November 11, 2010

'Singularly Interesting'...

 I recently discovered these fascinating statistics on singles and households of single occupancy from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Did you know…

* One-person households are the fastest growing of all demographic groups in Sydney. Currently, 22% of all Sydney households are occupied by one person, the trend towards proportionately more of these smaller households is likely to continue.

* By 2031, there are likely to be an additional 300,000 single person households in Sydney, representing 30% of all households.
* Lone person households aged 35-44 yrs were more likely to still be 'renters' (56%) than owner-occupiers (44%), with the rental rate for this group increasing by 9% between 1995-96 and 2005-06. 

* As women have delayed childbearing, a greater proportion have remained childless into their thirties and forties. In 2006, 37% of women in the peak child - bearing age of 30–34 years had not had any children.

 For women aged 40–44 years, childlessness increased from 10% for women born in 1942–46, to 13% for women born in 1952–56, and 16% for women born in 1962–66.

* DINKS’ & ‘Empty-Nesters’ will soon overtake parents with live-in children as the most common family type. "If recent trends continue, couple-only families will overtake the number of couple families with children in either 2013 or 2014"-ABS.
* A fast-growing number of people living alone will have a particular impact on women, with the number of older women living alone growing faster than for men. In 2006, there were 1.9 million people living alone in Australia; by 2031, there are projected to be between 3.0 and 3.6 million, an increase of between 63% and 91%, with the trend strongest among women.
* It’s predicted the number of women living alone will likely rise by 83% between 2006   and 2031.
* For the first time homelessness amongst women 45+ outnumbered men in our city.
* Figures show the trend in Australia to proportionately larger group of single women aged 40 to 54 compared with men in the same age bracket. Demographer Bernard Salt singled out 5 particular ''hot spots'', of women aged 40-54 living in the suburb identifying as single.
- Waterloo 71.2
- Woolloomooloo 63.5
- Daceyville 62.8
- Elizabeth Bay 62
- Rushcutters Bay 61.7

If these statistics are right then this growing demographic could well become a (if not ‘the’) major un-reached people group within our city into the next decade & beyond.

What might this mean for our churches? 
For out-reach?
Our Current Church Target Demographics:

Current approaches to church traditionally focus on 3 main demographic groups
1. Seniors (retired +)
2. Young families and families with teens.
3. Youth (16-21yrs)

These largely homogeneous groupings tend to be confined to 3 main services & service types
- An early morning Prayer Book and communion service for Seniors
- A mid-morning ‘families service’
- An evening contemporary service for youth and university age bracket

Under this current approach, those who are workers, young couples with no kids and those who may be single for one reason or another (those widowed, divorced, separated or never-married) are the demographic most called upon to adapt.

 Preparation and Perception:
 The three key questions that come to mind for me are…
    1. Given these growth statistics, what mission thinking/strategising might we need to begin doing in order to effectively reach this demographic?

    2. What perception or attitudinal shifts might we need to be addressing as we mission to this demographic?

  * What unspoken attitudes (real or perceived) might my church need to address towards Christians who may be single parents, separated, divorced, or never married?

* What attitude may a non-christian single in this demographic perceive?

* If I am single and come to/visit this church where will I fit?

    * Is my church attractive to a broadening range of those who are single (especially those post uni through to 60)?

     * How might my church encourage, help, care for Christians whose un-believing partner never comes with them to church?

    3. How might our churches need to recognise and address some of the specific pastoral realities that may accompany this demographic within our church communities?

    Eg. ABS Statistics also indicate that single women with children face poverty, extreme financial stress, are often government assistant dependant, have employment and re-employment difficulties, relationship complications and suffer from social isolation.

      * Women who are divorced or separated experience similar issues, which may then be compounded by any negative attitudinal issues related to divorce or separation within our churches.

     * Women with non-christian partners who never come to church and therefore are consistently forced to relate as a 'single' within our married communities.

     * The never married often never know where they fit. This can be a disincentive for some entering or engaging in church life, especially in comparison to the secular working world where the single state does not always carry the same questions of acceptability, curiosity or stigma.

       * The  financial and personal safety and security issues for the growing number of singles living alone, or for the growing number of homeless women in our communities.

What I do know, is that the challenge is out there to reach our large, complex and beautiful city of Sydney for Christ. 
And that means growing in our capacity to connect, engage with, and thoughtfully integrate into our church congregations the many vast and varied people groups wherever we might find them.
Hopefully stat's like these should challenge us to move beyond merely considering them - singularly interesting,but mobilize us to be strategically praying for, reaching out to, and gathering the lost…whatever their demographic!


Rachael said...

Thanks Sarie, there has always been a nagging frustration in me about how these segments of the population compare themselves to the patterns in church and think, can I belong here? Do I have to do all the adjusting? And they don't want to be patronised, that makes it worse.

Anonymous said...

Well written Sarie- I hope this article gets into a print magazine for a wider audience i have been going to a church plant which is at 10am - i have surprised at the number of single people that have come. One interesting trend has been two lots of brothers and sisters coming which i mistook for married couples

Jodi said...

Hey sarie - just read your post. wow. so many questions and things to think through! I've been thinking for the last couple of years (after reading stuff from crowded house in the UK and SOMA in the US) about urban missions and what it looks like to be engaging with these sorts of demographics... big (and important!) things for sydney Christians to be thinking through and engaging with.

Kellie said...

Sar, I've been reading 'Singled Out' recently and thinking about the same things. Churches in Japan seem to struggle with the same problems.

Dani said...

Great and very informative post Sar!

I don't know whether to be excited or somewhat scared (for the sake of ministry!) that 4 out of 5 of those 'hot spots' are within a few km's radius of St Matthias. What's more, Daceyville is only a little bit further away (though I must admit to some surprise that it is considered a single hot-spot! Though I guess is might have a lot of single mothers or possibly single women on welfare).

Enormous challenge ahead of us all to connect with and build relationships with this growing demographic.

PS. Kell - if you are looking for some other books to read on the topic then Singled Out (Colon & Field) and Redeeming Singleness (Danylak) are both excellent!

Sarie King said...

Yes Dani, I thought of you when I saw those 'hot spots', now there's a mission field literally right up your alley!

Verina said...

Interesting and well done.

Justin said...

Sorry -- did I just read that women OUTNUMBER homeless men in the city?? (I haven't enough time right now to chase the links there...)

Sarie King said...

Justin- apparently so in the 45+ age bracket.

Sarie King said...

ps. Justin- by 'city' they mean across Sydney, not nec. just the CBD.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your well thought through articles on singleness. A lot of the comments of on grief ring true. I believe you are correct in your comment fitting in with church life as single. Despite being on a committee and heavy involved in Youth ministry I believe my church just does not know how to help singles connect. They just seem to say 'singles ministry' oh it will just become a dating scene and will run out of steam. Phewy to that! elders, youth, families and children are seen as important why not Singles. If, I don't fit in these boxes where do I fit? Some of us will stay single all there lives, yet aren't offered support for choosing God's plan for marriage over the world's.

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