5. DIVIDE BY AGE
Not all singles are created equal. They are in different stages of life. Some are young, some are hitting middle age and some are approaching senior years. Some are never married, some are divorced and some are widowed—all reasons for dividing by age, our group said.
“We believe that mixing the older with the younger singles can be detrimental to growth, particularly in the younger demographic,” Christ Church’s White explains.
Brentwood Baptist divides its Sunday morning ministry into three departments: Single Focus 20s; Single Purpose 30-40; Single Direction 50-60. Prestonwood Baptist also separates its singles into three age groups: 18-29; 30-37; and over 37.
6. OFFER SEMINARS AND SMALL GROUPS
Though most of our group’s singles ministries divide by ages, they agreed that churches must also provide special ministries, such as special small groups or seminars, for singles in different stages of life.
A few months ago, Christ Church Episcopal’s singles ministry launched a weekly seminar series featuring a guest speaker (either live or on video) each time. In February, the seminar topic was “Love, Sex, Marriage and Romance,” a study of Song of Solomon taught on video by Tommy Nelson. More than 40 percent of the people attending the seminar had never attended any of the organized single adult events in the past. “We are hopeful that the seminar concept will have long-term viability,” White says, “and will serve as a more specific tool for reaching unchurched single adults in our community.”
When deciding what to offer, consider two primary groups: single parents and recently divorced singles. In Boulder County where I led the singles ministry, public records registered 500 divorces a month. Knowing that, I placed invitations to our divorce recovery program in the courthouse and mailed invitations to the divorcees. For any single parenting class or group, make childcare your No. 1 logistical priority. Without it, many ministries that might otherwise succeed, fail. If child care is a problem, then you’ll need to rethink your meeting time for the regular Sunday morning service when child care is built in.
7. OFFER SOCIAL EVENTS
Statistics show that for people to keep coming to church, they must have at least five good friends there. In other words, people are looking for community. In addition to small groups, social events are key to developing community in single adult ministry.
“We live in such an anonymous world today. I think it’s critical for single adults to feel known in their church family,” White says. “I know that helping people to find friends will help them stay in the church,” she says, “and will give us the opportunity to help them mature as Christians. That’s one of the main reasons why we continue to experiment with different types of social events.”
Crossfire’s Damiani identifies diversity as the key to social activities and programs in singles ministry.
“You’ve got to meet each single adult where they are and understand that a 29-year-old businessperson is not the same as a 60-year-old farmer” he says. “That’s why we do so many different things.”
Prestonwood’s Stephens reinforces the community requirement. “Personal relationships are key. It doesn’t matter how big or small your church is; it’s about relationships.”
However, Brentwood Baptist’s Presson warns against using a large, flashy social event to launch a singles ministry. “You’re going to keep having to do whatever it was that initially attracted people to the ministry to get them to come back,” he explains.
Our panelists suggested various types of social events for reaching diverse groups: holiday gatherings (especially New Year’s Eve and Easter); sports nights (basketball, volleyball, baseball, bowling); a Christian comedy event; parties (Super Bowl, costume, etc.); progressive dinners; professional sporting events; dinner and a movie; game night (board games); and picnics. For White, the highest attended social activities, at first, were restaurant gatherings and movie nights.
8. PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES TO SERVE TOGETHER
Singles ministry shouldn’t just be ministry to singles, but ministry by singles.
“Single adults are available for mission projects,” Presson observes. “There are things that young single adults will get up and do together on a Saturday morning that families who are rushing around to soccer practice just can’t.
“We have single adults involved in children’s ministry, inner-city ministry and overseas missions, etc. Serving the community together builds community with each other. There’s something about working for one common goal.”
Prestonwood’s Stephens notes that service projects have been catalysts to seeing single adults at the church become more evangelistic. “People seem to want to be more inclusive when they get outside the church and into the world at large. We’ve seen more of our core group reaching out to unchurched singles to bring them into the ministry.”