Our Generation Didn’t Ruin the Institution of Marriage

I considered titling this post “Everything I Know about Marriage I Learned from Beyonce”–but I don’t even have space to explain how true that is.

Last week, I fell into a conversation with several seniors in the church about how the younger generation–my generation–had ruined the institution of marriage: cohabitation, quick divorces, and promiscuity had eroded an important and valuable way of life. With none too much politeness, but perhaps the most politeness you will see in the next 800 words, I cut the conversation: “We didn’t ruin marriage. We have a deep respect for it. And that’s why we’re not doing it as often or as quickly as your generation did.”

It’s easy, in our cultural environment, to stay generationally segregated–in college dorms, retirement communities, day care centers. It’s equally easy to create a generational echo chamber around particular issues. But the idea that my generation–or the one before it–ruined the institution of marriage is shortsighted and destructive. Continue reading

Fear of (Someone Else) Being Alone

My stomach rolls a little every time I think about writing about being a single pastor. My gut reaction is always, first, that it’s none of your business. I get defensive because in the church, there’s almost always a degree of judgment about being single. When you’re a pastor, that judgment is compounded with concern, benevolence, and confusion. For me, it comes down to this: being single does not define nor limit my ministry and it’s not relevant to the quality of the work that I do. I don’t define myself as a “single person pastoring,” and it’s offensive and reductive when you do.

For the most part, my congregation is supportive and understands that. But every once in a while, someone makes a comment that hints at how this is a “problem” they can help me “fix.” They don’t say it that way, but that’s what they mean. Someone will comment about my future-husband’s participation in the church or express concern that I’ll date the wrong person. (Did you never date the wrong person? Do you realize you’re speaking to me like I’m 16? You trust me to make decisions about the basic functioning of the church but think I’m incompetent to make intelligent decisions about who I spend time with?)

As much as that makes my blood flame, for so many reasons, as a pastor, I get to approach singleness as a work issue, not a big-C Church issue that defines my relationship to the little-c church I attend. But in the aftermath of Valentine’s Day, I’ve had several conversations with single Christians (all women) who do experience it that way. They all noted how… unhelpful the church is. Church is still, largely, a place for married people. My own congregation has upwards of 30 young adults, but I can list the number of single people between 22-35 on one hand (maybe one and a half hands). The church has this fear of single people, like they’re a liability or concern, and single people feel it.

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