Emily Katherine Dalton
January 30th, 2020

I feel a bit hypocritical typing this blog as I am simultaneously planning a wedding to a man I am head over heels in love with.  While I absolutely love this season, as overwhelming as it is, I get it. 

I have been that “single one” introducing myself when meeting new students entering our ministry, as we go down the line to introduce ourselves and share about our families.  In these moments, I held my breath as I heard each teammate of mine share about their spouse and kids showing photos of little people (which I love so deeply).  And when it was my turn, I shared that I have two older brothers and more recently a niece, jumping over the fact that yes, I was in fact single.

These moments were usually followed up with questions, that often blew my mind. People’s audacity to openly explore my reasons for being single or working hard to set me up with their one, strange relative who never married.

And now, as I experience these introductions and share about my engagement and upcoming marriage, my heart sinks for my “single” friends sitting by me who hold their breath the same way I did.

The Church as a whole has mishandled people who are unmarried for centuries. Unfortunately, those of us on staff, often face the brunt of this.  We sit through sermons on marriage, attend events where everyone else invites their spouse and family, and talk students through dating and heartbreak either ignoring or dismissing that burning feeling of wondering if our turn at a relationship will ever come.

It is hard and lonely and exhausting.  But it’s real. 

So, I’m here to share some of the best and worst things I was told as a single person in ministry.

First, the WORST.

“Focus on the harvest and you’re bound to find a helpmate.”

Where do I begin with the number of things wrong with this.  This is a direct quote from a book on singleness that was gifted to me, in which, the author advises single people to engage with their unwanted relationship status by leaning into ministry.  She shares story after story of individuals who volunteered with the student ministry or chaperoned a mission trip and by doing so found the love of their life.  The author explains that since people who are single have so much time on their hands….. they should use it by ministering in ways they won’t be able to when they are married.

I don’t feel like I even need to tell you all the things that are wrong with this.

“As soon as you stop looking, you’ll find the perfect person.”

Honestly, this just felt like a gut punch on many days.  And it makes literally no sense.  The truth I will say about this is that if you are not happy as an individual before dating or marrying someone, you will not be happy as an individual after dating or marrying.  Contentment is not found in a significant other and is a journey that should begin with the Lord long before considering doing life with someone else.

“God is just preparing you.”

This stung deep. Part of me actually began to believe I had some sanctification journey to complete before I could find myself in a significant relationship. This led to bitterness as I watched others around me get married and I would compare myself to them.  This is unhealthy.  Yes, God is preparing you, but what He is always in the business of preparing you for is to look more like Jesus and bring about His kingdom.  Singleness is not a stamp that you are not “holy enough.”

“A woman’s deepest desire is to play a supporting role on a great adventure.”

Women, I am talking to you here.  You may have read this book and believed the same lie I did. The lie that who you are and all you are is completely irrelevant until you begin carrying the banner of the mission of this man who comes and sweeps you off your feet.  This is the opposite of what I see in the life of Lydia, Deborah, Ruth, Rahab, and countless other women in Scripture.  Who you are, what you do, and how you are working to bring about the Kingdom is important work, no matter your last name.

And now, refreshingly, for some of the BEST things I was told as a single person in ministry.

“You have to set boundaries as if you have a family you’re going home to as well.”

These were gracious words that found me amidst some of my first steps in ministry.  I felt like others had spouses and families, so I should be the one to volunteer my extra time or use every meal to show up and be with someone in my ministry.  I am also a very extraverted person. Fortunately, my counselor nudged me to take time for myself.  To slowly cook a meal, eat with a friend, or exercise.  To be honest, business is what I see as one of the biggest mistakes we make in ministry. We fill every gap in our schedules with activity only to find, no matter how integral of a role we play in people’s lives, there will still be lonely moments.  We spend so much of our time on others, but take terrible care of ourselves. Often leading to addictions to food, work, pornography, and more. 

Take one night off.  Eat a healthy meal.  Read your Bible (not to write a lesson and do not text anyone a Bible verse that made you think of them).  Exercise.  And Rest.

“Stop settling on potential.  You deserve more.”

Maybe this was me.  Or maybe it’s you.  But a mentor in my life leaned into some hard accountability I needed telling me to stop making excuses for people or settling because I believed in what they would become.  If I’m really honest there was a fear and beginnings of believing someone better would never come.  But she pushed me to wait, and I’m so thankful I did.

“The goal of your life is not marriage, but holiness.”

This was refreshing for me to hear. It felt like everyone around me was asking “Don’t you want to be with someone?” or “Been on any dates recently?” This word reminded me I was not less or falling short because I was single.  It reminded me that I would be “complete” enough as a child of God walking in my calling toward ever increasing holiness. And, if I’m honest, I am thankful for an extended season of this as I walk into marriage.

Should you find yourself in the “single” scenario, some of my words may make you angry. Why? Because singleness can make one feel vulnerable and is unique for every person.  My prayer is that you know that you are not alone and He is always enough.

Emily Katherine Dalton

Emily Katherine Dalton serves as the Assistant Coordinator of Discipleship Intensives with the WinShape College Program in Rome, GA. EmK grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina where she was called to ministry, moving to Rome, Georgia to study Psychology and Spanish at Berry College. She now works in full time college ministry, is pursuing a Master's of Divinity, has a book coming out in the next year, and loves all things chocolate peanut butter.

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