Recently the Globe and Mail reported that for the first time in Canadian history, there are more households comprised of singles than of families with children. Where single dwellers “accounted for only 7.4% of homes in 1951,” census figures from last fall show that now, 27.6% of Canadian homes have just one occupant, a trend that the is “mirrored in the United States and a few steps behind similar trends in Europe.”
At The American Conservative, Rod Dreher considers whether this change signals a move toward self-actualization for individuals, or is purely a sign of selfishness. Will this cause a clash in values between families and singles, he wonders?
Rather than getting worked up over the decline of the traditional family, though, what if we consider the missional opportunities this trend could offer? Churches that have built strong family ministries ought to be working to be sure that they are also providing real community for singles. Families ought to be including single friends in their daily lives.
Frankly, moving beyond the single-family dwelling place might be a good thing. As more and more people are living alone, what about reviving the boarding house? Ruth Graham writes in the The Boston Globe about the ways the boarding house—a big house full of strangers who rent rooms but share a common table—shaped 19th century U.S. history. She suggests that the boarding house could return as a viable housing solution in light of the growing number of singles and the economic downturn, writing that already “micro-apartments, extra-tiny private spaces with shared kitchens down the hall, are taking off in cities including Boston, New York, and Seattle.” (This is a fascinating article—you should read the whole thing.)
Whether or not the boarding house comes back into fashion, why not consider doing more with the space we have, making our family borders (pun intended) a bit more porous? When my husband and I were dating, he rented a room in a single-family home, and after we were married, we managed a boarding house of sorts for international students. Both were good experiences, and someday we hope to have a room in our family’s home to rent to college students in the town where we live now.
The way we live is changing. If “self-actualization” becomes loneliness, let’s be sure the Church is prepared to welcome singles warmly into its Family.