An encouragement for single pastors (and their congregations)

This came to me from a dear friend who faithfully serves without a helper (yet) suitable for him.  I post it here to help those who are single and those whom they serve.  – Pastor Scheer

The first preacher, the first head of a household, the first man to catechize his children in the truth of God and His promise had a helper suitable for him. Today, God continues to raise up men to fill the preaching office in His Church and a good number of them have a helper that is suitable to him, much like the first preacher Adam had in the beginning.

There are also a good number of faithful Pastor’s that do not have a helper suitable to him. They are a lone shepherd watching over the flock of God’s sheep, and at times it can seem that there is nobody to hold up the prophet’s hands as God’s people battle against the devil, the world, and the sinful flesh. But single Pastor’s, just as married Pastors, are called to peach, teach, admonish, catechize, pray, baptize, administer the Lord’s Supper, hear confession and pronounce absolution, and proclaim the resurrection at the death of a Christian.

While it is of great importance for a congregation to take care of their Pastor and his family, a congregation should not lose sight of their Pastor if he is without a suitable helper. Isolation and loneliness can overtake a single Pastor. Dependent on this is the single Pastor’s own attitude and efforts, but it is far too easy for a single Pastor to spend an entire day without speaking to another person.

And while many loving members of the congregations do invite their single Pastor for meals and holiday’s, it’s impossible for that Pastor to not be Pastor in that place and time. During holiday’s, if he isn’t near family, those same joyful and wonderful holidays are spent alone. Christmas Eve/Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and others, after the Divine Service is concluded and the lights at the church are turned off and the doors closed, the parsonage can be a quiet and lonely place. Herman Sasse called the pastorate “The Lonely Way.” It is perhaps no more lonely than for the single Pastor who does not have a helper suitable for him.

And while we make jokes and talk about setting up the single Pastor with a Christian woman, it is still something to watch and care for their single Pastor who is watching out for them. Married or single, the Pastor stands on the walls of Zion keeping watch over God’s holy people. If that faithful Pastor has a suitable helper given to Him by God it is a blessing and one the congregation does well to support and pray for their Pastor and his wife. And while the single Pastor doesn’t have a helper suitable for him, he non-the-less stands and watches as a lone shepherd over the flock.

I am very thankful to those brother’s in my circuit that so often open their home to me for holidays and at various other times during the year. While I do have two congregations that take very good care of me, and there are members of the congregations that invite me to spend holidays with them and their family, it’s impossible to take off the role of Pastor. So I very much appreciate the time when I’m invited to a brother Pastor’s home to spend time with his family. In fact, there are two brothers here in which I feel as though I were a part of their family. I may not have the blessing of a wife and children myself but it is truly a blessing to have these brothers and their families.

While I believe it is of utmost importance to take care of a Pastor and his wife and children, I’d give a shout out to the bachelor Pastor too. While the challenges facing a single Pastor are fewer on his schedule the biggest problem is perhaps loneliness and isolation. I deal with this on a regular basis. Thankfully, because of brothers in Christ and their families, it’s easily and quickly alleviated.

I thank God for those guys and their wives for opening their home to me. We support each other too. As Red Green says, “Keep your stick on the ice, we’re all in this together.”

I think the reference to other circuit pastors is very important here.  One of the problems in our Synod is a lack of fraternity among clergy.  When we are all competitors, no wonder we don’t get along.  Laity – encourage your pastor to get involved in their circuit.  I think the quote from Red Green just about hits it on the head.

If you have some good ideas for supporting a pastor who is single, please submit them in comment form.

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

Comments

An encouragement for single pastors (and their congregations) — 36 Comments

  1. This is why it is doubly important for the Elders and church council to “have his back” on doctrinal issues and support him when these problems arise.

  2. As a single seminarian who will likely enter the ministry unmarried I thank you for this post. I’ll add a few things to be aware of.

    At our seminary single seminarians receive more chiding than encouragement. The jokes are all in good fun and we take it in stride. We don’t need people to hold our hands and walk us into an arranged marriage, but do be aware that most if not all of us would like to find that suitable helper and the chiding can occasionally cut deep.

    Also don’t assume the single seminarian or single pastor has “something wrong with him.” That should go without saying, but I’ve seen it happen. The single seminarian/pastor is assumed to be less mature or to have some other character defect. Not at all. There are likely many other reasons why he has yet to get hitched.

    I hesitate to say what I am about to say, 1) it doesn’t completely pertain to the discussion, 2) it will be taken as extremely critical of my institution (CTS) and I do in all truth love the seminary and view it as a blessing to God. That said, there is some financial mistreatment of single students at CTS. I don’t think it was always this way, but recently unmarried seminarians (of all ages) are required to reside in the dorms and pay the Room & Board expenses which are not cheap. 2-3 single seminarians could easily go in together on an apartment or town house near campus and save a bundle!

    Likewise, single seminarians are required to purchase a complete meal plan- $8 per meal (married students who only buy an occasional lunch I think pay $6), 19 meals a week ($152 per week). Apply that to the 30 weeks of school and you come out to $4,560 for food during the school year alone. If you miss a meal because of work or Sunday church running past lunch, too bad. It just raises your average meal price. Now, if single students were allowed to live off campus together this food price would drop exponentially! Heck, you can eat every meal at McDonalds for less than $8 per meal! On vicarage I would barely spend $24 per week on groceries and the Sem’s three meals per day cost that much. Let’s round up and say a single seminarian spends $30 a week on groceries. Take that for the same 30 week school year and you get $900. $4,560 meal plan or $900 on their own. In an age where seminary tuition is ridiculously high, seminary attendance is down, and students are graduating with massive debt, I think that $3,660 per year that they could help us save would be beneficial to the synod as a whole. And if they need that extra money to meet some aspect of the budget, I would protest that the entire student body should shoulder the cost, not just the on campus students (who are forced to live there).

    Again, I have no ill will toward my seminary. It is a wonderful institution that adequately prepares men for ministry. But the costs are high for all, especially single students who have extra requirements regarding housing and dining. Whether it’s a seminarian or a pastor, be aware the chiding is welcome and fun, but know where the lines are. Even in a dorm of 12-20 other men it is possible for a man to be lonely.

  3. Good post

    Couple of things I would like to add concerning the sem.

    1) It is true that the single guys are required to live on campus and that can get expensive. However, I also recall that we single men got to know the professors much better than the married men because many of the professors lived on campus as well and would often attend dorm parties, cook-outs and events. That was great. Unfortunately, it had its drawbacks in more than just finances. Many of us single guys who were used to having brothers next door and down the hall and professors just down the street suddenly found ourselves in our first call where we knew no one and had no established relationships beyond pastor/member. Many of us single guys were sent to rural areas where the next nearest LCMS pastor was 50 or more miles away. Without a wife and family to provide that sense of “home,” life was really harsh for the first few months or even years. I think my phone bill jumped to over $200.00 a month that first year as I tried to stay in contact with old friends.

    2) When it comes time for placement, Seminaries, please ask the single man if he wishes to marry or not. If he is interested in marrying then do not place him in an isolated area. In such an area, even if he finds someone he is attracted to, she will most likely be a member of his congregation. This puts him in a horrible bind in which he can not even drop the pastor roll while dating and considering marriage.

  4. Rev. Scheer, thanks a million for posting these words!

    I went through seminary single and spent the first 15 months in the Preaching Office single. There may be some advantage going through seminary single. Matt in #3 does a good job responding to the advantages. Fort Wayneker in #2 also exposes a “dark side” to being single. I felt like we single men were the “profit margin”. Room and board is not cheap. Nevertheless, the camaraderie built on campus living in “rented cells” is a very good thing. I knew married students who told me they would trade with us in a heartbeat.

    Two concerns about congregations who have a single pastor:

    1. Do not think that because your pastor is not married that he is “married to the congregation”, meaning he can work himself to death in the Vineyard of the Lord. Not so. He needs rest. He needs that time when he can’t be “pastor”. For those who are far from family (when I was single I was 65 miles from home, a great advantage), another circuit pastor’s family works well. I served in an isolated parish where the closest winkel was 25 miles away. I had several pastors’ families who were kind to “adopt” me as their family for day-off getaways, places to stay for conferences, etc. Please let your single pastor have his day off and vacation time!

    2. Do not think your single pastor is “cheap help”, meaning you can pay him a below-standard wage and benefits package. I know pastors who started in a parish single, then he married, then had children, only to watch the congregation begin the pastor’s exodus out of the congregation by being stingy once the pastor married and had children. A single pastor is not an excuse for a congregation to be stingy. If the money is there (and most times it is), take care of your pastor, whether he is single or married with children. He is God’s gift to the Church and to the local congregation.

    When a single pastor is ordained or installed close to me, I am quick to give the man my business card and invite him to our home as a “home away from home”, a place where he can “let his hair down” and be a human being. Whether or not the pastor takes me up on it, I sympathize with him because I was there.

  5. Remember, St. Paul was a single pastor. I have not seen any evidence that Paul was ever married. When a pastor preaches and teaches sound doctrine we should thank God for him. If he is single he is still the best gift a congregation can have.
    The problem today is the man made standards set for a pastor. Jesus or St. Paul would not meet their standards. It is Jesus who has set His standards for the office of of the ministry and it is Jesus who still calles men into the ministry.

  6. I think one only has to look to the celibacy of the RC priesthood to see how well that man-made standard works.

  7. I am a single pastor and have been serving in the parish for ten years. It’s not as bad as some might think. When I first took my call, I had a girlfriend with whom I was serious. She took the adult instruction class from the Senior Pastor of my congregation. The class was made up of 4 unmarried couples. All of them went on to marry except for me. My relationship ended up not working out. I felt bad about it for awhile. A few years later, however, two of those three couples got divorced.

    A pastor must give very serious consideration to marriage. Not any woman will do. Not any Lutheran woman will do.

    I don’t really struggle with feeling lonely. Friendships can be formed outside of the parish if you make it a priority. Pursue some interests, develop some hobbies.

    I agree about asking to be placed in a larger metropolitan area. I would however, advise all single seminarians to look to be placed further North where there are many more single Lutheran women. I’m getting a little tired of trying to convert the girls I date here in the South…who are always non-denominational.

  8. I’ll agree there is some camaraderie in the dorms… however it can also be a brutal reminder of what a single seminarian does not have. What I mean to say is many of the single men in my dorms were already engaged and no longer living in the dorm by their second year. A great many more return from vicarage with a bride. A 4th year seminarian in the dorms is a rare sight. As far as the professors joining in the dorm life I have not seen that happen much at all. Gemutlickeit and other activities foster some student-professor interaction of course, but joining us in the dorms for cookouts and parties or inviting us over? Maybe it happened once all year.

  9. Fort Wayner :
    …..As far as the professors joining in the dorm life I have not seen that happen much at all. Gemutlickeit and other activities foster some student-professor interaction of course, but joining us in the dorms for cookouts and parties or inviting us over? Maybe it happened once all year.

    I’m sorry to hear that. Some of my favorite memories were of the professor/student interactions. Prof Judisch in his kilt and arguing with Scaer at Duetero-Q parties, drinking a bear with Wenthe at his party for the Hebrew students, Bollhagen’s annual Christmas reception for his advisees and profs invited to lead dorm devotions now and then. If this kind of stuff has been lost then our Synod is the poorer for it.

  10. @Fort Wayner #8

    When I returned from vicarage, there was one dorm (the illustrious “Q”) that was almost all single 4th year guys. We had a couple Sem 1 and 2 guys and a single STM student too. It was an interesting arrangement. I felt like we were the woeful bunch sent to pasture in the back forty. Nevertheless, it was a fun year. The class two years behind me practically set a record in how many single guys arrived at vicarage single and left either married or engaged. IIRC, only ONE guy on call night in the whole class was single. He is now married.

  11. Did you know that drinking bears is the number one cause of seminarian mortality amongst all Lutherans, Confessional and Missional? RRWARR!!

  12. In the mid 1960’s Seminarians at St. Louis were allowed to get married
    after they completed their first year on campus. Your parents had to
    guarantee payment of your tuition, etc. if you would default. You
    also had to have a certain grade point average to qualify for marriage
    and your grades were sent to your parents until you graduated.
    I was married in 1965 and the rest of the campus looked at the
    married guys as studs.

  13. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    First, thanks to Pastor Scheer and the original writer for this very helpful post!

    Second, for sem guys and pastors out in the field, I can empathize. I was there! I did not get married until nine years after ordination. I think I was the last of my classmates to do so, and they were all surprised that I would ever marry. I was not a confirmed bachelor (we only confirm people after proper catechesis in the Lutheran church, 🙂 ). I just hadn’t found the right woman–until I did.

    Third, I know that the seminary tried, for a short while, to let single students live off campus, either alone, or in groups. After a couple of bad experiences with that, they made the present rule that all single seminarians must live on campus. It is a GOOD rule. Socialization is a big part of the residential seminary experience, and that doesn’t happen much if you live off campus. That is a problem that married students have to deal with. They are always wanting to spend more time on-campus, at chapel, at activities, at lectures, etc., but they are pulled off-campus by wife and family.

    Fourth, I remember BOTH married AND single students complaining about the expenses they incurred, which they thought were unfair compared to the other. Well, brothers, get used to things being unequal in the church. In any circuit, there will be well-paid pastors, and poorly paid pastors, and some in-between. In multi-pastor congregations, there is often (sadly) friction over just this point. I think the seminaries do a pretty good job of making this “fair,” as much as that is possible. Envy over higher salaries, or lower seminary expenses, is not a good thing (see I Timothy 6:6-10).

    Fifth, single adults of all vocations, who are devout Christians, have a special gift: undivided concentration on their vocation and the Lord (I Corinthians 7:32-38). Being alone at certain times can be a curse, especially holidays, so the suggestions for single pastors here are very good. These suggestions apply to all single church-workers!

    Martin Luther spent most of his life single and was married at a later age. He was used to monastic isolation and time for his studies. I love one picture I have seen of Luther in his later life. He is in his study at his desk, surrounded by piles of books, behind him Katie has just unlocked the door, and all the kids come tumbling in, after hammering on the door for an hour. Luther has the most guilty look on his face you can imagine. Katie is fuming mad! The kids all are reaching up to daddy for attention “Please read to me, daddy” “Look at my dolly, poppa!” “Can you help me with my homework, dad?” So what does Luther do? Continue his work on translating the Bible, or helping his youngest tie her shoes? What would you do?

    Sixth, my best advice to the single seminarian and the single pastor is: Don’t rush into marriage. You need to find the right woman–for you. I found that many single women would not date me if, or when, they found out I was a pastor or seminarian. Don’t let that bother you. Those women are just being honest with you, and saving you a LOT of grief.

    I have a number of classmates who were married before seminary, then dragged their wife (and sometimes kids) along to seminary and the ministry. The wife was not convinced before seminary that she wanted to be a pastor’s wife, and after entering the ministry, was even MORE convinced. Some have resulted in divorces; other in more serious problems. District Presidents will tell you that marital discord and adultery of pastors is the worst problem that a DP has to deal with–it may (and will, if the pastor is an adulterer) result in the pastor being removed from the ministry, in one way or another.

    Seventh, a bit of advice to single seminarians and single pastors. Long-distance relationships, with occasional in-person dating, may be what works for you to connect with the right single woman. Just remember that telephone, emails, Facebook, Twitter are not dating. Both of you need to have some in-person time, over a period of time, to see if communications are really honest and straight-forward.

    Also, the ease of conversation that email and Facebook provides can make long-distance relationships more manageable. But leave the expressions of verbal affection (and anything else that might be embarrassing in public) for the telephone. Email and Facebook can be printed and saved, and may prove embarassing to you later.

    Finally, a quote from Saint Paul, one of the first single pastors “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved with civilian affairs–he wants to please his commanding officer. . . . Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.” (II Timothy 2:3-7).

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland
    Very happily married for 17 years.

  14. @Martin R. Noland #14
    I thank you for many of your points. I have to disagree with points three and four. Maybe at one time keeping students on campus improved social life but recently it hasn’t. Students who are either anti-social or extremely introverted won’t socialize whether they live on campus or off. Intramural sports were non-existent in my first year. On campus student chapel attendance was not affected as far as I can tell (the 7:30am and 9pm had as many off campus married students as on campus single = few). I am unconvinced that the present student body is really receiving that much social benefit when compared to the cost.

    As to point four, I don’t want anyone to think my comment was directed against the married students or envious of them in any way. Their costs are many and great as are their sacrifices and the sacrifices of their families. I respect and admire them greatly. This is not an us vs. them complaint. I simply meant to raise awareness that in addition to the great cost of tuition, single students (usually right out of college with college debt) are being charged a lot for meal plans and room & board. At the very least the discussion needs to be had once again. At one time perhaps the benefits of requiring students to stay on campus outweighed the costs. Is that still the case? I think the responsible thing to do is to entertain the discussion and the options available.

  15. Thanks everyone for the comments. I experienced both worlds as a seminarian and understand the comments of everyone in respects to single living on the seminary – although the drinking of bears must have started happening after I was married. I do know that the skunk population needed to be cleared out (was that why the bears were brought in?).

  16. Thank you for this post, and the great reminder of some of the challenges that are peculiar to single pastors.

    I had a much longer post written, but the more I wrote, the more I realized that most were not “single pastor” issues, but “pastor” issues. As I think about it more and more, I don’t think that being a single pastor is all that unique. We face the same difficulties pastors face because they are pastors. We face the same difficulties any older single professional faces because he is single. We just happen to occupy that very, very, very small and uncommon intersection on the Venn Diagram of the sizable sphere of “over 25” (~60%), the much smaller grouping of “single” (~20%) and the relatively small population of “pastor” (~.2%). (Do the math… that’s about 1/100th of one percent of the population! VERY small intersection, indeed!)

    The larger problem, I think, is not being a single pastor, but being single. Society does not know what to do with single people except abandon them to undisciplined, im/amoral hedonism. If you aren’t “sowing your wild oats,” or you aren’t married and doing the “couples” thing, people really don’t know what to do with you other than feel sorry for you. «sarcasm»And that’s what everyone wants, isn’t it? To be the “charity” recipient of the pity party?«/sarcasm»

  17. Christian P.J. Bahnerth PhD :
    How do you resonate single [never married] Pastors with 1 Tim. 3?

    With the harmonic of 1 Cor. 7. (Sorry, I just had to make that musical pun.)

    The author of 1 Tim. 3, himself an overseer, was single (1 Cor. 7:8) and lauds the gift of singleness. This would mitigate against understanding the 1 Timothy 3 passage as a command that all pastors be married.

    Also, syntax (literally “of one wife the husband” or “of one woman the man”) would suggest that the emphasis is on the number (???? – one) – indicating one wife is the required maximum limit for the overseer rather than requirement being that the overseer is an ???? (husband). If the emphasis were on the “husband-ness” of the pastor (sorry for making up that word there, but you know what I mean), one would expect the word order in the text to be (as it is usually rendered in English) “husband of one wife.” I have heard of some translators who capture the emphasis of the Greek word order by rendering the translation as “husband of but one wife.”

  18. What’s the biblical basis for a pastor being married? If there is none, what’s the issue? Culture?

  19. @alan #21
    What’s the biblical basis for a pastor being married?
    If there is none, what’s the issue? Culture?

    Their grandfather’s Pastor had nine kids and an overburdened little mouse in the parsonage who didn’t even dare talk at Ladies Aid. Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be!?
    sarcasm mode off
    [Never mind that the laity who turn the single man down aren’t having those large families themselves, these days.]

  20. As usual, I very much enjoy the wise and scripture-informed thoughts of Pr. Noland.

    As for Fort Wayner, I would advise you to spend some time meditating on the blessings of your current vocation as a single man. I believe the opportunity to study for the ministry without the obligations of family life and in close proximity with other students and faculty is precious.

    And life isn’t fair? Get used to it! As a pastor, you will be underpaid, disrespected, laughed-at and scolded. The worst constructions will constantly be placed on your actions. It is a miserable, terrible job. The only reason anyone would do it is because the IRS refers to as “intangible benefits,” i.e.: the scriptural promises that come with this vocation which transform it into the best job in the world.

    Examine yourself. If you are doing this for any kind of selfish reason, get out now, drop out today. The church cannot afford a single bad pastor. Read “Hammer of God” and prayerfully consider what it says.

  21. … and if you are not doing it for selfish reasons, persevere to the end. There is nothing better than to deliver the forgiveness of sins that brings eternal life to your hearers. In the light of that, your sufferings are minor.

    As I read St. Paul, I think he must have given thanks every day for every shipwreck, riot, trial, jail sentence and nasty “voters assembly” that he had to endure. When the scales dropped from his eyes, the first thing he saw was the horror of his own life to that point. I’m quite sure that St. Paul never complained about anything including his non-existent paycheck, lack of a wife and constant physical danger.

    If you are made of that kind of stuff, you belong in the ministry. I am not, and that is why my vocation lies elsewhere, though I would very much like to be a pastor.

  22. As a layman,I have seen the personal difficulty for single– -Female— Pastors in a rural area of small populations.
    One was ELCA and the other was Methodist and it seemed impossible for them to meet eligible men. It caused one to relocate. My rural friends who called these Pastors worked hard to help integrate them not only in the congregation,but into the community. Imagine calling a female pastor for a date in a small rural town ..it needed support.

    The single Female Pastor is one problem the LCMS doesnt directly have,but similar issues can exist for Deaconess’ and teachers and we should all be aware and helpful ..
    In the secular world,the societal issues are discussed with the employee before an over seas or really rural assingment ,and senior managers insure isolation doesnt occur.
    To me this is part of the Local Call Committee’s responsibility,but also the District President should work to insure the Pastor’s situation is optimized and avoids undue constraint in a local parish .Probably most LCMS members are decentralists and dont think the DP should be involved- to me this would be part of a DP, job description as he suveys the needs of his district.
    I kept a list and talked each month with foreign assignees and popped in for a visit every quarter in some way to get face to face and would rotate those seeking change as opportunities arose.Maximise assignment satisfaction.

  23. @Richard Sutis #25

    Dear Richard,

    Thank you for your excellent thoughts about single deaconesses and female teachers in the LCMS!

    The normal way that jobs are divided in a district is that the district president is responsible for the welfare of congregations and pastors; the executive for schools is responsible for the welfare of schools and teachers; and some other executive is responsible for other church-workers. However it is divided, there is someone at the district office who is assigned to watch over and support all church-workers on the roster.

    In my opinion, the best sort of support system for single female church-workers is already in place among the deaconesses of our synod, who are both married and single. I know a number of them in the Concordia Deaconess Conference. The senior members of the group serve as confidential counselors to the junior members. Their “esprit d’ corps” is one of the best I have witnessed in our synod.

    It is a different matter for other church-workers. When the LCMS schools used to employee only synodically-trained teachers, all teachers in a school were usually from “out of town.” So the school teachers and other church staff were a mutual support group. Today, there are still schools like that, but in many others the teachers are local people who colloquized, or who are merely “contracted.” That changes the whole internal social complexion of the parish school, and in my opinion, it is rarely to the benefit of the teachers. Congregations that start hiring non-rostered teachers in the parish school rarely realize what they are doing to their teachers by this move.

    In other respects, the suggestions of the original post and my comment #14 apply equally to single female church-workers as they do to single pastors.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  24. @Matt #23
    Matt, brother, if you’re going to make such a harsh rebuke it would help to point me to what explicitly bothered you. As provided in post 23 & 24 I am really at a loss for how my three comments can be read as a “crude handle.” What of my comments indicated that I do not consider bachelorhood a blessing and meditate on it regularly? In fact, I do treasure the seminary life and education (I thought I made that clear in my first comment, I suppose now it should have been clearer).

    Again, rebukes like this need to be clear. You say, “And life isn’t fair? Get used to it!” I don’t think I anywhere made the complaint that life is not fair. Actually I never intended any of this to be a complaint, I did not write with that angle even if it can indeed be read with that tone. Pr. Sheer gave an excellent opportunity for the struggles of single pastors to be considered, addressed, and handled. He asked for other ways to support single pastors, I extended that to seminarians with several items to be aware of, things that may need to have the discussion reopened. These are ways the church/seminary can help their single seminarians, that is all I ever intended. Please show me where I indicated any more than that was desired or demanded.

    “Examine yourself. If you are doing this for any kind of selfish reason, get out now, drop out today. The church cannot afford a single bad pastor. Read “Hammer of God” and prayerfully consider what it says.”
    This is not for me run around publicly waving my personal discernment/preparation in the air for all here to see, but I can assure you your concerns in this comment are concerns I and many seminarians share. What I still struggle with is your ranting rebuke. What have I said that is so rank with greed and enmity that I receive this treatment from you? I will gladly receive rebuke when I wrong others for I do it often enough. Again, I am bewildered by your rebuke and from where it comes.

  25. I think at least part of the rebuke addresses the disrespect you show for yourself as well as others in using the vulgar “handle” that you do.

    Perhaps a slight modification to “Fort Wayner” would be in order?

  26. @Rev. Don Kirchner #28
    Rev. Kirchner, that is easy enough to fix, and if that has been offensive I wish someone would have mentioned it sooner in the months previous where I have occasionally posted. I do apologize for any offense the indecency may have caused. I assure you the vulgarity was never intended. I was not aware of that connotation before now. When I originally chose it as a moniker I did seek to play on the irony of many people’s opinion of Fort Wayne students being “liturgical gestapo” and the other ill repute we receive (sometimes wrongly, sometimes aptly). Perhaps on this occasion the moniker’s connotation added unintended tone of voice to my posts, making it seem more complaint than point of discussion. I will avoid that moniker from hence forth. My questions to Matt still remain as I doubt the moniker was solely responsible for his rebuke.

  27. @Fort Wayner #2
    @Fort Wayner #15
    @Fort Wayner #27

    OK – I’ll throw my hat into this ring…

    Just a few points:
    1.) “meal plans and room & board” is redundant. “Board” includes food and the labor to prepare it.

    2.) Given how small of a client the seminaries are, there aren’t a lot of options when it comes to food service. If you would rather not have any food served on campus at all for anyone, that is your only other option. You either make the bare minimum with all of the residential students or you don’t have it at all. Which option best serves your neighbor?

    3.) A residential program is just that, residential. If you don’t want a residential program, you do not need to attend a residential program at a seminary to become a pastor. There have been non-residential programs around the Synod for as long as you have been alive. (I’m presuming that since you are at the seminary now you are younger than I am – they’ve been around longer than I’ve been alive.) The most recent incarnations are called DELTO and SMP.

    4.) All residential students are required to live in Seminary housing unless such housing cannot be provided. Since the Seminaries were built at a time when all residential students were required to be single, they have had a limited ability to add housing adequate for married students. Since they cannot provide adequate housing for married students, an exception is made for married students to find adequate housing on their own. (I was unaware of the brief exception mentioned by Dr. Noland in post #14 point 3. As far as my limited knowledge goes, that has been the only exception to the residential seminary students are seminary residents unless the seminary is unable to provide housing.)

    5.) Just because students have rejected the advantage of proximate geography in the upbuilding of community does not negate the advantage, nor does it eliminate the fact that disparate geography is antithetical to the development of a tight-knit community and ought to be avoided on whatever fronts possible in residential seminary education.

    6.) Your financial analysis of the food situation is flawed. You only cite the cost of supplies ($900) but completely ignore the cost of time/labor. On campus dining frees up 10-14 hours per week in your schedule that would have been spent preparing and cooking meals, cleaning up the kitchen and washing dishes so that you can concentrate on more important things like (oh, I don’t know…) studying theology. Multiply that time by minimum wage ($7.25/hr – and don’t forget to add in the 7.65% for the employers side of FICA) times the 30 weeks, and your food bill increases to $4,178, which is not too far from what you said is being charged. Not bad, considering that you have someone with a degree in culinary arts preparing meals for you rather than some minimum wage grill-jockey. And the “Heck, you can eat every meal at McDonalds for less than $8 per meal!” comment ignores the fact that if you ate every meal at McDonalds for your seminary career, you would spend more than what you save on increased doctor visits – and that’s if you even live to see graduation.

    7.) It is very difficult for me to read “there is some financial mistreatment of single students at CTS” (in comment #2) as anything but a complaint, especially since you have failed to demonstrate that anything is happening other than the Seminary providing the best opportunity for single students to take advantage of a quality residential education where they can focus all of their efforts into the academic endeavor. That this opportunity cannot be offered to married students is not “financial mistreatment of single students” any more than a college education (and the tuition payments that accompany it) is “financial mistreatment” of those who did not choose to drop out of high school. “I never intended any of this to be a complaint” (comment #27) rings very hollow. It is a far too easy temptation on a topic like this fall into the charybdis of “nobody suffers the way I suffer.”

    That being said, I think your initial comments bear repeating because they are unfortunate practices that are unkindly (inadvertent though it may be, unkind nonetheless) directed at singles (not just pastors or seminarians):

    Fort Wayner #2 :
    At our seminary single seminarians receive more chiding than encouragement. The jokes are all in good fun and we take it in stride. We don’t need people to hold our hands and walk us into an arranged marriage, but do be aware that most if not all of us would like to find that suitable helper and the chiding can occasionally cut deep.
    Also don’t assume the single seminarian or single pastor has “something wrong with him.” That should go without saying, but I’ve seen it happen. The single seminarian/pastor is assumed to be less mature or to have some other character defect. Not at all. There are likely many other reasons why he has yet to get hitched.

    To these words I most certainly can add my own hearty, “Amen!”

  28. @PPPadre #30
    Thank you for your discussion on the matter. I wanted discussion on costs/benefits of residential life and boy I got it! In fact you make excellent points. Your second point about not having a food plan for anyone is now taken to heart. And the overall principle of what is best for my neighbor is reinforced. And I completely agree with your point 5. The advantages of the tight knit community are many. I should add that some who do not/cannot take advantage of these opportunities are not introverts (the only category I mentioned), but students who work off campus jobs for 20-40 hours a week. I’m sure that’s been true in past eras as well. In retrospect I do not want to sound like the lack of intramurals and other campus-uniting events is strictly because we’re all a bunch of anti-socialites. There are other reasons for this.

    I thank you for the financial analysis of the meal plan in point 6 as well. You make a fair point about labor/time. Of course, one might qualify that time/effort with the great difference in meals offered- the sack lunches I made throughout vicarage were hardly the elaborate meals offered at daily lunches. Of course, with that goes the less healthy nature of a bachelor’s homemade meals. Thank you for adding valid qualifiers to the cost/benefit discussion.

    Your rebuke in point 7 is just. I can see it now even if when writing I did think there was some financial mistreatment. Your points have convinced me to alter some of my positions, for that I thank you. Saying I did not intend this to be a complaint would ring hollow after your helpful reconstruction of various angles. I should also be clear and add that I am least of all who should claim “nobody suffers like I do.” I have been blessed by grants, scholarships, district, church and family support. I have seen several topics in BJS articles past addressing the costs of seminary and reducing them for students. I thank you for your good will and desire to help us alleviate the costs. Many of us worry too much, even after Gospel lessons like this past Sunday in the three year series.

    PPPadre, your rebuke has been constructive, respectful, and most welcome. I thank you.

  29. @Rev. Weinkauf #17

    The deaconess program isn’t very big. More at Fort Wayne then St Louis. I’m guessing in the entering class their would be at Fort Wayne aleast double the number of single guys to single girls. At ST Louis it would be higher

  30. As a single pastor, the original post does resonate with me as well.

    I do have, what I hope may be some kind of constructive suggestion.

    As a single pastor, I am often reminded of my state by District/Synod functions. Many programs (ie. Doxology, which from what I have heard is outstanding, and PALS) have a component for “Pastors and their wives”. These are certainly good and needed, and in the case of PALS, I can say first hand that I look forward to spending time with not only my brother pastors, but their families as well. What may be helpful is for a system of support for single pastors along similar lines.

    Another thought are things that are not helpful to say to a single pastor:
    “It is a blessing to be single and be able to focus on your vocation.” While there is certainly Biblical truth to this, often the single pastor is putting in 70, 80, even 100 hours in a week, only to come home to an empty house – which can be a miserable experience.

    “Don’t worry, you’ll find someone” Really?

    “Oh, just wait until you have a wife and kids.” This is one of the most miserable statements I have heard pastors make. The sheer fact that they despise the gift that has been given them in their families is utterly repugnant. For some single pastors, their unmarried station in life is a cross to bear… yes one that can be carried in joy and dedication to the vocation and congregation they love. But such statements are like eating a juicy steak in front of a starving person and then complaining about it.

    There are things that can be done / said to a single pastor that are helpful:
    Mentioning that they are in your prayers is such a great comfort
    As is showing and speaking support when a single pastor does find someone to “date” (for a lack of a better term)
    If you are an elder / on the church council, I echo the advice to encourage your pastor to actually take his day off and go on vacation. For many of us it is all too easy to neglect the need for rest.

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