Dating people at church
In my experience, when I’ve disclosed my line of work, the person I dated became uncomfortable with the idea of dyeing in relationship with a pastor or used me as a sounding board for theological query.Yes, I’m a pastor but my conversation extends far beyond faith, theology, and spiritual matters.But, it wasn’t until my second year of pastoring that I became aware of my loneliness. While sitting in the second chair shielded me from the full burden of the weight of ministry, I still shouldered a great share of the responsibility.I functioned in strategic planning, curriculum and ministry development and filled-in as the youth pastor.I had to learn that there were still people afraid to be in the church spotlight; and the idea of being in relationship with someone whose line of work straddled the fence of public and private was overwhelming for them.I was reminded that we’re public figures like elected officials and celebrities which means our lives – though private as we may wish – are actually lived out in front of our congregations and communities.I loved the work I was engaged in and did it great pride.
I learned that, for some, being able to say they made a love connection for the pastor was an ego boost and a way to indirectly influence pastoral decisions.Seemingly every minute of each day is accounted for and we haven’t even sat down to prepare for Sunday’s sermon.Unexpected phone calls in the middle of the night detailing emergencies and the overwhelming feeling that no matter how you lend yourself to your staff and congregation there will still be a disgruntled member is enough to make anyone want to escape God’s call altogether.I had to make some decisions about my dating life and I had to do it quickly.There were three things I immediately considered with respect to dating as a single pastor: From prior experiences, I recalled how people gravitated to me because of assumed privileges and perks of being in relationship with a pastor. Unfortunately, it can be even more challenging when you’re in vocational ministry.As professional clergy, navigating the space between public and private isn’t always easy.Often times, parishioners feel they have a right to access you at any time.Unlike typical eight hour jobs, our professional lives can span from administrative oversight during the day to leading bible study in the evening to weekend leadership retreats or church fairs.In truth, I was exhausted from expending so much energy but wanted to hear how the sermon resonated with others as it had with me.As is my custom, I greeted each member with a handshake and a warm smile and actively listened as they shared their sentiments.