You'd like to get married, but the church you're at now doesn't have many available singles. Or, at least ones you'd consider dating. Should you leave your church and find another to improve your chances of getting married?
This is a great question, and comes from one of my readers. Let's dive in.
If you'd rather listen than read, you can use the player right here.
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First Things First
Before we get too far, here are a few preliminary thoughts.
First, if getting married feels like a big deal to you, it's because it is. After all, Paul says, 'this mystery [of marriage] is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.' (Ephesians 5:32)
I'll also say - even after 20 years of being happily married - that I can still remember how hard it was to be single, yet really, really want to be married. It didn't seem like there were many options at my church. So this is something I wrestled with, too.
Second, your desire to get married is really good. 'He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD.' (Proverbs 18:22) Obviously, this applies to finding a husband, too, if you're a woman. You already know this, but sometimes it's good to hear it again from scripture.
Reasons You Might Leave Your Church For One With More Singles
Here are two good reasons you might consider changing churches to find other singles and improve your chances of getting married.
1. Being intentional is wise.
Planning and being intentional - under God's direction - are commended in scripture. Moses learned to let go of the vanilla judicial cases that were weighing him down (Exodus 18). Proverbs tells us, 'Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.' (16:3). And David relied on men from Issachar who 'had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do' (1 Chronicles 12:32). So, it stands to reason that we should be intentional about getting married, too.
We do that in other areas of life, don't we? When an attorney friend couldn’t find the kind of job she wanted here in Philly, she expanded her search and found what she was looking for in New York, where there are more suitable positions in her field. That was wisdom, and leaving your church to find one with more godly singles can be, too.
2. Consider this factor as part of the bigger picture.
If you’re already uneasy with your church for solid reasons, its lack of suitable singles could be part of a bigger picture that leads you to leave. Maybe, for example, the preaching doesn’t really reference scripture much. Or there aren’t solid small groups. Perhaps it doesn’t really encourage you to share the gospel, or have a heart for people who are underserved. All these things matter to God, should they should matter to us, too.
Of course, no church (or person, for that matter) does all of these perfectly, or usually, even well. So, we shouldn't be unrealistic. But serious weaknesses in one or more of these areas, coupled with a lack of singles when marriage is on your radar, could trigger your transition.
Also, churches tend to attract people who value what they do, so if the church isn’t solid in important areas, you're less likely to meet a godly spouse there anyway.
Planning, and being intentional, are commended in scripture. So, it stands to reason that we should be intentional about getting married, too.
Maybe, Though, You Should Stay Where You Are
1. 'Being intentional' can be code for 'being in control.'
‘Being intentional’ and planning under God's direction are good. But when God doesn't deliver the results we want, it's easy to grab the wheel and put him in the backseat. The more important something seems, the more likely we'll be tempted to wrangle control, which makes the area of dating and marriage a prime candidate for a role reversal.
2. We're natural-born consumers.
Before we can say a word, we instinctively wonder, 'What's in it for me?' So, no matter how long we've been in Christ, we should have a healthy self-suspicion. Galatians 5:17 describes our battle: 'For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.'
In our context, that means it's so easy to be looking for what we want in a spouse. Someone who will help me feel less lonely. Meet my desires for physical intimacy. And join me in the things I like to do. All those are legitimate, but a legitimate desire to find a godly spouse can quickly become all about me. We don't want to change churches if that's the space we're in.
3. When You Change Churches, You Reboot Your Relationships.
Most people change churches at some point, but others become frequent fliers, moving around every few years. Getting to the place where people can really encourage you, and speak hard, loving truth into your life takes real time. So, every time we switch, we reboot our relationships and the 'one anothering' of community life has to start all over again. It may be worth it to improve our chances of getting married, but this serious, unpleasant side effect should be acknowledged and weighed heavily.
If you’re happy at your current church, apart from its lack of singles, don’t leave lightly.
So What Should You Do?
So, what's the best decision for you, in your particular situation?
Only the Holy Spirit, helping you connect God's Word with your life, can show you that. But, here are a few more thoughts.
1. If you’re happy at your current church, apart from its lack of singles, don’t leave lightly.
It's not easy to find a church where the preaching is biblical and connects with your life. Where people are willing to know you, and be known. Where they care about the spiritual and practical needs of people who don’t yet know Jesus. If those things are in place, you’ve found a gold mine.
2. Consider your membership vows.
Becoming a church member is not a forever promise, but it is a covenant commitment to real people at your church. Presumably they are invested in you, too. And the leadership is charged with watching over your soul (Hebrews 13:17). In fact, John Piper recommends involving them in your decision if you're thinking about leaving in a short podcast on this post's topic. Those are precious things, not to be left behind lightly.
What Else Can You Try?
Even if there are few available singles at your church, maybe there are other options than leaving.
Have you considered...
... asking your friends for help?
I'm sure you've thought about it, and maybe asked them to keep you in mind. But could you ask them to think a little harder? Can you reach out to more friends, perhaps a few that aren't in your inner circle? I'm consistently amazed at the ways God uses relationships and networking to bring about things we never saw coming.
... online dating?
It's not for everyone, but online dating has worked out for a lot of people, Christians included. It has the obvious benefit of connecting you to people you'd never know otherwise.
One single my wife and I met had a negative first experience online, but was planning on involving friends she trusts after she gets serious with future dates. That way, they can help her vet guys she meets, and minimize one of online dating's biggest pitfalls.
Normal, Next Steps
Like most things mature Christians face, this isn't a binary, right/wrong decision. It will require wisdom, time and all the other, normal, unglamorous things God calls us to pursue in making any significant decision.
The input of trusted friends. Prayer and deep trust in God's goodness. Understanding that marriage, for all its grandeur, can't provide ultimate fulfillment. And, pursuing Jesus as our greatest treasure, no matter what.
With those guardrails in place, you have total freedom to stay at your current church, or, try a new one that has more available singles. Whatever you decide, may God give you this good desire of your heart.