Where the Singles Are
Let's examine the pros and cons of the most common ways to meet singles. Keep in mind, however, that no one proven way exists to find a good person to date. The key is to use all of the options at your disposal.
1. The Church
The local church is an excellent place to meet attractive, mature, Christian singles. It is one of the few locations where singles with possibly the same beliefs and interests as yours regularly gather. Essentially, all you have to do is show up, become involved, and get to know people. A large church can be especially helpful if it has a singles ministry. If you attend a church that doesn’t have a singles group, ask whether it has other activities, such as singles Bible studies, monthly socials, or retreats.
The large size of some church congregations might seem intimidating. Therefore, you may feel inclined to visit just the worship service and then go home. However, you limit your opportunity to meet singles if you take such a narrow approach. The best way to break into a large singles group is to get involved in their activities. Most churches have sports teams, music programs, or mission trips that offer great ways to meet new people. Find somewhere to serve short-term so that you can get exposure to people. Offer to volunteer for something that interests you, such as teaching, organizing parties, working with youth, or opening your home for Bible studies. By participating, you get to serve the church body with your time as well as improve your chances of meeting other singles.
If the singles group at your present church becomes stagnant, visit another church. You can do this without withdrawing from your current church. Simply find a friend to join you one or two Sundays a month to investigate other churches in your area. You could also visit another church during its Sunday evening or weeknight services. This allows you to stay involved at your home church while broadening your association with other Christians.
Meeting singles at a church can be fruitful, but remember this caution: Church congregations are comprised of people at various maturity levels. Church attendance does not prove that a person is a Christian. Furthermore, professing to be a Christian does not guarantee relational maturity or a willingness to love sacrificially.
The church is not a dating haven. Many singles with bad intentions purposely hide out in Christian groups to take advantage of the unsuspecting (Romans 16:17-18). They usually target young singles who are unaware of their schemes. Stalking and date rape have occurred within many church groups. Keep your judgment sharp, and do not trust someone until you have determined his or her character.
Regardless of the bad apples, the church is still one of the best places to meet healthy singles who are passionate about sharing the love of Christ. Take advantage of the available fellowship to benefit yourself as well as those you meet.
2. Recommendations From Friends and Family
Friends and family can be another good source to help you find mature singles. However, they cannot recommend attractive candidates unless you specifically tell them what type of person you desire to date. Give them more information than “I want to date someone cute.” Honestly define what you desire regarding such characteristics as outward appearances, interests, education level, and spiritual background. As we discussed in the previous chapter, you do not want to settle for just anybody. You want to find someone who completely captivates your heart.
Also, be open to alternate suggestions from family and friends. Consider their recommendations if they can clearly explain why their candidate is worth meeting. On the other hand, be wary of well-meaning relatives who simply want to get you married. If they lack discretion, they may waste your time by setting you up with anyone who comes to mind. Thank them kindly and say no.
Above all, make sure that your friends and family understand the importance of character. If they cannot confirm a potential date’s maturity, then they aren’t doing you any favors. You do not want to walk into a date blindly. Ask your friends to find out more specifics about someone’s integrity before they refer him or her to you. If they can introduce you to someone they know is mature, then thank them and go out on the date but continue to guard your heart until you get to know that individual yourself.
3. Organizations That Match Your Interests
Singles who are exploring opportunities to meet other singles commonly overlook organizations that match their beliefs and interests. These can include colleges or any other institutions where you continue your education. Besides school, however, you can participate in such groups as nondenominational Bible studies, youth or inner-city ministries, and nonprofit organizations.
Other options include organizations that deal with your favorite interests, such as a sports team, a business association, a community service program, or a drama troupe. When you interact with someone who shares your interests, you already have a foundation on which to build a relationship. In addition, you get to enjoy new people in a comfortable environment. Moreover, large organizations offer great opportunities for meeting people because they usually have a constant cycle of newcomers. This can increase your exposure to many more individuals.
Just as with churches, though, do not assume that the people you meet are Christians or relationally mature. Take your time getting to know people and stay focused on finding a person whose character attracts you.
Finally, out of respect for these organizations, do not join a group just to meet people. Participate out of a genuine interest. That way, you do not waste the organization’s time by quickly losing interest and deciding to leave.
4. Dating Services
Dating services are popping up everywhere, especially on the Internet. These companies let you search for singles who meet your list of desired characteristics or match you to someone in their database. You can look at a person’s picture, read their profile, and even send quirky questions for them to answer. Other services offer features such as compatibility testing or video footage of a candidate in action. Dating services offer a modern way to meet new people, but they have several drawbacks to consider.
First, dating services cannot discern someone’s character for you – that is your responsibility. A dating service may locate someone for you who has blond hair and likes sushi, but it cannot confirm that the individual is spiritually mature or desires to love sacrificially.
Unfortunately, too many singles lower their guard once a dating service says they’ve found them a match. They get emotionally excited, assume that the dating service computer must be right, and rush into a relationship before they verify the other person’s integrity over time. The problem stems from shameless marketing tactics by dating services that promise success and our own desire to speed up the dating process. We want results as soon as possible, and dating services, whether online or off, advertise the fast track to romance. Ironically, statistics reveal that less than one percent of dating service subscribers actually find a marriage partner that way!’
Second, dating services hinder people’s ability to be themselves. When singles use a dating service, they are under scrutiny, so they put on their best faces. This is normal, but it prevents you from learning the truth about people. Be extra cautious if you choose to go out with someone through a dating service. Meet candidates in public places when you first get together. Keep your personal information private, such as home address, phone numbers, and office location. Use e-mail or the dating service administrator to coordinate your communication.
Finally, be aware of the high-priced fees and shaky credibility of some dating services. Ask for referrals to verify that a service is legitimate. Dating is expensive enough without hiring someone to help you. Thus, I recommend using the free methods first to find Christian singles.
5. Singles Hangouts
Singles hangouts, such as bars, beaches, and dance clubs can be scary places to meet new people. While they might offer a lot of fun, they also contain an element of danger, especially for women. If you decide to go out dancing or enjoy a day at the beach, it is best to go with trusted friends.
Remember that most people you encounter at bars and beaches may not have your best intentions in mind. Those fleshly environments encourage people to interact selfishly. Also, discerning a person’s character can be difficult when he or she is in a dim, smoky room or sunning half-naked in the sand. Therefore, I consider these places detrimental for finding mature singles.
I am not suggesting that you avoid beaches or nightclubs. Just don’t expect to meet many mature Christian singles at those locations. They may be there, but they will have their guard up. Finally, be prepared to leave immediately if someone approaches you in a lustful or disrespectful manner.
6. The Internet and Long-Distance Relationships
With the advent of the Internet, some singles now spend hours trying to develop intimacy with someone via a plastic box. E-mail and Internet chat rooms allow you to communicate with a normal person one day and a serial killer the next. That’s what makes these online methods so dangerous – you never truly know who someone is.
The bottom line is that nothing can replace face-to-face communication. A physical separation allows someone to fake his or her true feelings and intentions. Likewise, discerning someone’s character is almost impossible unless you spend time together. Thus, I urge you to avoid dating over the Internet and divulging your personal information to strangers. Otherwise, you make yourself vulnerable to relational wolves.
Can you make a long-distance dating relationship work? Possibly, but you will have to put forth a huge effort to truly get to know someone. Long-distance relationships benefit you little until you decide to spend major amounts of time together. You can learn about a person’s interests and beliefs over a fiber-optic cable, but you cannot discern if he or she has character unless you are in the same place.
Talk is cheap when discerning integrity, and so are letters and e-mails. You need to be able to observe consistent actions of maturity before you can trust someone with your heart. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but you might be desperate if you are willing to undertake a long-distance relationship with someone you’ve just met. Instead, focus on some of the other methods we have already discussed and find someone that you can date locally.
Rob Eagar is a gifted writer and speaker who has helped thousands of singles, young adults and college students build passionate relationships. His message has been featured on the "CBS Early Show," on CNN Radio, and in Christian Single magazine. Rob resides with his wife, Ashley, in Atlanta, Georgia. For more information, visit www.RobEagar.com.