She said they are hesitant to promote her to the student pastor position because she is unmarried. She has a four-year pastoral ministry degree, has worked for years in student ministry at this egalitarian church, but she is about to be passed over for a man who is just graduating, but has an unaccredited ordination and a wedding band.
But why? Why is a married pastor better than a single one?
Are some churches trying to get “two for the price of one”?
Let’s face it, sometimes the answer is “yes” on this one.
Do they think there is “something wrong” with people that makes them “still single”?
Let’s face it again, some think the answer is yes. And yet, I know quite a few married people who have many issues; marriage isn’t a badge that makes someone a “normal” or “qualified” person.
Are they trying to follow biblical qualifications for elders (1 Tim 3), assuming a pastor must be an elder?
Sometimes, this is the case. It was the case for Mark Driscoll, who wrote in his article against single pastors, “I have only known a few single men who were pastors, and the majority of them disqualified themselves morally. Those who did not were married shortly after they began pastoral ministry.” That’s an interesting thought from a married pastor who also disqualified himself morally. It seems that marriage does not make us immune to immoral behavior. Perhaps we disqualify ourselves morally not because we’re single or married, but rather because we are human and prone to sin.
Al Mohler also appealed to 1 Timothy 3 in his article defending the preference for married pastors. This was a response to a New York Times article that highlighted the difficulty single pastors have with finding a job—it was even more difficult for singles than for females in 2011. Mohler does not address the fact Paul’s letter was written to a culture where almost everyone was married, and he states that Paul’s words lauding singleness in 1 Corinthians do not contradict 1 Timothy.
Would Jesus or Paul have trouble finding a pastoral position in an Evangelical church today?Would an Evangelical church hire single Jesus or Paul? Click To Tweet
Are they worried that the single pastor’s desire to marry will “get in the way” of ministry?
Let’s face it, sometimes it does. I googled “Single Pastors” and found the Facebook Page, “Single Pastors and Ministers.” It has 544 likes, but it appears that it didn’t last much longer than the first post in 2009. Rather than becoming a place where pastors met for professional purposes, many of the comments stated they were looking for a spouse and even left their phone numbers.
But it doesn’t always, so we must be careful of buying into negative stereotypes. I know quite a few single pastors who would like to marry, but that desire does not hinder their ability to boldly and effectively minister to their congregation.
So, now to the point—why do single people make great pastors?
- Single people in the congregation easily identify with them. The reasons for singleness in our congregations vary—widowhood, divorce, commitment to celibacy, not of marriageable age, etc. The median age of first marriage keeps increasing, and is currently at about 29 for men and 27 for women. These people need good examples of faithful singles; perhaps a single pastor may encourage more to attend church (since many think church is for families). As of 2014, more than half of the US population is unmarried–don’t we want to reach them with the gospel?
- Single people represent the inclusive love of God. Lisa Graham McMinn writes in Sexuality and Holy Longing, “Christianity makes this exclusive faith claim: Jesus is the only way of salvation. If we elevate marriage (also an exclusive relationship) as the only picture of God’s love for the Church, we diminish the inclusive, universal, unencumbered love God has for all people” (69). Lauren Winner agrees, adding “Marriage, [as it reflects Christ’s relationship with the Church], instructs the church in what to look for when the kingdom comes—eternal, intimate union. And singleness prepares us for the other piece of the end of time, the age when singleness trumps marriage. Singleness tutors us in our primary, heavenly relationship with one another: sibling in Christ” (Real Sex: the Naked Truth about Chastity, 147). Single people are able to include all in a way that a married person cannot, because the married person is in an exclusive relationship.Single people represent the inclusive love of God. Click To Tweet
- Single people have wisdom to offer married people. Jesus spoke some about marriage, and Paul did even more (1 Cor 7, Eph 5, Col 3). It’s from Paul that we get a lot of our theology of marriage, but Paul was single. Married couples and families are able to learn from single people whom God has anointed to be their pastors.Single people have wisdom to offer to married people. Click To Tweet
- Paul states it’s easier to serve God unmarried. Specifically, he states: “I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband. I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord” (1 Cor 7:32-35). Pastor Steve DeWitt’s experience agrees; he writes as someone who is now married, but pastored for 19 years as a single person. Single people are more free with their time, their resources, and their love than married people are.
- Single people are more like Jesus than the rest of us. Jesus, the most self-actualized and amazing human ever to walk this world was single. We do not think of him as half a person, but as a whole person. He was able to travel with his friends and have no place to lay his head. He dealt with loneliness and also enjoyed being alone. He was able to have twelve very close friends—how many of us have time for that?
Don’t get me wrong—at the end of the day the best pastor for your church is the one whom God has called, and I’m not saying that single people make better pastors than married ones. I think we need both, and I think it’s time to act on that need.
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