Before the 1980s, nearly every large metropolitan church had singles ministries. They had their own Sunday School classes, Sunday School books, spring retreats, and singles conferences every year. It was taken for granted that singles had never been married and never had sex, which served as a relational common denominator. Most did not go to church looking for mates and their groups were not thought of as “meat markets.” There were very few widows and divorced in those groups because they customarily went into the married classes or found something else to do during Sunday School time.
Things started to change drastically around the mid 1980s. Singles groups that once had 200-300+ dwindled to a few dozen. At one time, Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL was using their old sanctuary for singles classes and it could hardly hold them all. If you wanted a seat, you had to get there early. But now only a handful remain. Their youth have taken over the empty space and all have kneeled at the feet of the children.
But what killed off the singles from churches? One reason is because they lost support from other church members and from leaders of their denominations. One of the key factors that played a part is divorce. Because of their sex drives and desire to find other mates, divorcees gradually found there way to singles groups and threw a kink in the common bond that the never marrieds once shared with each other. All discussions then had to be filtered for sexualized ears. After all, biblically speaking, once you’ve had sex, you’re married. And once married, you can’t become “single again.” But churches, in their effort to be politically correct, happily stuck singles labels on everybody. They became content in hunkering down behind the barracks and murmuring “everybody is sleeping with somebody.” Instead of defending those who were virtuous, they decided to yell “the sky is falling” every Sunday morning from their pulpits. Instead of addressing the problem of sexual sin head on, they waited until their singles groups got the reputations of “meat markets” and withdrew funding and support. Then single adults were left with the choice of going to adolescent pizza parties or going to old time gospel singings with the senior citizens.
Another factor was rampant fornication, which was made easier and more accessible with the advent of the internet, social media, and pornography. Every church has a rumor mill and this just added gasoline to the fire. The respect that the marrieds had for the unmarrieds slowly eroded away with the stereotyped image of a greedy selfish single sitting in front of his pornography screen ordering up all the sex he wanted. Church leaders began to view anything to do with virginity with skepticism and spite. Many preachers blatantly launched attacks against virtuous singles who were saving sex for marriage. A prime example is the Baptist’s controversial Russell Moore. He openly criticized a chaste female for being concerned about the sexual history of her husband to be on his blog: “You are not ‘owed’ a virgin because you are. Your sexual purity wasn’t part of a quid pro quo in which God would guarantee you a sexually unbroken man . . . Jesus was a virgin. His Bride wasn’t. He loved us anyway.” His bride wasn’t? See, you have to understand that Moore does not believe Christ died for our sins and does not believe that the church is the virgin bride of Christ: http://www.russellmoore.com/2010/03/10/how-much-do-i-need-to-know-about-my-potential-spouses-sexual-past-my-response/ My sister, Julia Duin, wrote about this in a recent article. You can read it here: http://www.ebireflections.com/2/9/6j.
One of the biggest factors that has killed singles groups is homosexuality and its perceived threat to the golden calf of family. Many denomination leaders, like the SBC’s Moore, believe that it’s not possible to live without sex – that if you’re not married by a certain age, you’re a fornicator, homosexual, or pedophile. In Moore’s words, we are all “sexually broken.” He has even trashed singles further by stating that fornication is worse than adultery: “This makes fornication even more dangerous, in this sense, than adultery. Both fornication and adultery are acts of infidelity. But a man who has committed adultery, if he is repentant, understands something of how he’s broken trust, attacked a covenant.” Yes adultery just brings so much immediate insight and understanding. It’s the Christian thing to do. But those fornicators – they are so dangerous. Even more shocking is the Southern Baptist’s recent statements that marriage is required for salvation. Jeff Medders, pastor of Redeemer Baptist Church in Tomball, TX, and member of the Biblical Council On Biblical Manhood And Womanhood (which Russell Moore also serves on) made this recent statement on his blog: “The post-Edenic lure of perpetual boyishness, fun, frivolity, and zero responsibility is the ultimate space for “lost” boys —not for men who have been found and are relocated ‘in Christ.'” Lost boys until we are relocated in Christ? This should make it clearer why single men have lost respect for their churches. http://cbmw.org/men/manhood/manhood-marred-the-peter-pan-syndrome/
Another interesting phenomenon is the perceived gap between the sexual ethics of men and women. Following the lead of the world, churches began to equate sex outside marriage with men only. And church women gladly reinforced it. “Why should he buy the cow if he can get the milk for free.” “The more women men have sex with, the higher their status. The more men women have sex with, the lower their status.” The church gulped in all the worldly stereotypes, not seeing the importance of separating themselves from the world. Indeed, they took a Masters and Johnson approach to all their ministries. “Let’s just target what the surveys identify as the majority and forget about the rest.” More and more preachers started quoting the sex surveys, wringing their hands that “nobody is waiting for marriage anymore.” “Men need to man up and get married.” God’s word was replaced with pie charts and Pampers. Many churches today are nothing more than daycare centers with a steeple on top of the building. And the drama. Did I mention drama? How many single men would want to sit and listen to preachers call them “sexual atheists” and “overgrown adolescents”? http://www.christianpost.com/news/sexual-atheism-christian-dating-data-reveals-a-deeper-spiritual-malaise-117717/. So the bottom line reason for the demise of singles ministries is that churches, for the sake of political correctness and comfort, threw all categories of singles into one barrel. They were unwilling to give never marrieds a space of their own. More importantly, most churches still define the initiation of a marriage as the exchange of vows during a wedding ceremony and tossing of rice instead of the biblically based coming together as one flesh during sexual bonding. Without understanding what marriage is, they will never understand what celibate singleness is.
For a more in depth look at what killed singles ministries, please see Julia Duin’s book, Quitting Church – Why The Faithful Are Fleeing. http://www.amazon.com/Quitting-Church-Why-Faithful-Fleeing-ebook/dp/B00D39ZFIC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1399480201&sr=8-1&keywords=duin+quitting+church