Single. Dating. Female. Pastor: 5 Things I Want the Church to Know
Some of what the author writes in this is applicable to all single women, not just to women who work as pastors.
Recently, I was invited to participate in a panel on singleness at a Christian conference. I shared my experience as a single woman pastor and how single clergy can feel isolated in a church culture where marriage is the default.
It was the first time since university that I had an honest, direct, public conversation about singleness in the church.
We hear countless sermons about marriage, but singleness is not often addressed publicly in Christian communities.
1. Single pastors (especially women) often feel invisible. Let’s find ways to be more inclusive of the stories and experiences of single folks in ministry.
At a recent seminar I attended on pastoral health and wellness, speakers highlighted statistics showing the impact of ministry stress on married pastors and their spouses and children.
But what about single pastors who hold this stress alone?
Where are we in these statistics? Women pastors are already underrepresented in most studies on clergy. Data on single women pastors is virtually non-existent. But how can we hope to care for single pastors if our stories aren’t being told or represented in the church’s narrative?
….2. People often treat single pastors as if they either hate being single or love it. It’s not that simple. Let’s make it a priority to befriend single clergy and let them tell us about it.
Sure, being single in a married world is difficult at times. This is especially true for many single women in the church, who feel added societal pressure to marry and “settle down.”
But it can also be great to be single in a married world. Do not assume you know how single folks feel or what they need to hear about their singleness.
Start by being friends with them, by sharing your life with them and vice versa.
Until you’ve done that, don’t ask them potentially hurtful questions about their singleness or offer advice for how they should approach dating.
Be especially aware of making single women feel like it’s their fault that they’re single and they would be married if only they would [insert unsolicited advice].
And, when single folks choose to share with you, affirm their feelings.
If they tell you that they are lonely, mourn with them. If they tell you that they are loving their independence, celebrate with them.
Do not overwrite single people’s experiences with your own expectations and stereotypes.