I’d like to tell you a story. It’s one of my more painful stories of working for a church when it comes to my singleness. I had an elderly lady walk into my office when I served as a worship coordinator. She did not know me very well but was curious about me. She picked a Thursday and sat down on my soft green couch and began to ask me questions about myself. I obliged. After having worked for that church for a couple of years, I had gotten to know several of our elderly folks who I deeply loved. I had never interacted with this woman and to this day could not tell you her name. She asked me things about my family and where I came from. She asked if I had siblings. She asked about my education. And then she asked the dreaded questions:
“So are you married?”
“Are you dating?”
“Any reason why?”
“I just haven’t found the right guy for me.”
“Hmmm…that explains it.”
“Honey, you must be interested in a fairytale. I knew there was something wrong with you. Really it’s what’s wrong with your generation. I just couldn’t put my finger on it.”
When did singleness become a sort of modern day leprosy? If you’re single then you know what I’m talking about. Singles are somehow not whole in many churches. There are jobs we cannot apply for because we are not married (ummm…discrimination anyone?). Churches unknowingly perpetuate this by providing salaries far lower than a single person can live on or simply catering to marrieds and relegating us to a singles group because they don’t know what to do with us.
I am single and have no children. I own my singleness. And no, I am not sad, waiting or sitting at home on Friday nights with nothing to do. I do not need you to feel sorry for me. No, really, don’t. Being a single youth pastor is AWESOME and here’s why:
1. I have free time.
I go home to a dog I adore but I am not rushing home to prep dinner for my family, running to a practice or rehearsal for a child, or doing homework with a child. I get to dictate most of my schedule. This is a really beautiful thing. What do I do with all of my free time? I attend my students’ games, concerts, performances, activities, etc. I spend time volunteering in the places that focus on the things I am passionate about. I help out other ministry areas when I can. I also take classes at a seminary.
2. I can provide an often missed perspective.
I have always worked in church that had very few singles. Can I share with you one of my biggest pet peeves? The lighting of the Advent wreath. Advent is my favorite season and I LOVE this tradition. I look forward to it each year. Do you know what I don’t look forward to? Seeing only families with cute little kids lighting the wreath. Why can’t I be a part of the tradition? If I need a partner why can’t I ask someone else’s child, a widower, a married friend, or another single? In many ways the church caters to those who are not single and this is a travesty. Marginalization is simply something I can no longer accept. If we are to be a true community of faith it means that both marrieds and singles are heard. Marrieds and singles serve in the life of the church. Marrieds and singles are both valued. I often speak to this in staff meetings and in the life of the church.
3. I can be an example to my students.
Part of youth ministry is teaching students how to become followers of Christ who serve others and disciple others. I try to be the best model of a Christ-follower I can be for my students. This also includes my singleness. They have heard about my broken-off engagement, my willingness to only date a man who is striving after God, and what that means for me while I am waiting for him. Of course I have boundaries for sharing those things with my students but they need to know their single or not so single statuses are okay. Life is messy. Dating is messy. Teenagers are messy. They need to know that my life is messy, too. I don’t have it all figured out. They also need to know that single or not, there is love and grace for the messiness that happens when two are in relationship with each other.
4. I cannot, however, perpetuate the Disney fairytale fantasy.
Disney ruined it, y’all. They ruined our students and taught them all the expectations for fairytale marriages. Those of you who are reading this and are married know what I’m talking about. I am a living, breathing, emoting example of how Prince Charming forgot to ask for directions, got prideful and is still galloping on his white stallion somewhere looking for me. In all seriousness though, my students watch me thrive in a world where they are bombarded with media telling them they need to be married to be whole. Colossians 2:10, anyone?
So, for those of you who are married: THANK YOU for being friends with us singles. Thank you for inviting us to your homes for family dinner and pouring into our lives as if we were members of your family. Human nature dictates a desire to belong. In the same way that we want students to move from a place of being tolerated to a place of belonging within our youth ministries, thank you for allowing us to belong.
For those of you who are single: You are not alone. You are worthy. You are loved. You are whole just the way you are. Your singleness is an incredible asset in youth ministry. Be who God created you to be. Your singleness is beautiful.
Tori Mick has served in both youth and worship capacities for several churches across the U.S. She is passionate about youth, worship, racial reconciliation and issues of social justice. When she’s not doing awesome things with her students you can find her hiking with her dog Roscoe, exploring new places, eating great food, and reading a good book. You can connect with Tori on INSTAGRAM, TWITTER or her BLOG.