in an age where churches are wary of having a single male lead because of what they feel is a potential lawsuit waiting to happen, but how can we disregard the fact that the Apostle Paul, THE Apostle Paul, was single? Just because I am single doesn’t mean I am not a good leader. It doesn’t mean that I’m perverted. It just means that God hasn’t put someone in my life yet, or maybe he never will.
    2. If I wasn’t a youth minister, it would be hard for me to regularly attend church. If I were to walk into a decent sized church, I would instantly be placed in a single’s ministry, perhaps cleverly disguised with a name like “Common Ground.” There you will may find anyone from their 20’s-40’s, and the only thing you may have in common is that you’re missing your other half. If it’s a small enough church they might even throw in the college kids, which makes it even more awkward (What does a 30 year old employed man have in common with a 19 year old college student? I’ll give you a hint: nothing). Nevermind the fact that you may relate more to those in the regular young adult classes. Needless to say, as a single person it can be intimidating to go to church.

    Does anyone agree with me? Disagree? I’d love to hear!

    • I don’t think their requirement that potential pastors be married/committed is saying that you’re a bad leader or even unqualified… You have to understand things from their perspective. They’re hiring someone who could potentially make or break that ministry. If they’re looking long term, they’re probably going to want a married couple who can model marriage/family to the students and families in the church.

      Singles (really young adults at large) need to stop using excuses as to why they’re leaving. They’re entitled and selfish, usually having surface reasons for leaving.

      • Yes, there are so many married couples modeling marriage and family in the Bible I can’t count them all. No, disualifying single men from serving in the church is not saying anything bad about them. In my opinion, it rises to blasphemy against the word of God.

      • I don’t think anyone is talking about disqualifying them from serving… It’s just something that that local church was looking for in that particular position and in that church in that area..

    • I basically got told, when I wanted to participate in a women’s discipleship class, that I had to be married to join in…. I mean, women and men need one-on-one discipleship, and a lot of guys don’t get that because the older men in church don’t want to.

    • I agree completely. My church openly admits they won’t hire single pastors. I understand their views but believe they miss reaching a huge sector of people”singles” because they can’t relate to them. And quite frankly I’m pretty sure they are happy they can’t relate. The church leaders don’t even realize the negative effect it has on the congregation. I pray often for single men to rise up and become leaders in the church. It seems single women are more likely to get involved. Just my thoughts.

  3. “Single men are the most watched, judged and ostracized people group in the evangelical congregation.” You hit the nail on the head Justin. I think the church has made a conscious decision to worship the family in order to safeguard their sacred sanctuaries from homosexuality at the expense of blaspheming the single men and women of God. They look at it as a cost of doing business. You probably know that the SBC’s Faith and Message Statement even mistakingly declares the nuclear family, instead of the individual, the essential building block for church and civil society. Preachers need to wake up and take inventory of what they have before we’re all gone.

  4. I invite people, all the time, mostly, they say yes. Most of the people I invite are single, young guys. I’ve invited girls too, but I hang out with people who just need friendship.

    btw, john morgan, you’re right. SBC needs to understand the message it sends people…

  5. From a Catholic perspective, it’s the same thing. I’ve stayed in my parish throughout my young adulthood (even when off at college, I’d be back on break — now I’m still at the same parish since I’m only living a few towns away from where I grew up), and have gotten more active in volunteering for lay ministry (ushering, lectoring, bringing communion to the sick) and apostolates (Knights of Columbus, Lay Dominicans), but I’m still either ignored or accused by the married mainstays — it’s odd to respond to their jokes about my supposed sexual misadventures with straight-laced comments about my mid-thirties chaste virginity and seeing their confusion at such an idea (then they tell me that I should become a priest — takes less work on their part than helping me find a Catholic wife)…

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  8. I go around reading and reading and everyone says the same thing. Its because church is to aimed at families or women. It is true that church is aimed at families and women, but I think the answer is community real community. I am not getting married for various reasons(I say this because of all of the “you never know what God has for you” platitudes). I spent years and years looking for family in churches. I was met with long stretches of isolation. Everyone is so busy with their families which single men are not part of. Single men want to be loved just like everyone else. If a man says he is lonely, he is met with I am too busy and or me and my families life sucks too. If this is true, what is even the point? Should we all just give up because life sucks? Single men want to be with other people. I know that people claim machoness or something like men don’t care about community or love if they aren’t married, but thats hogwash. If all church is, is a sermon and some singing, it is no use to single men.

    If church is just for well adjusted families and they spend all of their time prepping and taking care of their families, It is no use to single men.

    You know its not really the surprising to me. I have been told that not even the families spend time with each other for months and months. Church is full of a bunch of separate families who seldom outside of church talk to each other. What this tells me is that they get what they need from their families.Which we aren’t part of.

    Sometimes I think about the passage in the new testament where paul says something about kicking people out of the church because they are sinning. You know I sensed that that would be a great loss to them. I don’t feel it.

  9. I’m havnt been to church since I was 45 everyone married youth and young adults where thriving ministries. If I never chose to be single ( never married) pastors are all married church administrators married to teach have to be married. Sick and tired. Their are other issues when 19 I prayed to God God to allow me to marry and have children. Since 25 I’ve been to 20 weddings now I’m 58 I have no friends or family.many Christian men I know have said to me if they wherent allowed to married them would of ended their life.many single men and women I know left the church because their not allowed physical intimacy or sexual relations angry at god

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