The Shy Single Christian’s Guide to Coffee Hour

Jan 04, 2012 |Thomas Eric Ruthford

Nine humorous tips for meeting someone at church

There is only one place a man can ask a moral, religious woman he’s just met to stay for breakfast without getting slapped. It is church coffee hour.

Many a Christian single has wished to meet someone at church, both because shared faith gives shared purpose to a relationship and because you automatically have a meeting place for shared activities where you can get to know one another. Church is also a great place to make friends with people of your own sex, friends who can later connect you to someone special. But, if you’re like me, you have a difficult time working a crowd and collecting lots of phone numbers.

This challenge does not require you to be a smooth operator with pickup lines like, “Come here often? Oh, once a week? Funny, me, too!” or “What’s your favorite hymn?” or “I prophesied that I’d meet someone as wonderful as you here.”

Your purpose is to get acquainted with some new people, which involves um, yes, you know, talking. Really, you just need to start with something like, “Hi.” But, if you’re an introvert, this is not something you’d do naturally unless you were assigned to recruit volunteers for dish duty after coffee hour. For you, saying, “Hi” and “My name is…” and “How are you?” is like carrying a mattress – not impossible, but awkward, and you just don’t quite know how to get through doors.

There are, however, some ways to help you get past those first steps.

The greeter. Try sneaking out of the sanctuary a few minutes before the final announcements are over and get in to the coffee hour early. Stand somewhat near the door, and when someone walks by, be adventurous and say, “Hi” or “Come on in” or “Have a doughnut.” These interactions will be short, which your poor shy self will be able to tolerate, but it will establish a small connection, and you’ll be able to go back in about five minutes and start again. But, be careful not to throw elbows with official greeters if your church should have them.

Cupcake wingman. Since you’re all good Christians, I have to explain that a “wingman” is someone a man takes with him to singles' bars to help divide a group of women. The man spots a pair of women and tells his wingman which one he’s interested in, and then it’s the wingman’s job to distract her friends.

I am not suggesting you take a wingman to church. Rather, I would suggest that you try a similar approach with cupcakes. Bake some chocolate cupcakes, put icing and fancy sprinkles on them, and put them on a tray. Take them to coffee hour and walk around with the tray. If you spot a girl you’re interested in and she’s talking to friends, give cupcakes to her friends first so that their mouths are full and you can chat with the one you want. If you’re female trying to meet guys this way, the order in which you give the cupcakes is not as important since they’re more willing to talk with their mouths full.

Talk about the recipe you used; think of fancy things to say about the ingredients, like “Dutch cocoa powder” and “Mexican pure vanilla extract.”

The ability to bake is a very attractive trait, too. My wife cooked everything in the microwave before she met me, and one of the ways I courted her was to cook her meals several times a week. If you’re not an avid baker, make your mother bake the cupcakes and then take the credit. If she objects, just say, “Do you want grandchildren, or don’t you?”

Bible trivia game. For this one, you will need some helpers. Get a nice Christian knowledge game like “Bible Blurt!” and have three or four friends stand together near the middle of the fellowship hall. Read questions to one another. Smile and look around often while you play. Eventually this will attract others to ask what you’re up to.

Bring a book. Counterintuitive as this might sound, treating coffee hour as your coffee shop is a better method than you might think. Get a pastry and find a folding chair that is in an area with some foot traffic. Lean back as you read, smile while you read, look up often and look relaxed. Eventually, someone’s going to ask about the book you’re reading, so pick one that’s spiritual, offers good advice and has some humorous parts. I would recommend Heaven Help the Single Christian, but in this context, a dating book like that would make you appear to be trying too hard. Also, this method allows you to offer to meet the following week and lend him or her the book when you’re done with it.

Get the coffee-refill lady on your side. Chatting up the grannies behind the counter who bring out the extra pitchers of coffee can provide good information about people. Over the course of two or three weeks, consistently say how glad you are that they provide coffee. Then you can start pointing out people you’re interested in and asking questions such as, “What’s her name?” or “Does he sing in the choir?” But be careful not to sound too interested in people; otherwise, the Granny Network is going to join together to find you a zealot or insta-spouse that only a granny could love.

Alternate between age groups quickly. Coffee hour has lots of people who aren’t single, so you need to be sociable with them; otherwise, you’ll get a reputation. Also, the friendships you can make with non-eligible people will improve your life and make you more confident – a very attractive trait that tips and tricks cannot substitute.

If you find yourself hanging out with 12 year olds, take an empty, half-liter plastic water bottle, unscrew the cap a little (but maintain the seal) and crush the bottle in your hands, creating an area of high pressure. Unscrew the cap a little more until it launches. Repeat until parents intervene. Alternatively, bring a bottle of Diet Coke, some Mentos and go out on the porch to create a geyser to have an impromptu chemistry lesson. (Just say you’re trying to inspire the home-schoolers.)

If you’re hanging out with the senior citizen crowd, try a joke like this, “A man is walking across a street and has a toothache, and he says, ‘Oh, woe, woe is me!’ And then he hears a voice from up the street: ‘Pardon me, but why’d you stop my horse?’”

Then when your person of interest walks by, you can do a natural-sounding switch from your other socializing to a bright, “Oh, hi! How are you?”

Teach Sunday school. No, I’m not being creepy here. It’s a great way to serve, become acquainted with the families of the church, and to find out which children have older siblings, aunts, uncles or godparents who are single.

Don’t discount people with children in tow. If you see two people yelling at the same kids, you can write them off pretty easily, but these days, large numbers of single parents get inspired to go to church. Also, don’t forget godparents, aunts and uncles who are making sure that the children in their lives get to have the important experience of worship when their parents are busy or maybe less interested in church. This is one important reason that you can’t be too flirtatious in opening lines.

Finally, there is that other really hard thing to do if you’re shy: Asking for a phone number. Yes, this is hard to do, but is necessary. You can’t assume everyone attends every week. I actually goofed this part up the first time I met my wife. (Her parents and the parish priest were standing right there – it was scary!) I chatted with her for a little while but left without her phone number, thus leaving our next meeting to chance. Eventually she found me on a social-networking site and wrote, “Hey, I think I know you,” and then I got my act together and asked her out on a date.

If you employed the above cupcake method, it’s easy to say, “You want me to send you that cupcake recipe? May I have your email address?” Or, if you used the trivia game method, you can say, “Our group meets a few times a month. Would you like to keep in touch so we can invite you to the next one?” An added benefit here is that you’re inviting him or her to a group, thus making it less intimidating.

But if you don't have such an obvious entrance, the easiest way is to think about your favorite part of the conversation and say, “I’d love to hear more about _____ sometime” and ask if you can have a phone number or email address or a connection on a social network. (I think women can take this step if they want, too. It’s best if men do it, but it may be that the poor shy fellow needs a boost to get on the right track of thinking.)

Or you could try a more biblical approach to this problem and say, “I prophesy another meeting between us!” If the answer you get is “I saith my phone number,” that’s a good sign. If the subject of your interest responds, “Jesus will be there, too!” you probably need to keep looking.

Copyright 2012 Thomas Eric Ruthford. All rights reserved.

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