Anyone out there seen Fiddler on the Roof? If you have, sing along with us. “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match… find me a find… catch me a catch…”
Okay, don’t sing along. Just sit there and be grumpy about your singlehood. That’s what a lot of folk were doing until Natalie Grant, a Grammy nominated, five-time GMA award winning Christian singer showed up in their church. With her appearance came the grand proclamation that one lucky single would have the chance to find true love through Game Show Network’s latest series, It Takes a Church.
Still grumpy but mildly intrigued? Let’s push your emotional dial toward happy by presenting this exclusive interview between Grant and Believe.com.
It Takes a Church is not your average dating show
Grant is quick to point out that not all competition shows are about fun and games. Sometimes the biggest prize ever can be a richer connection with Jesus and a chance to meet a Godly spouse.
Grant, ever eloquent and enthusiastic, shares openly about her own marriage, the way the series works, how she transitioned from singer to game show host, and why sometimes it does, indeed, take a church.
Church is often considered serious, but your show offers a more personal/positive side of it. Talk to us about how your show presents church done right?
“At its best, church brings people together to rally around each other during the various stages of life. And with this case (the show) it’s rallying around a single. It does a good job showing the church as a family and as a community.”
Tell us the general outline of what happens before a lucky bachelor is chosen for a bachelorette.
“Funny you ask, because the dating is actually the least part of the show. It’s actually more focused on the matchmaking part. Here’s the nuts and bolts:
• We go to a different city and a different church every week
• The church nominates a single person from their congregation
• That congregation also has matchmakers
• The matchmakers and the single are from the same church
• The only commonality of the people the matchmakers bring in, however, is that they have to be Christian – they don’t necessarily have to go to that church. They go outside that church to find people and that’s the great part because these are people who might not otherwise meet but share the same faith.
• Every episode there are 10-12 bachelors that are presented and then the church and the pastor vote to narrow it down to four. So the church decides ‘These are the four that you are going to have the opportunity to know better.’
Grant, ever passionate, adds:
“Another thing I love about the show is that it doesn’t set them up on unrealistic over-the-top dates that are not real life like on other dating shows. Who flies to Paris on a first date with rose petals strewn down the aisle?”
Grant describes a very alternative first date for the participants – one which involves a community service project chosen by one of the matchmakers. It’s a counter-cultural approach to dating which, along Christ’s lines of service, that takes the focus off oneself and puts it on others.
Grant puts it best with her sum-up of this kind of date. It basically tells the contestants: “Why don’t you roll up the sleeves and serve the community and get to know each other by serving the church? I LOOOOVE that.”
• The matchmakers observe the couple’s interactions and eliminate 1 bachelor, narrowing it down to 3.
• 3 go to a pastoral session – like a pre-marital game challenge – and another gets eliminated
• The final exercise then, is that 2 bachelors get to go on a one on one date with the single, and she makes the final decision.
Less pressure means participants can be themselves
Grant is quick to point out that even when the bachelorette finally choses the lucky bachelor, there is no expectation of engagement.
“It takes the pressure off. There’s a lot less posing and trying to be anyone but themselves. It’s less about ‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, is he the one? I have to win!’ They only have to be themselves.
Who gets the grand prize? Not who you’d expect!
10K is donated, in the match maker’s name, to the community service project her bachelor first met his lovely bachelorette. “This makes it more than a dating show!” Grant happily quips.
Talk about how a show like this breaks down the emotional walls of some of the women?
“The thing I really noticed with all the contestants – from inner city Brooklyn, NY, to the farming community of Goshen, Indiana, is that they all had so much in common even with different walks of life. All of them had a story of brokenness… something that made them scared of relationships and scared to take a risk. I noticed the girls cried because it was digging deep. There were deep wounds. “
How does the community aspect of your show – the church itself – address some of these wounds?
“When you create this kind of (supportive) environment, they (the women) found they could more easily take the risk.”
Grant doesn’t hold back on the truth with her next statement.
“Finding someone and opening yourself up to love is so risky – it really is – because you’re just opening yourself up and saying, ‘Okay, now please don’t break my heart’ but I think that when you build that kind of community, it makes people a little more willing to take that risk.”
In your song, “Hurricane,” it talks about being willing to let go and let God. How does the show speak to this?
Grant laughs. “Well, it’s still a game show so it’s still light hearted.” She points out the pastoral element of the show, however, as a great opportunity to scratch the surface of the vapid dating scene. She also gets right to the nitty gritty aspects of what true love really looks like.
What does true love look like?
“Before you can even truly love, you have to fall in love with God. Really. You have to figure out how to have a personal relationship with Jesus.”
Wait, there’s more.
“Second, you have to learn to love yourself.”
Grant wasn’t immune to the pitfalls of love.
“I was so trying to be who I thought I needed to be to be happy and keep a man and be accepted and validated. Once I could fall in love with Jesus, then I actually figured out it was healthy to love myself because I could love myself the way God loved me, rather than how culture loved me. THEN I was able to love myself.”
Did you take your own love advice before marrying your spouse of 15 years?
“Part of the reason my relationship really worked out was because we didn’t really date the way culture views dating.”
She adds, “I was engaged twice, and I thank God I broke it off this side of the altar. Dating just to date creates many junior divorces and heartbreak that is unnecessary. I dated a lot. My own husband did not. He did not go out on a date until he was 23. And he only dated one other person beside me. And learning his perspective and take on it was so awesome and it helped us so much so when we first met we became incredible friends before there was any romance… By the time we actually got romantic, we knew we were going to get married… It really worked for us.”
So, let’s get this straight: It’s a dating show, but there’s not a ton of romance?
“We create an environment where they get to know each other as real people and hopefully that kind of friendship continues when the show is gone. One of my hopes for this show is that it shows culture an alternative. We have plenty of dating shows that show things one way, but this one shows another side.”
Did you ever see yourself hosting a game show?
Grant admits that the idea of hosting a show seemed sketchy, but the more she learned about the goal of the show – to honor God first, then find matches – the more interested she became. Grant is no shallow Christian singer and she’s no shallow host. While she’s funny and lively, the show has many poignant moments. You won’t want to miss it.
Hey, are you less cranky now that you found a new TV show to watch? Great! You can thank your personal match maker, Believe.com.
Check out the show!
It Takes a Church airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. (ET/PT) following new original episodes of “The American Bible Challenge” at 8 p.m., the network’s highest rated original series of all time.