I married late in life—at least later than my circle of close friends. Over the years, as I witnessed most of my friends’ relationships blossom and lead to marriage, I saw several become parents before I was in a stable relationship at the age of thirty-three.
My calendar often included weddings to attend, and I frequently had no one to go with. I didn’t mind not having a “plus one” to bring, but I worried that I was running out of weddings to attend before I was the last single woman standing with no wedding invitation to send out. I remember it well: being single is not easy.
Your single years can be an exciting season, a time and place you’re expected to navigate. But it can also feel uncertain: the butterflies in one’s stomach, the longing for relationship, watching others meet and fall in love, while trying not to fall flat on your face walking the fuzzy line between youth and adulthood. The excitement and uncertainty may often transition to difficulty and loneliness.
As life’s demands shift and our age moves forward with the shift, being single can feel out-of-season. Well-meaning loved ones eagerly ask us, when will the wedding planning happen? When will the boyfriend propose? Or worse yet, why isn’t there a boyfriend?
Whether it’s the “right” season for it or not, singleness can be hard. How can we, the Church, help? I’ve woven ideas from several single friends into this piece and my hope and prayer is to encourage you, my sisters in Christ, to connect more deeply with single women in your churches and to love them well.
The single woman doesn’t need to be singled-out for not being in a relationship. Of course, we don’t always do this on purpose, but it does happen and when it does, it may make her feel isolated.
Without meaning to, we often make marriage to be the whole picture, leading to the conclusion – even if we don’t say so explicitly – that singleness is a season of lack during which the person is not whole yet. Chances are the world around her and her own thoughts already lead her in this thought process.
Your single sister needs to be shown Christ. We can be the hands and feet of Jesus to her by helping her feel seen and heard. One thoughtful way to do this in a teaching environment, such as women’s Bible study, is to use examples from all walks of life, not just marriage, when supplementing lessons with illustrations. Not all of us are married and certainly none of us came into this world married.
Marriage is a wonderful blessing, and a gift from our Creator. But it’s not the biggest or most important gift. Jesus himself is the most precious gift, and our chief end in this life is to know Him. The body of Christ is composed of every fathomable accent, skin color, and culture. As an immigrant who married later in life and has no children at forty-six, I can personally testify to this. The kingdom that God is building is a tapestry as vast as it is rich in variety. Single women add their own thread of color and beauty, whether they’re single for a short time, remain single through their adulthood, become single parents, or are widowed and don’t remarry.
We can help single women have a biblical view of singleness by making sure we ourselves have one. In God’s word, we find that neither singleness nor marriage have an elevated status above the other. Both have a high calling to obedience with our bodies and our lives. How our life is lived out is what marks the difference.
In other words, what we do with our marriage or singleness, how we choose to invest our lives and make it an offering unto the Lord – that is what is elevated in Scripture. This is the heart of the matter, not a ring on your finger.
Welcome them to serve…
Another helpful way to see and hear single women is to welcome them among the members who serve to support the church’s vision and ministries. This is a powerful way to show godly examples of single women being as much a vibrant part of the community as other married members.
God promised to supply his Church with every gift to grow, and therefore there will be women apt for the task of ministering to the Body of Christ. If you’re a leader in your church, pray for the Spirit to help you identify single women who are mature in the faith, and who can help support the vision God has entrusted to your pastors and elders.
Be intentional and honest…
Many single women deeply desire a meaningful relationship that will lead to marriage and children. The church can help them face those longings and navigate the pain and awkwardness that often accompanies these desires.
A generous way to do this is to show and tell intentionally how Jesus is active in our own lives. I remember around the age of 21, chatting with my mentor -at the time in her 40’s- about my latest heartbreak and the burdensome loneliness I felt. She was someone who, I thought, had everything worth wanting – a godly husband, a vibrant ministry, and kids.
From the very beginning of our friendship, she had shared very openly about her single life prior to meeting Jesus and later meeting her husband. On this particular occasion, after patiently listening to me, she gently explained that marriage, for all its blessings, was still a relationship between two sinners. It was exchanging one set of challenges for another.
Her words helped me stop idealizing a romantic relationship and marriage as the better life to hope for, or the better goal to have. I knew her and her husband well enough to know theirs was a happy, healthy marriage. Not perfect, but grace-filled and joyful. Their marriage stood out to my single friends and I, and this is why her words were so important to me.
No one had ever painted marriage in such a truthful light, and it demystified it for me. I no longer saw marriage as an apex of fulfillment and happiness, nor a dreadful confinement as the world sometimes depicted. No, it was something to navigate while still needing the grace of God daily.
When we share our lives openly, we level the field in a manner consistent with how the Lord sees us. When he sees us, he does not simply see a college graduate or a dropout, a doctor or a waiter, a married woman or a single one. When He sees us, he sees his beloved creation, redeemed by his Son.
A great way to minister to single women is to intentionally share our lives -both the pretty parts and the messy parts. My mentor will never know how deeply she and her family impacted me. Her years of listening and sharing her struggles as a wife and mother, when both were far from my season in life, made an eternal difference in my life.
My mentor’s generous investment gave me insight into the reality of marriage, but more importantly, she had a profound impact on my faith by sharing with me God’s all-covering grace. She helped me know God more deeply and His love that abounds. By sharing her life, I got a glimpse of His redemptive work in a household that was different from mine.
Be an initiator…
We have the opportunity to develop safe fellowship within the Church for single women. If you are married, extend an invitation to your single sisters, to be an encouragement and source of friendship and fellowship. You don’t need a building or a lot of money to be mindful and intentional.
Let’s invest in one another. As people of Christ’s Church, we are called to be a people of generous ears and open hearts who see ourselves and others as God sees us. We are all in need of Him.
Relationships happen one moment, one small step, and one conversation at a time. My mentor was very intentional with me and a handful of my friends. She didn’t invest in all the women of our church. She chose to invest in the ones God put in front of her.
The gift we offer…
We serve a crucified Savior who never married and was never in a romantic relationship. Yet he lived a full life of obedience, to the point of death, so that others may have what he had: fellowship with the Father.
This is the Jesus we are all called to serve, follow, and share. The single woman needs him as much as the married one. And both need him more than they need a boyfriend, a husband, a wedding, or a child.
Those blessings are like any other blessing—an invitation to need him, rely on his grace, and to enjoy and steward the gift. The single woman needs us, the Church, to help her walk through life as the Lord unfolds his plan for her. Our words and actions can serve to build this truth in her heart or drive it away.
The loveliest, most life-giving gift we can offer single women is showing her that Christ—not a ring—is the One who makes her whole.
Paola Barrera was educated between various cultures and languages and holds a Masters in Integrated Marketing Communications, and a B.A. in International Studies. Fluent in 4 languages by age 16, she’s lived in 5 countries, is a third-culture kid and also an immigrant. After 15 years of corporate experience in marketing, one day Paola decided to quit her job, walking away from a whole way of viewing life and herself, and began to redefine how to best invest her talents and skills. Writing, mentoring young women, and public speaking are part of that investment. When she is not doing that, she can be found doing laundry, wrestling words down on paper, or going for a run. She believes the best life is lived intentionally in the intersection between the everyday and eternal perspective. Paola and her husband Gustavo live in Montreal, Canada and you can connect with her on her blog Words Out Loud, on Twitter, and Instagram.