14 Rules to Dating a Pastor: Dos and Don’ts & What to Expect

There’s a lot to be excited about when it comes to dating a pastor. According to recent research, over 70% of people married to a pastor rate their spousal relationship as ‘Excellent’ compared with only 46% of the total US population. Now, this data (along with a lot more encouraging numbers) is referring to people married to pastors, but it’s clear that the reasons behind this data begin in the season of dating and courtship.

So, if you’re already dating a pastor, interested in dating a pastor, or are just curious how that all works, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’re going to share the 14 most important rules to dating a pastor, or in other words, what it’s like and what you can expect. This is the proverbial list of do’s and don’ts to get the most out of the relationship.

With that, let’s start by sharing the 14 most important rules to dating a pastor.

Pastor in a church

1. Understand you will be in the spotlight.

When you are dating one of the leaders of the Church (or any organization for that matter), people will be looking at you. Is this a bad thing? No! But if you let it affect your relationship, it can be. Understand that, yes, people are going to be curious about who the pastor is dating. But realize this doesn’t change you, and it shouldn’t put more pressure on you. People may have their opinions, but those are just that—their opinions.

We’ll talk more about things to keep in mind regarding conduct and being in that spotlight later in the list.

2. Expect there to be boundaries at church.

In the early stages of your relationship, there may be a need for some discretion. Navigating personal relationships in the workplace (yes, the Church is where they work) can sometimes require tact. Other blogs would suggest you “keep it a secret”, but that’s just bad advice. A better way of putting it is to openly discuss the boundaries, what you’re both comfortable sharing, and optimal timing.

Communication and understanding are the keys here.

3. Expect there to be boundaries everywhere.

This is actually something that should be occurring in all relationships and not just when dating a pastor. However, in pastoral relationships, it tends to be more well defined. Again, have open communication about each of your boundaries and what you are comfortable with. Remember, even if you’re not the pastor in the relationship, you still get a say into what you’re comfortable (and not comfortable) with.

4. Be prepared for Godly dating.

The reason these boundaries play such a big role when you’re dating a pastor is that the goal is almost always Godly dating. Godly dating is an umbrella term that refers to conducting yourself in a relationship the way aligns with Biblical teachings in the way that God intended it.

The good news? This means more impactful, deeper, and fruitful relationships! So, to be clear, this is one aspect of dating a pastor worth getting excited about!

5. Remember who actually works for the Church.

While it’s amazing when a pastor’s significant other chooses to get involved with the Church, it’s important to remember your role. Just because you are dating the pastor does not mean you have more power, more influence, or more control over anything that is happening at the church. Yes, you may be able to share your views with them more easily, but you have to remember that they are the one working for the Church—not you.             

6. Don’t use your relationship to gain favor or status.

This tip/rule is our way of further driving home the previous point. Just because you’re dating a pastor does not mean you should get preferential treatment. In fact, we’d recommend you make it your mission to ensure that not only does that not happen, but that it never appears to be the case. For a lot of people, perception is reality. The better you can understand that and keep it in check, the more fruitful and less-stress your relationship will be.

7. Understand that pastors may have last minute commitments.

Being a pastor is a challenging (but rewarding) calling. The challenging part, though, often comes with the unexpected. If someone in the Church is having an issue or something is going wrong, the pastor is probably who is getting called afterhours. The responsibilities, hard situations, and unexpectedness are things that generally fall on the pastor’s shoulders. What this means for you is that there may be nights where they are up late on the phone or even have to leave to handle something.

8. Expect there to be things they can’t share with you.

Pastors deal with lots of sensitive information, especially with members of the congregation. When you’re dating a pastor, there will probably be countless instances where they are dealing with something that they’re unable to share with you. This may be tough, especially if it is something that is also emotionally weighing on your significant other.

In these instances, respect their position and their promise to God and the members of the congregation. Be the strong one that doesn’t push them to share information they shouldn’t.

9. Expect to have to keep certain things quiet.

Hand in hand with the last example, there will be times you hear things that might not be public yet or might not have been intended for you to hear. When this happens, you need to have the courage and strength to keep those things quiet. If you’re someone who struggles with gossip or keeping secrets, dating a pastor or anyone in a position with access to sensitive information may be a challenge.          

10. Understand there could be some awkwardness if you break up.

Anytime you break up with someone that you’re going to see frequently again, it can be awkward. Does this mean it’s a reason not to get into a relationship with a pastor? Of course not! We’re just encouraging you to honestly assess if you’ll be able to handle attending the same church if things don’t go great romantically. If you wouldn’t be, dig into that before deciding to get into a relationship.

11. If things get serious, you could have to move in the future.

Almost all pastors are dating for one reason—to find someone to marry! And if you start to get close to that road with a pastor or do end up getting married, you may find yourself needing to uproot and move in the future. Sometimes pastors are called to new churches. According to some quick research, you’ll find people that say pastors should look to change churches every four years and you’ll find some people that say there are no hard and fast rules.

While we’re not here to debate which is right, here’s the takeaway. Pastors often get called to go to a new church, and often, that church is not in the same zip code, city, state, or even country. If this is not something you’re comfortable with, consider the future of your relationship goals and have a serious chat.         

12. There may be responsibilities asked of you by the Church.

While you’re not the one working for the Church, there may be some expectations of you. For example, maybe there is a couple’s group that you’re asked to participate in (or lead)? Maybe there is an event that you get asked to help with or lead? There may also be instances where they can’t find anyone to do something and the pastor knows someone he can ask 🙂            

13. Expect people to hold you to a higher standard.

Is this fair? Not really. Is it going to happen? Probably. People hold pastors to a higher standard. If you’re the one dating the pastor, you can expect for that to extend to you just by sheer association.

Is there anything you can do about it? Not really. The best you can do is be aware of it and choose how you’d like to react to that.     

14. Enjoy the opportunity to grow!

We wanted to end this list on a high note. When you are dating someone who has dedicated their life to the Lord, you can expect some incredible opportunities to grow deeper in your faith. Enjoy this! You have someone who is educated, experienced, and who shares in the same goals of life as you. This is a blessing to take full advantage of.

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Author: Matt Seymour, MSF

Matthew J. Seymour is a dating industry expert with over a decade of experience coaching singles, reviewing dating apps, and analyzing trends within the industry. Matt is a published author with his most recent work “Get More Dates: How to Master Online Dating Apps” that hit shelves in 2023. With a Masters of Science in Finance (MSF) degree from the University of Florida and extensive knowledge of the innerworkings of the online dating industry, Matt frequently serves in an advisory role to some of the largest dating apps on the market. In Matt’s current role with Healthy Framework, he leads the interview team that regularly interviews key dating industry leaders, and leverages his financial knowledge and dating app experience to review and share what singles need to know to get the most out of dating online.