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A Singular Purpose: Five Truths About Relationship Status and Cross-Cultural Ministry

A Singular Purpose: Five Truths About Relationship Status and Cross-Cultural Ministry

Your relationship status has no bearing on God’s ability to use you in cross-cultural ministry. Just as church-planting teams need people of diverse personalities and giftings, they also need both single and married members to represent the Body of Christ in least-reached communities. The Lord uses both, uniquely and beautifully, for His glory. 

But, so often, this reality gets buried under misconceptions and fears about singleness and cross-cultural ministry. If you’re single and thinking about serving the Lord overseas, you may worry that pursuing ministry across an ocean takes marriage off the table. You, your parents or others who care about you might carry anxiety about your safety on the field or potential struggles with loneliness. These are real, valid and common concerns. But they’re hardly the whole story.

The truth is far more nuanced than common anxieties and hesitations. Below are five essential truths about relationship status and overseas service to put those concerns in context.

Every relationship status and life stage comes with its own challenges.

It can be easy to focus on the potential downsides of singleness on the field and forget that those who are married also face challenges unique to their relationship status. The stresses of cross-cultural life and ministry can place a great deal of strain on a marriage, and couples on the field often struggle with balancing ministry in their homes and time with least-reached people in their communities. Moms of young children can experience deep loneliness, and older couples may find it hard to connect with young people in their communities.

Yes, singles face unique challenges on the field. They may need to take extra safety precautions or more acutely feel the sting of being away from family during the holidays. But they don’t have a monopoly on the struggles of cross-cultural life.

Singles are often blessed with unique opportunities for building relationships.

Being single enables many cross-cultural workers to connect with least-reached people in ways that might not be open to their married teammates. Local singles may feel more comfortable confiding in them, and they may be more readily welcomed into certain social circles and even families. Brianne,* who served in Albania, sees how her singleness was a connection point with her language helper in a culture in which it’s unusual for a young woman to be single. “I was able to be an example of living a life that’s valid in the Lord and of doing things for His glory,” she recalls.

Likewise, Grace, who served in the Middle East, shares that being single helped her adapt to her host culture and build strong bonds in her community. She recalls the local families that protected her and referred to her as their “American daughter.”

Single cross-cultural workers are also typically able to be more spontaneous and take advantage of spur-of-the-moment opportunities to connect with people. When tea with a friend turns into a marathon conversation about spiritual things, a single worker is often more free to stay without being concerned about missing dinner with their spouse or helping their kids with homework. When seen through the lens of openness to God’s leading, this flexibility is a gift that opens doors for deeper, and sometimes unexpected, relationships.

In addition, many single workers have more time and energy to invest in their teammates. They’re able to come alongside others who are struggling, provide a listening ear and serve as mentors—immensely valuable ministries that help cross-cultural teams thrive.

Staying doesn’t guarantee a spouse—and going doesn’t mean you won’t get married.

Putting off cross-cultural ministry until you find a husband or wife might seem like a good way to keep your options open. But staying in the States won’t give you a guarantee that Mr. or Mrs. Right will come along.

Likewise, heading overseas as a single doesn’t lock you in to a lifetime of singleness—and it might even lead you to a spouse who shares your vision for ministry. Numerous Christar workers have met their husbands or wives on the field, and they’re married today because they first followed God’s call as singles.

Marriage isn’t the end goal.

God designed you first and foremost for a relationship with Him. Regardless of whether you’re single or married, if you seek anything other than knowing and glorifying Him as your top priority, you’ll wind up disappointed.

While seeking a spouse can be a godly pursuit, it can also become an idol and a distraction that steals your attention and affection from your Creator. If you’d like to be married, lift up that desire to Him. He made you, loves you and understands your deepest longings. And He’s able to give you joy that supersedes your relationship status. Brianne testifies of this: “I’ve been blessed with contentment that comes from a really healthy place of the Lord satisfying me.”

God can be trusted. 

The God who is faithful to bring workers to the field and use them to build His Church in least-reached communities is the same gracious Father who is faithful in your relationships. If you’re considering cross-cultural ministry, you know that even entertaining this idea requires having faith that the Lord will overcome numerous obstacles and provide for your needs. As Brianne says, “We trust God for so much in the support-raising process, and that extends to marriage.”

God promises in Isaiah 49:23 (NIV), “those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Believing this when you can’t see the path ahead and are facing a mountain of uncertainties isn’t always easy—sometimes it can be a seemingly never-ending slog. But when we surrender our desires to Him and look to Him for our security, we can rest in His unshakeable faithfulness.


Yes, marriage can be a wonderful thing. But it’s not the thing. Serving God is. Don't let the pursuit of a relationship cause you to miss out on the joy of serving Him and being part of what He’s doing.

We’d love to walk alongside you on your unique journey as you consider cross-cultural ministry! Email [email protected] to connect with us.

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