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I recently read an article which stated that 32% of adults between the ages of 18-35 were living at home with their parents. The author cited a survey conducted by Pew Research in 2014 on the living habits of Millennials. 1
In reviewing Pew’s research, I found something even more startling. Out of the group we call Millennials, only 31% are married or cohabitating. Think about that for a moment. If the data is correct, then at least 69% of this group would be classified as single adults. For me this was a sobering fact. It caused me to ask the following questions, “If I was still pastoring, would my church be composed of more single adults than married adults in that age group? If so, does our ministry intentionally focus on single adults?” The reality is that churches have a tendency to focus on married couples. Messages are structured for married adults. Illustrations are directed toward married couples. Small groups within the church are often structured with the family in mind, while unintentionally neglecting the single adult. The sad reality is that messages and activities pertaining to single adults are rare.
I asked a single adult leader in our association to give her perspective of how the church ministers and relates to the Millennial single adult:
As a single adult I often felt very disengaged by the church. My church encourages us to get connected and find community through serving and multi-gen home groups. I have found it impossible to build friendships with people in the church. As the only single person in my home group, and one of the only women that works, my schedule does not align with the married moms in the group. The church focuses on community…and I have found that to be very different than friendship. It often appears that the home group is not a place of connection and deep relationships. I love being around married couples and parents. There is much to gain from those relationships, but I have found that the majority of marrieds want to hang out with their married friends. I have discovered, through conversations with other singles, that they are extremely lonely at their church, myself included. I’ve found that most church leaders have forgotten, or have never really known what it’s like to be single, so they do not know how to care for this group.
The pain and loneliness she’s experienced is evident, and could probably be echoed by many other single adults. There are approximately 105,390 Millennial single adults in Denton County. It is obvious a caring single adult ministry is needed, but how does a church begin such a ministry?
Here are a few suggestions to consider for a single adult ministry:
The Senior Pastor must be intentional in preparing messages that relate to the single adult, and ponder how single adults would respond to this message. Certainly the pastor should reach all of his audience, but also be mindful about the needs of single adults in sermon preparation.
Enlist and train volunteers with a passion for single adults.
Start a single adult small group. Brian Mavis in his article, “8 Single Principles for a Singles Ministry”2 speaks of understanding the singles that live in the area. For him there is a difference between the young college co-ed and the 50-year-old divorced bachelor. Mavis’ contention is that if you know the make-up of your community you will be more successful in creating a group that will address the demographics of the area.
Plan activities specifically for single adults. Examples might include a movie night or game night; attending a Ranger’s game or a play together; any similar outings which would provide an opportunity for singles to hang out with each other.
Mavis suggests that single adults participate in service projects together. Brian states that early Saturday morning might be a great time for singles to take part in a short term project if they do not have children. Married couples with young children would not have this time available because their children are usually involved in other activities.
As ministers and members of local congregations, let us not neglect the single student. Let us not neglect the single parent who is struggling to stay sane with all they have to do. Let us not neglect the single who is living on their own. Let us be intentional in developing relationships with single adults. God loves single adults and so must we.