Engaging Singles in the Body of Christ

JENILYN SWETT|GUEST

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another (Rom. 12:4–5).

Paul’s use of body imagery to describe the church is both helpful and – at times – humorous. In 1 Corinthians, he wonders about what would happen if the whole body were an eye. Have you ever stopped to picture that? Or to picture a foot saying “That hand is so elegant and functional. Lil’ ol’ me isn’t needed here”? His point is made clearly: we need every part of the body to show up and function well (1 Cor. 12:14-19).

As a single woman on the verge of 40, there can be times when the church body starts to feel like one giant eye made up of families with kids. And much like that foot, I have many single friends who struggle to feel like there is a place, a desire, a need for them to be part of the church body. Yet Paul tells us that in Christ, we are all, in fact, “members of one another.” When we take membership vows in the church, we make promises to help one another grow and pursue faithfulness. This is a commitment we make regardless of marital status, stage of life, vocational pursuits, or any other aspect of difference or commonality we may have.

So how can the hand and the foot, the ear and the eye, the lungs and the kneecap, grow in relationship and more fully enjoy being part of the body together? This certainly comes through worshiping, studying God’s Word, and serving together within your church community. But let me share a few other ways that members of my church body have helped to assure me of my belonging to the body and to affirm our interdependence on one another:[1]

Four Practical Ways to Engage Singles in the Body of Christ

Seek to include and befriend.

In the midst of all of our busy lives, it can be easy to overlook those whose lives and routines are unlike our own. But consider how you can include single people even in the midst of what your life already entails. Invite someone to join you in the pew or for lunch after church. I’ve loved being included in chaotic weeknight dinners, family birthday celebrations and movie nights, and joining in the cheering section at a kiddo’s soccer game. If it crosses your mind to extend an invitation, don’t talk yourself out of it – do it! Pursuit and companionship are great gifts in what can be a solitary season.

Don’t assume – ask!

As you build relationships with single people, ask good questions – both about their story, their vocation, what they’re passionate about, and about their experience of singleness. The blessings and challenges of singleness are not the same for each one of us. Avoid assumptions. I have felt so loved when trusted friends have asked questions like, “Are you wanting to be married?” “What are your opinions on online dating?” “Are you open to being set up?” or simply, “How is singleness going for you these days?” As you build relationships, ask questions like these and listen well to the answers.[2]

Make space for lament.

As relationships continue to grow, strive to create safe space for open conversation about the things that are hard and painful about this season of life. Talk about heartbreak and loneliness and the things we don’t understand, and bring these things before the Lord together. Most importantly, let this be a two-way street! In the context of a trusted relationship, it is right and good to acknowledge the commonality we find in our longings and in the pain of things that are not the way they’re supposed to be. I’ve particularly connected with married couples who struggle with infertility, as we share a desire for a good thing that is not guaranteed to us.

Consider our practical needs.

I tend to be most keenly aware of my singleness when I’m having issues with my car, searching for an airport ride, or feeling miserably sick. There are plenty of practical needs that come with being single. Many of us live alone, which means we’re the only ones who ever take the trash out, we take care of (or let slide) our own “Honey Do” list, and we’re the ones cooking and washing the dishes. Beyond that, we’re often on our own for making decisions both large and small. The members of my church body have stepped up in big moments like moving and surgeries, but also in ordinary moments – texting me when there’s extra food to share, offering to pick something up from Costco, and staying up late to make sure I had a ride home when my flight was delayed.

Intentional efforts like these have strengthened my sense of belonging and participation in the body of Christ. I hope these suggestions might inspire you to consider how you might connect with and care for other members of your church body. As Christ works in and through us, may we continue to see the body “build itself up in love” (Eph. 5:15-16).

[1] While this list is particularly focused on caring well for single people, these same suggestions apply to anyone whose life experience might be different from yours. Consider men and women who are divorced or widowed, single parents, married couples in which only one spouse is a Christian, families of kids with special needs, individuals who are much younger or much older than the average congregant in their church, folks who struggle with particular sins or deal with ongoing addictions, even those who are just new to town. Or perhaps for you the “other” is a family with young kids.

[2] My new book, Singleness: Living Faithfully (P&R Publishing, 2021) would be a great tool to help prompt conversation. Consider inviting someone in a different life stage to read and talk through it together with you.

About the Author:

Jenilyn Swett

Jenilyn Swett is the author of the recently released devotional Singleness: Living FaithfullyShe received her MDiv from Covenant Theological Seminary and serves as the Director of Adult Ministries at Restoration Community Church (PCA) in St. Louis. She enjoys practicing creative hospitality, exploring local restaurants, baking, and dreaming of the beach.

FacebooktwitterpinterestFacebooktwitterpinterest