Single-blindness in the Church

It’s been a while since I posted here, but something happened not long ago that showed me just how blind many in the Church are to the needs of singles.

I dropped by Southern Baptist Seminary, mainly because I wanted to check out the LifeWay there. While looking around the store, mainly at the bookshelves, I decided to try to find whether they had any resources specifically dealing with singles. It took some serious looking—while the shelving is organized by general topic, you can’t see a “Singles” sign anywhere.

Unless you happen to look in the “Marriage” section… and scan down to the lowest level of a three-level shelf… and to one corner of said shelf (which is about 12 to 13 feet across)… and then find maybe a dozen different titles. And one or two of those I saw on my visit were actually about marriage! And, may I add, a couple of the titles that are about singleness were by Joshua Harris of I Kissed Dating Goodbye fame (though not IKDG itself)… the same Joshua Harris who has now apologized for the work that made him a celebrity in certain Christian circles (as Amir pointed out on this blog last year).

Keep in mind that SBTS is one of the largest seminaries in the world, not just in the US, and trains a pretty substantial number of the SBC’s ministers (plus a decent number from other Protestant traditions). And yet in the bookstore of arguably the flagship seminary of the SBC, there seems to be virtually nothing in the way of resources to deal with singles or singleness.

And the single community in the Church is much larger than many people think. Not long ago, one of the two churches I go to—easily the biggest church in the area where I live—had a sermon series on relationships, with the first one being on singleness. (In fairness, this was only one of several recent signs that this particular church is starting to “get it” when it comes to singles.) During this first message, the pastor pointed out some statistics about this congregation that may (or may not) surprise you:

  • Of this church’s membership in the 21–35 age bracket, about two-thirds are single (as in “not currently married”, which is my definition of “single”). Not really that big a surprise to me, given the way our culture has been going in recent decades.
  • In the 35–65 bracket, almost a third of the membership is single—a statistic about which the pastor openly expressed surprise.

If this congregation is typical of others within the Church as a whole, it means that there’s a huge community in the Church’s very midst that too many congregations have ignored (if not worse). And it isn’t helping when one of the more prominent institutions in American evangelicalism (i.e., SBTS) apparently doesn’t consider that community important enough to provide the resources that could help future leaders deal with it.