A Single Friendly Church survey found that 80 per cent of Christians found Christmas more difficult. Here Beth Collingridge explains what churches can do to support those who feel alone during the festive period.
At its best – Christmas is a time of warmth and welcome. So why isn’t that the experience for so many single Christians? And how practically can churches play a role in changing this?
Around 500 Christians shared experiences of being single at Christmas in a survey commissioned by Single Friendly Church. Four out of five respondents said they found at least some aspects of Christmas difficult. One said: “I think it’s one of the harder times of the year - if not the hardest - for single people.”
Many reported struggling with loneliness over the Christmas period. Two thirds of respondents said that their church does nothing to help people who are on their own on Christmas Day. While 43 per cent said that the week between Christmas and New Year is a difficult or lonely time. There was a feeling that the idea of church family doesn’t apply to Christmas. Instead it’s a time for “real” family - and those without or away from their family can feel extremely isolated.
Two thirds of respondents said that their church does nothing to help people who are on their own on Christmas Day.
Single people were also asked what church events they enjoy attending at Christmas. While Carol services are popular (79 per cent), almost half of respondents also said they attend Christmas Day services, which many churches treat as a family-focussed affair.
Single Friendly Church believes that churches must change this narrative. There are lots of practical things we can all do to make Christmas a positive and inclusive experience for everyone. Singleness is on the rise and more people than ever are finding themselves on their own at Christmas time. In November Single Friendly Church ran a training webinar on Christmas for church leaders. A recording is freely available on their YouTube channel.
One survey participant shared: “When I was a child, my parents would invite single people for Boxing Day. Some people had nowhere to go. As children I think this was really good for us to normalise including others.”
Here are some practical points for churches and individuals:
- Remember lots of people don’t have somebody to spend Christmas with. It is often through no fault of their own. Find out who will or might be on their own in your church – don’t make assumptions. Christmas can be a hard time for many. Be aware and pray for those who are hurting.
- Don’t forget to invite others in. Look out for and include those attending Christmas services alone and invite someone to join you for one of your Christmas celebrations
- Empower single people to be part of the solution and encourage social activities and meet ups over the Christmas week.
- Preach an inclusive sermon that focuses on the true meaning of Christmas. Secular Christmas celebrations often focus on families – but that shouldn’t be what churches do. Jesus was born for everyone - the stranger, the lonely, the hurting - not just the happy families and children.