Editor’s Note: This is another installment in our “Single and…” series where we interview singles from all walks of life. It is our hope that you are encouraged by the stories of people who have a similar journey as you, who share the same dreams you have, who face the same hurdles you do, and who can remind you that you are not alone.
Boundaries. We all need them, but learning how to set them is difficult, especially when you’re single and in ministry. There’s always a need, and you’re the one who doesn’t have anyone waiting on you at home, so shouldn’t you just take one for the team?
Some days, you can easily step up to the plate, but others…well, others you just need a break. As Associate Director of a campus ministry, Angie Shepherd knows what it’s like to find a balance between obligation and rest. There are only 2 full-time ministers on the staff, and her job consists of everything from being the head janitor to discipleship to fundraising to missions mobilization.
We caught up with Angie recently to learn more about how she balances being single and in ministry. Here’s what she had to say:
What are your areas of gifting and how do you see those gifts being used?
Angie: When I was in college, I used to tell everyone that my dream job was at the Weather Channel in Atlanta. I wanted to be the Community Relations Director and plan community events such as 5K races, employees feeding the homeless events, coat drives, etc..anything that would make this company look good in the eyes of the public.
When the Lord called me into full time ministry, He took the exact same set of skills, talent, and gifting and is using them in collegiate ministry. I still plan 5Ks just now they are to raise money for missions. I take students to feed the homeless and we have coat and soup drives. Could I have been a powerful witness for Christ in the corporate world…I think so. For whatever reason, instead the Lord chose to redirect my life into a calling that would use my gifts for administration, teaching, discipleship, and my desire to serve people in a way that is so much more fulfilling than the corporate world could ever be for me. Every day I get to go to a job that I absolutely love. I don’t take that for granted.
What are the pros/cons of being single and working on a college campus?
Angie: Collegiate Ministry is a lot of nights, weekends, road trips, mission trips, conferences, and retreats. One of the pros of being single in this ministry is that I don’t ever have to feel guilty about the amount of hours I work. I can take that road trip to a concert in Dallas with a group of girls even though we had a retreat last weekend and tailgates and ballgames the week before. There is no pull on my time from a family.
One of the cons of being single in this ministry is that there is no one to tell me to come home. It would be very easy to work for months on end and not ever have a day off. Relationships help you set boundaries and since I don’t have one, I am having to learn to build fences around my time and set my own boundaries. People in general seem to have more respect for boundaries when they are set by two people instead of just one. In my experience they respond better when you say, “I have to go home to spend time with my husband,” instead of when you say “I have to go home.” I am learning to be okay with that.
I am learning to not see setting boundaries as being selfish with my time. Even Jesus pulled away at times to be alone and pray and refuel. So this year I tried making Wednesday nights my “Sabbath.” All of my students are at church and my church doesn’t have Wednesday activities for adults so this is a night that works well for me. On Wednesday evenings nothing short of a major catastrophe is going to get me to respond to texts or calls. Being intentional with my boundaries had been a game changer in my ministry.
Another struggle as a single in full time ministry is finding biblical community outside of my ministry. I have to be very careful with my relationships with college girls. I can be their best friend but because of my position, they can’t be mine. They can tell me all of their struggles and fears but I can’t share with them mine because that would be inappropriate. I have to have friends outside of my ministry that I trust that can help me process things and that I can call in a crisis. Those people are hard to find when you are always working during the times everyone else is off work.
How does working closely with another person on a ministry team sharpen you?
Angie: So many times I hear my married friends talk about how refining marriage is. I think working on a ministry team with one other person is also refining and in a lot of the same ways. My boss is a single guy and I am a single girl. Neither of us have someone of the opposite gender at home to help “explain” or navigate the thought processes or actions of the other person. This means we have to communicate a lot more with each other than I have had to communicate with married bosses in the past. This has been hard but it has been good for me too. The Lord has used miscommunication, differing passions, opposing views and so much more to show me areas in my life that needed to be brought under His Lordship. The Lord is teaching me that even though life seems like it would be easier if we just thought exactly alike, it is actually better and I am actually better because of the vastly different ways that he created us.
Do you think your ministry would be different if you were married?
Angie: Absolutely my ministry would be different. Over the years I have had lots of colleagues that married and had kids. Several of them left collegiate ministry to start families and some of them blended their families into our crazy lifestyle with grace but ALL of their ministries looked different from when they were single. I have friends who have discipleship meetings with girls in carpool lines and Bible studies with a kid in each student’s lap. Collegiate ministry is definitely doable as a married woman; it just looks different than it does for a single.
What has been one of your greatest joys of this ministry season?
Angie: Being challenged by the faith of my students. Sometimes I can’t figure out who is supposed to be teaching whom. It is humbling and awesome to sit across the table from a student who is sharing with you about what the Lord is teaching them and all you can think is how you want to be taking notes so you don’t forget anything they are saying. The Lord is faithful to teach us if we are teachable and the lessons he teaches us don’t have an age limit on them. My greatest joy comes from when a student opens their Bible to show me what they Lord is showing them. I get teary eyed when I see the Lord moving in their life.