A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Online Christian Dating
Online Christian dating has come a long way. I met my wife on a Christian dating site in 2002, and in those days it seemed like such a novel idea, if not a little embarrassing. We were always a little shy to tell people about it. It had a vague stigma attached it. It hadn’t become cool yet. In many ways, the socially connected Internet was still in its infancy. Mark Zuckerberg had not yet invented Facebook in his dorm room, and no one had heard of a Tweet — except for the kind you occasionally hear from actual living creatures found in trees or in the air.
But those old-fashioned days are now far behind us. Millions upon millions of people have since dived into online dating. The biggest one for Christians is ChristianMingle.com, and I recently had the chance to speak with Ashley Reccord, the Christian Community Manager for ChristianMingle, and get a behind-the-scenes look at the largest and fastest-growing Christian dating site.
Rockin’ God’s House: What is ChristianMingle’s mission and what sets you apart from other sites?
Ashley: Our mission is to serve as a premier online community for Christian singles who are looking to create a faith-based relationship; and what really sets us apart from mass marketing dating sites is that we are a niche-focused online dating community for the Christian community. Christian singles come to our site because their faith is the driving force behind what they’re looking for in a mate.
Rockin’ God’s House: How long has ChristianMingle been in business and how have you seen demand for online dating increase since you began?
Ashley: We’ve been in business since 2001 and over the last few years membership has exponentially grown. In fact, millions of singles have joined the site in the last three years–
Rockin’ God’s House: Wow!
Ashley: And again that just goes back to the fact that people are hard pressed these days to find someone who doesn’t know someone online or isn’t online themselves. So as the stigma for online dating has faded away, ChristianMingle has grown tremendously.
Rockin’ God’s House: Wow, that’s incredible.
Ashley: It’s been a really exciting time!
Rockin’ God’s House: I noticed recently that ChristianMingle had an interview with Corbin Bernsen (Psych, Suing the Devil, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), the famous actor. That must be exciting.
Ashley: It is! They’re actually in the process of wrapping up the filming of a movie called Christian Mingle. We were very excited to be a part of that and have input, and are looking forward to the film’s release..
[You can read more about the film here. In the article, Corbin Bernsen sums up the movie’s plot: “Christian Mingle is about a young, modern, single woman. She’s trying to achieve it all – a successful career, amazing friends and finding Mr. Right. She stumbles into the world of online dating [through ChristianMingle.com] looking for an instant ‘soul mate solution,’ but ultimately ends up taking a personal journey transforming her life.”]
Rockin’ God’s House: Getting into more of the actual experience of using your site, what are the most common mistakes that people make when they try online dating.
Ashley: We provide our members with a lot of tools and resources that will help them in their online dating experience. One of the things we encourage our members to do is to use the same patience and passion that they would when getting to know someone they met at church or through a friend; to really take the time to get to know someone, and to be consistent and honest with their profile about what they enjoy doing and what they are looking for in a mate. I often think of one of our success stories Miki and Tre who said it’s okay to be picky and to not settle.
We also offer a color-coded personality test that actually assigns a color to your personality and walks you through how your personality will relate to other personality types. We also have the COMPASS Test, which matches members on more than 100 different compatibility factors with a wide range of factors: everything from how close do you want to be with your in-laws, what your preferences are in handling finances, or even the roles of each spouse — just to name a few. It really helps you to understand what you’re looking for and be able to spot any major red flags that might become issues with compatibility. If you really take the time to have a rich experience and not rush through it, it will not only help you find what you’re looking for in a mate, but it will improve your interactions in the online community.
Rockin’ God’s House: You mentioned a success story, Miki and Tre; can you tell us more about them?
Ashley: We’ve had such a great time getting to know them. They were a bi-coastal couple: she was actually a Rockette in New York City, and he was a young adult pastor in Orange County, California. Over the last couple of years we’ve been able to build a solid relationship with them, and they’ve been one of our success stories in our commercials. We actually have a ChristianMingle advisory board with pastors and other leaders in the Christian community, and Tre actually served on the advisory board this past year.
Rockin’ God’s House: That’s very interesting that you brought in a former customer to sit on your advisory board and help shape the company. That’s brilliant, actually.
Ashley: It goes back to the fact that we really want to create a unique and authentic experience for our members, whether it’s focus groups with our members to get their feedback or with our advisory board — and Tre was a unique situation that he was a former member of the site and a success story — but we’ve also found that partnering with pastors or Christian authors or even Christian counselors has really given us the feedback from the Christian community that helps us improve the experience for our members.
Rockin’ God’s House: Were there any other interesting success stories you’d like to mention?
Ashley: Every success story from ChristianMingle comes across my desk, which is one of the best parts about my role: hearing from the people for whom you’ve worked so hard to provide a good experience is incredibly rewarding; and the thing that seems to resonate with all of our success stories is that if it had not been for ChristianMingle, they would not have met. It’s so interesting, we just wrapped a commercial shoot, and we brought out four couples for it, and whether they were long distance like Amy and Justin — where Amy was in Kansas and Justin was in Colorado — or with Stephanie and Kevin where they lived about five minutes apart, ChristianMingle was the catalyst that brought them together.
Rockin’ God’s House: [laughs] That’s incredible, only five minutes apart?
Ashley: Yes! Stephanie and Kevin told me, “Even though we lived five minutes apart, our paths probably never would have crossed; but ChristianMingle was the catalyst that brought us together.” It’s just amazing to hear, and it never gets old. While they may all have some common threads or themes, their personalities and success stories are always so unique, and that’s really the most amazing thing about being a part of ChristianMingle.
Rockin’ God’s House: I bet that must be very rewarding for you to see all those success stories — a big morale booster!
Ashley: Oh yeah, it’s such a neat experience because I have the privilege of reaching out to so many of them for media opportunities, and every time they’re just so excited and they just want to share their stories. I’ve been at the company a little over three years now, and I have friendships that have been built where they text me or call me or email me and say, “Ashley, we’re pregnant!” or “we just had a baby!” and they are so excited to share not only how they met — and you’re a part of that first step of the journey — but also the continuation of their life journey. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to keep up with them as they share their lives with you, to see pictures of their families on Facebook, and to watch how their family grows.
Rockin’ God’s House: Absolutely! That’s amazing. I’ve always wondered this, but is there any particular time of the year that sees a huge spike in traffic for online dating? Valentine’s Day is probably an obvious one, but what about Christmas?
Ashley: Oh definitely. We see an increase right around Christmas — or sometimes earlier at Thanksgiving — through Valentines Day, and I think it’s just that people are reminded that they do want to share special occasions like Christmas with someone special, and I think again it goes back to the fact that because online dating has become so widely used, it’s a great place for people to expand their circles whether they work at a small company or go to a small church or they’re slowly getting back into the dating game. It’s a great way for them to go and meet people that they would likely never meet otherwise.