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Interview on Being Single in Ministry

To gain insight on the topic of "Being Single in Ministry," Peggy Musgrove, a licensed Assemblies of God minister, speaker, free-lance writer, and prayer group leader for the Women in Ministry Task Force contacted three single women in ministry to discuss the issue. Each is in a different area of ministry which broadens our perspective on the topic.

FIRST, LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR "PRE-MINISTRY" DAYS. WHAT EARLY INFLUENCES DIRECTED YOUR LIFE INTO THE MINISTRY?

Sandra: When I was 3 weeks old my parents took me to Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Dunn, North Carolina. From that day until I left for college, I was nurtured in the Word by devoted Sunday school teachers, children’s church leaders and youth leaders. They influenced my life and caused me to desire a life in ministry.

Sarah: I grew up in a joyful, adventurous, non-stressed minister’s home. My parents loved God, loved our family, and loved people. Early on ministry was attractive because to me it was "the good life." Over the years I was inspired by individuals and families who took risks for God. They had excitement in their lives. The people they ministered to were changing for the better. When I arrived at the university at the age of 18, I began sharing my faith in a radical way. All of a sudden, my life became truly exciting as well.

Marla: My "pre-ministry" days came quite early! I accepted the Lord at age 8 and immediately felt called into teaching.

Editor: The importance of childhood training surfaces here. Each woman mentions her early childhood experiences. While God may call women into the ministry who have not had early Christian training, those who do receive training early are placed in a position to hear His call.

DID YOU RECOGNIZE GODS’ CALL EARLY IN LIFE? WAS IT A DEFINITE EXPERIENCE OR SOMETHING THAT CAME IN PROCESS OF TIME?

Sarah: Both. When I was 14, I began participating in short-term missions trips. Every year I arrived back home thinking ahead to next year’s experience. It wasn’t until several years later that I understood God had given me a missionary heart. However there were "moment in time" experiences as well. During my devotions 6 years ago, God called me into university ministry. Five years later in a worship service that call was expanded to the universities of Scotland. I knew God was speaking to me, clearly communicating His purposes for my life, which matched my experiences and my desires.

Marla: When I rededicated my life at age 15, my life verse became Isaiah 6:8 "Here am I. Send me." I knew then I’d go wherever He sent me and felt a strong call to ministry and missions in conjunction with teaching.

Sandra: I had a genuine salvation experience when I was 9 years old in Sunday morning children’s church. From that moment, I knew I was to be involved in ministry. At age 12, during a service at youth camp, I heard the Lord call me into full-time ministry. I had definite experiences, yet it developed over a process of time.

Editor: These women agree that the call is both a definite experience and a process. Note that by early teens, all of these women were responding to the call.

WHAT MINISTRY OPPORTUNITIES HAVE BEEN AVAILABLE TO YOU AS A SINGLE WOMAN?

Marla: I taught Christian high school for 14 years. During that time, I established PARABLE Drama Ministries, a drama troupe that studied the Word and wrote scripts from Scripture. We traveled nationally and internationally for about 8 years.

Once I earned my M.A. in intercultural studies, I was invited to go on a fact-finding trip with Assemblies of God missionaries to Eastern Europe. I went immediately with MAPS and stayed in the Balkans as a missionary. I also worked with Asia-Pacific Education. For 3 years, I was the dean of students at Bethany College. Presently I’m an associate professor at Biola University in the education department, having earned a Ph.D. in intercultural education.

I’ve always been involved with women’s ministry on local church women’s ministries councils and some district committees. I also work with credentialed women’s ministries in the Southern California District as I did in Northern California/Nevada. I do a lot of speaking, writing, and so on for Association of Christian Schools International. I also do speaking in a variety of other venues as opportunities arise.

Sarah: I’ve had many ministry opportunities thus far, although I can’t say they were presented on the sole factor that I am a single woman. Aside from the Women in Ministry Conference, I have been privileged to enjoy lots of ministry opportunities in fields from leadership to discipleship to missions training to speaking and teaching.

Sandra: I really do not believe my ministry opportunities and my being single have had anything to do with each other. My identity is not found in my singleness. My identity is in Jesus. Many times people do not even know I am single. It is not something I focus on. Ministry is my life!

Editor: Marla mentions the wide variety of ministries in which she has been involved, both at home and overseas. By noting these, we gain insight to the many opportunities available to women, married and single. Both Sarah and Sandra emphasize that opportunities come to both single and married women which are not necessarily related to their marital status..

WHAT, IF ANYTHING, IS UNIQUE ABOUT BEING IN THE MINISTRY AND BEING SINGLE?

Sandra: The only thing unique about being in the ministry and being single is that I sometimes have more time to give than those who are married.

Sarah: Having only been single in ministry, it’s all pretty normal thus far! I don’t know what challenges and joys come with balancing a ministry as well as a family, but I grew up in a family that did both well, so I think God provides and protects in whatever status of life you are in.

Marla: Whether married or single, male or female, ministry comes with unique joys and difficulties. Being a single missionary, it’s difficult to do all of the itinerating yourself, but you’re much more mobile once you get to the field. Being an administrator of a college, as well as being a missionary in overseas Bible colleges, a single woman must be careful how she presents herself and how she says and does what needs to be done. She has a great opportunity to influence and make a way for other women, but men may not receive her or her position as well as they would receive a man. There’s a constant tension of sorts requiring discernment and diplomacy.

Most people in ministry are married and many women have inroads to ministry because their husbands are in ministry. This is not always the case, but because it’s "the norm," a single woman has a special challenge in attempting to do what she feels God has called her to do and being well received by the rest of the Body of Christ. I’ve been blessed to have some wonderful colleagues and friends who are married and readily accept that I’m a woman and single. We partner well together.

HAS BEING SINGLE EVER BEEN AN OBSTACLE TO MINISTRY?

Sarah: No. I’ve had many, many individuals who have only encouraged, affirmed, and challenged me as a minister.

Sandra: I do not believe that being single has ever been an obstacle to ministry.

Marla: Yes, but not too often as overtly as subtly. As previously stated, both women and singles are not the "norm" in ministry and less so on many foreign fields than in the USA. It’s prudent to pray for God’s favor wherever He sends in order to overcome the obstacles that may await. Traveling alone I pray for God’s protection as He sends me. He has never let me down, I’ve never been afraid, and it’s always been an incredible adventure with Him.

WHAT RECOMMENDATIONS DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG SINGLE WOMEN OR WOMEN WHO ARE "SINGLE AGAIN," WHO FEEL CALLED INTO THE MINISTRY?

Sandra: If you feel called into the ministry you should "go for it" like anyone else. Being single or "single again" shouldn’t have anything to do with the call. "Study to show thyself approved unto God." Seek counsel from your pastor or superintendent. Find your place in ministry and do it!

The call of God is an honor! To be an honorable single woman minister, use wisdom and seek the Lord continually. Guard the anointing by (1) guarding your mind, Philippians 4:8; (2) guarding your heart, Proverbs 4:23; and (3) guarding your reputation, 1 Thessalonians 5:22. Always maintain healthy relationships with both men and women.

Marla: "Study to show yourself approved unto God a work(wo)man that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (2 Tim 2:15). If we are spiritually equipped by studying the Word and "hiding it in our hearts" daily, prepared in all other ways to serve God and people, we will be successful in HIS purposes for our lives. Don’t get hung up on injustices. Pray about them diligently. Do what is appropriate to do or say. But focus on the Lord and His plan for your ministry. It may not be an easy or fair road always, but the Lord is truly your Husband and will be with you all the way providing, protecting and opening doors as He sees fit in miraculous ways!

Sarah: God has called you into ministry regardless of what you feel that you have to offer. Some women may feel that God has "messed up" by calling them into the ministry as a single, an older women, a divorcee or a widow ­ but He is a creative God who is constantly working in our lives, not only to benefit ourselves, but the people to whom He is ministering through us. You never know what circumstance God is calling you to that no one else could do but you.

Editor: We could paraphrase Paul in his writing to Galatians by saying that the ministry is "neither exclusively for male and female, nor single or married, young or old," but for those who respond to the call of God and follow His leading.