Must Love God
Adventists and online dating
Gianna Davis, a teacher in Florida, has been busy. While working at a day-care center, this young adult and Oakwood University graduate finished her first master’s degree in early childhood education. Then she worked on her second degree while teaching high school.
Davis currently still enjoys a full life teaching sixth grade and fifth- through eighth-grade science at an Adventist elementary school. “I also lead a culinary cuisine club for fourth through eighth graders, I run a small business specializing in individualized gift baskets and gourmet cakes. And I cater and party plan on a local level.” While all these activities have enriched her life, they’ve left little time for dating.
“I was so busy with school and work; and every church I went to the choices were slim to none,” explains Davis. “So I did the online thing and met a guy. He’s been really good for me.” Davis and her guy are doing the long-distance thing right now—they spent time together during her recent winter break from school—but are making plans to move closer to each other.
Davis isn’t alone in wanting to find a life partner—or in trying to find one through online dating. Annually, the online dating industry brings in $1.049 billion in revenue. Of the 54 million single adults in the U.S., 40 million have tried online dating.1 While there aren’t exact numbers on Adventist singles in America—or around the world, for that matter—it is safe to assume that a portion of those 40 million online daters are Adventist and single.
Looking for Love?
For the first time in U.S. history, unmarried households, with 50.2 percent of the population, exceed that of married households, which are at 49.8 percent.2 Reasons? One, according to Claudio and Pam Consuegra, is that nationwide more couples are in “nontraditional” relationships, which may include but are not limited to cohabitation before marriage.3
Couples are also waiting longer to get married. For males the median age for marriage in 1970 was 23.2 years old; for females, 20.8. By 2011 the median age was 28.9 for men, 26.9 for women. According to Claudio, “they’re having to postpone the decision because of financial reasons, because of bad marriage experiences they [may] have witnessed, and they have not found someone who has the same values and principles.”
While online dating is quite different from more traditional ways of meeting a mate, in the end, some of the same principles apply.
The Consuegras also point out that the word “single” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. As one young adult shared with them: “I’m not single. My mom is divorced and 52; she’s single. I’m just not married yet.”
Unequivocally, being single isn’t a bad thing. Whether a person isn’t ready to make a marriage commitment yet, or they have chosen singleness as their preferred way of life, their existence can be incredibly fulfilling. God certainly doesn’t require people to have mates. A glance through the Bible bears witness to the fact that singles do extraordinary things—and can sometimes serve God more wholly than those with spouses and/or children. A list of outstanding Bible singles might include Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Martha, Lazarus, Miriam, Elijah, Jeremiah, Lydia, and Paul.
But if a person is looking for love, where do they turn? With people waiting longer to find their mates and “settle down,” options seem to decrease. People graduate from college and migrate, leaving home churches and friends behind. For many who finally decide that they’d rather not be single, online dating is a viable option—especially in a culture in which people are both busy and tech-savvy. “I found my husband in college,” says Lindi Fulwider Allen from Madison, Tennessee, “but I do think [online dating] can work. Especially for older people out of college and having a hard time finding a person who fits their needs. People do misrepresent themselves and it can be dangerous, but I know people who are Adventist and found their mate this way and are happily married.”
“My wife and I met online, and this month [December 2012] is our fifth wedding anniversary,” Texas resident Chris Clapp says. “There were some not-as-good experiences before for both of us, but things worked out for us.”
There are many sites out there that cater to singles (think JDate for Jewish singles, SingleParentMeet.com, or even Geek 2 Geek),4 but there are few sites that offer something specifically for Adventist singles. Below are brief interviews with the creators of three different Adventist dating sites, which offer three unique approaches.5
The Scott Firm Experience
“I started The Scott Firm because Christians really don’t have a way to meet other people of faith who desire healthy, happy, and holy relationships,” explains Brandon Scott. “After a soul-stirring sermon at church many folks, from across the country, expressed to me that it was hard to ask someone out, so my colleagues and I created a healthy environment to do so through upscale, interactive events and actual matchmaking/coaching.”
So what is The Scott Firm? According to founder Scott, “it’s a premiere faith-based relationship firm that helps people in these stages of their life: dating, engagement, and marriage.” Scott has been matchmaking for more than three years, and The Scott Firm was birthed more than a year ago. The service is unique because “we have a variety of ways for our clients to meet like-minded people (matchmaking, live interactive events, seminars, church tours, etc.) and save time.” Typical online dating can be extremely time-consuming, explains Scott, and no one is fully vetting each person (background check, making sure they are not married, unstable, etc.). “At The Scott Firm we can validate each person’s real expectations, values, love languages, nonnegotiables, life goals, dating trends, and physical preferences—saving each person an average of one year of dating the wrong person(s).”
Scott, taking Genesis 2:18 to heart, believes this service is helpful to Advent-ists. “Most of my Adventist clients say that the seven-step process we guide them through is truly ‘life changing.’ ” Their goal is to help build healthy Adventist relationships that will lead to healthy families and healthy communities, which will then “help build a healthy nation.”
“The world says that your next relationship is at the bar or nightclub,” adds Scott. “We as Christians must be more creative in meeting people of like mind and character who have the same expectations. As a faith-based matchmaking service we help people understand how to learn from their past relationships, to be honest about where they currently are and what they ultimately want.”
Scott says he prays with every client he works with, understanding that “God is the ultimate matchmaker. My clients and I, throughout the process of matchmaking, pray God’s will be done in getting them to where He wants them. We are facilitators to watch His hand at work.”
In addition to being an accomplished recording artist and musician, Rachel Hyman is passionate about helping others develop strong relationships. One reason was her own experience growing up and watching her parents get divorced and remarried several times. Another big reason: “As Adventists, as a people who carry a very special message for our world, I feel that our message will only be as strong as our families are,” says Hyman. “Ellen White, in The Adventist Home, said that ‘one well-ordered, well-disciplined family tells more in behalf of Christianity than all the sermons that can be preached.’6 [But] dating, for a Christian, can be hard. Christians who want to honor God in their romantic relationships can really benefit from godly advice along the way.”
Hyman created SOOMA to be a learning environment in addition to a dating site. “It’s a place where Adventists can come and get answers to their relationship questions,” Hyman explains. “SOOMA is a homophone of the Latin summa, which means ‘summary.’ MySooma.com was designed to be a dating site that would give a kind of summary of the principles of dating—the whole picture, including the spiritual aspect. . . . I wanted to create, not just another dating site that helps Adventists find other Adventists, but a Web site where Adventists could get advice on compatibility so they’d have guidance in selecting the best match. I also wanted to create an opportunity for Adventists to be able to get their relationship questions answered.”
SOOMA offers relationship counseling from licensed Adventist counselors for singles or couples who are looking for guidance and help in their current relationship or relationship search. SOOMA also has hundreds of videos, blogs, and sermons on relationships available on their Web site—all pertaining to the subject of Christian dating.
After three years of working on the site and running it since December 2011, Hyman still sees it as a ministry. “Marriage is a ‘God thing.’ Offering advice on how to have the best marriage and also offering a place for people to meet other people with the same biblical values is definitely something that can benefit our church in a spiritual way.”
Hyman, who became acquainted with her husband through the Internet, hopes her site will promote healthy Adventist dating. She says, “I love seeing happy Adventist daters, and I long to see Adventists happily married. I desire the marriages in our church to be a powerful influence for good in our world. . . . I hope SOOMA will be a place for all of these wonderful things to happen.”
Of mySOOMA.com Hyman says, “Another principle that was very close to my heart as I was building the site was that of integrity. So many dating sites today, including Christian ones, display immodest and distasteful advertisements. Though building the site was expensive, I promised myself to never let Google advertise on my site, even though I would get money out of it. There are other countless things I made sure the site would have [in order] to hold a higher standard; from doing my best to make sure spammers weren’t harassing members, to deleting members who I felt were not after true love, to keeping content on our Web site as biblical as possible.”
One positive outcome from the site comes from Hyman’s best friend. “She was really discouraged because she couldn’t find a dedicated Adventist man in Denmark to date and marry,” says Hyman. “I encouraged her to join SOOMA, and about a week after she joined, she met an Adventist man from Norway. They have now been dating for six months.”
An Adventist architect7 came to the Washington, D.C., area in the 1970s. He was determined to marry an Adventist woman. There were single people to meet, but how? He got together with Archa Dart, a longtime marriage counselor and pastor, and started Adventist Contact in 1974. “We worked with a lot of first-rate people,” says Adventist Contact’s founder.8 “We got the best consultants together that we could, and we have refined and rewritten Adventist Contact’s very complex matching system.” Adventist Contact obviously didn’t start out on the Web, but by January 2008, after 18 months of work, AdventistContact.com was launched. The founder is quick to mention that “Adventist Contact is 100 percent Adventist. We’ve been a nonprofit corporation since 1974 as a religious organization because we serve only unmarried Seventh-day Adventists.”
“We’ve been working with Sharon Wright,” explains the founder. “She’s done an excellent job getting us on the Web. We’re now more automated than we’ve ever been. We can handle large numbers of people.”
According to Adventist Contact’s founder, “a lot of people who have Adventist dating services are not Seventh-day Adventists; they have nothing to do with the Adventist Church.” It’s the “Adventist” that makes Adventist Contact special—and the in-depth profile members fill out. “These non-Adventist [sites] who have a generic match—age, height, education—they don’t even cover Sabbath activities, Ellen White, etc. We cover that,” the founder says. “We are the original [matchmaking] service. We have successfully matched many Adventists, probably more than anybody else. I’ve already invested the time, effort, and money to get Adventist Contact on the Web, to get it instant matches and good matches. . . . People who have filled out our profile [and others] say that Ad-ventist Contact is more thorough than any of them. . . . We’ve tried to make it the very best we can.”
It was Adventist Contact’s thoroughness that helped Deena Metcalf Nixon to meet her husband back in the 1980s. After Nixon and her future spouse wrote each other a few times, they met—and each made sure they were open and honest about themselves. “We will soon celebrate our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary,” says Nixon, “and we are still very in love! There’s no way we would have met if it hadn’t been for computer dating—I was in New Mexico, and he was in California.” Nixon adds, “Online dating may not work for everyone, but it can work for those who are honest and truly seeking God’s guidance. Any time you begin a relationship you need to be careful and make sure you are following God’s lead.”
Must Love God
Not everyone agrees that online dating is for Adventists. An Adventist Review Facebook friend, “Valerie,” says, “I tried it . . . didn’t work for me. I found that there’s a lot of dishonesty on the sites. A person can be anyone they want to be online. They can fabricate anything or everything about themselves.”
Another Facebook friend, “Jacquelyn,” agrees. “A few years ago I looked into one just to see what all the hype was about, and decided that even if I was inclined toward such a thing, it would not work for me. I decided when I first went to college 10 years ago that I would leave everything in the Lord’s hands. If it is His will, then He will bring me and my future husband together . . . I am not going to run ahead of the Lord. When [people] do that, they often make mistakes that can make lives far more difficult than the Lord intended. . . . I’d rather leave it in the Lord’s hands and be content with every day that He gives me—even if I am to remain single for the rest of my life.”
One thing most can agree with, however, is that while online dating is quite different from more traditional ways of meeting a mate, in the end, the same principles apply when making a decision to actually get to know someone you’ve met through the Internet.
“I mentioned that my choices were limited,” says Davis. “That was one reason I went online. The second is that the world is such a large place that I did not want to limit my opportunities—the world is bigger than just my corner. I also realized that I can be a witness to anyone I meet at any time.”
Glad she tried online dating, Davis says, “This has definitely been a good experience. I have become a stronger, more confident person when it comes to putting myself in new situations. [I met] a Christian with strong family ties, ‘corny’ sense of humor (like mine), and focus-driven. He’s a committed, determined, and hardworking person.” Davis recommends “going for it,” saying, “Never cheat yourself—allow yourself the possibly of meeting that person God has for you. Also, keep in mind that even if it doesn’t work, you may have made a friend for the kingdom.”
Davis warns against compromising faith. “I had to pray and do some serious thinking about each individual I encountered. I had to make sure that my walk with the Lord would be increased and not hampered by whomever I allowed in my life. Their loving God was a must.”
Happily married, Clapp offers a similar caution: “What my wife and I tell others is that people you meet on dating sites need to be ‘verifiable.’ People don’t live in a vacuum; they have friends, family, etc. For us, it turned out that her sister knew who my parents were, and I had gone to college with people she had gone to elementary school with.
“If you go into it with the thought that everyone on there is sweet and perfect, you’re possibly going be (a) disappointed and (b) taken advantage of. If you go into it with the thought that everyone out there is a freak, you’ll find lots of them and get even more discouraged. Be open to it, but verify. If they claim to have gone to a college that doesn’t exist; if they ever ask for money; or if they claim to live close but are out of the country for a while—these are all red flags. Run away! But there are a lot of real, regular (and extraordinary) people out there on these sites. Talk. Communicate. Take your time and really get to know them, and not ‘just’ online.” n
- Statistics gathered by the Statistic Brain Web site, sourced from Reuters, HeraldNews, PCWorld, and the WashingtonPost.
- U.S. Census Bureau, 2005 American Community Survey.
- From an interview with Claudio and Pam Consuegra, director and associate director of the Family Ministries Department of the North American Division, conducted on March 20, 2012, by Stephen Chavez.
- The AdventistReview is not endorsing these sites.
- These businesses are run by Seventh-day Advent-ists and are mentioned in this article to highlight some of the options available—and the philosophies behind finding an Adventist mate through the Internet. The AdventistReview is not endorsing these sites.
- Ellen G. White, The Adventist Home (Nashville: Southern Pub. Assn., 1952), p. 32.
- In obedience to the words of Christ in Matthew 6:1, 3, the founder of Adventist Contact tries to maintain anonymity.
- The information in this segment of the article was obtained largely from an interview conducted by Stephen Chavez in March 2012.