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The Role of the Singles Pastor and His* Relationship to the Senior Pastor

By Craig A. Gorc

Being a spiritual leader is an absolute necessity for the singles pastor.

Over 9 years ago, when I stepped into my first singles Sunday school class to teach, what occurred was reminiscent of an episode of the Keystone Cops. I bounced around the room, flapping my arms, teaching and preaching. I acted like I knew all about singles and single parents by quoting statistics on divorce rates and other issues dealing with single adults. It was comical—I knew virtually nothing about ministry, let alone singles ministry.

As a recent Bible college graduate, I didn’t have a vision for singles ministry. I also didn’t have a well-developed ministry plan, a well-articulated philosophy of ministry, or tenure in church work of any kind. In fact, I did not even feel "called" to a specific group or type of ministry. What I did have was a desire to be used by God and a calling to be faithful to Him.

Over the following months, I gleaned from my senior pastor and other pastors. Most important, I learned how to work in a setting with 12 other pastors and several ministries led by laypeople. With so many pastors and ministries, I eventually had to ask: What is the role of the singles pastor, and how does he* work with the senior pastor to develop and maintain a thriving ministry that is effective in meeting the needs of the unmarried people in the local church?

The singles pastor should make it his goal to be the best-equipped person on staff to lead the singles ministry. Attending seminars, reading books, and talking with other singles pastors are tools that educate and equip the singles pastor for more effective ministry.

We refer to pastoral ministry as a calling to distinguish it from other occupations. The sense of a call is what separates the ministry as a work from the Lord rather than working for the Lord. Whether a singles pastor senses that his life calling is to work exclusively with singles or sees the need in this area and endeavors to meet the need, a verifiable calling from God is critical.

In filling the role as a singles pastor/staff member, four areas rise to the surface as mandatory requirements.

BE A SPIRITUAL LEADER

Setting a godly example is the number one expectation senior pastors have for their staff. But spending time alone with God can easily be crowded out by activities. Much of singles ministry deals with social interaction, but the singles pastor must not reduce the spiritual work he does to the same level as an activities director.

Years ago a gentleman wanted to help with our church’s Friday evening singles ministry. He was enthusiastic as he shared his success in working with singles in the past. He had a foolproof plan to double or triple the size of a singles group within a few months. I had him lay out a plan for our group to triple its current size. His plan involved hiring local celebrities, musicians, and comedians on a weekly basis to provide entertainment that would draw a crowd.

"And once we have a crowd of hundreds, what?" I asked.

"We have the city’s largest singles ministry," he replied.

I’m not against big crowds or spending money, but if it doesn’t bring people closer to Christ, what is the use? When singles pastors do not lead their singles spiritually, singles are left to find their own way. It reminds me of a line from a song by First Call, Ring Them Bells: "The shepherd is asleep and the hills are filled with lost sheep."

SUPPORT THE SENIOR PASTOR’S
VISION AND GOAL FOR YOUR CHURCH

The associate must demonstrate loyalty to the senior pastor first, then loyalty to the church, his colleagues, and finally to himself. There must be a trust between the senior pastor and the associate.

Support the senior pastor by being a self-starter. If the senior pastor is constantly picking up behind you or holding your hand through each decision, he is actually doing the ministry and does not need you. Being a self-starter does not mean you know everything; it simply shows you can take initiative.

With so many pastors and ministries, I eventually had to ask: What is the role of the singles pastor, and how does he work with the senior pastor to develop and maintain a thriving ministry that is effective in meeting the needs of the unmarried people in the local church?

When I first started a singles ministry at Cedar Park, I made appointments with the senior pastor. We discussed everything from how to form a leadership team to the organization of the first meeting. Over time the questions changed as the ability and skill of pastoring people developed.

The singles pastor should make it his goal to be the best-equipped person on staff to lead the singles ministry. Attending seminars, reading books, and talking with other singles pastors are tools that educate and equip the singles pastor for more effective ministry.

Sometimes areas of disagreement between the senior pastor and singles pastor may arise. How these issues are resolved and what direction the ministry takes are less important than the way the singles pastor lets it impact his attitude toward the senior pastor. Grudges and animosity in the heart eventually work their way into a person’s conversations, relationship, and leadership.

Much of singles ministry deals with social interaction, but the singles pastor must not reduce the spiritual work he does to the same level as an activities director.

ADD VALUE TO THE CHURCH AND
THE SENIOR PASTOR’S MINISTRY

The singles pastor must agree with and feel the pastor’s heart, priorities, philosophy, and vision. He must then work them into the specifics of the singles ministry and properly reflect the pastor’s values, verbally and nonverbally.

Our senior pastor believes that building strong families builds a strong nation. Singles can often feel alienated by references to family, so my senior pastor and I have always interpreted that concept to mean that the network of their family relationships should be as strong as possible. God puts people in families. In His family, no one is left out.

The singles pastor can help the senior pastor (and the singles) in three ways:

  1. Uphold (brag about) the positive contributions of single individuals in the church in staff meetings or other times when the staff is together. Bring clarity to misconceptions of singles in general.

  2. Advocate on behalf of the singles of the church. Our church also has an 800-student school. Facilities are tight, even when school is out. Because of space challenges, our singles meetings were being bumped into smaller rooms. This was sending a subtle message to the leaders and singles that they were not significant enough to have a consistent place to meet. I discussed the priority of singles ministry when room-change situations arose again. After this, the importance of the singles ministry in the minds of the staff took a significant leap forward.

  3. Help the senior pastor by pointing out missed opportunities to make applications to singles.

DEVELOP AND MENTOR POTENTIAL LEADERS

This will take two avenues: identify, train, and release leaders into the work of singles ministry; and, involve as many singles as possible in ministries of the church. The three areas that singles need from a singles pastor and church are a place for social interaction, opportunities for spiritual growth, and challenges to organize their lives around ministry that suits them.

As a recent Bible college graduate, I didnít have a vision for singles ministry. I also didnít have a well-developed ministry plan, a well-articulated philosophy of ministry, or tenure in church work of any kind.

FINAL REFLECTIONS

In my 9-year tenure in singles ministry, the topic least addressed by singles pastors and senior pastors is sexual abstinence and sexual purity. Singles want a biblical basis for sexual purity and sexual abstinence.

A U.S. News and World Report article states: "Many more 20-something adults than teenagers give birth to kids out of wedlock. In fact, most of the current social ills tied to sexual behavior—not only children born to unwed parents but sexually transmitted diseases, abortions, and the like—stem chiefly from adults who have sex before they marry, not from sexually active teens."1

Christian marriage counselors have also expressed concern: "Have you ever heard a sermon on living together?" asks religious columnist Michael McManus in his 1995 book, Marriage Savers. Condemnation of adult premarital sex has virtually vanished from religious preaching, even in the homilies of Catholic priests. "In the pulpits there has been a backing away from moralizing about sex before marriage," says Bishop James McHugh, the bishop of Camden, New Jersey2

A U.S. News and World Report poll shows that while 74 percent of Americans have serious qualms about teens having sex before marriage, more than half believe it is not wrong, or wrong only sometimes, for adults to have premarital sex.3 In an ungodly world, single adults need to hear the message of sexual purity.

The role of the singles pastor is crucial to the senior pastor and the church. The singles pastor leads single adults, provides opportunities for fellowship and growth, and helps singles develop their ministries so they become productive members in the church.

*Even though this article refers to the singles pastor in the male gender, it equally applies to women who minister in this role.


Craig A. Gorc is the singles pastor at Cedar Park Assembly of God, Bothell, Washington.

ENDNOTES

1. David Whitman, "The Trouble With Premarital Sex," U.S. News and World Report, 19 May 1997, 56.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

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