Marriage is a big deal in Christianity, so leaders are naturally concerned to see the average marriage age slowly increase. I've sat in on so many "importance of getting married" sermons that they would be impossible to recount. They are often interesting, sometimes encouraging and rarely filled with advice I've never heard before.
The problem with these well-intentioned sermons are that they address all the wrong things. Generally they focus on the need to get married - a circumstance that isn't completely within our control. It's that focus that drives 40 percent of religious singles to feel as if their faith doesn't value them, according to a study in 2013.
There are really only 4 simple things churches need to be stressing when it comes to addressing marriage. This is what we singles actually need to be learning:
Teach us to listen to God
Fear of marriage is real. Why would it not be? Some of our friends who married young are now getting divorces with horrific marital disaster stories to accompany them.
Starting at a young age, we need to be taught that God answers prayers and guides our feelings. Those gut feelings are worth listening to. Teach youth to fill their lives with truth everyday so they can be open to answers God is giving. God certainly doesn't want us to have terrible lives, and when a relationship is right, he can help us feel it. When we haven't adequately been taught where to go for answers and how those answers come, the fear and "commitment issues" set in.
Teach us to forgive
Whether we get married young, or whether we wait several decades, it is guaranteed we will be hurt in a relationship at some point. Not forgiving brings bitterness, and we close ourselves off.
If you want us to be happily married, our hearts need to be free from resentment. Forgiveness will allow us to open our vulnerability when the right person comes along, even if we've been burned in the past.
Teach us about time
The greatest tragedy is that this is the great time we will have for self-development. Time is a precious resource to be used in beneficial ways. We are Millenials and Generation Z. From young ages we have had a million ways to entertain and distract us.
Teach us to always be learning, to take advantage of education, adventure, service, learning to manage money, improving our little corner of the world. Teach us to turn off Netflix and look up from our phones. Self-development is never a wasted endeavor.
Teach us to love ourselves
There is so much focus on finding someone that we don't consider the possibility that it's impossible to love someone in a healthy way if we hate ourselves.
We can't completely control when or if we will get married, but we can control what relationships we form - both romantic and platonic. Loving ourselves will help us avoid toxic relationships, because we know we deserve better.
Teach us to love ourselves so we can love God and others. Without this it is going to be a very lonely ride.
We singles are a vital part of your congregations. Stop stressing about marriage itself and focus on the tools we need to live full lives - with or without a spouse.