An Internet Connection for Reformed Singles: The intersection of technology and relationships for singles
Written by John Van Dyke
Saturday, 01 August 2009 12:03
[Reprinted with permission from the May 2006 issue of Christian Renewal]
A TV show aired during the '70s called The Dating Game. It attempted to match an eligible young man or woman with a person of the opposite sex. Contestants would ask questions of three people hidden behind a curtain whose answers would lead to a decision by the asker to choose which of the three would likely make for the most appealing date. How many of those dating couples went on to a relationship that led to marriage is unknown. But the dating game continues for each new generation searching for spouses - life partners.
Contrary to today's secular milieu, dating, of course, is not a game. Some eschew "dating" completely, arguing that "courtship" is the biblical model for two people interested in a permanent relationship. In this era of the internet, finding a potential spouse has taken yet another interesting twist. On-line meeting rooms for singles looking for a relationship have flourished. It's the ultimate in barrier removal for those who have not been led to a successful relationship via conventional means.
The problem of match-making is not confined to the secular world, of course. Finding a mate can be just as easy or as difficult within the context of the church. In the movie, The Hiding Place about the life of Corrie Ten Boom during World War II, Corrie's father says at one point during a discussion with his unmarried daughters, "There is a lid for every pot." What he meant was that there is a potential partner for each one of us. Yet it is also true, according to the Bible, that not everyone is given the gift of marriage. There is also something called the gift of singleness, and that, too, can be a blessing of the Lord. But for those who do not necessarily choose to be so blessed, the development of a recent web site may provide the means to the desired end.
SovereignGraceSingles is the name of a site that provides a platform and a meeting ground for Reformed singles to discover each other, but on neutral ground and in a safe environment. The brainchild of a Presbyterian (PCA) Christian by the name of Dean Scott, the web site was launched in 2005 and has been the spark behind at least four marriages thus far and numerous new friendships. Scott, 48, lives in Tacoma, Washington. He explained to Christian Renewal that the idea came to him while on a fishing trip.
I was flyfishing on the Yakima River in Washington State, the members of my Flyfishing Club. They are nice guys but not Christians. The language, smoking, alcohol to excess and the general nature of conversations caused my mind to wander and imagine how much more it would be to go flyfishing with other Reformed Believers, Brothers and Sisters in Christ who could look at the incredible beauty of a Brown Trout and say, 'I know the Creator of this Work of Divine Art!.... My Lord, Jesus Christ!'
This spawned an idea.
I wondered how I could find such sweet fellowship and with other Reformed singles specifically. The Internet immediately came to mind and I said to myself, 'Why don't you do it?' Create a website where single persons of like mind can get together for fellowship, service or perhaps even romance!
Scott describes how the site began. "Sovereign Grace Singles was 'launched' on January 19th, 2005. The first 300 members were 'Free for Life' and that goal was met in four months and 19 days." Since then the growth has been slow and steady. "I would much rather have quality than quantity," he says and he believes that that is what his site is attracting. "The quality of the Members of SGS is really heartwarming. I am greatly encouraged in my own Christian walk when I read their Profiles."
Scott describes on-the-site functions for users.
When one goes to the website, they can peruse 'Profiles' without being a Member. If they should desire to join and create a Profile, they are taken to a Doctrinal Statement which defines 'Evangelical', 'Reformed' and 'Church.' They are told NOT to join unless they can agree with the Doctrinal Statement and, by joining, they are stating that they agree with it. There are a few questions about their gender, age, location, marital status, denomination, and a few questions of a more personal nature.
It is in the Essay Questions section where they have much more opportunity to tell others about themselves. These vary from questions about their 'Quiet Time' to 'Hobbies' or their 'sense of humor' to what they do for a living.
The questions are very useful to help Members reveal things about themselves which others might like to know. Actually, I found the process personally enjoyable myself. The work involved in completing the Essay Questions really helps the individual learn about themselves and for what they are looking. "Lastly, Members are given the opportunity to upload pictures of themselves."
The internet's global reach allows singles to cast the net widely well beyond familiar borders. Participants come primarily from North America, but there are also many names with international locations such as the Dominican Republic, England, South Africa and Germany, to name a few. Such a far reach, of course, comes with a willingness to change one's life drastically should there be a connection between two distant members. Of the four internet connections that have led to marriage thus far, one was between a man from Germany who married a woman living in Florida who was from India. Scott was invited to and did attend their wedding, and also, a few days later, attended a seconding wedding from a couple who had their start via SGS and were married near Vancouver, Washington.
Getting singles together, Dean Scott explains, is not just about marriage. "Matching' also happens when those of kindred spirit get together for fellowship and service. Many of these events happen spontaneously and are organized by the members themselves," Scott said. "Some, such as the Winter Retreat we had in British Columbia in January and the 'Clamming Outing' at Ocean Shores, Washington, USA, are planned and organized. There was an Alaska Cruise last September which departed from Vancouver, BC, Canada and one planned to the Caribbean which departs from Tampa, FL, USA next November and is on Holland America Cruise Lines."
Service projects are another component of SGS. "Those who have time and a passion to serve are given the opportunity to do so," Dean Scott explains. "One such opportunity will be in May, 2006 when SGS members will gather in Slidell, Louisiana, to assist a Reformed Church there continue cleanup from Hurricane Katrina. The fellowship will be wonderful."
On any internet endeavour, the matter of security is always a concern. And more particularly when it comes to relationships and matters of the heart. Personal information can be abused by those with wrongful intentions. Dean Scott is well aware of the risks and walls have been established to protect the members.
It is cost prohibitive to screen backgrounds of every member. On SGS, when a woman joins I send her a 'Letter to the Ladies of SGS" to direct them to abide by Matthew 18 if they are having any problems of a salacious nature and then, if that does not remedy the situation, to let me know about it and I will handle it post-haste. I do NOT tolerate such behavior for a nano-second.
Also, there is a sense of community at SGS and women get to know other women too, as well as men get to know other men. Understandably, if someone is having a problem, it will eventually be known to others. There is mutual accountability.
Asked about the economics of the service, Scott said he is presently operating with a deficit. Members (after the first 300 who were free) pay a fee of $89.95 for one year. There are also six, three or one month memberships for a declining fee. Various forms of advertising and perhaps the most effective "word of mouth" continue to result in growth.
For Dean Scott the main goal is to see Reformed Christians walking together in mutual agreement, based on the words of Amos 3:3, "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" This is the theme verse of SGS. "The implications of Reformed doctrine pervade all of life. This is especially true in romantic relationships," he says.
Forming relationships was the reason Dean Scott, a firefighter/paramedic, began the internet service. And recently, in the providence of God, he also made an internet connection with a Reformed woman that may yet lead to marriage.
Asked by Christian Renewal how this site has had an impact on him personally, Karen, a member of SGS offered to answer this one for him.
Dean and I became friends first while meeting with other singles from SGS for various social activities. In time our friendship grew to the point that we both realized we wanted to make a serious commitment to one another through courtship. So, I guess you can see how this has made an impact on Dean's life! Dean has a HUGE heart, a sense of adventure and tons of enthusiasm, and it is reflected in the flavor of the website.
If marriage should result, does this mean "mission accomplished?" "Karen and I have already spoken about this," Scott explained. "We'd like to continue (SGS) together. We'd join the 'Met on SGS' category. We have no intentions whatsoever to change that ever. It is a joy to do it together."
The SGS web site is also a resource to single Christians offering other material and services to this often neglected group in our churches. "There is an online bookstore, chat, blogs, forums, sermons, reformed links, and events," Scott says.
As for customer satisfaction, so far the response has been enthusiastically positive. One member who recently ended his relationship with SGS sent the following note:
Canceling with THANKSGIVING- Dean, I wanted to thank you for such a great site... I trust the Lord will continue to bless SGS in mighty ways. I just returned from a trip to Florida to meet face to face a lovely lady I met on SGS and have been talking with for two months almost every night for hours on end. God in his wonderful providence used SGS to introduce us and then allowed His Holy Spirit to minister to both of us through the other. Thank you again for your wonderful site and please remove my subscription with my deepest gratitude. Warmest regards, Charles.