A few weeks ago I posted an article by Dr. Andrew Davis, the senior pastor of FBC Durham in North Carolina, about the role and acceptability of single elders and pastors. This week I wanted to briefly explore another aspect of singles in the church, and that is in the area of integration and greeting. This past week for the first time in 18 months I had a Sunday with no responsibilities, so I took the opportunity to venture out to another part of our community to see what the Lord was doing and to worship with the Family of God there. First I will tell you it was an amazing blessing to be around brothers and sisters in Christ singing praise to Him and hearing the word of God boldly preached, It is always an encouragement to see the truth at work. Yet at the same time before and after the service I was reminded how much our churches (mine included) at times struggle with integrating and greeting singles. Now I’m not bashing this one church, they really were fantastic, and the Lord is definitely using them to reach the community, simply pointing to an experience that many singles usually face on a Sunday morning if they approach a place they have never attended and don’t know anyone there.
This opens up the questions to us, when we see scriptures call to hospitality especially from a pastoral end, how do we apply it to singles who walk in the door, who have no association with anyone in the church. For those who are married or who have been in the church so long we can forgot (like myself) there are a few things we need to remember. First, singles who come alone to church don’t have another voice to speak to throughout their time with us (at least I guess we have phones now if we feel really self conscious), unless we speak to them. We as a church need to be more mindful when we see people alone entering our congregations on Sunday mornings to be more approachable, more welcoming, seeking to engage and be involved, in an ever growing isolated society the church should be the least isolating place, but sometimes our family mentality gets in the way of our hospitality responsibility. We know that it is through our hospitality and the work of Chris that we became a family in the first place.
Second, we need to remember the fact that singleness, especially among millennials is the new normal not the anomaly anymore. Thus many of our plans to minister to millennials isn’t so much family ministry oriented (though still very important) but a more comprehensive approach that includes multiple life stages doing life together. When the church has a heart for every life stage and seeks to include and engage each group equally we see people differently. Churches that continually segregates their people in to life stages will quickly see their churches become disconnected to a growing group of millennials who are single, yet have married friends at work and in other areas of life that don’t treat them like outsiders. This has become a key aspect in many younger evangelical churches (including the one I visited this past week). We are more than ages and martial relationships, we are people journeying with God together, and these different parts of life can help and be an encouragement to others not a hindrance.
This is a rather shorts post, but as I said it is based primarily on my own reflection of churches since I left my home church and went to seminary some nine years ago to now serving as an interim pastor. My own church is now working through these very issues, many churches are beginning to think long and hard about how do we minister to shifting generations and what is their future role in the church as a whole. Singles have been used from generation to generation in the life of the church along with married couples to fuel the mission and ministry of God to all people. So when a single guy or gal walks in our churches let us be just as intentional about engaging them (not just automatically assume they must know someone here) as we are with anyone else who walks through our doors.