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.