Supporting Singles in Lockdown
I’m sure that all church leaders are currently very aware of those among their congregations who are most vulnerable, whether that vulnerability be from age, underlying health conditions, or mental health concerns. But I wonder whether there might be another vulnerable group which can be overlooked: singles, and in particular, single-person households.
The current lockdown presents some specific challenges to those of us who are single. For many of us, our relational needs are primarily met through our experience of family in the church community. This means that while many people will find that lockdown increases their opportunities for family time, for some of us it will have almost completely removed those opportunities. The situation is even more difficult for those who also live on their own. If they are not required to go into a workplace where they will see others, lockdown could mean almost no in-person contact with others.
So, in this context, how can church leaders look out for singles and those in single-person households? Here are a few quick thoughts.
Ask Your Singles
The first thing is simple but somehow not always obvious. To know how to best serve your singles and single-person households, pick up the phone and ask them how the church can serve them at this time. This is a good question for church leaders (and especially those who are married) to ask at any time but could be particularly needed at the moment.
Consider Single-Person Households in Your Online Activities
For most of us, church gatherings have now gone online. Give some time to thinking about how you can best include and serve single-person households through these gatherings. Two quick examples:
It’s good to acknowledge the different situations of those engaging with your online church activities but avoid talking about people being on their own. Rather than saying, ‘You can take part in this with your family or on your own’, try something like ‘You can take part in this in your household whether big or small’. The former suggests that those in single-person households don’t have family, which is exactly the opposite of the message we should be seeking to convey. We want our singles to know and experience that even if they are physically isolated at the moment, they are part of family.
When it comes to engaging with live streams, especially those which could involve group participation (e.g. prayer meetings), encourage people to invite those they know will be on their own to join them in their household via video call. Virtual presence will never be the same as physical, but this is a simple way we can invite people to experience being part of church family at this time.
Think About Practical Support
Those living in single-person households will often be more vulnerable because they don’t have people to look after them if they become unwell or to get supplies for them if they have to self-isolate. Make sure that single people know how they can easily reach out for help if they need it.
Also, help the whole church to know that it’s ok to reach out for help whoever they are. Those who are young and healthy shouldn’t feel they can’t reach out for help because they not recognised as a vulnerable group. Keep affirming that church is family, a family who are meant to help each , and who want to help each other. Do everything you can to make it easy for people to reach out for help.
Think About Relational Support
To help singles and those living on their own to feel relationally connected, think outside of the box. One single friend made the observation that on calls people tend to gravitate to talking at depth, but friendship is about so much more than talking. Think creatively about ways to spend time together making use of modern technology.
I’ve been enjoying a weekly online pub quiz with a group of friends via a group chat on WhatsApp. A friend has been using FaceTime to take people with her on her daily walks. Two single friends who were due to spend a Saturday together in London decided to still spend the day together via video call; they talked, ate, and went for a walk together. I’ve even heard of people offering to loan their pets to single people for a few days. (Obviously observing social distancing at the drop off!)
I’m struck that in so many areas of life, our current situation offers both challenges and opportunities. Perhaps the case of singles and single-person households is another example. Lockdown presents huge challenges for singles and those seeking to love them, but perhaps it also presents churches with an unprecedented opportunity to step up and be family for everyone.