As a single woman in her 30s, I have been an elementary and middle-school teacher for the past seven years. I grew up in the church and have served in youth and college ministry there since high school. Among the students I’ve worked with, I’ve observed a wide array of perspectives about marriage and singleness. But what’s concerned me in those years are comments from both adults and young people that reveal too low a regard for singleness.
In my early 20s, internalizing such comments led me down a path of discontentment as marriage continued not to be in God’s plans for my life. I had to wrestle through false expectations of marriage, and eventually untangle myself from wrong messages sent by well-meaning church members.
But a wise view of both marriage and singleness isn’t only for adults. Even young children, guided by their parents and other church members, can adopt a biblical perspective. When parents teach children the beauty of both singleness and marriage, they equip children to better serve and glorify God through every potential season of life.
Your Words Matter
Growing up in the church, I remember hearing these messages, either subtly or explicitly:
- “You don’t need to go to college—you’ll just end up being married and your husband will take care of you.”
- “Don’t worry—your Prince Charming is right around the corner.”
- “If you desire to be married, God will grant you that desire in time.”
When parents teach children the beauty of both singleness and marriage, they equip children to better serve and glorify God through every season.
I have heard reactions from students that range from actual laughter when I told them I was working on a book about singleness (as if anyone would read such a book) to arguments implying I need to be married or else I won’t be truly successful or happy in life.
While these comments arise in part from the students’ developmental stage, they are also influenced by the way parents and church leaders speak about marriage and singleness—especially when they imply everyone will end up being married.
From a young age, children pick up what their parents value. Therefore, parents need to start by examining their beliefs about marriage and singleness and consider how they are communicating those to their children. When parents intentionally center their beliefs on singleness on biblical truth, it is more likely that they will teach their children to have a proper perspective.
The Bible places a high value on singleness. Paul writes, “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am” (1 Cor. 7:8), and “And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband” (1 Cor. 7:34). We need to acknowledge the goodness of the single life as we instruct children.
Instead of saying, “We can’t wait for your wedding day,” parents can say, “Marriage is a beautiful gift from God, but our deepest desire is for you to become like Christ, whether you are married or single.” This will help their children put their hope in the right place.
Parents can be careful not to present marriage and singleness as two separate paths for their children’s lives as adults. Even if people end up married, they will probably have some years being single as young adults and perhaps years of singleness in older age, too. Parents should help their children realize they likely will have adult years as a single person and to value those years, rather than framing them as something to escape from.
Shape Expectations and Plans
Along with choosing your words wisely, you should shape your children’s future expectations and plans not on the single event of a wedding, but on preparing to serve God no matter what their relationship status. How can you do this?
Parents should help their children realize they likely will have adult years as a single person and to value those years.
- Teach your children to say “If God wills” about their future.
- Teach them to see seasons of waiting as seasons of learning.
- Teach them to seek the face of God more than the face of a spouse.
- Teach them the gifts of a variety of relationships and how to cultivate them well in all seasons of life.
- Teach them to value the church and to see those believers as their God-given family in all seasons of life.
- Teach them to trust God faithfully through disappointment.
- Teach them that wisely dating and marrying someone means knowing the difference between desperately filling a lonely space and seeking to glorify God.
- Teach them to be expectant—not for “dreams to come true,” but for God’s work to be done in their lives.
Rejoice and Weep in All Seasons
I know it is many parents’ longing to see their child’s wedding day. My dear father, who died last year, prayed every day that I would find a godly husband, and it is one of my greatest heartaches that he will never see that day if it comes.
But my heart has been encouraged in my lonely single days by both my father and mother who wept with me, prayed with me, and encouraged me with their greatest desire for my life: to grow in my walk with the Lord and serve him all the days of my life.
As children become adults, parents should acknowledge and walk through the joys and difficulties of all seasons with them. Weddings offer an obvious occasion for rejoicing. But parents should also purposefully rejoice with single adult children when they reach long-awaited goals, show maturity in Christ, or serve the church.
Parents should rejoice with single adult children when they reach long-awaited goals, show maturity in Christ, or serve the church.
And when their children’s hearts break over disappointments of various kinds, they should weep with them and point them to Christ and his church as their source of refuge.
Parents, as you do, you will be shaping your children into great men and women of faith. These men and women would make great husbands and wives, yes, but—most important—they honor God in all circumstances. And that’s the best legacy you can hope to leave.