I am a thirty-seven-year-old single minister, serving on the staff of a large church. I have never been married and am not currently dating. And to be honest, I don’t see marriage in my future. I have made peace with my singleness—with one exception. I desperately want to mother a child.
My ministry position is as secure as any ministry position ever will be. I have saved a chunk of money by being frugal and careful, and I am in good physical shape. In recent months, I have read books, explored websites, and had conversations about single parenting, and I am ready to move ahead with this idea.
I know that adoption is probably the best route for me to pursue as a single minister mom, but in my heart, I really want to carry and birth my baby. I also know that having a pregnant unmarried minister (even one who openly confesses her use of artificial insemination) will be difficult for my congregation to accept.
How do you think I can start a conversation about a potential pregnancy with my fellow church staff members and leaders in the church? Or do you think I even should start this conversation? I love my church, love my ministry—I don’t want to shock, offend, or hurt them.
I am so conflicted! Your wise words, Dear Addie, would be appreciated!
-My Biological Clock is Ticking LOUDLY
The decision to become a mother is a highly personal one, yet one that has enormous implications for you personally and professionally. Your calling should figure into the calculus of your decision-making, but how much? You say you have already identified “the best route” to pursue as a single minister, but I wonder if silencing your heart’s desire really is the best route. If you worked in a different setting, would you be weighing your options in the same manner? Certainly everyone who is called into the ministry must make sacrifices, but is this a sacrifice God is calling you to make?
Have you begun a conversation with those closest to you outside of your church – your family and trusted friends? If so, have their responses strengthened your resolve or clouded the issue? Do you have a mentor, a coach, or a spiritual director with whom you are speaking regularly? If not, you need to identify a spiritually mature individual outside of the church who can walk with you. Ultimately, you are the only one who can make this monumental decision, but God often uses others to help us in the process of discernment.
You wonder how you can begin a conversation with your fellow staff members about this sensitive subject. Are you seeking their input, or are you going to them with a final decision? You say your position is as secure as possible, but few ministerial positions are truly secure. If your pastor is supportive but then leaves unexpectedly during your pregnancy, what happens then? You need to take the long view. Your initial decision about whether to adopt or become pregnant will have long-term implications; either way, the decision to be a single mother will provoke questions should you look for another position down the road.
Does your church have a maternity leave policy in place? A conversation with your pastor or direct supervisor regarding the need for a policy, or one clarifying the details of the existing policy, would provide you with an opening for this discussion. (Note: BWIM’s website offers helpful resources regarding church maternity leave policies.) Initiating the conversation will undoubtedly be awkward, but this is absolutely necessary and needs to occur sooner rather than later. Realistically, you cannot control whether or not your decision shocks, offends, or hurts people in your congregation. Are you prepared to extend grace to those who don’t accept your choice? You are indeed facing a difficult decision, yet one that has the potential to bring you – and your congregation – great joy. Blessings on your journey.