Most churches in the United States structure themselves around the nuclear family. The mindset of these churches assumes married couples; their programming assumes children. While covering the majority of attendees in most congregations, this ignores several overlooked groups.
First, there are childless couples. Some are childless by circumstance. Each time there’s a plea to serve in the nursery, another couple gets pregnant, or the church celebrates a baby’s arrival, a painful jab reminds them their life lacks something they desperately desire. For couples who are childless by choice, life at most churches is a constant reminder that they’re different, don’t fit in, and are somehow less than those who procreate.
An even bigger overlooked group is singles. This is not just one category, however. “Singles” is an uninformed label that encompasses all unmarried adults, people with different needs, situations, and perspectives. Some are single by choice and others by circumstances, be it through death, divorce, or breakup.
Of those who are single because of life’s situations, some earnestly desire a special someone in their life, others are broken and need a place to heal, and a few simply wonder what they should do next. These singles seek relationship, though for some it is platonic and others it is romantic.
For those single by choice, most of the church doesn’t understand their decision, despite it being a biblically affirmed and even preferred option. The married with children crowd cannot fathom someone choosing to remain single – and they communicate their bewilderment, either directly or subtly, but always with hurtful and condemning results.
Then are those who struggle with their sexual identity or fall outside traditional expectations. Most churches simply push these folks away, rejecting them by their words or through their actions. This leaves them with no faith community and the implication that God has no place for them either. Then they seek solace elsewhere and retreat there, often without God.
But God loves all people. He loves the childless, the single, and the marginalized just as much as he loves the married with children crowd. And we who are married with children need to accept, embrace, and love all people, just as Jesus did.