Online dating - a guide for church leaders


If a member of your congregation came to you for advice about joining a dating website, would you know what to say? In the 21st century, online dating has become one of the most common ways for people to meet a potential partner or spouse – and that is the case for Christians as well as non-Christians. However, some believers are concerned about the rights and wrongs of going online to find love, and how to approach the process in a safe and Godly way.

Our research shows that leaders’ advice about love and relationships really matters to their church members. Those who go to their leaders for guidance about relationships take it seriously. In fact, what you say can impact them for the rest of their lives, and could even be the deciding factor between someone finding a marriage partner or spending the rest of their life alone.

Some church leaders are more than happy to give advice to single church members. Others don’t feel confident or equipped to do this. If you’re prepared to give it a try, this guide by Jackie Elton, founder of dating website Christian Connection, will give you some tools to support and advise members of your congregation.

‘I’ve been told online dating is evil’

One young man wrote to us in tearful desperation. He’d decided to join Christian Connection, and confided in his minister’s wife. She told him it was ridiculous and wrong, and he was devastated. We tried to explain to him that he must make his own decision. Fortunately, the next day, the lady apologised to him, realising how unhelpful she’d been in her approach.

Many years ago, when we first started Christian Connection, there was suspicion from church leaders about what we were doing. Most leaders tended to be married and had often met their spouses in a time and space very different to where society is now. They could be forgiven for wondering why people couldn’t just meet at church or work or their university Christian Union, as they did. Why, they asked, do people need to use the internet to find a partner?

In Biblical times, the number of available marriage partners at the right age were quite limited, and most marriages were arranged between families. Sometimes, they would travel to visit extended families or meet at wells, as we read in the Bible. However, in the absence of arranged marriages, wells and the declining church social scene, those of marriageable age have to find other ways of meeting.

Online dating is simply a way of making initial contact with someone you might like to meet. It’s not a boxed up, pre-packaged solution to create a marriage. People still have to meet each other in real life, get to know each other and build a loving, trusting relationship. None of those aspects have changed.

‘I look around the church and I don’t see anyone else single’

The number of marriageable singles in the church also indicates the need for something new. Sadly, the church is not a reflection of society, in terms of the proportion of people present in it. In the 25-39 age group, the percentage of married people in the UK who attend church regularly is 13%. However, only 5% of single people go to church.

This means that a single person may look around their church and simply not find others in their situation who might be potential marriage partners. Committed Christians of all traditions are now a small minority of the British population, and believers are unlikely to meet a Christian partner by leaving it to chance. Moreover, unless someone works in a Christian organisation, they’re unlikely to meet any single believers at work either. And as people are generally marrying later in life, they’re less likely to marry someone they’ve met at school or university.

More than 27% of married couples in society now meet each other online, and that figure is growing all the time. The image shows how couples meet – mostly through friends, in bars and online. Very few now meet in church. 


‘It’s just a new way of doing things’

A young widow wrote to us to share her story. She was seriously disabled, had a young daughter, and felt very alone in her rural area. Her (female) vicar suggested she try Christian Connection. She joined and met and married a man who had never been married before. I still see them every year at a festival – they’re a loving and devoted couple. I salute that vicar because this was a forward-thinking suggestion in the very early days of internet dating.

Christian dating websites are simply a ‘new way of doing an old thing’. When people go online to meet someone, it’s not out of desperation or failure – it’s usually a sensible and logical step. They want to meet someone else who shares their faith and, if they aren’t meeting anyone locally, it makes sense to go where they know others are also looking. A dating website simply provides a meeting place – somewhere they can encounter other people who share their faith, who they’d be unlikely to meet any other way.

‘I can meet Christians from all traditions’

Some time ago, a widowed vicar joined Christian Connection. He needed help with the technology every step of the way. However, he soon met and married a good woman from a very different Christian tradition. I remember taking tea with them at the vicar’s tea party, surrounded by happy parishioners. Sometimes I wonder, had that gentleman had not been widowed, how he would have responded to somebody asking him about online dating.

One of the most common concerns we hear from leaders is about the crossing of Christian traditions. However, traditions are rarely completely chosen – they tend to be inherited from family or university, or what is available locally (there is some choice, in that slightly more men prefer traditional churches). In the family of believers, looking beyond one’s own church tradition or denomination is entirely rational, sensible and reasonable.

Three ways you can help as a leader

1 Give encouragement

If somebody in your church wants to look for a relationship, then encourage them! It’s likely that they’ve thought about it, and are looking for approval. If they’re set on finding somebody who shares their faith, that’s also to be commended. Remember that the encouragement of their leader is very important. However, they’re also probably looking for support, wisdom and knowledge. You may not need to do this all yourself – you can find someone (or a couple) who can act as support through the process.

2 Promise prayer

Single people tell us that knowing someone is praying for them is very important to feeling guided to make good decisions. If you take this on, you may want to consider dropping them a text message or email every so often to say you’ve prayed for them. But don’t request or demand regular reports –commitment in the background is what our members say works best.

3 Support – particularly through disappointment

When someone decides to try online dating, they may go through many emotions, including fear of what they might encounter (is it safe or wise?), and the hope of a ‘miracle’ in meeting that perfect person with whom they’ll have a wonderful marriage full of blessings. That may happen, but it doesn’t always, and there will be disappointment for some. For instance, there’s a gender imbalance within the church – so when a woman goes online, she will discover that two-thirds of members are women, which may work against her. For others, the disappointment can be predictable – those who have a history of struggling with relationships may struggle just as much online. Helping people to look beyond the disappointments of life is a major support, as you help them interpret their experiences and place them within a bigger story.


In summary, it helps single Christians if their church leader is as encouraging, grounded and well-informed as possible. We also have a guide for single people on how to do online dating well. As well as pointing your church member to this article, reading it will inform you about the different steps they’ll go through in online dating, and areas where they may need further support.


Jackie Elton, 4 October 2017