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2007-08-07 issue:

MennoMeet.com launches for singles

The online dating network for Mennonites has 90 (and growing) members.

by Anna Groff

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MennoMeet.com greets visitors with: “No longer will we solely meet at youth conventions, Mennonite colleges or our second cousins’ weddings. We’ve created a space where we can all interact. Kind of like one big cyber Mennonite youth convention without the curfew.”

And that’s what this site, an online dating network for Mennonites, has done for its 90 (and growing) members.



MennoMeet creators Jessica Yoder and Brad Miller (pictured), who live in Denver, attended different colleges; Brad graduated from Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va., and Jessica from Goshen (Ind.) College. They married in May, after being introduced by Yoder’s father, who was running partners with Miller in Harrisonburg.

Since they went to different schools, they had many Mennonite friends who did not know each other.

“As we started describing our friends to each other, we got the sense that maybe our single friends would be good matches for each other,” Miller says. “Both of us have listened to our friends talk about how hard it is to meet someone outside the Mennonite church that understands their core values.”

They also had friends using online dating services, like Match.com, as they were not meeting a lot of other single people in their day-to-day lives.

However, Yoder says, their friends felt frustrated by the people on those Web sites and, “even if there was a decent degree of compatibility, they still felt different because of their Mennonite ethnicity and values of pacifism, social justice and simple living.”

She felt there was a real niche for the site, as many of her friends live where meeting other Mennonites is difficult.

Last month, they invited their single friends to join and told them to pass on the word. “It has spread fast,” Yoder says. They receive about five new requests each day.

On MennoMeet, members create profiles complete with features to upload photos and blogs. They can send public and private messages to one another after browsing each other’s profiles. On the profile they answer questions (see "addtional notes" below) as seriously or jokingly as they like.

Yoder says the feedback has been positive. “Middle-aged women have emailed me asking how they can get their young adult children on the site,” she says. “Young people have commented that this is just what they were looking for. Married and dating people want to pass on the word. Many people can relate to being a single Mennonite looking for someone who shares their basic values.”

Miller says the site can “play the Mennonite game” in a way that no other dating service can.
“As much as I can’t stand that game for its exclusion of non-Mennonites, the Mennonite game works well in the dating world because it serves as a personal reference,” he says. “If you want to learn more about someone you can ask their cousin, who just happens to be your next-door neighbor.”

Miller and Yoder both have big dreams for the site, but they also have day jobs. Yoder is a family practice resident, and Miller is a graduate student in higher education administration at Denver University. They are open to suggestions from the MennoMeet members to direct the site’s vision.

When they launched the site, their target age range for members was 25 to 35, but soon enough, people below and above that range started to join. “This is a perfect example of the market leading the way,” Miller says.

They also wanted to create a sense of privacy for members. “We did not want people snooping around on the site to see who was on it,” Miller says. To become a member, one must request an invitation at www.mennomeet.com.

Who can join? First, users must be single. Second, Miller and Yoder strongly discourage people under 21 from joining and do not permit anyone under age 18.

“So far, thanks to word-of-mouth, the members are primarily Mennonite or somehow related to a Mennonite church,” Miller says. For example, some members grew up Mennonite but now attend a nondenominational church.

They would like to open up the site to Anabaptist-related denominations. “This site is not about dating a Mennonite as much as it is about finding someone with a similar faith, worldview and, more importantly, similar future plans for living … the way they believe Christ intended,” Miller says.

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