It’s not always easy to love those who are different, those we don’t understand, or those with whom we can’t relate. But if the church is going to win the lost, we first have to find a way to reach them. And to make them feel at home.
It’s not just those outside the church community who need our help. Many who are sitting in our pews often feel ignored. They are the lonely, the broken-hearted, and occasionally the outcasts. They have come to us for reassurance that they are loved. And even lovable. For some, the church body represents the only family they may have. They are single, older adults who have never married, suffered divorce, or been widowed.
I remember, years ago, defending the church to a friend who was complaining about not being able to find a place to worship where she truly felt accepted. She had hopped from one denomination to another in search of the perfect church home. And while she knew that no church was perfect, she hadn’t even been able to find an ‘imperfect’ church where she fit in. At that time, she was in her early forties and had never been married. She was too old for a college singles group and too young to feel at home with the older, perhaps many who were widowed, single adults.
It wasn’t until I was widowed ten years later that I understood my friend’s unmet needs. My heart broke for her and the many single adult ‘tween (post-college through middle age) women and men who are looking to the local church for support, interaction, and even approval—and knowing that they may never find it.
Some, who were raised in the church and left their hometown communities for work or school, hope to make a fresh start among a new group of believers. Others, who are long-time exiles from organized fellowship, wish to return but need the reassurance that they can fit into a church environment. Unfortunately, some may more readily find acceptance at a local nightclub or social club than in their local church.
If we’re going to help these older, single adults feel welcome, we need to give them more than a warm greeting at the front door. We must show them that we have a place for them. A place where they can not only find personal fellowship, but a place where they can help serve others. We need to assure them that they are loved for who they are, appreciated for the talents they bring, and respected as partners in the Great Commission.
While married adults and families usually represent the traditional, core membership of our local churches, if we’re going to win the battle against the world for the lost—and for those we’ve lost, we need to redefine our organizational chart, offering singles the opportunity to experience true fellowship with the traditional body, while building their own core group of friends and fellow-believers.
Five years ago, the Pew Research Center revealed that “the share of American adults who have never been married is at an historic high.” In February of this year, that same organization reconfirmed that the median age for first marriage in the United States has continued to increase.
Reminiscent of many of the Christian leaders in the New Testament, whether they’re single by choice or by chance, many of these Twenty-First Century Christian singles have the time, the focus, and the vision to help carry the Church forward if we will let them. The time has come for the contemporary Church to embrace them, appreciate them, and love them.
Kathy Harris is a Nashville entertainment industry marketing director and a contributor to several Christian anthologies. Her second novel, Deadly Commitment, releases in October 2019 from New Hope Publishing.