Singleness and Belonging to the Local Church
Words by Kathryn Eckhardt
When I first started attending my church several years ago, my singleness often felt like a label that ostracized me from belonging. In a congregation made up of married couples, families, and seniors, only a handful of singles (whether never married, widowed, or divorced) were part of our church. I pondered: how can I serve and honor the Lord in my church body? How do I belong here? What’s my purpose as a single woman in the church?
I knew I needed to serve in the church but struggled to see how to get involved as a new believer. I didn’t know what my gifts were and was still grasping how to live out my faith. I longed to belong, yet I felt unneeded in the church. So, I picked up my Bible and realized the truths of Scripture answered my lingering questions.
All believers are called to: love the Lord with all our hearts, minds, and souls, and to love others as ourselves (Matt. 22:37–39). We are called to make disciples (Matt. 28:18–20) and honor the Lord with our lives. Single men and women are in a unique season where they can devote themselves to the Lord with an undivided heart, unlike those who are married (1 Cor. 7:32–35). Singles can contribute to the church body with their spiritual gifts and find belonging in the church through serving.
The church can walk alongside singles by encouraging them to use their gifts to build up the church and reach those around them. The spiritual gifts in Scripture include prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, and mercy (Rom. 12:6–8) as well as wisdom, knowledge, discernment, and faith, among others (1 Cor. 12:8–10). Many singles need help discovering and identifying their spiritual gifts to serve in their churches. Most recognize the Lord has given them natural abilities and talents such as art, music, creativity, organization/planning, etc., but they struggle to identify their specific gifting and how it can benefit their church body.
Through connecting in community and mentoring/discipleship relationships, the church can guide singles in their pursuit of learning what their gifts are and cultivating them for ministry. Singles contribute to the church body with their gifts for the purpose of equipping and building up the church. As Ephesians 4:15–16 states: “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
Once singles know their gifts, the church can equip them in ministry by providing serving opportunities. Is she a teacher? Let her teach a Bible study or class. Does he have the gift of mercy? Allow him to serve in a care and crisis ministry. Does she love children and lead them well? Let her serve in children’s ministry. Is he a hospitable person? Let him open his home to host gatherings and bless others. Does she have a heart for giving? Provide her with opportunities to give generously and steward her resources for the Kingdom. Equipping singles to serve in the local church means presenting them with opportunities to use their God-given gifts for his glory and purposes. Peter reminds us: “as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace.” (1 Pet. 4:10)
Living out the truth that Paul proclaimed to the church in Corinth establishes a sense of belonging for the single person in his or her church:
“For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (1 Cor. 12:14–21)
The body of Christ has many members, and each plays a fundamental role in the body, including singles. Every member has a unique function in the body and differing gifts according to his varied grace (Rom. 12:4–6). Singles are necessary for the health of every church body.
Single men and women are vital contributors to every part of the body of Christ, just like those who are married. Marital status doesn’t hinder God’s people from accomplishing his purposes through his work in and through them. Singles are empowered by the Spirit to participate in Kingdom work. This is how they belong. Singles belong because they’ve been adopted into the family of God (Eph. 1:5) as co-heirs and beloved children (Rom. 8:16–17, Eph. 5:1).
As the Lord taught me these truths, I began to feel like I belonged in my church after all. He helped me find belonging by bringing mentors into my life who discipled me and encouraged me to serve in different ministries as I discovered my gifts. By accepting his invitation to participate in the body through serving, I realized my contribution mattered.
As singles discover and cultivate their gifts in their churches, purpose and belonging flow from connection to the body of Christ. Let’s empower singles to walk with the Lord and encourage them to serve with their gifts.