Mandy Fowler, former small-group director at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, agrees. She recalls a time she was asked to help with a Sunday night service. She’d already attended service and had a scheduled meeting with her small-group leaders that day, so she said no. It wasn’t received well. She shares, “If I had said, ‘My kid has a soccer game’ or even just ‘That’s family time,’ it would have been more respected.”
To make matters worse, many single women feel guilty taking time off. “People celebrate when a man is taking his kids to Disney World, but if I go on a vacation with my girlfriends, it’s different,” Okwu says. “It’s not that anyone looks down on it, but you feel guilty about stepping away.” Along the same lines, Leonard notes that she often has to choose between ministry events and time with friends, and while many times she’s happy to choose her ministry, there are times she’s felt guilty choosing an event with friends.
An Example to the Church
Despite the challenges single women in ministry face, the church desperately needs them. When single women facilitate small groups, lead prayer during weekend services, guide the congregation in worship, or teach a Sunday school class, they visually represent the growing number of singles in our congregations, and that’s incredibly important, Thomas asserts. This also lends to modeling Christian singleness and dating, says Okwu. “We don’t talk about relationships or sexuality. Dating is hard. What’s the model?” Okwu suggests that single women in ministry can provide this.
Single women benefit both single and married people in the church, though. They often have more freedom and flexibility in how they live out their callings, and they can inspire the rest of the church to imagine what God is calling each of us to do. Tammy Melchien, teaching team pastor at Community Christian Church, a multi-site church in and around Chicago, serves as an example. She’s led in numerous roles in the church over the years, from overseeing the children’s ministry at all the church’s locations to planting and pastoring a new campus in Chicago. She says, “When I was younger, I made the decision that I was going to fully live my life no matter what. I’m not going to miss out on things I want to do in my life.”