In case you are not aware, singles and married couples without children can encounter marginalization in the church. Some of it is indirect and probably unintentional, but unfortunately some is direct and intentional. I’ve blogged on this before: “Be content because it is only temporary? But what if it is not temporary? The idol of marriage and children in the church.” – The end of that post features links to articles written by others. This is a very real problem. While most of the articles focus on singleness, the married without children face similar marginalization.
I heard influential pastors in my area state that people not married by a certain age were guilty of “sinful independence” and married couples without children were “fearful and selfish.” Yes, singles and married couples without kids encounter this unfair assumption and accusation. Another blogger recently had a 15-part series on singleness in the church. In one post, she makes the valid point that: “There are selfish, immature married people. There are selfish, immature single people. But just because someone is single does not automatically mean they are selfish and immature.” – It is sadly revealing that such an obvious point must be made!
But the purpose of this post is to offer practical ideas on how to help singles and married couples without kids feel more a part of things. It is a given that you should not pester them about why they are single or don’t have kids. It is a given that you should not make false assumptions. Singles and married without kids are a varied bunch. Let them be. Value them for who they are. Okay? Got that? Here are some practical ideas.
- It is my experience that singles and married without kids are more likely to slip through the cracks of a church. They may not quite “fit” in any of the classes, particularly in churches that divide people by so-called life stage. And if you are married with kids, you may have never considered the fact that you often integrate in church (and society) through your kids. You meet other adults at the venues in which your children are participatory. Singles and married without kids lack this avenue. So…reach out to them. If they are new at church, introduce them to other church members, especially those you think they might connect with due to similar interests. Invite them to lunch or dinner, particularly if it is adult-only. It is not that singles or married without kids don’t like kids (some love kids), but certain kids or kids of a certain age can dominate a gathering and leave little room for adult conversation.
- The above points apply to other communities too – like the neighborhood. The subdivision we live in has a voluntary neighborhood society (like a HOA but not a HOA), which is a good thing, in and of itself, designed to cultivate community. However, it is very kid-centric. Any organized event is about the kids in the neighborhood. We attended one event and ended up sitting by another couple with grown kids, and they made the observation to us that the events are like an exclusive clique for those with kids, and anyone else was like an intruding outsider. Why not an occasional gathering for adults only? Say a wine and cheese social, or a dessert social.
- Honor and acknowledge the special accomplishments or milestones of singles and married without kids – such as a landmark birthday, obtaining an advanced degree, or a job promotion. Yes, these things can be totally ignored or just overlooked by the married with children. It is what many of us have experienced. Somehow celebrations are deemed to be about kids, and only about kids. I am part of an online group for Christians without children, and recently members shared similar instances of being alone on a landmark birthday or at their graduation. They felt forgotten and unsung. Some were especially frustrated because they had gone out of their way to attend special events for their friends children. Singles and married without kids can be made to feel like they do not matter.
If you are single or married without kids – and have other practical ideas – please share them. I’ll close with an example that touched me. A friend of ours, a bachelor, finally got his own new house after years of renting. Some friends organized a house-warming party for him, in the same way a baby or wedding shower would be done. It turned out well, and it was nice to see him honored in this way. I think it so touched me because I have rarely observed this type of thing. As always, thanks for listening.