I often find myself questioning the way the church handles single people. Surely there is a better way for the church to relate to those of us who aren’t married. When I looked for a website that offered encouragement for singles recently, I couldn’t find much of anything.

There are a multitude of websites out there to encourage wives and moms, and there are plenty of dating sites I can sign up for, but that’s not the encouragement I was looking for.

I was looking for practical articles on dealing with another roommate moving out and starting the roommate/apartment hunt all over again, where I can find people to hang out with when many of my friends are married and spend time with their spouses, how I can best pay off my student loans on a single income, or how can I define myself as a woman of God when so many Christian women do this by identifying as wife and mother.

Where is the encouragement for single people? My life is so much more than trying to find a spouse!

The church must get over the idea that marriage is the ideal way to follow Christ, and more actively engage single people in their congregations. We have so much to offer.

While what follows may not work for everyone, here are a few practical examples of ways a congregation can encourage and uplift single people.

1. Engage me.

If there’s an intergenerational event at church, invite me along with your family, because chances are I won’t go by myself. Sometimes it gets really tiring having to do everything on your own, so this simple gesture can mean a lot. There’s no cost to you as you’re already going, we can form a friendship, and I can enjoy the company of your family.

If I’m a young adult, chances are my life is somewhat unstable right now, with friends getting married, starting families, buying houses, taking jobs around the world, continuing their education, or anything that might happen as a person tries to find her/his path in life. I’d probably appreciate someone I know I’ll see week after week at church, and maybe even sometimes for dinner, too.

2. If your church organizes wedding showers, seriously consider the impact that blessing only engaged couples has on single people in church.

Assuming I will be married at some point and will have a shower of my own is not a good enough response, because there is no guarantee I will get married. Marriage is no longer a marker of adulthood, so we seriously need to consider how we can bless all young adults who are establishing themselves, especially since many of us are starting out with significant student loans to pay off, and potentially needing to furnish and stock our living spaces, too.

And let’s be honest, it hurts when I’m expected to give a gift at a shower to bless a couple, but because I don’t have a significant other, the not subtle message is that I am not blessed by the church in the same way. There’s also the expense attached to attending showers and weddings, especially in the young adult stage of life. When there are multiple weddings and showers to attend in one summer, your bank account ends up pretty empty.

3. Evaluate your thoughts and take care with the language that you use.

Another frustrating aspect of being single in the church is the pervasive belief that marriage and family is the ideal for followers of Christ. This perhaps isn’t a blatant or even conscious belief, which makes it a bit scarier.

I ask that you think carefully about what you say to me. It is not appropriate to ask why I’m still single, or comment on how it’s such a shame that I’m single. Singleness is not a disease to be cured, or something broken to be fixed.

Find out what I like to do, and talk to me about that. Help me figure out how I can best contribute to the church. Call out gifts you see in me and affirm them!

4. Human touch goes a long way.

Hug me at church when you see me. It is a simple gesture, but when you’re on your own, it’s something you don’t often get. Simple human touch is a powerful way to show you care. Maybe not every person is a hugger, so get to know the person first before you pounce on him/her with a hug, but seriously consider it. It feels nice to have someone physically express their care through touch. It’s a few moments of love and care. Please hug me.

Those are just four simple ways of intentionally involving singles in community that have relatively low cost to congregation members. We do not want singles programs so that we can meet and hang out with each other, because programs like that often translate into an awkward dating service.

Not everyone needs romantic love to be happy, but all humans do need to be loved, so love us! We can learn from you, and you can learn from us.

Amanda Zehr, 26, is the associate pastor at Listowel Mennonite Church in Listowel, Ont.