Two months ago, after nearly three years of semi-monogamous partnership, I parted ways with the Anglican church I have attended since my Junior year of college. It was an amicable separation accompanied by none of the status updates, bitter texts, and Hallmark-fueled bonfires that so often color my breakups. I felt that each of us had taken all that the other had to give, and we owed it to ourselves to end it before I started signing up for pot lucks and volunteering for nursery duty.
So, after three years in a committed relationship, I’m back on the church market. Since Wheaton is the ecumenical equivalent of Cancun at Spring Break (i.e. lots of options in all different colors, shapes, sizes, and languages), I’m not too concerned about finding a suitable church home. But I do have one question that has been lingering in the back of my mind ever since I started playing the parochial field. The question is this: Is the presence or absence of a thriving population of attractive, single females an acceptable standard by which to judge a church?
I’m not saying it’s the only criteria. Due consideration should, of course, be given to theology, worship style, and donut hole quality, but I cannot ignore the fact that, since graduating college, the number of places where Mrs. Kent Woodyard and I could conceivably bump into each other has been significantly reduced. I’ve quit waiting for her to stumble into my arms at the club/bar/field party. She has not applied for any of my store’s open cashier positions. She does not use the elliptical machines at Cardinal Fitness, nor has she been at any of the high school volleyball games I’ve recently attended.
That leaves church. And the fact is, none of the aforementioned locations can hold a finger to church when it comes to the quality, or at least sobriety, of dating prospects. Whatever beef I may have with singles groups, relationship seminars, or all-church picnics, I recognize that I’m far more likely to find a mother-approved mate in a Sunday morning pew than on a Friday night dance floor.
That being the case, it stands to reason that attractive 20-somethings are factoring into my church search alongside other s like greeter friendliness, Chris Tomlin competency, well-executed communions, and the presence of a man-made waterfall. There’s no sense denying it. Aspiring actresses move to Hollywood; aspiring husbands of Christian wives go to church.
The problem with my situation is that it is largely ignored by clergy and condemned by older Christians (i.e. married people). Elder brothers and sisters in Christ shake their head in bemused disapproval when I tell them of my church search criteria. In their minds, a room full of hot girls is not even a good reason to audit a class, much less to join a congregation.
They view the acquiring of a Godly wife as a potential byproduct of regular church attendance, but not something to be sought directly. It’s like going to the beach. You go to enjoy the natural beauty and the sunshine. As a bonus, you might get to see someone in a bikini. Going for the sole purpose of seeing someone in a bikini is creepy and potentially criminal.
My problem with the indirect approach is that it doesn’t work. I spent four years in the self-contained, hormone-fueled marriage laboratory that is Wheaton College and managed to escape without so much as a confiscated purity ring. No. These things take initiative, planning, strategy, and a rock-solid wingman. Yes, I believe God has a plan for my life, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do all I can to put myself in the way of that plan.
This endeavor is not helped by the woefully uninformative pamphlets at church welcome tables. It’s nice to know that the church was started in 1965 at an Ace Hardware, but there are more pressing issues at hand. I appreciate the update on the elder board’s recent denial of the deity of Christ, but what can you tell me about inter-congregational dating rates? Do you have statistics on the number of current or former cheerleaders in attendance? If I were to say to you “single, 21-26, athletic, and brunette” would there be a small group you could direct me to? These are questions. Not the only questions. Perhaps not the most pressing questions. But questions that churches should be prepared to answer all the same.
Two months into my search I have still not found a church that I’m ready to settle down with. The friendly ones are filled with heretics, the orthodox ones are filled with misanthropes, and the perfect combinations are a bit on the comatose side. I’m not really sure what my purpose was in sharing this with you. Perhaps as a defense of my church search criteria. Perhaps as a plea to our readers in the clergy to provide more relevant demographic information.
Or maybe it was simply to announce that the church market isn’t the only one I’m toiling in these days. Perhaps – having attained literary superstardom – I am now ready to start building my entourage. Any interested parties can meet me at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church’s 9:15 service next Sunday. I’ll be the guy stuffing his pockets with donut holes.