The government recently announced enhanced housing grants for singles buying a flat for the first time. Photo by Andrea Ang on Unsplash.

Overheard at my office in a previous life:

“This new client works non-stop, she was messaging me at 3am to make me fix stuff!”

“She’s still not married, right?”

“Yeah, that’s why she’s so crazy.”

I walked over to my colleagues – two married women – and asked nonchalantly: “Why would you attribute her craziness to her singleness? Why not call her a workaholic, a perfectionist or (your favourite rude word)?”


Not too long ago, I wouldn’t have been able to say that because, being single, that would have come across as being defensive.

But now that I’m married, which happened just before I turned 40, I can finally say what I’ve always wanted to say.

If you’d done your job well in the first place, there’d be nothing to fix.

I jest.

As a single, my biggest fear was becoming the caricature of the “scary spinster”.

But my teammates would be quick to assure you that my marital status has no bearing on my working style at all. I continue to dot the i’s and cross the t’s and expect the same excellence from them before – and after – I was married.

As a single, my biggest fear was becoming the caricature of the “scary spinster”. Somehow single men don’t seem to be tarred with the same brush. Just look at the gender inequality in language – studies have shown that go-getting behaviour is described as “driven” in men but “aggressive” in women.

Coming back to my colleagues, once they got over the awkward silence, they started making excuses that they were just joking and there was no need to be so serious about it.

Perhaps that’s what majority privilege sounds like – to be able to make disparaging remarks about a minority group, and passing it off as humour.

The angbaos they may never recoup

Singles are definitely in the minority. Just a quarter of the population was single last year, reported the Singapore Department of Statistics. In a pro-family society, the odds are stacked against the yet-to-be-married.

Just think of all the wedding and baby angbaos they give out that they are unlikely to recoup. As for HDB flats, they can either get a new one that’s about as big as a five-star hotel room, or a more expensive resale flat on a single income.

There was no difference in my working style before – and after – I was married.

To be fair, things have improved. When I was buying a flat as a single, because I’d assumed that I’d be my parents’ caregiver eventually, I’d picked one that was just a stone’s throw from theirs, which is in a mature estate. In short, mine was a very expensive three-room flat. At that time, the Proximity Housing Grant was only available to married couples living near their parents; it’s now open to singles.

While I understood the rationale behind the family-friendly thinking (so Singaporeans don’t become extinct), I remembered feeling sidelined by the policies, especially when I was paying the same taxes. But the government must have picked up on the ground sentiment, recently making it easier for singles to buy flats.

Looking after the “homeless and loveless”

If even the government is making efforts to “remember” the singles, how are we doing in church? Based on the General Household Survey 2015, a third of Christians are single.

We have a plethora of family ministries (and rightly so) but how many churches have something for singles beyond the occasional match-making effort?

The Bible reminds us to look after orphans and widows or, as The Message puts it, the homeless and loveless (James 1:27). Singles definitely qualify.

The church has a responsibility to care not only for the majority but also the minority, whose vulnerability may not be immediately obvious. So how can churches better cater to the singles in the congregations? How can we married people, who are in the majority, be more sensitive to the needs of the minority?

1. When was the last time you heard a singles sermon?

Every year, without fail, we hear parenting sermons during Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. But how often do we get sermons focussed on singleness?

In the same way that singles can benefit from marriage sermons, those who are married can learn from singles sermons too. For example, it’s always a good reminder that even though they may be in a covenant relationship for life, their identity is not in that, but in Christ.

Even if I didn’t have a husband, the Lord is my portion.

Or even when churches do talk about singleness, they speak of it as a period of waiting, that God will send someone in His own time. The assumption is that you will get married if you wait long enough.

Try telling that to the 18,000 septuagenarians who were still single last year.

So, the singles wait. They wait for life to happen – travel, pick up a new hobby, buy a place – until they get married.

Instead of a waiting-room concept, perhaps it’s more helpful to talk about singleness as a state of being and what it means to live as a single.

Well-meaning married Christians kept reminding me that God will give me the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4), which was more damaging than helpful. But the one verse that I clung to throughout my single years was that God Himself is my inheritance (Psalm 16:5). It assured me that even if I didn’t have a husband to look after me, the Lord is my portion.

2. It’s not just about dating

Obviously, singles in their 20s have a different focus from those in their 40s. While churches have young adult groups that can subsume singles up to 35 years old, what’s available for those who are older, or those who are single again?

Social gatherings where singles can mingle are good but they need to focus beyond dating. There’s a need for Christ-centred content that’s useful to singles and can help them navigate challenges in life.

Instead of telling them that “singleness is a dress rehearsal for marriage”, what about practical workshops on How to Juggle Work and Aging Parents, What to Say to the Mummy Colleague Who Wants Priority in Taking Leave (Again), Cooking for One Without Wasting Food or Who will Look After You When You’re Old.

It’s all well and good to talk about the gift of singleness but we have to keep it real sometimes.

3. Singles and marrieds together

I’m not a fan of a separate singles ministry, I truly believe that the singles and married can serve one another together – but it’s not easy.

When I was trying to integrate into a new church, it was tough finding a cell group. I was too old for the young adults group so they put me in a young families group. Try having a conversation with someone while their five-year-old is constantly tugging at them. Not fun.

Eventually, purely by accident or “divine appointment”, I found a child-free group, where members leave their kids at home so they won’t be distracted. Because of that, I found it easier to build meaningful relationships with both the singles and marrieds.

Now, there may be singles who love children and enjoy being part of a young families group. But for those who don’t, instead of expecting them to grin and bear it, we should go the extra mile to build communities that are unmarried-friendly, where they don’t feel like social rejects or outcasts.

4. Be an ally

For the church to become more singles-friendly, the push will have to come from the married majority. For a start, be more conscious of what you say and try cutting down on the platitudes (“It’ll happen at the right time”), the advice (“Try not to be so picky”), or the match-making (“I know someone who’s perfect for you”).

Instead, pursue friendships with the singles. Invite them over for a meal or a coffee, have conversations, listen to what’s on their heart. Hang out with them, have a girls’ getaway or a boys’ gaming night.

Most importantly, be their allies. If you see the singles being overlooked, speak up. If you hear singles being the butt of a joke, stand up for them. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility.

Beyond the church

Looking beyond the church walls, singles are a neglected mission field – only one in five know Jesus. Some of the biggest proportions of singles can be found among not-so-educated men and highly educated women.

Last year, among men between 30-39 years old and who have below secondary education, 40% are single. Conversely, among women in the same age group and who have a university degree, 25% have never married.

While their needs may differ, the one thing all singles face is loneliness. And we have the perfect antidote: Christianity is about an ever-lasting relationship with a God who loves us.

Let’s truly embody this love by doing good to one another (1 Thessalonians 5:15) and, in so doing, make the church a home where singles are not second-class citizens but precious members of the family.

About the author

Jane Lee

Jane has been telling stories across Asia, whether as a journalist, a missionary or a brand storyteller, always trying to give the voiceless (and boring) a voice.