As a faith-based single in today’s society, some may say that it is hard to find someone with the same values and ideals about a relationship. The Singles Café Ministry, held the second and fourth Saturday of the month at Panera Bread in Shadyside, equips single individuals with the tools, skills and biblical principles needed to prepare them for that right relationship.
“The idea was to create an environment where single people can learn relationship skills and secondly learn how to do it in a Godly manner… learn what God requires of the relationship,” said Tonya Smith, creator of the Singles Café Ministry.
|PERFECT MATCH—From left: Joni and Mark Price, of Family Guidance Inc., explain the paradigm of choosing a compatible mate while Tonya Smith looks on.
Smith began the ministry in 2003 at Rodman Street Missionary Baptist Church in East Liberty, under the direction of the former pastor Rev. Delano Paige. In 2006 she had to leave Pittsburgh for her career and left it in the hands of someone else. After continuing for some time, the ministry died. But it was reborn in 2008 when Smith returned, now under the direction of the Allegheny Union Baptist Association.
Smith says she started the ministry after God had laid it on her heart to do so. “There are a lot of single parents in the community and this (ministry) will help to build strong families and when you have strong families, you have strong communities,” she said. “This is my passion.”
The Singles Café is described as having a Godly side, but with a human side. It not only uses biblical text to back up what is being said, but also talks about the real things that single individuals encounter in society.
“She (Smith) brings a new flavor to the singles ministry. She incorporates biblical principles with bible study (and more),” said Rev. Myrna Pratt, an attendee. “You can count on me being there again. I was impressed.”
Smith said that since the ministry began in 2003, ten people that were attendees have gotten married and say that they credit the Singles Café for helping them.
“It is a wonderful experience. I always left filled up and with a more positive attitude about the opposite sex,” said Johnathan White, a former leader of the ministry and regular attendant. “I learned prayer, gained edification and it also helped me to increase my networking skills.” He added that the ministry is a great opportunity to serve and learn how to relate to others. He said initially attending the Singles Café was more for fellowship and finding people of a like-minded nature, it was not all about dating. But now he sees it as being fed with God’s Word, not only to help with marriage, but to also help him understand his purpose more closely as a person in their single season.
White, who is single, said that he was in a relationship that he thought was going to lead to marriage, unfortunately it did not, but he felt that the things he learned in the ministry helped him in his relationship.
Smith said the average age for regular attendees is between 35-45, with some individuals younger and as old as their 60s. While Smith and White both say they would like to see more younger people attend, they are more concerned with getting more males to attend and participate. Smith attributes the lack of men to the stigma that the Singles Café is just a group of women male bashing and Smith says that is not the case. “We don’t allow that. We are there to encourage and support each other.”
White agrees about the stigma and also says that many may also have preconceived notions about the group, saying that they think it’s for people who are desperate or who think there is something wrong with them because they are single. And he says that’s not the case.
He adds that women tend to be more open minded to the idea of the Singles Café and says he would encourage more men to come.
“(I would say to men who are spiritually based), we offer a wide range of things. And if God does, or already has, blessed you with the (perfect one for you), can you preserve it and keep it for eternity? The ministry gives you the tools to do that.”
Smith continues to encourage more people to come and experience the group and said, “It is for people of all denominations. It is for anyone who wants to learn relationship skills. You can learn to make better decisions, which leads to healthier lasting relationships, which can lead to marriage.”
While it is not promised that someone attending will find that perfect one, it is guaranteed that they will leave with an eye opening experience and the tools to recognize that perfect one.