by Cole Lane:
Doing ministry while single is weird.
I get asked fairly regularly at my home church if I am married yet, and often when I am introduced to someone at a new church it takes under 20 minutes to be asked “I see you don’t have a ring, so I assume you aren’t married. Are you dating anyone?”
I have always thought that this was an odd question to ask. I didn’t understand why it so closely followed common questions like: What are you doing with your life currently? What do you plan on doing with your life in the future? How long have you been doing the Jesus thing? How long did it take to grow that beard (another weird question)? Why are you here at this church? And finally, when do you plan on marrying?
It can almost seem like the final question in their first impression of you. It gets awkward and it becomes even more awkward when “Susan” from the senior adult class tries to play matchmaker within the church’s college ministry.
So, as a single guy, why does it matter so much? Should it matter, and I am the weird one that wonders why it’s weird?
Putting myself in the shoes of a married person, I can actually see why the question would be asked for two separate, but similar, reasons.
First, ministry is based on relationships. Often times the effectiveness of ministry is determined by the relationships built by individuals. For example: the person that I have known for years, the one that I have had coffee with, played games with, had hour long conversations with, and generally done life with will be much more willing to listen to me and ask for my help and opinions than someone I have only known for 30 minutes. Marriage is an ice breaker for these relationships. Two individuals can find immediate common ground just by knowing if the other is married.
Second, marriage brings experience, and people want to be helped by others that have experienced what they are going through. Marriage brings both joy and trials. Because marriage is such a massive part of life it can be seen as one of the “final” steps into adulthood. So someone who is single may be seen as someone that hasn’t had this experience and therefore doesn’t understand the life of a married person.
As a single person, I know this to be true and not true.
I don’t know what it is like to be married. I do not know the highs and lows that come from marriage.
However, I can observe marriage both physically and within scripture. I can get an idea, however accurate it may or may not be, of how marriage should look and work.
But I still don’t have the experience.
Does that mean I should just go ahead and find someone, anyone, that I am slightly compatible with and marry them for the sake of my ministry? Of course not.
Singleness has benefits. 1 Corinthians 7:8 “To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am.”
Why is it good to remain single? What makes the “gift” of singleness a gift?
Well first, I can go wherever I am called without much hesitation.
I am originally from a smaller town in mid-Missouri. The furthest I have been from home was for a college ministry position in Davenport, Iowa. 350 miles away from home. I knew only one person there and had no clue where I would even stay.
I went in a heartbeat.
Had I been married, the decision to make this move would have taken a little bit longer. It would have involved discussion, possible uncertainty, much more planning, and twice the amount of prayer.
Secondly, I can dedicate most of my time to ministry and studies.
I spend a lot of time studying for school. I spend just as much time planning lessons and going through passages of scripture that take a little more digging. I can meet with students whenever they have time. I am able to always be on-call for someone in need.
If I were married, I wouldn’t be able to dedicate nearly as much time to these things. If there is one thing I have learned by watching families, it is that they require time and attention. Since time is a limited resource, and I can’t avoid sleep, I would need to reassign some of my study and ministry time to family time. This is not a bad thing, but it is a reality.
So, does, and should, your marriage status matter in your ministry?
Marriage is valuable. It is important. And it makes it easier to minister to other married people.
But being single is also valuable. It has benefits. And it shouldn’t be looked down on.