Rapid Relational Facilitation

At first I thought it was a wind up. It should have been. The origin of the e-mail had ‘prank’ written all over it. Not this time. He was serious. And he’d recruited one or two advocates that gave serious credibility to his position.

Yesterday I received an e-mail suggesting that I offer speed dating at Revive. Revive is the annual weekend away for all the Co-Mission congregations. Speed dating is rapid relational facilitation. Essentially it’s an evening devoted to giving single guys and single girls the opportunity to meet one another in a socially contrived situation in order to make hasty decisions about whether to pursue things further. That’s not entirely fair but it’s not completely inaccurate. In an article in Evangelicals Now, Stephen Tucker described it as a combination of blind dating and musical chairs. I hope he got e-mails for that!

I’m not in principle opposed to the idea. I just don’t want to be the one who carries the can for organising it. And I definitely don’t want to be the one who announces it at Revive. It’s not the response from the singles that I fear. They’ll be amused, appreciative but rarely angry. I fear those those who vicariously ‘feel the pain’ of their friends and take me to task for being pastorally insensitive. You won’t be the last! Singleness is a delicate subject. Generally speaking, I’m not good with those! And so, it would be fair to say that initially I was a vocal opponent of the idea. But I’ve recanted. I may cop a bit of flak for this but I think it’s worth it. Because I love the singles in our congregation.

This is a serious issue. And I have a great deal of sympathy for those who are single but would prefer to be married. I’ve written elsewhere on this issue; here, here and here.

It’s a serious issue for some of the following reasons

1. Lots of our single Christians are sacrificially involved in smaller planted congregations and so there just aren’t loads of potential marriage partners at church.

2. Lots of our single Christians are sacrificially involved in gospel ministry building up the congregations and so they don’t have loads of time to meet potential marriage partners.

3. Lots of our single Christians are shift workers who aren’t around at the times when others are and so they don’t get to participate in the social events at which they might meet potential marriage partners.

4. Lots of our single Christians are finding it hard to resist the allure of attentive, charming non-Christian men at work.

5. Lots of our single Christians are finding it hard to initiate dating situations in small congregations unless the rumour mill starts turning and everything gets out of hand.

Let’s be clear, it’s not my responsibility as the lead pastor of Christ Church Balham, nor as the organiser of Revive to sort out everyone’s relational issues. But, if there’s something that I can do to facilitate social situations where Christian singles can meet potential marriage partners, then that’s good thing. But let me ask the single guys and the single girls some questions.

Girls, let me ask you this. I know you’re keen to meet single Christian guys but are you sure you want this? Do you really want to date a guy that has to have everything laid on a plate for him? Aren’t you worth pursuing? Shouldn’t he have to work a little to meet you and talk to you and persuade you to join him for dinner. It took me three years to persuade Rosslyn to go on a date. She was worth it. Still is. I want the lads to share my pain! The guys will need some encouragement so don’t let your well meaning friends blow everything out of proportion and assume that just because he’s taken you to McDonalds that the next thing he’s going to do is walk you down the aisle. And if he decides that he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life with you, he’s done nothing wrong. Don’t let ‘the sisterhood’ punish him. It’s completely wrong and utterly counter-productive. It’ll just deter the lads from dating if they’re going to be made to feel that they’ve done something wicked by not pursuing a relationship.

Guys, let me ask you this. Are you sure you want this? What does it say about you that this needs to be provided? It may say nothing. But it may say that you need to be a man. Don’t worry, we’ll do speed dating at Revive and you should go. But you need to metaphorically ‘walk across the dance floor’ if you think she’s worth it.  You’re the hunter gatherer and so you initiate and lead. She might at first resist your advances. She’s allowed to. But persistance pays. Sometimes you’ve got to wear a girl down! [Though I do have the e-mail address of one lovely Christian girl who says that every bloke who asks her out deserves to get two dates guaranteed but I won’t pass it on].

All speed dating will do is provide an opportunity for our single Christians to meet one another in a fun, informal environment and to exchange contact details with those whose company they enjoyed. I’d love it to be cringe free. I hope the lads pitch up. I don’t want to be a punch bag for people with vicarious sensibilities. I’ll take suggestions on how it should be handled. I’ll ignore them but I’ll take them!

20 thoughts on “Rapid Relational Facilitation

  1. Phil C March 25, 2009 / 5:38 pm

    This is a good way of getting more people to come to Revive!

  2. Pete Matthew March 25, 2009 / 6:33 pm

    I’m still not 100% convinced by the idea since you mentioned it this morning, but I am warming to the idea. Interestingly, Katie in the office said that originally speed dating was a Christian idea, set up so that singles could meet in an non-threatening environment, or at least she said something like that.

    However, I also agree with your point about making the effort. It didn’t take me as long as you to persuade Nicki that I was worth going on a date, but it did take 6 months of persistant persuasion. The effort we took may say more about you and I then about dating, but is worth considering.

  3. Dex March 26, 2009 / 11:23 am

    It sounds like you’re pretty much going ahead with the idea… I have my concerns, because, as you say in your blog, singleness is indeed a sensitive issue. If you do love your single friends, it would probably be wise to listen to them on how the event should be handled and not ignore their suggestions…

  4. Phil C March 26, 2009 / 5:34 pm

    Why not do this at CCB? I suppose we all know each other, though. We could skip the speed bit and just hand out sheets for people to indicate who they want a date with.

  5. Phil C March 26, 2009 / 5:35 pm

    I think I should make clear that the above is a joke.

  6. Pete Matthew March 26, 2009 / 5:40 pm

    Phil, it’s always important you tell us when you’re joking!

  7. theurbanpastor March 26, 2009 / 5:40 pm

    Rest assured that I’ll listen to my single friends about how the afternoon/evening etc should be run. I have no desire to handle it insensitively. So if you or others have suggestions then let me know.

  8. theurbanpastor March 26, 2009 / 5:42 pm

    I’m not sure that we’ll end up indicating who people want to see again. We’re going to leave that to people to address on the weekend. This is just a chance to get into some conversations with other single people and take it from there! We’re going to make it better than any non Christian alternative.

  9. Dex March 26, 2009 / 5:58 pm

    Thanks brother – it just seemed from your blog (however ‘ jest’ it was said) that you were going to go ahead pretty much ignoring any advice.
    My first comment sounded angry … I didn’t intend it that way, so apologies if it caused offence – I’m just urging caution because I know there are a lot of guys who have pulled finger and have crashed and burned and there is hurt and pain involved in those cases.
    I’m also aware that in some congregations that the boys aren’t so spoilt for choice and maybe my arm could be twisted into re-thinking my stance on this speed dating… 🙂

  10. Phil C March 27, 2009 / 10:37 am

    “I’m not sure that we’ll end up indicating who people want to see again.”

    I think we need to have that element. We have tried singles parties before (thinly veiled as socials or Previve or whatever). Without matching people up, what will be different this time round?

    I know about a million people will disagree with me but if you’re going to do speed dating, indicating who we’re interested in seeing again is necessary. Otherwise it’s just another singles party but with a clever icebreaker.

    Tick boxes mean action. There’s nothing to lose, and stuff can and probably will happen, even if it’s just a couple of dates.

    It’s obviously not the ideal – it would be great if all the guys would all just get up and take the risk and ask people out who we’re interested in. But if we admit that that’s not going to happen (as Dex says, “there are a lot of guys who have pulled finger and have crashed and burned”), and we choose speed dating as a way to encourage people, we should go the whole hog. Keep the tick boxes!

  11. theurbanpastor March 27, 2009 / 10:56 am

    Not a chance! [Unless Rosie tells me otherwise]. That’s what I’m talking about when I talk about ‘putting everything on a plate’. The lads need to take a punt and risk getting a kick back. That’s life, get on with it! You see how sensitive I am when I need to be!

  12. Phil C March 27, 2009 / 11:45 am

    I totally agree that guys need to man up and take a risk, but we don’t need to force them to do it, do we? Is this whole “men should take the initiative and ask women out” a biblical mandate that I’m missing? If they were all living up to that ideal, we wouldn’t need speed dating. So if we’re going to go ahead with it, we need the tick boxes.

    (For the record, I totally agree with the ideal that guys should take the risk. I’m just not sure that we should plan events like this in a way that forces people to fit into that mould.)

    But now you’ve mentioned her I want to hear Rosie’s thoughts!!

  13. theurbanpastor March 27, 2009 / 11:58 am

    Speed dating, as we’re proposing doing it addresses the ‘not meeting potential marriage partners’ issue not the ‘I can’t be a man and take the risk of asking a girl out for coffee’ issue. It’s the lack of supply not the lack of courage that we’re trying to address!
    I knew this was a bad idea. Why did I get steamrollered into this by the Co-Mission Admin team? Note to self, ‘trust your judgement’!

  14. Sarah March 28, 2009 / 1:55 pm

    I think the idea of speed dating at Revive is hilarious…

    and i’m not sure it would go down all that well in reality – and I can’t think of many things more dismal than a sparsely attended singles event…

  15. theurbanpastor March 28, 2009 / 8:26 pm

    Wow, the comments are coming in thick and fast! I should write on issues that generate such strong opinions more often!
    Sarah, if it doesn’t go down that well then that’s OK, there clearly isn’t the issue that some say that there is.
    It’s the lack of supply issue that the singles only event addresses. No one’s going to be paired up but single people get to meet and chat to others in a similar situation. If singles don’t want to go that’s all well and good. But if some would like to go it’d be good that they weren’t mocked for it and thereby put off.
    It needn’t be dismal if only two people attend and tehy hit it off. That’d be rather lovely, I think!
    I am, of course, open to other suggestions of how we deal with the very real and painful issue that some face in seeking a marriage partner but lacking options. If you, or others have a better idea it’ll save me a complete headache! This wasn’t my idea in the first place but I’m happy to run with it for the sake of others.

  16. Tom Stanbury March 30, 2009 / 6:43 pm

    Initially was going to leave this post but it was too juicy to not get involved!
    The motive behind the idea is certainly worth more endeavour. I personally prefer a good event where everyone is mixed up and having a good time. You can still check people out. You then ask your friend from TBT who that girl is and then find out a way of getting introduced.
    I have only been to a few singles events but they are hard work because they are ‘socially contrived’.
    In addressing the supply side issue a better idea would be to do something with the big central london churches St Helens/All Souls/TBT or if we dare HTB or Christchurch London.

    Can’t we come up with something new and fun to beat speed dating. Or at least give it a different feel. It just feels a bit 1999. Why not get our married friends involved? They could act as a selection panel. One couple who are your friends join you on the way round the dates. it would be funny they ask the questions. Why not get married couples up front to explain how they met?
    Range of stories and circumstances. From those that were whisked off their feet to those where it took 6 months of rejection, it could be fun and amusing.

    Do we need to single out the ‘singles’? by this I don’t mean cater for them or think how they could get to know one another but is a separate event the answer?

  17. Phil C May 13, 2009 / 4:48 pm

    Any update to this post? Given it was publicly announced here, I think we should be told why it isn’t happening any more! 🙂

  18. theurbanpastor May 14, 2009 / 9:17 am

    who said it wasn’t?
    scurrilous rumours!
    look at your Revive flier and read my letter
    it’s in there

  19. Phil C November 17, 2009 / 4:42 pm

    Don’t let this idea die!

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