After working in large churches all of my ministry life, my last church made a decision to multiply into smaller churches. Some call this the micro-church movement. I found these were some of our healthier years as a church. I love being involved in a small church. People know each other, really know each other. It’s hard to get lost in a small church. We definitely were a church family helping and growing with each other.
But it’s not easy to date in such a setting. And not because the numbers of available humans are limited. It is because people know your name and you. Because you are known, church family people do want to be up in your business because they care about you. And because you are single, they may also want to live vicariously through you a bit. You are single and living a full life. You don’t have the distractions of marriage. You get to experience the blossoming of love. And these people have the privilege of being your audience through it.
Don’t let any of this send you running to a big church to get lost in. And where there are more available humans. Your small church has great value to your life.
It is easy to get lost in a big church. If you are in a big church, join a small group. Do it. Let those people be all up in your business. You need to put a team together anyway. Here is where you find them, whether it is a small church or a small group.
These same people will want to set you up with the good people whom they know. Let them. These people know you and love you. Yes, the set up match may not be a click but so what. Coffee is just coffee, right? When the true you is involved in your church family, these people who love you only want what is best for you. Their intentions are true. Yes, people are all up in your business but these are good people. Sadly some gossipy people are also there. Church does bring all sorts of people together, not all are healthy. But trust this good situation. You have a good chance of meeting a good match from these people.
Speaking of gossip, this is probably the hardest problem of dating in a small church. Gossips don’t understand how coffee is just coffee. Gossips blow little things up to create the drama they crave. If the coffee date turns out to be just a single coffee date, gossips love to add drama to this no drama situation. I’m afraid this falls pretty hard on the men who have decided to step up and ask a woman out. If it doesn’t click and he asks out another woman, he can be cast as a player. There is no reason for that. If that one date didn’t really work out (or the next five), it simply didn’t work out. It’s simple. No one led someone on. Two people took a risk. Two people made themselves vulnerable. And it didn’t work out. Better to try and take that chance, I say.
The worst part of this is the possibility that the pressure of avoiding the gossips now keep a couple together who shouldn’t be together. This couple gets more and more emotionally-involved but it is unhealthy. It has been from the start. A lot of effort goes into trying to make this relationship work so the gossips won’t have their say about it. Until the relationship finally ends and the gossips really have their say then. There is a lot of hurt feelings all over the place in this scenario. It is even worse when this ill-fitted couple proceeds onto marriage because they’ve been together for so long. Oh dear.
This is where your team steps in. They are the ones to tell you that you are contorting yourself to be with this person so these gossips won’t talk about you. Go team. This is an important conversation.
Another good thing your team does for you. They prevent you from going out with the person who is clearly not a match for you. They will have that blunt talk with you and spare you some trouble.
Your team can also help keep the gossips to a minimum. They are for you.
This is one of the best things a small church can offer a single person. A good team. These people already know you and love you. Some of these people are intergenerational and older folks make great team members. These people are for you. You can create a culture where even if things don’t work out, the whole process will nonetheless be painless if not actually encouraging. It’s just a casual coffee date, right? Your team will be right there beside you cheering you on as you live your life to the full and make these attempts at brave dating.
Some personal advice from me for those who do attempt dating in their small church. Don’t penalize the guy for asking out too many women from your church family. Or when he brings his second dates to be introduced to the church family. Be on his team as he does this. Be a part of keeping his good reputation among your church family as he chooses to brave date to discover who he is to lead him to find a good match.
Women, don’t trash the guy if the coffee didn’t go as you planned. Say only positive things about your time when later talking with your friends. Be secure in your identity that this one coffee date that didn’t work out doesn’t make you unloveable. There is no reason to trash the guy. It simply didn’t click.
Then try again with someone new. You are surrounded by good people, your church family. Remember that they are for you.
(Photo credit: http://www.alanknox.net/2011/08/simpleorganic-church-is-not-just-a-small-church/)