On a recent walk around my neighborhood, I listened to a sermon on spiritual warfare from Dr. Eric Mason.[i] While discussing why Christians should put on the belt of truth mentioned in Ephesians 6, Dr. Mason dropped a sentence that struck me so forcefully, I almost started shouting right there in the street.
He’d been listing lies people swallow and how these lies affect their perception of God. My ears perked up as he mentioned a lie that I, as a single woman, have been subjected to more than once: that Christian marriage is a sign of spiritual maturity and that I, as a long-term single, must be somehow spiritually deficient.
Dr. Mason thundered, “We need to stop telling women the reason they’re not married is because of that. No! There’s more women than men! That’s why.”[ii]
Though men outnumber women worldwide by just a slight margin, the numbers skew differently within church walls.[iii] A significant gender gap exists in religious practice, both stateside and around the world.
In factors like religious affiliation, frequency of worship service attendance, prayer, and statements regarding the importance of religion in daily life, data demonstrate that global religious life is statistically dominated by women.[iv]
This is particularly evidenced in church attendance: “Out of 81 countries where Pew Research Center surveys have asked about worship service attendance, women report greater levels of weekly attendance in 30 countries, most of which have Christian majorities or large Christian populations.”[v]
What This Means
Statistically, there are more women in Christian churches than men. If never-married single women like me desire marriage but plan to hold out for a husband of like faith, some of us will never get married. Those are just mathematical facts. I’m not single because I’m too fussy, too flawed, or somehow fundamentally unmarriageable. I haven’t remained unmarried in order to pursue a selfish life of idle pleasure. There just aren’t enough Christian men to go around.
I’m part of a surplus. It’s that simple. At least on the surface. But let’s take a deeper look.
If we believe God is sovereign in all things, then we know single women aren’t filling our churches by accident. We’re there because God wants us there.
God wants single women.
He wants us filling the pews and flowing from them, both for our sake and for the sake of the global church.
Why It Matters
All around the world, single women are flourishing in faith. They’re glorying in worship, living the gospel, serving in their giftedness, and loving their neighbors.
They’re definitely on the mission field. Of every ten Christian singles sent, eight are women.[vi] Many of these women are instrumental in Biblical translation work. According to the chief of operations officer at Wycliffe Bible Translators, “If it hadn’t been for single women over the 70-year history of Wycliffe, half of the translations wouldn’t have been completed.”[vii]
At my current home church, single women are teaching classes, providing counseling and mentorship, taking care of widows and widowers, cooking meals for families in crisis, serving on support staff, mowing lawns, cleaning buildings, engaging in intensive prayer ministry, changing diapers in the nursery, and running kids’ programs. If it weren’t for our single women, the church workload would need to be redistributed.
At your church, single women might not be serving to a full extent. The reasons could be manifold. Have they internalized Satan’s lies concerning their worth, value, and identity? Have they fallen victim to the notion that Christian marriage is a sign of spiritual maturity? Are they waiting for marriage before fully integrating into church life? Or have versions of these lies subtly influenced church bodies and leadership, influencing how they engage with singles?
If you see a lack of deep engagement from singles in your church, the time has come to ask if they are being shepherded, encouraged, spiritually challenged, and used in the areas of their giftedness to the best of your church’s ability.[viii]
I adore my church family and love serving my siblings in Christ with my particular gifts. What I don’t love is when people make comments or ask questions hinting that my singleness is a problem that we (read: they) must solve; namely, that if we can just figure out the “reason” why I’m single, we can at long last fix whatever’s wrong with me and get me on the right path (read: married). What if my singleness isn’t a problem? What if it’s something else entirely?
Thank God for Single Women
Instead of trying to “fix” single women, let’s thank God for them. Thank God that he’s saving single women, sanctifying them, and placing them in the Body as co-laborers. Everyone benefits from the presence of single women in the church. Both women and men, married or not, pastors, church leaders, and rank-and-file members—we’re all on the receiving end of work done by single Christian women. Our local congregations are better and the global church stronger because God equips single women for service.
If you recognize contributions single women are making in your community, tell them so. Let them know they’re not just loved and wanted by God—they’re loved and wanted by you, too. That they’re seen, known, valued, and appreciated.
I’m not sure what I think of the “gift” of singleness, but I do know this.
Single women are a gift to the church.
[i] Eric Mason, Weapon #1 Fighting the Lies of the Enemy; How to Restore Truth at the Core of Your Life preached at Epiphany Fellowship, February 17th, 2019. Accessed July 8th, 2019. http://podcast.epiphanyfellowship.org/spiritual-warefare-weapon-1-fighting-the-lies-of-the-enemy-how-to-restore-truth-at-the-core-of-your-life-dr-eric-mason
[iii] UN, World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision. New York: United Nations. Accessed July 8th, 2019. https://www.ined.fr/en/everything_about_population/demographic-facts-sheets/faq/more-men-or-women-in-the-world/
[iv] Pew Research March 22, 2019. Accessed July 8th, 2019. https://www.pewforum.org/2016/03/22/the-gender-gap-in-religion-around-the-world/
[vi] Lyndsey Koh, New Statistics on Single Men in Missions, August 16, 2013. Accessed July 8th, 2019. https://www.mnnonline.org/news/new-statistics-on-single-men-in-missions/
[vii] Kate Shellnut, How Single Women Become an Unstoppable Force in Bible Translation: Female missionaries have propelled the movement to bring Scripture to every tribe and tongue. April 12, 2017. Accessed July 8th, 2019. https://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2017/april/how-single-women-became-unstoppable-force-in-bible-translat.html
Ruth Buchanan is a Christian freelance writer who holds degrees in ministry and theology. She’s the author of The Proper Care and Feeding of Singles: How Pastors, Marrieds, and Church Leaders Effectively Support Solo Members. She also writes fiction, plays, and sacred scripts. She’s an eager reader, an enthusiastic traveler, and the world’s most reluctant runner. Ruth loves Jesus, family, church, friends, and coffee. She lives and works in South Florida. At the time of this writing, she is still single.