About the research

'Singleness in the UK Church' is the first large survey of opinions and reported behaviour of single Christians in the UK. Run in 2012 by online dating website Christian Connection, it attracted more than 3,000 people, many of whom welcomed the opportunity to express their views.

'So glad you are doing this survey – people do not understand how hard it is being single in church.'

'Thank you, this is a very relevant survey and I'm glad I got to take part and make a difference! Please help us singles. It's so hard to believe that God has someone for us. It's such a lonely existence and we feel like we don't fit into this world. Thank you.'

If, after reading this section, you would like more information, please contact us. You can also download Working Draft Reports and Data in PDF format.

What we asked

We asked respondents a series of questions, covering the following key areas:

  • Age and gender
  • Living arrangements
  • Employment and relationship status
  • Denomination and type of church attended
  • Being part of the church community
  • Gender imbalance in church
  • Being single, including social life and faith
  • Seeking a partner, including marrying a non-Christian and online dating
  • Sexuality and sexual behaviour
  • Support and events for single people

A full list of questions can be found here.

Comments

We asked people to comment specifically on whether the church was a good place for single Christians and what church leaders had done or said to encourage them.

In addition, many questions also had free text comment areas. In total, the respondents made 9,449 comments (an average of over 3 per person). Unlike most surveys, where comments are restricted to a few words of explanation, people were writing up to 200 words.

These comments are invaluable in understanding what lies behind the responses made; they provide illustrations with which other people can connect.

You can read their comments about the survey in one of the Data PDFs on the Download page.

Who took part

We advertised the survey through personal contact,  links on websites,  emails and partnership requests with other organisations providing services to single adult Christians.

Self-selected sample

The sample was therefore self-selected and primarily focused around those who identified themselves as seeking a life partner.

The advertising process was effective in that the vast majority were single church-goers who lived in a wide variety of areas and attended many different kinds of (mostly) Protestant churches.

Marital status

Some 94% of participants were single, including never married, divorced and widowed. In addition 3% were separated. A few people who had met their husband or wife online also answered.

Type of household

Nearly half the respondents lived on their own (48%). 1 in 6 (16%) shared with other single people and 30% lived as a lone adult with their children (15%) or with parents or other family members (15%).

Gender and age

For a self-selected online survey, we obtained a good balance of genders (29% male, 71% female) – especially given the known gender imbalance of those describing themselves as Christian.

The age distribution of respondents reflected that most unmarried people don't think of themselves as single until approaching the average age of first marriage (around 30 in the UK).

Church-going

Almost all those responding said that they went to church (97%), with 81% going every week and a further 8% at least once per month.

 

Church-going among the respondents

 

Areas the respondents lived in

In regular paid work as employee or self-employed

84% were in paid work, with 19% reporting working over 40 hours each week, and 47% in full-time employment.

Of the 16% not in regular paid work, nearly one third were retired, one sixth unemployed and seeking work and 1/7 students. Others reported being unable to work or being a carer.

Distinctive characteristics

In analysing any survey, it's important to assess if the respondents are typical or not. The survey attracted single church-going Christians in a variety of household arrangements and sort of area. The majority were in paid work, but at typical rates to the national average.

There are, however, a number of factors that might distinguish the respondents from other single Christians in the UK. This results from:

  • respondents selecting themselves
  • respondents being online
  • the survey being associated with a Christian dating website.

From these, we might distinguish some distinctive factors about the respondents that should be borne in mind when reading the results:

  • likely to be pro-active
  • active in seeking a life partner, who is also a Christian
  • likely to be more educated (as education level is strongly related to online presence)
  • more likely to have some disposable income (to pay for online services and online dating).

Despite this caution, the sample can be considered a good one for the UK Protestant churches through the number of respondents, that they are single and church-going, in a range of types of household and types of area and paid for work.

Analysis methods

We carried out the survey in 2012 using SurveyMonkey, an online survey and questionnaire tool. The quantitative and qualitative data collected were then analysed and collated in June 2013.

Analysing the quantitative data

The data from the SurveyMonkey online survey were loaded into SPSS. Differences in responses were tested using Chi-Square and t-tests by Dr Pillas of University College London. Four key areas explored for possible differences were: denomination, type of church, age and gender age

Identifying statistical differences

All relationships presented in the findings are derived from identified associations that are statistically significant at the P < 0.001 level.

Although P < 0.05 is the conventional level of significance employed in much social scientific research, a more stringent threshold was used in this study in order to account for multiple testing.

Applying this more stringent P-value threshold substantially reduces the amount of false-positives reported from the data/information collected in this survey.

In other words, we can be very confident that – should a difference be observed with this probability – it is in some sense 'real' for this sample.

All the statistically significant data are included.

Assessing positivity

Responses to various statements were assessed using a set of five point scales inviting respondents to agree or disagree.

The responses are expressed in terms of positivity: the number of those agreeing minus the number disagreeing as proportion of those giving an answer.

  • A figure of +1 would indicate that all people expressed a view and said that they agreed with it.
  • A figure of 0 indicates that half of the people expressing a view agreed and half disagreed.

Analysing the qualitative data/textual contributions

We used the following method to analyse the free-text comments.

  • Initial read-through: All responses were read through and the most frequent areas noted.
  • Coding schema: A coding schema was developed from the structure of the question based upon common responses.
  • Coding: Each person's response was coded for each area the coding schema covered. If a person mentioned it, then it was counted and typically varied from one to three areas.
  • Counting: The codes were then counted to see what was of most significance to the respondents.
  • Further analysis: Within each code, responses were then further analysed for common themes (informal coding).
  • Writing up: A description of the findings were written up and quotes selected for illustration.

In some questions – where the range of answers was less or the numbers to be analysed prohibitively large for the resources available – the coding scheme was applied to a sample of the answers, numbering not less than one third.

Two questions (on reasons for not attending church and factors that would encourage greater attendance) were read and reviewed, but were not analysed. This is because the number of responses was much lower and reflected specific personal circumstances.

Requested feedback on the survey itself is considered separately.

Representative quotes

In choosing representative quotes, the relevant part has been selected from a whole comment. Spelling has been corrected, as have any punctuation errors (e.g. its → it's) that do not affect what's said.

The number in the brackets following a quote refers to the sequential numbering of comments for each question. The same number appearing in different responses does not refer to the same respondent.

Research team

The survey was conceived and initiated by the founder and Managing Director of Christian Connection , Jackie Elton. Set up in 2000, Christian Connection is owned and run by Christians with the aim of helping single Christians in the UK and Ireland to meet and date.

Jackie had seen there were wider issues associated with singleness in the churches than the problems of finding a marriage partner. She wanted to find out more in order to help single people - whether they wish to date with the intention to marry or to stay single. The survey was run in 2012.

The survey questions were created by Judith Griffin (now Reverend).

Researcher and analyst

After the responses were completed, Dr David Pullinger was invited to analyse them. In 2013, he analysed the data and wrote the reports upon which this website is based. Single until 2012, he had previously written the book 'A Desire to Belong: thinking about single people in church'.

David is a researcher and renowned expert on ethics in the digital society and speaks  regularly at international conferences and Christian seminars as well as having held senior strategic roles in a national church headquarters and the UK Government.

Funding organisation

The work was funded by the Resurgens Foundation in Geneva, Switzerland.

If you would like to speak to a member of the team involved in the research, please contact us.