Can A Pastor Have A Girlfriend?

Whether a pastor can have a girlfriend depends on the church they belong to. Some churches including the Catholic Church practice clerical celibacy, meaning pastors and priests cannot date or marry. 

But many protestant churches have no such thing, and pastors can be in a relationship, as long as it’s proper and in line with biblical teachings. 

Clerical Celibacy In Religion?

Clerical Celibacy In Religion

Clerical celibacy is the requirement among some churches and religions that the clergy abstain from marriage and sexual relations.  

Clerical celibacy is most common in the Roman Catholic Church. It is also practiced in the Eastern Orthodox Church. 

Surprisingly, other than the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, celibacy is not common among mainstream religions. 

Judaism and Islam do not require celibacy for their spiritual leaders. Even in Hinduism, priests are allowed to marry. Only monks practice celibacy. 

In Christianity, most protestant churches allow their pastors and other clergy to date and marry. 

Do Catholic Churches Have Pastors?

When we talk about pastors, we are not just referring to clergy in protestant and non-denominational churches. The Catholic Church, too, has pastors. 

Priests who are appointed to head a particular parish are sometimes referred to as pastors. This term is more common in the United States. In other English-speaking countries, they are called parish priests.

Pastor is a Latin word meaning ‘shepherd’. So it makes sense that parish priests, who are directly responsible for leading their flock, are called pastors. 

Here’s how the Bible describes the role of a shepherd or pastor. 

1 Peter 5:2-3 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

Can A Pastor Be In A Relationship?

Now that we know who a pastor is in different churches, it’s easy to answer this question. 

In the Catholic Church, a pastor cannot have a girlfriend. That’s because a pastor is a priest, and all catholic priests must abstain from marriage, dating and sexual relations. 

Even if it doesn’t involve physical sexual relations, having a girlfriend is a sexual relationship that is expected to lead to marriage. Otherwise, that’s just a friend.   

So Catholic pastors/priests can have close friends of any gender, but they cannot date. 

The same is true for all other churches that practice clerical celibacy including the Eastern Orthodox Church. 

When it comes to protestant churches, pastors are not required to be celibate so pastors can date and marry. In fact, many churches encourage marriage among the clergy. 

That means a pastor can have a girlfriend, or a boyfriend in the case of a female pastor (for churches that ordain women). 

That said, some churches don’t like the terms ‘girlfriend’ or ‘boyfriend’, finding them too secular. Instead, they prefer ‘fiancee’ to denote the seriousness of the relationship. 

Something else to keep in mind as a pastor is that you are an example to the congregation. As a shepherd, your actions and lifestyle invite much closer scrutiny. 

Remember this when dating. Even if you are not sinning, be careful not to cause other people to sin. That in itself is actually a sin. 

For instance, if you are secretive about who you are dating, some members of the church might assume you are having premarital sex when they find out. This could lead to some of them thinking it’s okay. 

Being open about who you are dating and making it clear it’s a proper relationship can help avoid the sin of scandal (behavior that causes others to sin).

Dating & Premarital Sex

While most non-Catholic pastors are free to have a girlfriend, there are limits to the relationship. The biggest one is that premarital sex is against the teaching of a majority of churches. 

Most churches believe that sex outside of marriage, whether it is premarital or extramarital sex (adultery), is immoral and sinful. This is mostly based on Hebrews 13:4. 

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.

Pastors who date cannot have sex until they get married. That said, some progressive churches take a different view of the whole dating and marriage thing. 

They accept gay clergy and don’t consider premarital sex to be explicitly immoral. 

If you are a pastor (or are planning to be a pastor) wondering whether you can date and have sex, I recommend talking to your spiritual leader. This is usually a bishop. They’ll guide you based on biblical teachings and the church’s own doctrine. 

Is It Okay For Pastors To Use Dating Apps?

Is It Okay For Pastors To Use Dating Apps

For some reason, many christians perceive dating apps to be somehow unchristian and immoral. But, at the core of it, dating apps and online dating are no different from traditional dating. 

As long as they stick to the biblical boundaries of relationships (that is, no premarital sex), then pastors can certainly use dating apps. 

That said, many dating apps are filled with deception and inappropriate content. It might also be hard to find a true fellow believer on popular dating apps. 

To avoid the risk of sin, consider using christian dating apps and sites such as Christian Mingle and Christian Connection and Catholic Match. 

Christian dating apps also make it easier to meet someone at the same level of your faith, or even stronger. 

Can Pastors Be In A Gay Relationship?

A majority of churches, Catholic, Protestant, and non-denominational, still view homosexuality as a sin. 

So even those that allow pastors to date will not take it too well if a pastor is involved in a gay relationship. 

But, as I mentioned earlier, there are newer more progressive churches that ordain gay clergy and even perform gay marriages. 

Can A Pastor Date A Church Member?

As long as your church allows pastors to date, there’s usually nothing wrong with dating a church member. 

However, you must be careful not to cause a scandal that affects the function and strength of the church. For instance, dating an unbeliever who comes to the church is probably not a good idea. 

The same goes for dating a divorced congregant.

I recommend thinking carefully over the matter, talking to your spiritual advisors about it and, most importantly, praying about it. 

Looking for more answers like this one? Check out this guide on whether a pastor can sell a church.

2 thoughts on “Can A Pastor Have A Girlfriend?”

  1. What if a protestant pastor is divorced (wife/husband left the pastor and forced the divorce on them)? Can they not find love again? And vice versa, what about a congregant who had no choice regarding his/her divorce?
    Christian intolerance for certain things about people who have had no choice about those things is just one of the reasons (but probably the biggest reason) why I left christianity far, far away in my rear-view mirror and embraced a belief system that excludes no one and no situation, demands only what you are able & comfortable with, and harms none.


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