Monday, March 14, 2011

Unique Needs of Singles in Ministry

The need of single ministers and missionaries is a unique need. It is a coming together of the challenges of the ministry combined with the challenges of being single. In some cases the combination helps, while in many instances it produces heightened areas of vulnerability. The struggle may be with loneliness, control, self-worth, contentment, purpose, or a variety of temptations that seem to gain strength as singleness and ministry rub against each other on a daily basis.  If these areas are not handled well they will lead to catastrophic results. There is a need for single ministers to better discern their areas of vulnerability, the role of the heart in their struggles, and the resources that God has provided to guard their hearts, lives, and ministries.
There are now many resources available for ministers. These can be found in books, articles, websites, conferences, magazines, and in the seminary classroom. This is rightly so due to the challenges of ministry.
           Barnabas Ministries, a ministry whose mission is to care for pastors, has described the challenge of ministry in these words.
In today's world, ministers, missionaries and other Christian leaders are all on the front lines of spiritual conflict. Even in the best of times, those in ministry can feel isolated and alone, overwhelmed with the demands of ministry, burned out, and experiencing relational difficulties with family, staff, or those with whom they serve.[2]
Ministry of any type is a job that deals with the eternal. While others have jobs that are important, demanding, and stressful, ministers have the burden of knowing that what  they do has the potential of impacting every part of their congregant’s lives. It affects the present and also eternity. It is a calling that deals with the most profound issues of humanity. If one is not equipped with the needed skills and knowledge and not empowered by the Holy Spirit, the ministry can quickly deteriorate from a blessing to a curse. It is truly a calling, a vocation with huge rewards and at times gut-wrenching losses.
Singleness has its own challenges as well. From a practical standpoint it is one person who is cleaning house, washing clothes, managing their finances, buying groceries, doing all the cooking, working a job, and much more. In some cases they are even raising children or caring for aging parents. At the same time the single person has profound longings for companionship, value, contentment, peace, love, intimacy and other natural desires.
Now imagine the stressors of ministry and the challenges of being single intersecting in the life of one person. If one is equipped to manage life well and empowered by the Holy Spirit to use his or her singleness for the kingdom of God then it could be an advantage. On the other hand if this unmarried person who is in ministry is not prepared it could be not only disastrous for him or her, but also for anyone else who is being impacted by their ministry or is seeking to follow their example.
Whether it be on staff at a local church, on the mission field, or countless other places of ministry, single ministers are a unique segment of the family of God. They  have great potential for impacting the church and the world for the sake of Christ. May these pages be used to help encourage, exhort, and equip those who are single and in ministry. May the Kingdom of God be strengthened by each one who embraces the call to “unhindered devotion.”

[1] Barna Group, March, 2001, "A Profile Of Protestant Pastors In Anticipation Of Pastor Appreciation Month," (accessed September 25, 2011).
[2] The Barnabas Ministries, August, 26, 2008, "The Need," (accessed March 7, 2011).

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