They are all around us – no matter where we live. They are so common that they seem invisible, or at least that's often how they feel.
It makes me sad to see churches giving up on single adult ministries. What a wonderful opportunity they are missing, McGowan says.
"It wasn't that I was treated badly. It's just that I was completely ignored."
That's a rather frequent comment I hear from them, as they come in, puzzled, hurt and confused by the lack of respect, attention and welcome they feel in so many churches.
Who are they? They are the single adults of our society.
They can be anywhere from early 20s to the elderly. They are an increasingly growing segment of our population. In some cities, they comprise more than 75 percent of the adult population.
Like so many others who are "invisible" in our world, there are some myths – some sound bites that resemble those we hear during election year, that contain little, if any, truth, yet are believed by many.
There is no Snopes or Urban Legends to check out these myths. You have to get to know some single adults to begin debunking the misinformation out there.
When I first began my ministry to single adults, nearly 16 years ago, there were quite a few single adult ministries around the country.
We had conferences for single adult ministers where we shared ideas and concerns about the ministry. Today those are mostly nonexistent. Why?
Because so many churches have abandoned the ministries, believe some of the myths and no longer feel the deep concern about ministering to them.
You hear things like, "They just cost the church money but they don't give back, so we really can't afford to continue this ministry."
Fact: Single adults contribute as healthily as other adults. Yes, there are some who are stingy with their contributions, but some married adults are stingy with theirs!
"They are social misfits, so they don't contribute to healthy spiritual life."
Wrong. In our church alone, we have single adults who are pastors, deacons, Bible study teachers and who lead in other capacities.
They are bright, capable, strong leaders that we highly value. Yes, we have some who come to us deeply wounded and needing some time to heal.
I go to weddings and hear how the two people getting married were "incomplete and now they are whole."
My heart breaks for those who are single sitting in the crowd who just heard publicly that they are not whole persons.
While providing some activities and experiences that are specifically designed for them, like divorce recovery, financial planning, single parenting and special workshops and retreats, we also attempt to help them assimilate into the larger church life, serving on ministry teams and making friends with other members who are not single.
They are not segregated all the time, but only when we can provide some specific things that minister to their lives.
I deeply value my relationships among the single adults. When my own children were growing up, there were some singles who took special interest in them, encouraged them and loved them.
Coming from people who are not "family," it meant a lot to our children that someone who wasn't just supposed to be interested in them (like family) took the time and energy to be there for them. What a gift!
Some of our single adults grieve the fact that they will never have children of their own, and I've tried to remind them that they can get to know a family and become the "aunt" or "uncle" who is the great encourager of those children.
Several of our single adults have adopted children, and I'm so grateful that this is now a possibility for some these days. They are wonderful parents!
In our Single Parents' Bible Study class, they encourage one another in their parenting. They cheer each other on.
We go to great lengths to be missional and to take the Good News to people groups in other parts of the world. We pray for our missionaries and dig deep into our pockets to fund mission projects, yet we so often fail to see this under-reached people group in our own midst.
It makes me sad to see churches giving up on single adult ministries. What a wonderful opportunity they are missing. What a great gift could be theirs if only they would develop ways to reach out to the many single adults of our communities.
Occasionally someone says to me, "I don't know how you do it!" (meaning: work with single adults).
I quickly try to explain that my deep love for them, respect and appreciation for them and joy of knowing and working together with them cannot be put into words.
As we minister together, I am reminded that Jesus was a single adult. He was no less valuable because he didn't have a spouse on his arm and a couple of kids in tow.
As I get to watch single adults grow spiritually and become mature Christians, I am proud of our church for valuing single adults in our budget when some would say it isn't "productive" enough. I am thankful for attempts to involve them in other areas of church life and ministry.
How is your church doing in valuing these wonderful people?
Jeanie McGowan is associate pastor of single adults at First Baptist Church in Jefferson City, Mo.