Is it harder to get a job as a Christian pastor if you're single?
A recent New York Times article exploring this topic has created quite a response in the Christian community, with some saying that pastoral search committees should be marriage-minded and others saying just the opposite.
Is this a type of “singlism” coming to light or simply anecdotal evidence of a few pastoral job seekers having a tough time in a tight economy? No matter what side you come down on, there’s little doubt that the article raised some larger questions about how the Christian community sometimes views those who are unmarried.
The article centers on Amy Mark and Mark Almlie, ordained pastors in the Evangelical Covenant Church, who both said that as they interviewed for various pastor positions, their singleness was looked at as problematic. Almlie, who blogged that he has struggled with finding a job since he says he was downsized, went so far as to say that his difficulties may be caused by a “fear” of singleness.
As a single Christian myself, the claims made in the article spoke to the larger issue of singleness in the church. It’s an issue that I have wrestled with for most of the past 10 years. From family members asking me when I’m going to get married (as if I’m the only variable) to struggling with whether to adopt as a single parent, it’s not as easy to be as content or patient as the books claim.
But what is it like as a single Christian pastor? I asked one of my former pastors at Park Community Church in Chicago. Joe Riccardi, who is now the Lincoln Park Campus pastor, said singleness has not been an issue for him, perhaps because he and others he knows have ministered in large urban areas. Moreover, Riccardi said, because Park has a large ministerial staff, couples seeking counseling are ushered into a pre-marital curriculum run by the family pastor and then passed on to the family pastor or another couple.
But Riccardi said the article and the claims in it say something about the notion of singleness in many church communities - mainly that many people feel that there is something inherently wrong with being single.
“We have made marriage an idol in a lot of ways in the U.S.,” Riccardi said. “We don’t necessarily have a biblical viewpoint of (singleness). We feel as if the single person is missing something, not believing that Jesus Christ can really satisfy someone who is seeking him.”
The cultural expectations of marriage and family can and should be addressed in our churches, small groups and in our relationships with friends and family. A single Christian - whether they are a pastor or a member of the church - should be viewed as a whole person, not someone missing the other part of themselves.