Churches do nothing to teach single women about how to be man-ready. If anything, a woman is taught how to stay single. Yep, I said it! I mean, we’ve all heard the sermons that tell women “you’re a good thing to find” and “your price is far above rubies.” Ah, that's sweet, in theory. But, seriously, ladies -- how active is your church leadership about solving the problem of the absurd female-to-male ratio at home in their congregation?
In 2009, sociologist Mark Regnerus reported in Christianity Today that there are 3 single women for every 2 single men in American churches. Simply put, there aren't enough Christian men to go around. And, in the Black church, it’s even worse. Just take a scan of the crowd at some of the televised mega-church services like those at The Potter’s House or World Changers. The men are speckled throughout and, if we could take a stab at it, we’re looking at ratio that’s closer to 8:1.
According to a Pew Research study that was conducted in 2009 called “A Religious Portrait of African-Americans,” African-American men are significantly more likely than women to be unaffiliated with any religion (16% vs. 9%). In fact, African-American women tend to stand out more than men for their high level of religious commitment. “More than eight-in-ten black women (84%) say religion is very important to them, and roughly six-in-ten (59%) say they attend religious services at least once a week.” Sadly, Black men just aren’t as committed.
Sisters may come to church together, daughters may accompany their mothers to church and/or single mothers may even tote their young kids with them to the house of worship. But, men seem to stay away. It’s somewhat understood that church can be inconvenient for men who on Sunday would rather run errands, play golf, watch sports or just not appear as if they are the "religious weakling" type.
So, what gives? What is the church not doing or – in my estimation – what are they doing to keep their ladies single? I would like to offer 8 ways for how the church keeps single ladies single:
1. Women are the Pillars of the Church
Women (especially Black women) have for so long been considered the cornerstones of congregations in the Protestant church. They are deaconesses, ushers, praise and worship leaders and ministers. They are also – many times - the heads of their own households. They cook for their kids and for the church, they lead prayer meetings and they teach Sunday School. With all of this responsibility, who has time for love (at least the eros kind)? And, to be frank, Is it really in the best interest of the church to encourage these single women to pursue marriage? I mean, they are almost like Protestant versions of nuns. If they get married, then they would have to spend their time taking care of a husband and family rather than tending to church business. Oh, and that won't be good for the church, would it?
2. The Church’s Prized Daughters Will be Whisked Away by Other Churches
In my opinion, many pastors are just scared that if their prized female members meet male members at other churches that they’ll be whisked away, leaving the pastor high and dry. A single female is dedicated to her church and her pastor as long as she stays single. If she mingles within other church communities, a fly guy may catch her eye and…boom…you’ve lost your soloist in the choir to another church across town. Because, after all, every pastor knows he can count on that young lady to evolve into a new pillar once she gets enough word in her. Let's not sabotage that agenda by letting her get out there.
3. There is No Male Discipleship
Church male leaders and other male congregants are not following the Great Commission to mentor and disciple men in their communities and their workplaces and it’s to the detriment of the women in the church. While the Bible teaches men to create disciples just as Jesus did, the men in the church are hesitant to spread the word. They themselves may be God-fearing, good husbands, strong leaders, great catches, but they have done very little to duplicate themselves. Shame on them!
4. Judgment-Free Social Settings Are not Encouraged
The church community rarely encourages social gatherings at which singles can meet each other and grow in faith and love together. If not for those multi-church conferences, Christian coffeehouses and Christian clubs like Flavor Nights Miami, the chances of finding a mate within one’s own congregation are very slim. In-house prayer and Bible study meetings are awesome, but they will do very little in solving the singleness problem at a church. Singles need to go out and interact in unreligious settings. You'll find that men and women behave so differently outside of the church walls that it's plum scary sometimes. Is he gallant? Is she considerate? Does he offer to see her home? Does she give him respect? We've got to find this stuff out in the unchurched, judgment-free, let-your-hair-down spaces that the world has to offer.
5. Pastors Who Marry Young Just Don’t Get Singleness
It is common knowledge that, in the Protestant tradition, pastors are encouraged to find a mate before entering full-time ministry. This prerequisite is in place for a variety of reasons: your wife becomes your helpmate in the ministry and her presence reduces your sexual temptation while leading a church (made up of...yeah we know...mostly single women). These pastors marry almost as soon as they graduate from seminary.
So, how can pastors/leaders who got married in their early-to-mid-20s possibly understand the complexities of singleness in one’s 20s, 30s or 40s? Do they even know how to relate to the image of God in single people? In my opinion, their teaching is heavily geared toward married couples because that is what they know well. If they do steer their teaching toward singles, it ends up being a tack-on line at the end of a sermon...something like "and remember, you singles, you've got wait until until marriage to have sex."
6. The War on Men
Author Suzanne Venker recently wrote a controversial article called "The War on Men” where she blamed women for men's hesitation concerning marriage. She says: "In a nutshell, women are angry. They're also defensive, though often unknowingly. That's because they've been raised to think of men as the enemy. Armed with this new attitude, women pushed men off their pedestal (women had their own pedestal, but feminists convinced them otherwise) and climbed up to take what they were taught to believe was rightfully theirs. Now the men have nowhere to go."
This kind of attitude toward men is pervasive in society and, guess what, has seeped into the church. Under the guise of the purity principle, women are erroneously taught that men come for one thing and one thing only. Men are not esteemed highly. She is taught to not trust men. Be careful, female leaders say, men are gonna try to defile your body, deter you from serving the Lord with your whole heart steal or - worse - steal your salvation. A woman is taught that if she allows a man access to her heart, then she may leave herself open to romance which may lead to physical intimacy which may lead to a life of fornication. And, we all know, that a pastor’s worst nightmare is finding out that his praise leader is sexing on the side.
7. Churches Make Women Who’ve Made a Mistake Continually Pay for it
I have several friends who are single moms and are judged by their past. Single moms, especially those in the African-American community, are heavily scrutinized for not having a father around. She is demonized for either having children out of wedlock or she is cautioned about being careful of marrying amiss once again. Therefore, under the watchful eyes of church leaders and those good old church mothers, she suppresses any desire she has to be with a man. She wants one but won’t let herself be open to one. This all stems from the leaders' fear who instills that fear in the woman, dissuading her - even if it's indirect- from ever again fostering any kind of relationship with a man.
8. The Church Offers No Pre-Marital Coaching
The ideology of “Jesus is my man” or “I’m wrapped up in Jesus” has stunted the growth of many of our Christian single gals and it’s a crying shame. Who knew that these women could be so clueless about how to take care of a man? Who knew that they would flinch at the slightest form of affection? (I’m literally talking a hug or a hand on the shoulder.) Who knew that they’ve been taught how to hear the voice of the Lord for themselves so well and to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (a whole lot of trembling) that they can’t find it in them to submit to a man who also says he’s hearing from God?
I was recently schooled by life coach Tobi Atte and he told me that men know far more about women than women know about men. I immediately protested, but he proved it. He explained that in order to know how to operate the machine well, one has to read the manual. Men are in the business of reading the manual about women because since their pre-adolescent days they were schooled on how to get her attention. Pick her favorite flowers. Whisper sweet nothings into her ear. Carry her books. Allow her to talk and he listens. For a woman, it’s not her job to pursue a man. Therefore, it does not behoove her to study his manual. I mean, really, what for? There is no need. As a result, this woman remains clueless about what makes him tick. She’s unknowledgeable about his masculine attributes and desires. She's unaware when he's into her. She's just plain out of touch.
Sadly, single women in church know even less about men because of the pretenses they must uphold like: not flirting openly with a guy, not actively dating to see what options are out there and making graceful attempts to not seem desperate.
So, what then should the solution be for the church? How about not pretending you don't have warm-blooded, hormonal women in your congregation who will for a guarantee be approached by men? Instead, try this.
1. Train Them on How to interact with and respond to a man
2. Create Dating Simulations
3. Offer Seminars that Teach Men and Women on How to Transition From Single to Married
4. Win Men to Christ and Disciple Them
In fact, if you don’t do something, you’re simply perpetuating a cycle of women who are embittered toward men or a cycle of naïve women who may be taken advantage by a man who HAS read the manual.