Making the Church a Safe Place for Singles

An interview with a single man

Editor’s note: This EMCer chose to respond to the interview questions anonymously.

Q: To start with, can you share a bit about your experience as a single person in the church? As a man, do you perceive that your experience is different than a woman’s?

A: I’ve had a very positive experience as a single person in church. I attend a church with a fairly small congregation. While there are only a handful of single people within the congregation, I’ve never felt anything but welcomed and loved. I do not feel my experience is different from a woman’s if I’m looking at the subject in broad strokes. We each have our own set of challenges, pressures and perceptions to navigate through.

Q: It seems easier to find articles online written from a single woman’s perspective than a single man’s; is it your sense that it’s more difficult for men to speak about being single? If so, why?

A: You’re right, it does seem easier. I think in society, especially in traditional societies where men are expected to be the breadwinners, the “tough” ones, the silent ones when it comes to our feelings—these age-old stereotypes—these expectations make it difficult for a man to express how he’s feeling mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I think all three of these things are affected when we can’t or won’t express our feelings.

Q: What’s your idea of a safe and welcoming space for single people? Does church fit that description? If not, where is it that you feel most welcome as a single person and how could churches become more like that place?

A: A safe place would be a space without judgement, a space that emulates the unconditional love of Jesus. I feel I attend a church that does this. All churches should fit this description. But some churches are simply easier for a single person to feel at home and safe at. I think simply practicing the words of Jesus to “love your neighbour” can go a long way in making all churches feel like a safe space.

Q: As someone who has been single for several years, how have you seen views on singleness shift within the church and wider culture? Have your own views changed over time? If so, how?

A: I can only speak to my own experiences, but it seems to me that there is more acceptance within the church community and society as a whole, especially when you look outside of your current geographical bubble. As a single person, I enjoy travelling, shopping, eating out, going to a movie and going to church. It took some getting used to but I feel it’s easier than ever to live the life you choose to live, or dream of living one day.

Q: What is a challenge about being single that surprises you?

A: At first it was being the “fifth wheel.” The vast majority of my friends and family are married. There were times in the past when I overthought my “singleness” when I’m sure others didn’t. But it’s human nature; being the only single one in a group of couples. That’s something that no longer bothers me. Something I still struggle with is there’s no one with me to keep me accountable. Having a loved one with you to help keep you strong in the midst of temptation, or when you’ve had a rough day would be nice.

Q: How do you feel being single may have been an advantage in your life?

A: I suppose I’m mostly just responsible to myself and no one else. I can travel where I want, eat what I want, watch what I want. I don’t need a big house; my costs are low—there are definitely some perks.

Q: The incel movement seems mainly dominated by single men; what do you think is appealing about that movement for, at least, a certain segment of single men? How should the church be responding to this movement?

A: I have actually never heard this term before or heard about this movement. A quick Wikipedia search fixed that. This is a dangerous movement at first glance. Whether it’s loneliness or rejection that drew men to this line of thinking, it manifests itself into a hatred of women. This can spiral into dangerous behaviour and actions. Again, I don’t know a lot about this subject matter but if it’s growing and gaining in popularity, it clearly needs to be addressed.

Q: Views on celibacy have changed within the broader culture and even, to some extent, within the church. For example, it is not uncommon for couples to cohabit before marriage. Do you think the church’s traditional stance on celibacy outside of marriage is unrealistic? If not, where then do you think the breakdown is happening between teaching and practice?

A: I don’t think the church’s stance on celibacy outside of marriage is unrealistic at all. Having said that, temptation is a constant. And one of the downsides of being single is you get to spend a lot of time with your thoughts—way too much time.

I think the breakdown between teaching and practice has to do with what and whom we choose to surround ourselves with when we aren’t being taught. It’s harder than ever to withstand temptation. That’s why the word of God and the teachings of Jesus are so important in this regard. When made a daily part of our life, a pre-marital celibate life can be so rewarding.

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