An Open Letter to Church Leaders from an Unmarried Church Staff Member


What do unmarried individuals in ministry want other church leaders to know about the joys and challenges they encounter? This anonymous open letter shares the experiences and perspectives of a single staff member serving in a church culture slanted toward “marrieds with children.”

Dear Church Leaders,

As a single person on the staff of your church I wanted to take a moment to write to you. While I know that you were once single, too, your experience may not have been my experience and perhaps it has even been a while since you were single. I experience many joys and challenges when it comes to being a single staff person. I thought it might be helpful if I shared a few of them with you.

One of the greatest joys I experience is freedom to serve however, whenever, and wherever I want. I love that I can go on mission trips, hang out with students on a Friday night, flex my schedule to help others, and show up early and leave late at ministry events. When I am at church event or camp, I feel like I can be fully present. My interests aren’t divided between my family and my ministry, and that gives me such singularity of focus. This season of life allows me time and space to deepen my relationship with God and others, be more generous with my time and money, and invest in my own growth and development. There is so much to celebrate about this season of my life.

While there are many joys and opportunities in being single, there are also many challenges that I face. I don’t think these challenges are always seen by others, and that is why I am writing to you. Honestly, sometimes it is really hard to be on staff as a single person. So much of the church is structured around families — the events we offer, the programs we do, the sermons and illustrations we give. I often feel like an outsider. I face daily social expectations to be married, and sometimes I feel like everyone around me thinks something is wrong with me. I think some in the church have forgotten that Jesus and Paul were single and about I Corinthians 7 where Paul speaks about the advantages of being single — free from concerns, not having divided interest, having an undivided devotion to the Lord. I wish that we talked about this more in the church so that people saw the good aspects of my singleness.

I must admit that there is part of me that wants to be married, but I don’t always want to be “set up” by others, and dating can be challenging in the fishbowl of ministry where everyone’s eyes are on me and the person I date. I know I don’t always show it, but sometimes I face financial struggles as a single. I can’t afford to live on my own and find myself having to rent a room or have multiple roommates. That isn’t always easy. I often feel like I have to work two jobs or find side work to help support myself. That leaves me tired and worn out. Perhaps the pay is also related to promotability as well. I know some churches won’t hire me for certain positions and certainly others make me feel like I have to be married to ever do more that what I am doing.

Before I close, there are just a few more things I want to share. Even though you might not see it on the outside, I often feel the pains of loneliness on the inside. This can be especially true when there are so few of us who are single on staff. Staff Christmas parties and events where spouses and families are invited are often painful reminders to me that I am alone. Sundays are often the worst day of the week for feeling lonely. Families fill the church and even in a crowd of people I am aware that I am alone. Sometimes a week can go by, and I realize that I haven’t really had a deep genuine conversation with anyone in my life.

I know you are probably wondering at this point in the letter, “What can I do to help?” You have done so many things that have helped me through these challenges. I have appreciated the times you have asked my how I am doing and taken the time to help me process through things. I love it when you take time to meet with me individually and invite me into your home and family life, when you anticipate what I might need as a single person and value me for who I am. It means so much to me when you are planning an event or preparing for a sermon and you ask me, “how will this impact a single person in our church?” It helps when you notice that I’m working too much and tell me to go home or encourage me to take time off. I appreciate when you see me as a person more than you see my singleness.

I think it is all too easy for people to assume that they know how single staff are doing and what they need, but I would encourage you to take the time to talk to them and ask them.

Thank you for supporting me on my journey!

A Staff Member (who happens to be single.)

Thriving as a Single Person in Ministry book coverThis letter is taken from the book, Thriving as a Single Person in Ministry (Rowman and Littlefield, 2021) by Kevin Lawson and Jane Carr. This book is available at the Rowman and Littlefield and Amazon.

Related Resources


About Author

Kevin E. Lawson is professor of educational studies in PhD and EdD programs at the Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.

Jane Carr serves as professor of Christian Ministries at the Talbot School of Theology, Biola University. She served for twenty-six years at a large church in Southern California where she was involved in children’s ministries, student ministry, singles’ ministry, church administration, and staff training and development.

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