Let’s do away with the singles sections and do this instead

As a single adult in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I’ve had a lot of experience with singles departments…and I think it’s time we put an end to them.

Do not misunderstand me; I (for the most part) enjoyed my time in young single adult wards and currently appreciate my single adult ward. It’s comforting to be a part of a community where everyone shares similar experiences. Lessons often focus on navigating life when things don’t go as planned, and there’s a collective understanding when someone talks about loneliness. While these feelings may be universal, being in a congregation where everyone is single fosters a unique bond.

But here’s the thing – when I step back and think heavenly, singles departments make less and less sense to me on a spiritual level. I believe that constantly segregating members of the body of Christ based on marital status does more harm than good in building Zion. I want to both explain my reasoning and offer solutions; I hope you’ll hear from me, regardless of your experience with the church’s singles program.

But first…

Let The Youngins’ hang out (and get married)!

Young single adult sections for students ages 18-25 make perfect sense. Singles sections were designed specifically for this time in life. The “very sociable” atmosphere that the church describes it as allows these newly minted adults to “meet those with similar values ​​and interests” and “feel accepted, loved and supported by others in a similar phase of life.”

And whether we’re willing to admit it or not, singles sections also give young people the opportunity to find a potential marriage partner. Marriage is important doctrinally and socially in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and singles’ congregations help members connect with those who share their beliefs.

Singles departments for this age group and especially for those still in their undergraduate education should definitely stay. This is what they are made for!

A little background

I stayed in a ward for young single adults much longer than normal. I lived in an area where there was a higher concentration of members in their early 30s who had nowhere to go. A large part of the department were people between 30-35 years old. A section for intermediate singles had been created a few years earlier, but there was a lot of concern. That department exploded with almost 400 people on the roster and there was a feeling that you would go there and get lost. In truth, it was also very judgmental. Sure, there were great people, but this is also the place where bishops had to ask members to leave because they made people uncomfortable. There is an unspoken dark thought that this is a place for defective members of the church and you can’t help but wonder if you are one of them.

Several factors prompted my move to the middle singles division. The housing crisis in Utah drove many singles from my area as landlords sold properties to families. A devotional by President Dallin H. Oaks on marriage made me feel like a forgotten statistic. A state conference for young single adults in Utah, featuring a One Republic concert, highlighted the age gap as older members felt pressured to attend but could not because of their age.

These experiences raised questions about where I fit in, where I belong, and where I am wanted. What was once a special time to socialize and build lasting relationships now felt more like segregation and abandonment.

I believe in organized religion and the power of a church family. Although my experience in the singles congregation has been better than expected, it has made me think about the true purpose of the church. My experiences and feelings are personal and may not reflect those of others, but they have made me question the effectiveness of singles departments, especially for those of us past our mid-20s.

Red flags with single sections

There are so many positives to singles sections, but I also think there are some red flags. Here’s why singles departments can be so problematic.

  • Keeping singles apart from the larger part of the church alienates them more and more. Singles become second and in many cases inferior to their married counterparts. Neither of them can get comfortable worshiping with each other. I know singles who are afraid that their circumstances will not be recognized or remembered in geographic divisions and I know married couples who do not know how to meet the needs of singles.
  • We infantilize singles and deny their maturity and experience because they have not been given the true mark of adulthood: marriage and family. Keep in mind that until recently, single adults were required to have married companions at activities.
  • Single congregations prevent unity as the body of Christ. We all have so much to learn from each other. We are meant to be together and worship God together. We need to be together, especially in our church meetings, to learn and grow from our unique testimonies and experiences.
  • If what church leaders tell us is true, people are getting married later and later; there is a large contingent of singles heading to geographic wards. It is time to focus on what this means for the growing church in the coming years.
  • The current programs for singles lack nuance. Resources and attention focus on college-age singles and young married adults. There is a large individual population that can be better served by programs that do not focus on departments and their function.

Some potential solutions

Here are some things that really resonate with me as potential changes.

  • I would turn the focus form for singles congregations into singles activities and create age specific and church sponsored activities and programs. This can look like a weekly activity at the parish level, a monthly activity at the stake level and more robust devotionals and conferences for different age groups.
  • While I prefer classes and lessons designed to bring us all and focus on Christ, not our specific life circumstances, the second hour meetings can be divided by age and marital status if numbers allow, especially for Sunday School.

By providing support and fellowship in our outreach programs, our Sabbath day can focus on bringing all members of the church together to focus on the Savior and draw closer to Him.

There are plenty of singles who choose to go to their geographic department and have good experiences. But I think there will be less heartache and confusion if a church-sponsored effort is made to integrate singles more intentionally into our churches.

I have been brought closer to Christ because of the singles wards I have attended. There are so many powerful and miraculous experiences that happen there. Still, I think it’s time for us to look more closely at singles departments and how we can get closer to achieving Zion.

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