I am a teacher, writer, animal lover and outdoor enthusiast.
Going to Church Can Be Hard When You’re Single
After several years of not attending church, I’m getting ready to go back. Although I confess I’ve been telling myself this for quite some time.
The truth is, I miss going to worship services. Years ago, I loved being there, even as a single person. But today, being alone makes it hard for me to show up.
I’ve been thinking about why this is so, and what I can do about it. I want to overcome these obstacles that are holding me back from something I feel I need in my life.
Why Do Singles Stop Going to Church?
Many unmarried people who attend church stop attending at some point while they’re single. They usually start showing up less and less frequently until, “POOF!”—they’re gone. They may go back on holidays like Easter or Christmas, but even that’s iffy.
At least that’s my what I’ve seen and experienced.
Here are some common reasons singles stop going to church:
1. They don't feel like they belong.
2. Attending church by themselves is hard for many singles.
3. It takes more motivation to get up early when you live alone.
4. Many singles have had negative experiences with church people.
5. Some unmarried people feel God is far away from them.
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.
— Matthew 18:20
1. They feel left out.
Many church functions revolve around couples and families. If we’re not married, we feel like we don’t belong.
Sure, there’s the Youth Group and then there’s the College or Young Adult class. But many of us no longer fit into those categories because we’re older. Most churches don't have a Singles class for adults beyond their twenties.
Some singles actually prefer not to be in a Singles class because it highlights their unmarried status. It’s not that they’re necessarily embarrassed about it; it’s just that they don’t want to be defined by it.
Some of us prefer to be around a diverse group of people rather than just singles.
But many churches don’t have Sunday School classes for people from all walks of life. Classes are often created based on gender, such as the “Ladies’ Bible Study” or based on family, such as the “Married Couples Class.”
I once walked into a Sunday School class for newlyweds. I was single and didn’t realize I was in the wrong place until I got quite the look from several class members. I left promptly.
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
— Psalm 84:10
2. It’s hard to enter a new church alone.
When we walk into a church by ourselves, we feel self-conscious. People don’t mean to be rude when they stare, but it only intensifies the sensation that all eyes are on us.
This is especially so for introverts like me or for people who are generally shy. We hate being the center of attention.
During the beginning of the service in one church I visited several years ago, the assistant pastor asked all visitors to stand up.
I was mortified.
I’m sure this man meant well. He likely wanted newcomers to feel recognized and welcome. But I only felt more singled out. And no, I didn’t stand up, which made some people’s heads turn towards me. Sigh.
Then I worried that I would be looked upon as a rebel.
In any event, I didn’t return to that church.
Sometimes we fear being judged in church for not being married, especially since so many church functions center around families.
I have had people in church ask me point-blank why I'm not married.
Is it really that important?
We wish people in church would just accept us for who we are.
3. It takes more motivation to get going in the morning.
When we live alone, it’s harder to get out of bed for church on Sundays.
It’s easy to say, “I’ll go next Sunday," “I’m too tired” or “I’ll watch the sermon online." After all, who is going to argue with us? Nobody.
That’s why it’s so easy for singles to cop out of their best laid out plans to attend a 9 am or even an 11 am worship service.
I have had the names and addresses of three churches jotted down on paper for almost two years, with the intent to visit them “soon." Well, I still haven’t stepped into any of them.
Obviously, it takes a little extra time to get yourself up, groomed and dressed for a Sunday morning service. It’s easier to stay in bed in your jammies!
There’s also more pressure to make a good first impression. If you’re not feeling confident or sociable, you may think you'll ruin your chance to present yourself favorably.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
— Hebrews 10:24-25
4. Many singles have had bad experiences in church.
Some unmarried people have been deeply hurt by people at church.
They've been betrayed, lied to, or even abused.
Somehow it seems more painful when Christians do you wrong than when non-believers do. I guess we have higher expectations for people we think should know better.
When this happens, many singles just disappear from church.
Other singles have had uncomfortable interactions at church.
For example, there are insecure church-goers who don’t like it when their significant other converses with an unmarried person. Christian couples aren’t exempt from the struggles many couples face.
If you are single, you may be perceived as a threat to somebody who is married..
Don’t worry—it's usually not about you.
5. Some singles feel far from God.
Perhaps they feel He let them down.
For example, they prayed for something and it didn’t materialize the way they hoped.
Maybe they’re disappointed He hasn’t provided a life partner for them. They may even wonder if they don’t deserve one because they’re not a good enough Christian or there’s something wrong with them.
Some may be angry at God for not sparing their loved one from death or a serious illness.
Or they have lost their job and are struggling financially.
Many singles turn their backs on God because they feel that in some way He has abandoned them.
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
— Colossians 3:16
Tips to Singles Who Want to Go Back to Church
- Pray and ask God to lead you to the right place of worship.
- Do some research online to help you find a church consistent with your beliefs. A good place to look is under “Doctrine” or “What We Believe” on their website.
- Visit the same church several times before deciding if it's a good match for you. If one doesn’t feel like a good fit after a few visits, try another one.
- Be patient; it takes most people months or longer to find a church home.
- If people don’t reach out to you, introduce yourself to them. Don’t always expect them to make the first move.
- Attend with a mentality of “What can I offer?” rather than “What can I get?” Ask about ways you can serve, such as helping out in the childrens' ministry.
- Be ready to encourage somebody you meet there. Perhaps your presence that day will bless someone.
- Remember that church people are just like you. Everybody has problems and struggles. Some just hide them better than others.
- Get involved in a small group, such as a Sunday School or Bible Study class. Ask about outings or activities. Sometimes there are evening classes geared towards specific topics, such as managing your finances or recovering from an addiction. These are all excellent opportunities to meet new people and to form friendships with others who share your interests.
Tips for Reaching Out to Singles at Church
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to a single person. Just introducing yourself can make a big difference.
- Invite them to join your Sunday School class or let them know about Sunday School classes available at your church. Don’t assume that just because they’re single, they’ll want to be in a class for singles.
- Invite them to sit with you in the pew. Although some singles don't mind sitting alone, many may appreciate the invitation to join you for worship. This also allows you a natural opportunity to introduce them to other church-goers you know.
- Try not to put them in a box based on their unmarried status. Keep an open mind; get to know them.
- Ask them to join your family on an excursion, to your home for a meal, or out for coffee so that you can get to know them more.
- Remember them during the holidays.
Well, now that I've written this article, I feel I have no excuse for not getting myself out the door for church this Sunday, and the next, and the one after that.
Who knows, maybe I'll even see you there!
Church (Take Me Back)—Cochren & Co.
© 2019 Madeleine Clays
Animous on May 26, 2020:
Good article but it doesn’t address the elephant in the room. Maybe singles don’t stay cause they can’t take it. It’s very hard to be full of hormones & a single Christian. Very few churches address the real issue, & singles never know how they’re supposed live & still be faithful.
RTalloni on July 15, 2019:
Thank you for writing about this important topic. Well done! You offer insight for every believer to use to check oneself and to use in reaching out to fellow believers. Gathering with other believers is a commandment with promise for our good, but sometimes it is difficult. Perhaps an incident or a season of life interrupts regular attendance, but being honest with ourselves is the first step. You've clearly worked to think through some things single people face in churches for your own benefit and for others' use. Again, thank you.