The Single Adult Ministry Survey was conducted for SDMI by the Research Center in the winter of 2009-2010. Single adults were defined as those at least 30 years of age and currently without a spouse.
A random sample of 800 churches was invited by e-mail to participate in the study. The survey used an online web form to be completed by someone in the church with knowledge of the single adults in that church. By March 1, 2010, responses had been received from 141 (18%).Observations:
1) Churches of all sizes have single adults. The number of single adults increases as church size increases, and so does the mixture of those never married, divorced, and widowed. Smaller churches are less likely to have never-married singles or widows/widowers. Single adults who are divorced are present in churches of all sizes.
2) Only one-third of congregations responding to the survey agreed to the statement, “Our church effectively disciples single adults.” Churches under 50 in attendance were much more likely to agree with the statement (62%). Churches with 250 or more in attendance were much more likely to disagree with the statement (68%). However, large majorities of churches in all sizes agree that, “Our church’s ministry to single adults needs improvement (86% overall).
3) Only 20% of churches responding to the survey agreed to the statement, “Our church has a ministry plan for ministry to single adults.” Churches with 250 or more were slightly more likely to agree with this statement (31%). Developing a ministry plan may be difficult because of the diversity in which single adults find themselves (divorced vs. never married vs. widowed vs. parent vs. young vs. old).
4) Sixty-three percent of churches responding to the survey said, “Our church does not offer specific programs or ministries for single adults.” Seventy to eighty percent of churches with less than 100 in attendance do not offer specific programs or ministries for single adults. However, only 23% of churches with 250 or more did not offer any specific programs or ministries. Grief Recovery programs are offered by42% of large churches; 23% offer a Divorce Recovery program; and 39% of large churches offer Sunday School or small groups specifically for single adults.
5) Although most churches do not offer specific programs or ministries for single adults, large majorities of churches in all sizes agree that, “Single adults and married adults mix well in our church.” Majorities of churches in all size categories report having single adults serving on the church board.Suggestions for Churches:
1. Become single adult sensitive. Listen to announcements, lessons, sermons, etc. with the perspective of the single adult in mind. In your presentations, written or oral, does “man” equal “husband” or “woman” mean “wife”? In other words will single adults feel included?
2. Recognize singleness as a viable lifestyle. It is possible to affirm single adults and their singleness without undermining family ministries. Some single adults are unmarried due to Christian dating standards. Others have experienced the death of a spouse. Some are single as the result of the decisions of others.
3. Realize single adults are part of the population. As baby-boomers continue to age and some experience the death of a spouse, there will be more single senior adults.
4. Build a relationship with a single adult. Do you know what his or her goals, hopes, and dreams are? Walking with a person provides valuable insights into the issues and challenges he or she faces.
5. Realize that some single adults had reached a place of contentment with their singleness. This does not mean they have closed the doors to future relationships. Rather, it means they have learned to be content at this stage of life.
6. Be aware of events that create stress. These events will vary with each single adult. However, here are some trigger-events:
• Loss or threatened loss of employment
• Parenting challenges—parenting was designed as a two-person responsibility. Single-parents may need assistance in providing role models and mentors for their children.
• Death of a parent. This is especially difficult for never-married adults. These individuals have lost a major identity and some report feeling like an orphan.
• Death of a friend. Friends for many single adults become like family. Therefore, the death of a friend is traumatic.
7. Remember we are all part of the Body of Christ. When the Body of Christ functions at its best, there is a role for every person, regardless of their marital status.