Post Author: Askie
I’m a young clergy woman, starting out in my first call. I’m single, and thinking about jumping back into the dating world now that I’m settled in my new location. I’m worried, though, that it might be a bit weird dating now that I’m a pastor. How will potential dates react when they find out? Should I say I’m a pastor in an online dating profile, or wait to tell people once we’ve actually met? Am I overthinking this?
Solo Pastor Seeking to be Less Solo
No, I don’t think you’re overthinking it. Dating as a YCW has its own unique set of challenges. All clergy know the awkwardness of “the big reveal” when we meet new people in social settings. People have a wide range of reactions to finding out that their new acquaintance is a minister. Reactions can be good, bad, ugly, or just deeply deeply strange. The fear that someone might reject us because of our calling can exist in any social situation, but it’s amplified in the dating world.
Askie went to some single YCW friends to ask about the reactions they’ve gotten when the inevitable “So, what do you do?” question came up with a date (or potential date). For many potential dates, it prompted curiosity. One YCW reported, “Most people, pretty soon after learning what I do, ask some version of the question, ‘What do you think about LGBTQ people?’”
Others seem curious, but turn quickly to mansplaining what one ought to believe. Another YCW reported, “I’ve had, nonreligious folks ask, ‘so what do you think about (dating/evolution/lgbtq rights/abortion/alternate sexual practices)?’ I explain my views and frequently refer them to my church’s social statements. And they reply, ‘No, because that’s not what some random guy I just found on Google says Christians think.’ And they still think I’ll date them.”
The truth is, some people are not comfortable dating a pastor. Some will tell you it’s a deal-breaker. Others, particularly online, will just never respond again after hearing about your job. One YCW reported hearing from a potential date, “Well, that’s too bad, because you are too hot to be a pastor.” Good luck figuring out the correct response to that one. Others have different priorities in life, but you still may want to pass on a date with them. One YCW was told, “I think you’re adorable and sweet so [your job is] not a turn off…. How tall are u?”
There will always be some who feel the need to tell you why you shouldn’t be ordained, or who expect a cookie for being so very open-minded that your vocation is okay with them. Some people feel the need to ask a woman minister about her “views on women in ministry,” although you’d think those views would be pretty clear without asking. Others will say things like, “It’s okay that you’re ordained, as long as there’s a man as senior pastor over you.” Don’t date that one. Another YCW told a story of “the guy who told me very proudly that he had consulted with his Greek Orthodox priest, and that he said it might be acceptable for me to be a minister. I was supposed to offer praise and be thankful for his permission. Yeah, I’m not going to be grateful that some distant colleague may ‘permit’ me to do my job.”
Occasionally, people seem to be more in need of pastoral care than a date. Clergywomen who identify as LGBTQ+ encounter this with some regularity. One YCW said, “Because most/much of my dating is also tied up with my queerness, a lot of my responses are surprise or confusion. Sometimes there are also folks who have been deeply hurt by the church, so I do some affirmation of those feelings.”
The most common response YCWs encountered when revealing their vocation in the online (or offline) dating world was some variation on “Can you have sex?” For some, the question was even more graphic or explicit. For those who list “pastor” as their occupation on an online profile, the sex question sometimes was brought up before first names or even basic greetings were exchanged. Askie may be a bit of a prude, but she firmly believes that regardless of your denomination’s rules around premarital sex, you should not have sex with anyone who asks about sex before saying hello.
Still, dear Solo Pastor, do not lose heart. There are also those who will appreciate you for exactly who you are and respect what you do. One YCW said, “One guy said that it was great to see someone using their intelligence for God. Another guy opened by saying what a meaningful profession it must be.”
Another said, “I told a date, ‘I’m a minister, don’t be scared!’ The response was, ‘the only things that scare me are numbers and heights. So unless you’re going to quiz me on multiplication while standing on the steeple, I’ll think we’ll be fine.’”
One YCW reported that on a first date, “He ‘accidentally swore’ because a car almost hit us. He quickly got all red and apologized because he didn’t want to offend me as a pastor because he respects my call. I just laughed and said, ‘well, shit,’ and we both started laughing. We’re still dating.”
The truth is, Solo, you’ll get a lot of different responses when potential dates find out what you do for a living. Cherish the good ones, ignore the bad ones, and write down the incredibly weird ones so you can laugh about that hilarious story with your friends later. Most of all, remember that you are an amazing and beloved child of God who deserves to be loved for who you are and who God has called you to be.