CHICAGO, IL (February 11, 2016) — Reflecting the growth of Internet dating services, Covenant ministers say they are doing more and more weddings of people who met online.
Paul Thompson, pastor of Northwest Covenant Church in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, said nearly all of the weddings he has done recently were for online daters, most of whom met on eHarmony.
Online dating is a $2.2 billion a year industry, and a Pew Research survey reported that adults between the ages of 45 and 54 are as likely to meet online as those in the 18-to-24 range. According to Nielsen, one in 10 single adults spends at least an hour a day looking at online dating sites.
Two of the biggest sites are Tinder, the fastest-growing, and eHarmony, which uses a 200-question survey to help Christians meet.
Many Christians say they turned to online dating because their requirement that the other person be a Christian with similar beliefs already winnows the field. In rural areas, where actual fields increase the physical distance between singles, the use of dating sites also is growing. Mark Chapman, pastor of Countryside Covenant Church in La Bolt, South Dakota, said the use of online dating sites is common due to the scarcity of people nearby.
Some sites are more niche oriented. Steve Hoden, pastor of Palmyra Covenant Church, in Hector, Minnesota, said two of the last three weddings he performed were for couples who met online, including one whose relationship began on the specialized site Farmers Only.
Brian Solecki, a Covenant minister serving as head of staff for a Presbyterian church in Chico, California, said he has officiated “a number of weddings where they met that way. I will say of my single friends who are 30-plus, probably 75 percent have met someone online.”
Some pastors have also turned to online services. One said that the microscope that can be put on a ministers when they are dating led him to use an online service so that he could meet someone nearby—but not too close.