21 Things that can ONLY happen when dating as a WOMAN in YOUTH MINISTRY.

Last October, I got married to a WONDERFUL man, and honestly, it was an answer to prayers. And not in the “OMG I wanna get married” kind of way, but in the “OMG now I can stop dating losers.” Because my husband is anything BUT a loser, and let me just say… I have quite the track record.

Until I met my husband, I had a bit of a reputation for dating aggressively. When I moved to my current city for my job, I realized about 6 months in that I was painfully lonely. We had no “Young Adult” ministry yet, and so, I bought a cat. At my year-review, I told my boss, “Kevin, I love it here, but I’m telling you now: This year I need to take a step back. I need to date.” My male boss took that conversation very graciously. And so, at the age of 25, I began really dating for the “first time.”

I used dating apps. When I had a low-busy week in ministry, I’d begin lining dates up with young men who I thought were worth of a preliminary public first date, to test the waters. My friends and I have joked about me writing a book called “50 First Dates” because, to be honest, I’ve probably gone on that many. Rarely would a gentlemen get a second date, and only one or two men made it past a month–one of them being my husband (who, side bar, I fell in love with after a month).

Dating a woman in ministry is hard, though, because I attracted two types of people: (1) Conservative-types, who didn’t understand that I wasn’t in ministry until I found a husband and then dropped out to take care of our family. (2) Former-Christians or Christians who fell away from the church in their 20s/30s, who thought it sounded nice at first to be with a Christian girl, and then realized I wasn’t going to have sex with them anytime soon, so they bolted (I blame the purity ring).

I’ve recorded many stories on my personal blog, but I thought I’d bring over a few that happened to me just because I’m a woman in ministry. Here is 8 years worth of damage:

  1. The guy in my freshman year of college who read “Wild at Heart” after our third date and realized he wasn’t man enough to date me. He joined a men’s Bible study/cult. Those dudes are still messed up, 10 years later.
  2. The mom who tried to hook me up with her kid who had just left for college (in her defense, I was 20, but as the youth director it was still mildly inappropriate).
  3. The man who I wasn’t technically dating, but we had a thing for each other. He ended up volunteering for summer camp, following me around the whole week. At the end, he tells me that I’m confused about how he feels about me. Then, all the young women at the church got so mad at him, that he never came to our church again. This was the last time I dated dudes from church.
  4. The guy who I met online, and we quickly established that he was another local UMC youth director. Five minutes into chatting he asks me if I want to “come over and snuggle.” Lawd.
  5. The guy who, after several months of flirting online, we finally go on a date. Afterwards he texts me, “are you okay with having sex before marriage?” The guy was the worship pastor at his church.
  6. The guy who ghosted me (I was okay with it, to be honest), but several months later texts me to check in with me because he still thinks I’m a decent person. He said that he ghosted me because he “just can’t have sex with a youth pastor.” As if there was an offer?
  7. The guy who, after a month of dating and after a really great date, immediately texted me: “I think things are going really great with you, and I can see this going somewhere. First you just need to accept my devout atheism.” …how is this the first time this came up?
  8. The guy who moved here from California a week before our first date. I asked him why he moved and he said that he felt like God told him to, and he didn’t know why yet. After Facebook stalking him, he moved to Indiana because God told him he was going to find a wife. And he told all his family and friends that. In a public Facebook post. That I could see.
  9. The guy who was reading his thick study bible as I walked in, and if that wasn’t enough, brought out a journal of handwritten hymns and used it as something to gesture with while talking.
  10. The guy who sincerely asked me if I could curse or drink alcohol because I’m in ministry.
  11. The guy who talked a ton about how he grew up on a farm and never watched TV until college. He moved to Indiana to go get a degree from an unaccredited Bible college. Indiana was CULTURE to him and everything was mind-blowing. After 45 minutes I had to bust out of there.
  12. The guy who said, “You seem like an empowered woman who will want to pay for her own food” as we order. And you seem like a chivalrous guy who will want to pay for me, anyway.
  13. The guy who told me his dad was a preacher of a huge church until he read his son’s Left Behind books he got for Christmas. Now he has a church of 30 he preaches turn-and-burn passages to every Sunday. I may have joked that this was all his fault…
  14. The guy who related everything we talked about back to his Catholic culture and then rebuked me for being ecumenical.
  15. The man who told me I couldn’t continue wearing dresses around him, because he was so attracted to me in them.
  16. The guy who told me on the second date that his dad’s house was possessed by demons and that he gets possessed every time he goes there.
  17. The guy who was a teacher at a school I have students at, and he told his entire department I was his girlfriend after just a few dates–and I found out because his coworker told her best friend who told her daughter who interned for my coworker.
  18. The guy who broke up with me through text saying, “You’re a Proverbs 31 woman, and I would have loved that in Bible college, but you’re too good for me today.” He didn’t get far enough with me to have known that I resent that passage.
  19. The guy who randomly messaged me a year after we dated with “Sometimes you just need to make out with a pastor and get some holy kissin’ in.”
  20. The single men in co-ed ministry Facebook groups who would message me with lines such as, “I’ve always been a fan of women in leadership” or “I love seeing women in power” or my favorite: “My denomination has always been affirming of women in leadership”
  21. The message I got after a youth pastor read a blog post of mine: “I think you are absolutely beautiful. physically is a given, but for the sake of full disclouser you have great eyes, and a georgus smile… I read your stuff, and you get it. You love Jesus, and love students, and if you lived anywhere near me we would be going to dinner next weekend for sure. #yeathatjusthappened

And as a bonus: There were many, many men who went on one date with me, then told me they don’t think women in ministry is a thing (and that I’m sending kids to hell).

ABOUT HEATHER: Heather Lea Kenison is a middle school youth director in Indianapolis, serving with a talented team of staff and volunteer leaders. A newly-wed and one-eyed cat mom, Heather organizes and manages Women in Youth Ministry site and Facebook page. Heather is a devout follower of Jesus, the St. Louis Cardinals, and Youtube beauty gurus.

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