I did not start in ministry as a married woman. I accepted my call to ministry while in I was in college, and after participating in several overseas mission trips, I went on to seminary, finishing in four years. I was then ordained, did Clinical Pastoral Education, and worked as a part-time hospital chaplain for several years. For the last ten years, I have been a full-time children and youth minister. Now in my late thirties, I have been in ministry for well over a decade. A year and a half ago, I got married so I have been in ministry much longer as a single minister than as a married one.

As someone already established in ministry, I am now learning what it means to be a married minister, figuring out how to navigate through those waters good and bad. A few things that I have learned in my eighteen months of marriage have actually been lessons about life as a single woman in ministry.

When I was single, I could be at church as long as I needed or as long as I wanted to stay. Setting boundaries didn’t exist for me. I ran myself tired and neglected self-care because it was only me. That “only me” mentality was unhealthy. Just because I was single didn’t mean that I should neglect myself. Looking back, I can see why and how I got burned out. I didn’t consider myself important enough to take time for me, and I became just a ministry rag doll rather than a person who needed care. Because I was single and because in ministry I lived out in front of others, I allowed people to take advantage of my time. I said “yes” to almost everything.

Marriage has helped me gain perspective. It has given me confidence and helped me set boundaries. Marriage has helped me see that I can’t do everything. The gift of marriage has helped me take care of me more. In a sense, it made me grow up. As a woman in her thirties, you would think that I would have learned how to care for myself, but I hadn’t learned that lesson.

As a single or married minister, you MUST advocate for yourself and recognize that your personhood is valuable and important. No one else will do it for you. Even as caring and thoughtful as my husband is, I must still recognize my personhood in ministry, create self-time, and never apologize for it.

Self-care in ministry is so important! I hope other single women ministers learn this lesson more quickly than I did and that they won’t wait or see themselves as “less than.” You are important NOW, whether you are married or not. Enjoy the single life as a minister. God has given you that gift so you can be a help and support the ministry in broader ways. But set boundaries and don’t let others take advantage of you just because you are single. You can’t do everything for everybody. God doesn’t want us to wear ourselves out. Say “Yes” to saying “No!” Enjoy your time with God, and remember that serving and working for God is NOT the same as being WITH God. Treat yourself well ALL the time. Nobody can take better care of yourself than you can.