SINGLE people feel failed by churches, where they are
"invisible" to clergy, a new survey suggests.
Christian Connections, the Christian dating website, received
2754 responses to an online, self-selecting survey, carried out
between May and September last year. It prompted more than 9500
comments in response to open-ended questions asking people to
describe their experience of singleness.
More than one third of respondents who were not married or in a
relationship said that they did not feel treated in the same way as
those who were part of a couple. Nearly four out of ten said that
they often felt "inadequate or ignored", and 42.8 per cent said
that their church "did not know what to do with them".
This month, the founder of the website, Jackie Elton, said that
she had developed the survey after becoming "more and more aware of
single people telling us that they felt marginalised".
She said: "Singleness is on the rise in a very big way, so there
is a dissonance between what churches are doing and what is going
in society. There is a tension, and almost an anger: why should I
come into a church that does not really acknowledge me?"
Ms Elton reported meeting "a lot" of priests who said that there
were no single people in their area, while learning from the survey
that single people felt that they were "invisible" to the clergy at
Dr David Pullinger, a statistician who analysed the responses,
said that a "very strong message" was that respondents were "very
committed to church, but they feel excluded from the social areas
of church. This is very important to them because they do not have
any other social network."
Besides a lack of invitations to social gatherings, respondents
complained about a lack of single role-models in church
"People do feel very isolated without some sort of leadership,"
he said. "In the United States, there is a long tradition of the
single adult male leader. We do not have any in our churches."
There were, Dr Pullinger stressed, some priests who "just get
it". He has collated 12 "top things that leaders do that Christian
singles say help them", including talks on relationships, the
organisation of social events, hospitality such as invitations to
Sunday lunch, and providing models of Christian singleness.
One of the "most surprising" results, he said, was that "people
in evangelical churches do not agree that singleness is a positive
choice for them. . . These churches teach marrying in the faith,
talk about the importance of avoiding sex, but give an average
amount of guidance [on singleness and relationships]. The
combination of these three is a very hard combination for people to
know how to deal with."
About half the respondents to the survey described their church
as Evangelical, and 23 per cent described it as traditional.