How to Help Single People Fall in Love With the Bible

Cultivating meaningful relationships in your church

There’s a clear tilt in the data. According to The State of the Bible, those who are skeptical about the Bible tend to be single (64%), with similar findings for those who are hostile to the Bible (62% single). This might reflect a generational imbalance—many singles are millennials, who as a group are far more skeptical and hostile toward Scripture. But there might be another factor at play here.

The lingering perception that churches are for families.

Allow me to add the appropriate disclaimers. Some churches do a great job welcoming and involving the unattached—the divorced, widowed, or never-married—but many don’t. Dr. Kristen Guillory, a counselor and author in Dallas who leads a church singles group, says, “At church, many of us encounter a bias in favor of marriage. Married people are treated like the varsity squad, while singles are JV.”

So it should be no surprise when single people assume the Bible shares that bias. Why should they read Scripture if it just confirms their seemingly second-class status? But in fact the opposite is true. The Bible is full of teaching that affirms, empowers, and encourages single people.

What can you do to help single people find their true value in the Bible?

Preach wholeness in Christ

If you watch “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette,” you get the picture. Romance becomes a competition. If you’re not chosen for a relationship, you’re a loser. That dynamic often invades the church, where marriage becomes the grand prize. As Guillory, who is single herself, says, “We always hear questions like ‘Why are you still single?’ and ‘When are you getting married?’ These questions tend to make some singles believe something is wrong with us.”

But the Bible teaches a very different message. “In Christ you have been brought to fullness” (Colossians 2:10a). For anyone to suggest that an unmarried person misses out on the fullness of life flies in the face of this and many other Bible teachings (John 10:10; Psalm 16:11). It is Jesus who makes us whole, not a romantic relationship.

Teach the full account of marriage and singleness

Lately I’ve been hearing a theology of marriage spelled out in detail. It begins in the Bible’s first chapter (image of God) and ends in its last (wedding feast of the Lamb). Ephesians 5 connects marriage with the eternal relationship between Christ and the church. All of this might lead some Christians to think that unmarried people are excluded from God’s cosmic plan—or at least not in the center of it.

But the full sweep of Scripture is more complicated regarding marriage. Opponents of Jesus once asked him a crazy hypothetical question about a woman who was widowed seven times. Which of the seven men would be her husband in the hereafter? Jesus replied, “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). It’s a difficult response with various interpretations, but at the very least, this should give us pause before we exalt marriage as the normative human state through all eternity.

I’m not suggesting we should skip over Bible passages that exalt marriage, but rather, we must stop ignoring those that prize singleness. The apostle Paul dealt explicitly with the marriage vs. singleness comparison in 1 Corinthians 7. While both are valid options for the believer, Paul said, staying single is a better choice if you can do it. “An unmarried man concerns himself with the Lord's work, because he is trying to please the Lord. But a married man concerns himself with worldly matters, because he wants to please his wife; and so he is pulled in two directions. An unmarried woman or a virgin concerns herself with the Lord’s work, because she wants to be dedicated both in body and spirit; but a married woman concerns herself with worldly matters, because she wants to please her husband” (1 Corinthians 7:32b-34).

Have you ever looked for good examples of marriage in the Bible? They’re rare. Yet we find numerous examples of single people (or those with unmentioned spouses), serving the Lord effectively: Elijah, Daniel, Mary and Martha, Paul, and of course Jesus. That doesn’t mean marriage is bad, but it might underscore Paul’s point that unmarried people can focus more on the Lord’s work.

Gather singles in authentic community

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says, “Two are better off than one, because together they can work more effectively. If one of them falls down, the other can help him up. But if someone is alone and falls, it's just too bad, because there is no one to help him.” 

There is obviously a certain level of solitude in singleness, and some of that can be very healthy. But as the preacher of Ecclesiastes reminds us, it helps to have friends.

Single people often “fall down” in two ways. One is to sink into solitude and get trapped there. Being alone can breed cynicism. It’s just easier to be by yourself sometimes, especially when the rest of the world doesn’t get you. The other pitfall is to be over-focused on romantic attachments. Dr. Guillory says, “I know many who have been so busy focusing on finding that ‘special someone’ that they forgot about their friends.”

Church leaders can help by providing opportunities and regular invitations for single people to make supportive connections. This will often be a “singles group,” but it might also be a task force, a moviegoing club, or a prayer team. Avoid the all-too-common characterization of singles groups as dating clubs. Romances may blossom, but the friendships formed are usually even more valuable, as well as the opportunities to contribute their unique gifts and personalities.

And consider ways in which a singles group might become a kind of laboratory for living out the Bible. Single people might have more flexibility of schedule, more fluidity of commitments, or a more adventurous spirit than others in the church. They might be able to experiment with prayer and fasting, with a ten-hour Bible improv binge, or with a pop-up ministry project in ways that married people cannot.

The single people in your church might lead the way in discipleship, if you let them. 

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Randy Petersen
Randy Petersen

Randy Petersen is Director of Scripture Engagement Content for American Bible Society. Writer of more than sixty books and hundreds of church curriculum lessons, he has also served churches as a Bible teacher, small-groups coordinator, drama director, preaching consultant and softball pitcher.

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