“It’s the only place open that time of night,” my friend said, imploring I understood his dilemma. And in fact, I did. Though not in his exact shoes, I knew that loneliness and the need to connect with others is no respecter of time, whether day or night.
“The doors of churches are closed and locked then, and no one is there,” he went on. “But the bar is open and people are there I can talk to or just be with.”
I truly did understand. But I also worried about his tendency to drink too much, and wished he could find friends who would encourage him in his newly rediscovered walk with Christ.
It was the early 1990s, and the television show Cheers with its opening theme song, Where Everyone Knows Your Name, was still in its heydey. Its setting in a friendly bar where staff and customers interacted with familiarity day after day presented a place of knowing and belonging that most everyone longs for. It’s no wonder Cheers was a popular show for more than a decade, and that reruns are still enjoyed.
I knew my friend was right. Somehow bars had gotten it right, and most churches hadn’t figured it out: it isn’t just Sunday mornings when people needed connection with others. It is day in and day out, night and day.
It was then that my dream of a coffee shop was born – a place that would be open until the wee hours of the the morning just like the local bar, giving an alternate choice for connecting with others.
I never did open a coffee shop. But I did start a website with a forum, and named it Purposeful Singleness. For many years people from around the world would visit the site at all hours of the day or night, reading and connecting with what others had written since they had last visited, and contributing their own thoughts for the next visitors to be encouraged by or to offer their encouragement.
It wasn’t ideal. Nothing is. But we learn from past experiences and discover ways of improving on them for next time. Many good things happened on that old-style discussion board. Most people were real and honest and caring. But many hid behind pseudonyms and some behind more than one, creating havoc. And then there were those who had discovered the ideal place to bully others: online, where no one knows their name.
After awhile moderating the board became overwhelming, even with help, especially as other events in my life also became time-consuming. And then there came a time where caring for family members took precedence over moderating a discussion board, and it was shut down.
But the need for single Christians around the world to have connection with others, especially those with similar life experiences, is still just as real as it was then. It’s impossible to have a coffee house where we can all gather in person. But we can have an online community. And this time it will be with better foresight and perimeters to provide freedom to be our true real selves, and to develop real relationships without fear of bullies hiding cowardly behind false identities. It will be a place we can come and go according to our own schedules, and be a place of knowing and belonging, because “everyone knows your name.”
A few have asked in the comments of the membership community survey the reason for charging to be part of the community, and that’s a reasonable question. There are multiple reasons. Here are a few of them:
- The costs for operating such a community need to be covered, which is something I was not realistic about before, and is the only sustainable way of operating and growing such a community.
- It will provide funds to hold possible future in-person events, such as conferences or retreats, though there may be additional fees to cover the extra costs for those.
- It will help cover costs for producing content for the community, such as videos, workshops, Bible studies, and more.
- It is the most accurate way to insure members are operating under their true identities and not hiding behind a pseudonym or even multiple pseudonyms.
Where Everyone Knows Your [First] Name
I asked in the survey what your preferences are for usernames. The options were 1) use real first names, 2) use real first and last names, or 3) post anonymously. The majority voted for using real first names, and I think that is the safest way to interact, while still using our real names as we develop real friendships with each other.
Not Another Matchmaking Site
As before, this new community forum will not be a dating site or matchmaking endeavor. It will be a place to make friends and enjoy community where we can “be there” for each other. Could romantic relationships develop naturally out of the community? Perhaps, and that’s fine if they do. But that’s not the goal or the purpose of the PS Membership Community.
Name That Community!
Speaking of “Membership Community” — that’s such a boring, generic name! I’m not great at naming things. I need your help to come up with a better name. Make your suggestions in the comments section below, or use the contact form to let me know! Thanks for your help!
So when will the doors of this where-everyone-knows-your-name community open? My best answer: as soon as feasibly possible! I’m working hard at it, but as I’ve discovered my life purpose I’ve also come to realize why it takes me so long to do technical things: it’s not the best I was designed and created to do! But I do already have website development skills under my belt, and until I can afford to hire those tasks out to those God created to excel at such things, I ask for your patience as I wrangle the technology to create a community of familiarity and belonging that I trust we’ll all come to love!
Don’t forget to let me know your suggestion for a name for our Membership Community! I would also love to hear your thoughts on finding community, whether in person or online. Has that been easy or difficult for you, especially as a Christian single?