The overwhelming majority of church leadership in the United States is married.
Married people are the overwhelming majority of voices with the power to influence church decisions—and marriage is celebrated above almost anything else in a Christian's life. But just like racial and gender inequalities within our governing bodies are cause for concern, the fact that our church leadership is weighted so heavily toward married people is cause for concern as well.
The perspectives of single people and married people, while they can be similar, are at times vastly different. Single people face different challenges than married people do, and their perspective and needs are largely ignored.
Not only that, but we often communicate (even if unconsciously), that there's something wrong with you if you're not married.
We talk about marriage as the end point—the reward awaiting a spiritually healthy and mature Christian.
We reinforce that message by hiring married people almost exclusively to hold the most important roles in our church communities.
According to a New York Times article, single pastors in conservative churches are outnumbered by married pastors 1:19. Even in more liberal churches, only one out of every six pastors is single.
We're missing out on an experienced, talented and passionate group when we don't hire single people. And I think it's about time that changed.
Here are four assets single people offer to our ministries that married people can't:
1. Time. In Scripture, Paul says it's better to be unmarried than it is to be married.
He's not knocking marriage, he's just pointing out that if you're single, you have the ability to pursue the Lord and His work without distraction.
By only hiring married people, we're hiring a team of people who are naturally divided in their focus. By hiring single people for our ministry staff, we're benefiting from their undivided focus, passion and time.
2. An understanding of singleness. Married people like to believe they know everything there is to know about the struggle of being single. But just like we need female pastors to minister to women, and the same to men, we shouldn't expect married people to be able to understand, relate and minister to single people as well as a single person would.
There are unique challenges and hardships that come with singleness, just as there are in marriage. It's important that we provide resources and support for people going through those challenges, just as we would for any other members of our congregation.
3. A different perspective. No governing body would be able to accurately represent the needs and desires of its constituents without having a diverse group of voices making the decisions.
The same is true in a church.
If every person making the decisions has the same life experience, particularly in the arena of marriage, it's going to be impossible to accurately speak and serve the needs of people who aren't. People who aren't married bring a needed perspective that's different from the voices represented today.
4. A reliance on Jesus. Married people have a built-in support system single people don't have. When something happens, husbands and wives rely on each other for love, support and help. When you're single, you don't have that same luxury, which is a different kind of luxury in itself.
I don't know if you've ever experienced this, but when I am totally relying on the Lord, I get to see Him do far better, more miraculous things than I do when I'm going at it on my own. While married people reflect the relationship between Jesus and his church, single people rely on it—a reliance that leads to closeness with God that our whole congregation would benefit from.
Our churches suffer greatly when groups in the congregation aren't represented. Our single members of the congregation are not only being under-represented, they're being marginalized. But even more than that, we're missing out on the contribution of some of our most talented, passionate and creative members.
With more than a dozen years of local-church ministry, Justin Lathrop has spent the last several years starting businesses and ministries that partner with pastors and churches to advance the Kingdom. He is the founder of Helpstaff.me (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership and MinistryCoach.tv, all while staying involved in the local church.
For the original article, visit justinlathrop.com.
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