Black, Christian and Single, edited by Marcia Dixon,is a new collection of essays about singleness in Britain's Black Pentecostal Church. It's a "massive" problem and one that requires all of the Church to come together to find solutions, says Pastor Dave Daniels, one of the contributors to the book. He speaks to Christian Today about what he hopes both Christian leaders and singles in the Church will get out of the book.
CT: How much of an issue is singleness for the Black-majority Church?
DD: It's a very big issue and a very challenging one. People want to have friendships and relationships but the problem is that there are so many more women than men attending our churches. And that means, sadly, that someone who might want to be in a relationship is going to miss out.
CT: From a pastor's perspective, what kind of burden does that put on your heart?
DD: It's like the Father's heart feeling for His children - and it is a burden because there's no quick fix and it's not something that we can just resolve immediately. And you can't just turn to someone in that situation and say to them 'pray about it'.
We had a season when there were many weddings in our church but there were so many still who weren't able to tie the knot. We rejoiced with those who were able to get married but we felt this pain for those who wanted to but were not able to.
CT: What can churches do to support the singles in their midst?
DD: We have to take it more seriously. I don't think we've taken it as seriously as we could have, and there's more that we can do. Pastors can be busy with so many other things: caring for the sick, preparing for the next service, looking after the poor. All these things are important but I don't think we give singleness the same attention.
As ministers, I think there can be a tendency to feel uncomfortable doing things that could actually help single people in practical ways. We saw this, for example, when online dating emerged and now it's much more accepted. I think sometimes when new ways emerge, our first reaction as pastors is just to say 'no' and get anxious and say that it's not God's will. But we don't necessarily do enough to find other ways.
CT: Do you find that the pastoral needs of single people vary?
DD: There are so many different circumstances that people are facing and people can feel quite isolated in that. Younger people may feel like they still have a bit of time and so are less concerned about it, but as they get older they start to get more concerned. It's a challenge to respond to that.
CT: How can the congregation as a whole be supportive of singles in their church?
DD: We have to be sensitive to each other and also accept that there are people who are hurting because of singleness. As Christians, our role is to care and be supportive and think about what we as a church can do. In my church, we approached this in a united way and it was this togetherness that brought about change. I think the whole of the Church needs to recognise that this is an issue and try to deal with it together as a Church. On this issue, as with others, the Church should be head and shoulders above the rest of society in tackling this.
CT: Do you think it's helpful if churches run events specifically for single Christians?
DD: Yes I do. Our church has done this and will start it up again in the New Year. But what I would really like to see is churches and ministries coming together to host single activities in a way that lets Christians broaden their friendship and relationship circles. It could be something as simple as meeting up and playing ball or having a quiz night together.
I think sometimes there can be this insecurity among pastors about coming together in this way because they're afraid they might lose some of their congregation and this is half of the problem: our single people are missing out because of the insecurities within the leadership. But as leaders we need to do what we can to support them.
CT: What advice would you give to a single Christian who is maybe struggling with their singleness?
DD: It's a very tough question and it's difficult to give an answer. When people in my own church have come to me about this, there are no words that I can say to them. I just try to look them in the eye, feel some of their pain and let them know that I feel their pain. It's about embracing them and letting them know that I hear them and I can see them in their pain, and that I will do as much as I can to help them in their situation.
CT: What do you want people to take away from this book?
DD: Hope. There are a lot of single people in the church who need this hope and it's important that they don't give up on that hope because there is the possibility that a friendship may develop into a marital relationship. And for the pastors and leaders reading it, I hope they are challenged to seriously support our members who are wanting to have relationships but who haven't been able to.