Going to church each week as a single Christian can be so weird.
Even though I’ve been in the same church for over a decade, I get it; I really do. It can be hard to walk in and sit alone, week after week, never hear a sermon illustration related to single adult life, and feel invisible when it comes to ministries and events.
In the evangelical world, the church seems to revolve around marriage and family. It makes sense given that many Christians marry young and hold traditional family values. It’s the “norm” to progress from youth group to college ministry to the young marrieds small group in perfectly linear fashion. But that’s not my story.
There are other reasons that keep us away from church on the weekends.
Work is the reason I hear most often for a lack of church attendance among single Christians. For fresh-out-of-college grads, people in certain fields like nursing, construction or customer service, or those shifting gears to pursue a new career, we’re often working on the weekend. Some of us are working two jobs just to make ends meet and pay down student loans. We also feel some pressure to hustle, investing additional time and energy, even on weekends, to build a career in a less-than-ideal job market.
Let’s face it, there’s also the fun factor. Church can seem a bit drab and boring compared to what we could be doing. Spring and summer weather beckons us outdoors for weekend camping, hiking and other activities. There is no lack of fun things to do in our free time. Why would we want to be indoors when the sun is shining and we finally get to shed our winter coats for shorts? Without the built-in accountability of a spouse or family, it’s easy to choose our hobbies over church.
Sometimes, going to church just seems irrelevant. After all, we listen to sermons via podcasts and can live-stream a church service from the convenience of our apartments in our pajamas. Personally, I enjoy having access to so many Christian resources at the swipe of my finger on my iPhone, and I take advantage of it. I also meet in Christian community on Wednesday nights for small group Bible study. That’s good enough, right?
So, why church?
First off, we need healthy interactions with faithful believers outside of our age and stage. I didn’t get this in my early 20s, but now I value it deeply. Recently, I prayed for my elderly friend Betty’s hospitalization and recovery, and I cherish the fact that she prays — totally unprompted, by the way — for my dating life and future marriage.
A few years ago, my church’s teenagers were matched one-on-one with a member of our senior adult Sunday school class. Meaningful relationships developed as these seniors cheered the teens on throughout all of the ups and downs of high school. My middle-aged church friends model or teach me things, both practical and spiritual, that I wouldn’t know otherwise, and guess what. I do the same for them. A healthy church is multigenerational and composed of a vast array of life stages, backgrounds, experiences and gifts, where members invest in and care for one another, despite our many differences.
Speaking of gifts, a second reason why belonging to a church matters is because your church needs you. Without every single member exercising their gifts and working together in harmony, something is missing and “off.” It’s one of those mysteries of the Christian faith. We needs eyes and ears, hands and feet, and all the other parts (1 Cor. 12:12-18). Your presence and service is valuable and vital. There are tasks of eternal importance that can only be accomplished with your unique mix of personality, gifts, and talents. I promise you will actually look forward to serving once you find the sweet spot where your gifts and interests collide.
Last, but not least, we have Scripture guiding us to “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy” (Ex. 20:8) and the New Testament call to “not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” (Heb. 10:25). Like it or not, for followers of Christ, church is a part of the deal. Until Christ returns, we are living in the church age. It’s His plan for us, and it contributes to our flourishing. God gives only good gifts, and the church is one of them.
Church can be hard, but it can also be really beautiful.
I’m grateful for the relationships I’ve developed over the years with people I wouldn’t know otherwise. I’m glad that I have an arena to utilize my gifts for the kingdom of God under the authority of my spiritual leaders. There are blessings for remaining faithful to follow God’s plan and will for church. I want all of this for you, too.
If you aren’t currently involved in your church for whatever reason, start taking some initial steps forward. Pray for direction and guidance. Invite a friend to attend with you. Show up to church with eyes open to see opportunities and a spirit willing to set aside preferences and invest, even when it may be painful to your single girl (or guy) heart. Make an appointment with your pastor, share your story, and ask questions.
Let’s plug in and plant roots in a local body of believers and choose church…even if we work some weekends, hike on sunny Saturdays and listen to our favorite preachers via podcast.
Have you found it difficult to find a place to belong and “fit” at church? What have you done to help the situation? Do you see the benefits of church? What do you love about your church?
Copyright 2017 Lindsay Blackburn. All rights reserved.