Let me start with my own story.
I have grown up in church my whole life. I started in the nursery and moved up through various grades, youth groups, and college ministries. After college I moved to a new town which required me to conduct the tedious task known as "church hunting." I visited a lot of churches from various denominations and all of them had their positive points. One church was small and intimate, one was large and traditional, and another was out of the box and casual. Each one was a positive experience and helped me narrow down what I was looking for in a church. The only catch was that none of them had it.
Allow me to elaborate. I'm a Millennial and I'm also single. That doesn't mean that I can't learn from and find friends in everyone else who doesn't fall into that category. Over the course of my church hunting, I met wise and influential married people who helped me in my Christian walk. However, I soon learned that when it comes to having fellowship with other believers, being in the same life stage is important. The things you are going through as a single person are not always the same as those who are married, retired, or in high school.
Yet, in the majority of the churches I visited there were no singles ministries.
Numbers Don't Lie.
59% of Millennials are single. That number doesn't count the people who have lost a spouse or been divorced.
Millennials are currently the largest generation, approximately 75.4 million in the US. According to Census.gov, there are approximately 326 million people in the US which means approximately a fourth of the US population are Millennials and, with over half of those being single, approximately 1 in 8 people are single.
All this begs the question: With churches seeking to bring back the wayward young people of America, why are singles ministries few and far between? If churches are looking for a way to reach young people, why are they not providing a ministry for over half of the Millennial population?
A Surprising Response.
Returning to my own story: In light of this deficit in our area, a few of my friends and I took it upon ourselves to create a singles Bible study. We hosted it in one of our apartments. The pitch was simple: let's study the Bible, pray together, and have fellowship. We sent out an open invitation through our friend group and subsequent grapevine.
The response was surprising and eye-opening. We had young people from over 6 different churches coming to our house and all of them had the same comment, "Thank you for doing this. There is no singles ministry at my church."
How sad is that! I hear people talk all the time about how Millennials aren’t interested in studying the Word anymore, but there were nights when we had people sitting on the floor because we ran out of chairs. And all we were doing was reading the Bible and discussing it. No flashy videos, no promise of pizza or other stereotypical gimmicks to get people to come. People came because they wanted community, which was apparently lacking for them in their church.
Seeking Growth, Not Entitlement.
Now you may be sitting there saying, "Well yeah. Of course you are writing an article like this. You're a single Millennial and Millennials are narcissistic, entitled snowflakes who want the world to cater to them."
Ok…I'll give you that many Millennials are entitled know-it-alls. But aren't there people like that in every generation? Look at it this way: If you were a married couple who had young kids and went to a church that didn't have a children's ministry, would you stay or move to another church that did offer a children's ministry? If you moved, would that make you entitled and demanding that people cater to you? Of course not! It means you are actively searching for people and community in the same life stage as you so that you can grow spiritually.
Dos and Don'ts.
So what can Churches do to minister to the singles in their congregation? Here are a few items to get you started.
- Focus on the Bible and community.
God's Word doesn't return void (Isaiah 55:11). Skip the gimmicks and cut to the chase. Young people in the church are starving for community and spiritual growth. If you offer that honestly and unabashedly, you may be surprised by the response.
- Encourage Millennials to take the initiative in studying the Bible.
Growing up in the church, we sometimes get this subconscious idea that studying the Bible has to be a sanctioned activity, that it is something that you do in church. We need to teach young people, and everyone for that matter, that every Christian can study the Bible wherever they are. That’s one of the freedoms we have in America we shouldn’t take for granted.
- Don't pressure people to get married.
As you read this, you may feel a great disturbance in the Force as millions of voices suddenly cry out in agreement. I could get on my soapbox and write for hours about this one. How it is actually a really, really bad thing to pressure young people to get married (I've witnessed bad relationships and divorces born out of this) and how utterly frustrating it is to feel pressured to do something that you have no control over. But let me just say this: the point of your singles ministry should not be a matchmaking club. Yeah, people can meet and start a relationship in a singles ministry, but that shouldn't be the goal. The goal should be to encourage single people in their walk with Christ. Also, the goal is not to pity them because they are single. Being single isn't a bad thing. Paul said it was a gift (1 Corinthians 7:7). So please…can we stop pressuring people to get married? Because I can guarantee that if you do that, young people will avoid your singles ministry like the plague.
I realize addressing this subject may be stepping on the toes of a few people, but as a Christian who is single and a Millennial, it's a subject that weighs heavily on my heart. If 1 in 8 people in America is a single Millennial, the generation who will be our future (and current) fathers, mothers, politicians, and decision makers, should we not focus on them as much as we focus on everyone else? The point of this article is not to say Millennials are better than everyone else, therefore, we deserve attention. The point is simply this: don't forget them. They are hungry for the Word and ready to dig in. All they need is someone to show them that the church is ready to dig in alongside them. And to a young person, that can mean more than a thousand pizza parties.
NOTE: I should also add that since we began our Bible study, many of the churches in our area have started singles ministries. This has been very encouraging. Please don’t take this article as church bashing, but rather as an honest commentary on an important need.