Bronwyn Lea is the author of Beyond Awkward Side Hugs: Living as Christian Brothers and Sisters in a Sex-Crazed World. She writes about healthy relationships in the church and wisdom in everyday Christian living.
Netflix’s popular reality show Indian Matchmaking follows the work of Sima Taparia, Mumbai’s top matchmaker, as she finds eligible prospects for wealthy and selective clients. But beyond the sheer entertainment value of awkward first dates and sumptuous homes, there might be another reason lying beneath the nationwide fascination with the show: a curiosity about having our own Sima Aunty, as clients call their esteemed matchmaker, in the complex world of dating. Nearly half of US adults say dating has become increasingly difficult in the past 10 years, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center. Perhaps there’s a fresh case to be made for Christian matchmaking.
It is worth clarifying the definition of matchmaking in this context. The process is voluntary: The matchmaker asks detailed questions of her clients and then seeks to introduce them to others who might be a good fit in values, expectations, and temperament. Unlike dating apps, the matchmaker’s picks are curated from the US and India and are often beholden to their parents’ opinions. It’s up to the matches and their families to meet, talk, and take things further.
Watching the show, I wondered what it would look like for the local church to take an active role in thoughtfully introducing people who are looking for partnership to each other. Singles do not have to be left alone in the dating process—the local church can walk alongside our single brothers and sisters for the good of our interconnected community. Doubtless, many of us already are involved in the lives of our single friends. But for those of us who are not, we can move forward by seeing who is looking, making thoughtful introductions, and considering compatibility.
Single and Looking
First, who is looking? Only half of single adults say they are looking for a relationship or dates, which means that half of our single brothers and sisters are not looking to date. The church is not an awkward high school science project with mandatory two-to-a-table assignments. It is important to affirm people’s full belonging in the broader family of God regardless of their nuclear family status and push against the “marriage is the goal of life” subtext that lies beneath much of contemporary culture.
But for the 15 percent of American adults who are in the single-but-looking category, dating remains hard, especially in the age of the coronavirus, when meeting people through school or work—how more than a third of adults report meeting their partner—is off the table. The question “I know someone you might really get along with, would you like to be introduced?” could be a welcome and respectful upgrade from the painful “So, are you seeing anyone?” probe at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
Offering Thoughtful Introductions
Our community plays a huge role in helping us to know ourselves, identify our strengths and weaknesses, and find opportunities, whether in the professional or relational spheres. As a pastor tasked with “the equipping of the saints for the work of service” (Eph. 4:12, NASB), I see one of my chief roles as helping people identify their gifts and nurture them into growth. A vast number of friends in ministry and professional careers tell the story of someone who saw potential in them and encouraged them to try something they wouldn’t otherwise have considered.
So, too, a great number of relational possibilities arise when people make thoughtful introductions to others their single-and-looking friend wouldn’t otherwise have met or considered. One doesn’t need to be a professional matchmaker to do this. College professor Heather Thompson Day recalls scheming on behalf of one of her smart, creative, and lonely students. “I asked him to open for my speaking engagement and invited this sharp, creative girl from class to perform her poetry. Took them to dinner after. They’ve been together over three years now,” she tweeted. “I never had to say a word, I just created space for opportunity.”
Those who are single and looking report that one of the hardest things about dating is that it’s hard to approach people, and even when you do, it’s hard to find someone looking for the same type of relationship as you. Signing up for Tinder is not the same as signing up for eHarmony, after all. A thoughtful introduction by a mutual friend who knows you and what you’re looking for can go a long way toward making those challenges less daunting.
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Source: Christianity Today