Isolated: single Christians feel unsupported by family-focused churches

Women not in steady relationship 'treated as threats to couples'

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Single Christians feel "isolated, alone and lonely" within their churches, according to new research. More than a third of worshippers who were not married or in a relationship said they did not feel treated the same as those that were part of conventional families.

Nearly four out of ten single churchgoers said they often felt "inadequate or ignored" whilst 42.8 per cent said their church did not know what to do with them. A total of 37 per cent said they "did not feel treated as family members"

The findings were based on the responses of 2,754 people who used the Christian dating site Christian Connection and suggest there is a significant minority of worshippers who feel alienated by the prevailing attitudes within protestant denominations in Britain including the Church of England.

The survey found that older people were more keenly aware of their single status and that women not in a steady relationship were treated as "threats to couples". Singles said they often felt more valued outside rather than inside their church.

Independent researcher and writer David Pullinger who analysed the data, which included single parents, said churches needed to respond to changing times.

He said: "People are incredibly loyal to their church. One of the key findings was that they felt embraced but whilst this should be something warm they said they often felt isolated and lonely. They say they are accepted but they are not included socially. They feel invisible and think about leaving."

Figures from the last census reveal that single people now make up the majority of households in the UK. More than 500,000 single person households have been created in the past decade with the number of single adults reaching 15.7m

Mr Pullinger added:  "This is a time bomb for the church. All their natural contact points with the community tend to be with families - people coming forward for marriage, births and through Sunday school and church groups. They have to take seriously singles aged over 30 and think how they can reach out and embrace them and start to make it an attractive place for people to come."

Among the comments made by respondents were that they felt the "pain" of being single in a predominantly family setting and that there were few activities aimed at those aged between 30 and 60 for those without a partner.

They said they felt excluded from leadership positions and that there were few other single people of similar age with whom they could relate.

Christian Connection founder Jackie Elton said single people in churches of all traditions wanted to share their experiences. 'We hope churches will understand and learn from the findings. Single people often feel marginalised in churches which concentrate on the needs of families. However, as the number of single people grows in society, it is more important than ever thatchurches identify ways to make them feel welcome and fully included."

WHAT SINGLE CHRISTIANS THINK

"I have heard the nuclear family preached as God's ideal plan, whereas I think it's a modern evil, and we should promote the extended family and community which can embrace all."

"I don't think that churches place enough emphasis on the importance of friendship, and give far too much significance to the family. The church should be a place where natural families are more dissolved into a larger community."

"The problem is there is a general lack of understanding about the implications of being single - most people who are married in the church have never really been single so don't really understand this issues or even acknowledge that there might be any."

"My GP actually recommended I attend another denominational church (at the time) because of the lack of care I was experiencing."

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