Christian dating: In search of that Bible-study spark

by
24 May 2019

Lauren Windle is persuaded to try harder on a Christian dating app. . . How about a cute pet?

I AM 30 years old, Christian, and single.

When I became Christian, at the age of 25, I assumed that it would not be long before a charming churchgoer swept me off my feet. We would hold hands, smoosh cake into each other’s faces in front of 120 of our closest friends, and float off into the sunset on a cloud of Christ-anointed joy.

But, to nick a phrase, the course of true love never did run smooth. Shakespeare didn’t mention that it would involve competing with football for attention on dates, or buying dinner for men who “forgot their wallet”.

My usual rhythm is three months of enthusiastic “putting myself out there”, followed by three months of disappointment-induced dating abstinence, in which I try and convince myself that being a nun wouldn’t be so bad. Whoopi Goldberg made it look fun.

I am now resurfacing, ready to bat one more time — hoping for a home run, but conscious that striking out is a very real possibility.

 

WHEN I downloaded Salt — a dating app for Christians (News, 31 August 2018) — it was partly out of curiosity, partly in expectation.

Unfortunately, my dalliance with Salt dating was short-lived. I was greeted by six people whom I already knew, panicked, and deleted the whole thing within two days.

I found myself sitting next to one of those six men, Derek, at a dinner party a few months later. The two of us have since struck up a friendship. Whom better to quiz on how to design my Salt profile than someone who didn’t swipe “Yes” for me first time round?

Derek works in a church. He’s personable, friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and, conforming to cliché, a whizz with an acoustic guitar: i.e. he’s packing some serious Christian-dating capital. He cheerily takes my call, and listens with evident amusement as I explain that — for the purposes of romantic research, you understand — I need to know why he didn’t like the look of my profile.

His answer was worse than I could have imagined. “Maybe your profile did come up, but I don’t particularly remember it.”

Did I just blend in? Was I nondescript? Was I the most “ready-salted” on Salt?

He apologised, but offered nothing in the way of condolence. He did tell me about one woman whom he does remember (it must feel great to be her), who put some sassy conversation-starters on her profile. He suggested that I consider doing the same. Thanks for that, Derek.

I’ll pause slightly here to address the question that my mum will be shouting at the newspaper when she reads this: “If Derek’s so great, why don’t you just ask him out?”

Well, Mum, you’re right: he’s a solid catch. But you cannot go round asking people out when there hasn’t been a hint of anything more than mutual platonicity between you. Yes, as all my married friends point out, I could ask out every eligible singleton, because “you never know”; but it’s a small community, and I would almost certainly end up with a reputation as a husband-hungry spinster who is barely audible over the deafening tick of her biological clock.

So, with that firmly dealt with, back to Salt we go.

 

CONSCIOUS that I seem to have a track record of being nondescript, I set up a call to Paul Rider. If anyone can help me design the perfect profile, surely it’s the man who created the app?

Paul listened as I explained my dilemma, and made an appropriate grunt of sympathy when I relayed Derek’s feedback.

“The key thing with a profile is to make an effort,” he told me. “Upload a variety of photos of you doing different things, and put thought into what you write.

“Your profile shouldn’t be made in two minutes. Rather, speak to some of your friends and see how they would describe you. You will have the best chance of matching with someone by communicating who you really are.

“Tell your story, be honest, be specific about your passions, give them something to work with; but don’t take yourself too seriously — you’ll be far more attractive and interesting.”

When it came to the photos, Paul was very clear on what did not work.

“There are some obvious no-nos for the photos: gym pictures, mirror selfies, sunglasses. . . People like to see your face. Group pictures are confusing; and, if you’re a bloke, pictures of you with other women are not very popular.

“But if you’ve got a cute dog, make sure that they make an appearance.”

I cast my mind back to my original attempt: an array of pouty mirror-selfies and face-obscuring sunglasses shots. Thankfully, there were no gym pics (you’d have to get me in one first); but not a hint of a dog. I was doing it all wrong.

 

ARMED with this advice, I downloaded the app and set about creating the perfect light-hearted but vulnerable profile.

What I had not taken into account was the 150-character limit for most questions. Trying to capture my fun, good-natured essence while discerningly baring my soul proved difficult in little more than the space of a tweet.

In response to “What do you do for fun?”, I went for Grade 4 ice-skating (which I got at school and actually requires a very basic skill-level), can knit my own scarves (I have successfully knitted two scarves), and have a perfect ripe-avocado-selection record (which would be my special talent, were I to enter a pageant).

For the slightly more serious questions I took the opportunity to embrace Paul’s suggestion of opening up. In response to “What does your faith mean to you?”, I wrote: “My faith takes centre stage in all my decisions. I tried taking control on my own but learnt my lesson.”

With the enforced brevity, this felt like the best way to portray the immensity of Jesus’s influence in my life, while hinting at a few historical poor decisions (we’ve all got them).

Given Paul’s advice to offer a rich profile, I decided to fill in all six essential and non-essential questions, tackling: “What are you passionate about?” next.

I opted for another bout of vulnerability, and wrote: “I run my church’s recovery course for people struggling with addictions, which gets me pretty fired up.”

But, conscious that things were careering away from light-hearted, in the “Anything else” box, I used a line that my friend Angus and I had taken on as our catch-phrase during a hilarious session of “Date my mate” at Focus 2018: “Looking for a man who puts the ‘stud’ in Bible study.”

That should do it.

Next, I turned my attention to the pictures — as much as I hate to admit it, possibly the most important part of the profile. Paul had advised against selfies, but, if I’m honest, I am a bit of a selfie person; so, in the name of showcasing my “true self”, I left a few in.

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But, for my main photo, I knew that I had to pull something big out of the bag. Luckily, my mum, dad, and their dog, Elsa, were staying with me; so I marched down to the kitchen, handed my mother my smartphone, and announced that I needed a picture with the pooch.

“What’s this for?”

“It’s for my romantic future, mum — there’s a lot riding on it; so please make sure you get a good angle.”

It’s safe to say that she didn’t; but, 15 minutes and my father’s intervention later, I finally got a suitable pup-shot for the profile.

 

I WAS all set, apart from one thing. Paul had advised that I canvas the opinion of mates to makes sure that I was showing my true self on the profile, before setting it live.

Through gritted teeth, I screen-grabbed my offering and sent it out to a group of both male and female Christian friends.

The aforementioned wing-man Angus immediately demanded that I ditch all selfies. I deleted all but one. There was also a suggestion that I should break up the two intense faith-based questions with something a little more casual; so I added a few words about my passion for ping-pong tournaments. Life’s all about balance, after all.

After a final sign-off and grammar-check from my encouraging and amused friends, I set the profile live.

The Salt team personally sign off each account — presumably checking for inappropriate content or lazy profiles with no real pictures — so, once I had their blessing, I was free to survey the sea of men in front of me.

The app works by showing you a gallery of other users in the parameters that you set (e.g. distance and age). You swipe if you see a profile that you like. They can then see your profile, and, if they swipe too, you’ve got a match.

I started swiping, browsing the pictures of each profile and then scrolling down to see what each prospective date had to say for themselves. I realised that Paul and my friends were right: I was put off by gym-mirror pictures; and it did throw me when it was all sunglasses and no face.

I was particularly turned off by one-word answers, and generic “My faith means everything” replies. If I’d put all that work in, you really should, too.

Still, I found plenty of profiles with the same solid mix of heart and humour, and a decent array of pictures. As I swiped away, I started getting matches, and subsequently messages from a few blokes. One read: “Can I just say the last bit of your bio is absolutely sensational” — referring to the “stud” gag.

I knew they’d like that one. . .

 

Lauren Windle is a journalist in London.

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