“I want you to be free from the cares of this world. The man who is not married can spend his time working for the Lord and pleasing Him. 33 The man who is married cares for the things of the world. He wants to please his wife. 34 Married women and women who have never been married are different. The woman who has never been married can spend her time working for the Lord. She wants to please the Lord with her body and spirit. The woman who is married cares for the things of the world. She wants to please her husband. 35 I am saying these things to help you. I am not trying to keep you from getting married. I want you to do what is best. You should work for Him without other things taking your time.” 1 Cor. 7:32-35 (NLT)
Today I would like to give encouragement to single pastors, particularly ones working in children’s ministry. Singleness has blessings and challenges just like any of life’s circumstances. In the passage above, Paul doesn’t say that it’s better to be married or it’s better to be single. He simply points out that being married can have its difficulties. It’s an unhealthy approach to look down on someone based on their status; whether married, single, a parent, married without children, short, tall, skinny, heavy, dark-skinned, light-skinned… you get the picture. God has called us all to unique lives. Each of these lives can be lived according to God’s purpose and honor Him. As we look at the lives of a very specific group of people, single pastors, we can gain an enlightened perspective by going to God’s word. If you are a single pastor, if you know a pastor who is not married, or even if you have not yet met a single pastor it is important to think about this through the lens of scripture.
What does the Scripture Say?
There are benefits to being single. Paul points this out in his letter to the Corinthians. Just in case someone is tempted to look down on themselves or others for being single, be encouraged by his words that “the man who is not married can spend his time working for the Lord and pleasing Him” and “the woman who has never been married can spend her time working for the Lord. She wants to please the Lord with her body and spirit.” What Paul seems to be stating here is it is less difficult to get your priorities straight when you are single. God is at the center of everything you do when you are serving as a single pastor and you don’t have the challenge of learning how to put God first, then your spouse, then your children, etc. The order of importance is a non-issue when you aren’t even married. This is not to say that all married pastors get it wrong and put their spouses before God. Nor is it to say that all single pastors get it right and don’t sometimes struggle with putting themselves before God. Paul simply says that if you find yourself single, you aren’t in a situation where you need to struggle to learn the balance of putting God in the center and still knowing how to prioritize your wife and family’s needs. God has spared you this burden.
If we were in court, this would be a case made for singleness. Almost like permitting a person to be single. Fortunately, you aren’t on trial here, but sometimes you might feel like it.
Perhaps you’ve experienced judgment from others or even from yourself. God can use us whether we are single or married, no matter what ethnicity, no matter what financial status, and He has a plan for us. If you have experienced judgment from others, perhaps it was them trying to change your status to make you fit into their narrative. Have you ever been put on a blind date even though you weren’t interested in dating? Maybe you went just to please the person trying to set you up. Perhaps you are married without children. Sometimes it can be a challenge to know what category you fit in the church when you don’t have kids and aren’t invited to MOPs or parent Sunday schools. There is a place for you in the church. God knows what it is and He has community, service, and blessings for you. The same can be felt by a single pastor, a single church member, or a newly single widow/widower. What community and fellowship groups do you belong to? Have you been invited? If not, have you invited others to join you? We all need brothers and sisters in Christ to come around us, encourage us, challenge us in our faith, and help us in times of need.
Your needs matter too!
Specifically for the single pastor, a great way to find community is to invite other singles in the church to form a prayer or Bible study group. Another positive way to have community is to form a mixed-aged mixed-status group of people that can join together each week and share a meal and pray for one another. A Christian book club is a wonderful way to make friendships. As a single pastor, you may have the advantage of more time than those who are married. Be careful not to spend ALL of your time serving. Leave space in your schedule to be filled up by God’s word and spirit. Leave space in your day to rest and trust God with your ministry. Leave space in your week to be served by others who are reaching out and asking if you need help. Leave space for friendships and things that bring you joy so that you can be reminded of God’s love for you too!
Strengths not Everyone can Bring to the Table
Children’s Ministry Pastors who are single have a very unique opportunity that married pastors might not have. Let’s be honest, single pastors probably have a bit more energy. Unless they were spending that specific weekend babysitting, they probably had a good night’s sleep and weren’t woken up by any crying toddlers. Because of this, a single pastor has the advantage of more zeal and passion behind teaching their lessons and running games and activities. These pastors might also have more time on their hands to plan, create new ideas, and prepare events while a married pastor may not because of obligations to their family. This is very similar to when an aunt and uncle, without their own children, visit their niece and/or nephew. They can arrive well-rested and prepared, having the best time where wonderful memories are made! Don’t get me wrong, a parent makes lasting impressions and memories with their children too. The aunt and uncle just have an advantage because they aren’t responsible for the kids 24/7. They won’t lose focus as quickly or get tired out as fast. While a mother might have to juggle doing laundry, setting up a doctor’s appointment, and spending time with their kids all at once, an aunt can give her full attention to the children. In the same way, many single pastors can be well-rested and less distracted from their ministry because their personal life is not as demanding. This is not to say that they won’t have seasons of life where there are trials that demand more attention, but there is an overall difference between a pastor who is single and one who is married or married with children.
The Only Status that Matters
Being single and being married both have their advantages and their times of difficulty. Be encouraged today that God does not say one is better than the other. Scripture doesn’t tell us that one person is better than another based on their status. God has called us all, in all walks of life, to have a close relationship with Him and to love others the way God loves us. The only status that matters is your status of having Jesus in your heart! You are right where God wants you for a reason and there is beauty in your particular circumstances. Praise God!