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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

Leadership from Singleness

The subject of singleness is one I have thought about considerably in recent days. During the fall semester, I spent time thinking about what it meant for me to be a single Christian. Unfortunately, there are little resources to assist in this thought process. Most articles from Christian blog sites begin with, “Singleness is a gift”, and while such a statement certainly finds valid rooting in St. Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, the authors of the article betray at the outset they do not fully understand the unique experience of being single, especially considering the average author of these blogs is married. As a single, I need to hear the Gospel before I hear, “This state you aren’t a fan of, it’s a gift; embrace it.”

So the idea of leading from singleness, as presented by Peter Scazzero, is a concept I have never considered. The Church has done a poor enough job of ministering to singles, let alone fostering singleness as an asset for ministry. Scazzero is perfectly correct when he says: "If little equipping was given to help married leaders, even less was provided for single leaders. The connection between singleness and leadership was rarely, if ever, mentioned. But the not-so-subtle message behind the silence was loud and clear: You would have a broader, more effective ministry if you were married. In some cases, single leaders were even considered suspect, the underlying message being, What’s wrong with you that you’re still single? [1]

While I do not believe my singleness has been suspect, though I have heard the concern that select single pastors might be gay, I have heard the message: “You would have a broader, more effective ministry if you were married.” During my college years, I recall several people who would pray that “the Lord would provide a help-mate” for me, as if my current state was something that needed fixing or that I was incomplete in a way which needed to be remedied. I have also had a pastor tell me how much his wife adds to his ministry and how impeded he believes his ministry would have been without her, all after telling me how he was praying for me and assuring me that God would provide someone for me. I cannot help but think, if singleness is an impediment to ministry, the Catholic Church has been quite fortunate in having successful ministers for centuries and producing the greatest missionary force the church has known through the Jesuit order. Who knows how great St. Augustine might have been if he was married?! Too bad his singleness held him back. While singleness is not my preferred condition and I do pray for a spouse, I do not think it is a condition which needs repairing. In fact, I would be unable to continue my seminary studies, church internship, substitute teaching, and composing if I were married or in a committed relationship. Right now, God has allowed me to be single because it is the best way for me to minister at this time in my life.

Currently, I am a dedicated celibate. I do not believe I possess the charism necessary to be a vowed celibate [2], or at least, God has not provided it yet. The desire for marriage and children in God’s timing is too strong. For now, this time of celibacy is dedicated to God as I prepare myself for pastoral ministry, begin my long-term ministry through substitute teaching at Christian schools and my church internship, and developing my second career as a composer.

Making healthy singleness my first ambition is a new concept for me [3]. “Single leaders are called to lead out of an overflow of love-in this case, the overflow of their love relationship with Jesus and the giving and receiving of love from their close relationships.” [4] Scazzero suggests pursuing a healthy singleness by investing in self-care, investing in community, and practicing hospitality. [5]

Self-care is defined by Scazzero as being a good steward of yourself. “In order to be a good steward of the limited resource that is you, it is vital that you discern the kinds of people, places, and activities that bring you joy.” [6] The quality of my self-care vacillates. At times, my desire to “fix myself” leads my workaholism to surface, keeping me from self-care. However, at present, I believe I am in a healthy place regarding self-care. As someone who has loved reading since I was a young child, I have set aside a half hour before going to bed for pleasure reading which has no utilitarian value and is unconnected to my studies. I also receive great joy out of composing. While writing music is also work and has, at times, been tainted by my workaholic tendencies, currently I have outlets for my music and have delighted in being able to write for an audience other than myself. It has served to replenish me at the end of long days.

Investing in community has always been important to me, but it has gained added significance since starting seminary. Weekly since college, I meet with a group of guys to talk and pray with. I rotate staying with four of them on weekends and get to share more of my life with these select individuals and their wives, while taking part in more of their own lives. I text a fifth regularly. We check in on how one another is doing and how we can best pray for each other.

As for hospitality, I am in a unique situation. Rather than having people into my home, I often visit and stay with others on weekends. I once heard Professor Cory Wilson say, “Part of hospitality is learning how to be a good guest.” It is this side of hospitality I take part in regularly. It has required me to learn humility, find ways to alleviate the burden of having me stay in their home, and express my gratitude to them.

Finally, Scazzero says singleness is our loudest Gospel message, a thought I had never considered before. He says this takes place in two major ways. “First, as a single leader, you bear witness to the sufficiency and fullness of Jesus through your celibacy.” [7] “Secondly, if you are a single leader who has never been married and had children, you bear witness to the reality of the resurrection in a unique way….Our belief in the resurrection of the dead gives us a unique perspective on the shortness and brevity of earthly life.” [8] I needed to hear both of these statements at this point in my life. They contain a wealth of wisdom to explore as I meditate on them throughout this season in my life. I am grateful that Christ is able to speak loudly to me and to those around me through my current vocation of singleness and pray he would give me the grace to live it out more intentionally.

[1] Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Leader, p. 90

[2] Ibid. p. 102

[3] Ibid. p. 106

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid. pp. 107-109.

[6] Ibid. p. 107

[7] Ibid. p. 110

[8] Ibid. pp. 110-111

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