So You Want to Date A Pastor?

By far my most popular post is my Top 10 Dating Tips for Pastors. And just look at the search engine terms that brought people to my blog in the past 7 days:

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7 out of 12 googlers are interested in their pastor.                                                   Just to creep you out: Are YOU the pastor they’re interested in?

Over half of the people who found me were looking for pastor-dating advice.

And what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t pander to what the people want?

Answer: The kind of blogger that gets no hits. And I am prideful and terrible, so here I am, PANDERING!

Thus, I present to you: So You Want to Date a Pastor?

Early Days

Look at you, you’ve spotted a single pastor and you’re enamored. He or she is so cute with her or his reading glasses, nevermind that you can’t even pronounce the name of the author she’s reading (for your information, here’s a helpful guide from my friends over at Profligate Grace:)

Some helpful suggestions for these early days:

Don’t show up at Church unannounced. This may seem romantic in your brain, but if you show up out of the blue, a number of things could happen:

  1. S/he notices you while s/he’s preaching and it totally throws him/her off. Now s/he hates you and is embarrassed. Relationship over.
  2. In the case of a small congregation, you have now prematurely announced your presence and the rumors will never end. NEVER END, I tell you.
  3. In the case of nearly any congregation, you (especially if you are young and fresh-faced) will be bombarded with questions about who you are… and you don’t want to have to look a bunch of little old ladies in the eye and say, “I’m trying to impress and woo your pastor.”

Don’t swing by the parsonage or leave flowers or love notes at the door. That house belongs to the church, wo/man. The chances of your pastor-crush finding those things or being home when you stop by are probably a lot lower than a member of the Property Committee being there.  You don’t want that, trust me.

Do plan for all G-rated dates. Oh, now I’m sure you’re a very upstanding gentleman/lady, but just don’t plan on heading down to the local bar and grinding the night away. If your pastor friend is interested in this, be alarmed. S/he may not be a pastor for much longer. A pastor lives pretty centrally in the plot from Footloose. Go to the next town over, or better yet, just have a picnic and ice cream and call it a night (she said unrealistically).

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Once You’re “Official”

Hey gal/fella, you’re officially in a relationship with a pastor! Congrats.

Welcome to the Fishbowl. Everything that you do now is closely monitored by your beloved’s congregation. Getting a lot of Facebook friend requests from people older than you? That’s the Church for you. Getting a lot of winks and awkward conversations in the grocery store? You guessed it: Church folk.

Ah, Church folk. They love you! They wish you didn’t have that photo of yourself holding a Bud Light on your Facebook… and they surely think your plans for full tattoo sleeves that you tweeted about aren’t great…. but if their pastor likes you, you must be okay!

You now have a lot of future in-laws. Depending on the size of your sweetie’s congregation, you have acquired at least a few dozen new grandmothers and overprotective dads looking over your shoulder.  Also teenage children, if the church has a youth group.  Expect a lot of advice.  Expect a lot of probing questions.  Expect a lot of pressure to pop the question– I don’t care if you’ve only been dating for a month. (I should pause to note here that with the exception of someone leaving a love note and a Property Committee member finding it, all of these examples are true life things that have happened to pastor friends of mine.)

And, oh, the desserts. Hallelujah, the desserts roll in like manna! You find yourself blessing the names of Saints Ethel and Marna for their coconut cakes and fat peanut butter brownies. Ah, Church folk, indeed. You may find yourself wanting to become a pastor yourself, because life with the old ladies is the best life.  They’re even keeping you on the straight and narrow with your Bible study! I’m telling you, #bestlife.

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As Time Goes On

You’re such a good sport. You’ve gotten used to being up at 6 am on Sundays to calm your honey’s nerves before s/he preaches. You’re even used to Saturday nights being school nights. I bet you’ve even checked out Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Disicpleship from the library and got to page 2 before closing it and googling the major points (just remember: cheap grace, bad; costly grace, good). Good for you, bro/sis!

If you just want to keep dating, that’s cool. The cake and brownies will slow down, though, most likely in an effort to lure you into getting engaged. But at least this way you can postpone that inevitable awkward conversation of,  “Is the whole congregation coming to the wedding?”

If you pop the question, the entire town will freak. out.  There may be a parade.  Finally, that poor young pastor no longer has to live in that drafty old huge parsonage alone. Glory! Glory! Wedding planning will begin instantly. All of your ideas are immediately thrown out. Just kidding. But really, it’s happening here in this church not taking no for an answer, k?

If you break up, you must move. Simple as that.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Get out of there. There’s nothing left for you here. Suddenly the kind ladies who gave you free haircuts are all booked up. The gentlemen who loved having you as a fourth for golf all have suspicious back injuries and won’t need you to play with them anymore. As for your former love, hopefully s/he won’t deny you Eucharist if you come back to church there, but it’s in our blood as Methodists to do so (search: Hopkey).

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So there you have it, ladies and gents out there who have your eye on a special clergy. I hope this has been helpful, and that you take it for what it is: joking. Seriously, there’s nothing scary about us men and women of the cloth. We just come with a few extra guardians. Nothing great is ever easy, right? That’s how I’m choosing to look at it (she said, single-ly).

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Top 10: Dating Tips for Pastors

What follows are REAL LIFE examples of the dating hazards that accompany being a single pastor. Please, learn from my and my friends’ mistakes, misguided ideas, and embarrassments.

Disclaimer: I am not at all ashamed of being a pastor. What follows include a lot of efforts to hide being a pastor from potential mates, but this is mostly just because, in my and my friends’ experience, guys tend to run screaming from a girl who is a pastor. I suppose this may be true for male pastors, as well. In any case, I do ultimately advocate being up-front and honest about the wonderful calling God’s placed on your single little life.

10. The Bar Crawl
Pros: It’s loud in bars! Maybe they’ll think you said, “Blaster” or “Finisher,” instead of “pastor” or “minister,” and they’ll think you’re some sort of awesome NASA asteroid destroyer who saves the planet on the regular.

Cons: Get one beer in your tummy and you’re probably going to start arguing the morality of Bonhoeffer’s writing Ethics while plotting to kill Hitler. And let me tell you, that is the exact opposite of sexy.

9. The Dog Park
Pros: You can distract them with your adorable puppy instead of focusing on that pesky question, “So what do you do?”

Cons: The most optimal time for young singles to be at the dog park is during their lunch break or on Sunday afternoon, when you’re probably still wearing your clerical collar and/or your church name tag. Kind of a giveaway.

8. The Misdirect
Pros: Telling someone “I work at a nonprofit” isn’t technically a lie.

Cons: It’s totally not the truth. And they will find out eventually. Like when you’re constantly at work on Sunday morning and Wednesday night.

7. The Coffee Shop
Pros: You’re sitting in a comfy chair reading– which technically counts as working since ministry is at least partially a life of the mind: Score 10 points!– and a cute guy/girl (whatever applies to you, dear reader) walks up: “What are you reading?” Look at you! Conversation started! Score 400 points– you get a pizza party for dinner and ice cream for dessert!

Cons: You’re totally reading Barth. Or worse, Yoder. There’s no explaining that one in an “I’m open to dating” sort of way.

6. The Bible Study
Pros: You know that the people there are Jesus junkies, just like you.
You know that they know you’re a pastor, if not because they go to your church then hopefully because you can speak with some level of articulateness on this Jesus stuff.
You know that they are down with Church life, because otherwise why would they be at church on a Sunday night?

Cons: The cons here come in two dangerous territories:
1) The Bible study is at your church. DANGER DANGER! No parishioner dating! Stop it! Go read your Bible (NOT Song of Songs), take several cold showers, and then never go back to that place again.
2) The Bible study is at some other church. Uh oh. What if he/she’s secretly a conservative? Or worse, Calvinist? Run away!

5. The Clergy Meeting
Pros: You’re sitting in a clergy meeting and, what the what?! Someone your age! And they’re cute! And they’re smiling at you!

Find yourself daydreaming about the potential perfection of it all: You’ll hold a charge together, with the wife as the senior pastor because you’re one of those progressive, pro-feminist couples. You’ll raise perfectly liturgical children who beg you to read them Rowan Williams before bed. And you’ll never fight because your pastor marriage will be the picture of Christian charity.

Cons: Shut up, you’re an idiot. Look away.

4. The Sports League
Pros: Joining the local ultimate frisbee group is a great way to get in shape and meet new folks. You get to run around, frolic in the sun, and probably see a lot of guys with their shirts off/girls in short shorts (I’m trying really hard to be male-pastor-friendly in this blog, but it’s difficult. Listen, if I knew what guys were interested in, I probably still wouldn’t be single. #truefact).

Cons: You actually have to be athletic/good at sports. The sport I’m best at is juggling…. hospital visits. Juggling hospital visits.

3. The Wedding
Pros: You’ve just officiated at a wedding and now, hey! You’re invited to the reception! Who’s at wedding receptions? Young people, generally. Get in there, girl/fella! Find yourself a cutie!

Cons: They just saw you up front officiating a wedding. You’re more likely to get asked to officiate their wedding than to go out with them. This is a true story that has happened to more than one of my friends. It’s a sad life, guys.

2. Online Dating
Pros: You can be up-front on the “Career” section, or you can do the Misdirect (see #8). In an effort to be accessible, you can mention all your non-church interests, like………….. um? Okay, just go with the generic stuff: “Movies, hangin’ with friends, traveling.” You can even filter your matches to find a nice Methodist boy/girl. Note: Don’t lead with, “So you’re definitely Arminian, right?”

Cons: Having to tell your congregation that you met your new beau online.

1. The Set-Up
Pros: This highly seductive method, wherein you let the old ladies in your church set you up with their grandchildren, HAS NO PROS. DON’T DO IT. DON’T.

Cons: Everything. You will only hurt the old lady’s feelings when the first date goes sour after you realize that the reason the grandchild is single is because he’s a comic book geek, closeted, or a fratty play-boy.

So there you have it, ladies and gents. Dating as a Pastor.  I suggest just going ahead and buying a single cemetery plot and adopting three cats now. Cheers!

You Know You’re a Pastor When…

Welcome to the first installment of “You Know You’re a Pastor When…”

Please comment and leave me your hilarious additions and maybe you’ll see yours included in the next installment!

You know you’re a pastor when… you’ve eaten your body weight in leftover Hawaiian bread.

…your phone’s autocorrect knows words like “salvific” and “Hauerwas.”

…you treat Saturday as a “school night.”

…you’ve refrained from cutting someone off in traffic because you know your hospital clergy tag is in your back window.

…you caught yourself singing “The Summons” when you woke up this morning.

…you get excited to the point of making weird high-pitched noises when you find a volume of Barth’s Dogmatics you don’t already have in a used bookstore.

…you have felt genuine remorse for throwing away a tissue with consecrated grape juice on it.

…you open your Hymnal to page 881 when reciting the Apostles’ Creed before the congregation JUST IN CASE.

…(similarly) you write out the whole Lord’s prayer in your prayers of the people JUST IN CASE.

…you know what I’m talking about when I say this: BWGRKL.

…light, fun reading means cracking open Sayings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers.

…you have to close your blinds to watch any movie over a PG rating for fear a church member will see.

…you put on sunglasses and a hat to buy beer.

…you write “Non-profit” when your online dating site of choice asks where you work.

…you have surreptitiously put a ring on your left ring finger when entering a room full of young, cute conservatives/fundamentalists/evangelicals. JUST IN CASE.

What about YOU? When do YOU know YOU’RE a pastor?

Reply and let me know!