Sharla Langston had a unique journey to finding her husband at the age of 50. Find out the secret to her success!
4word: What made you want to minister to single Christians looking to marry?
Sharla: Having married for the first time at 50, I don’t want to waste what God taught me in the previous decades. The process I used (crowd-sourcing) was so far from my usual way of doing things and way out of my comfort zone. But, it opened up new doors, gave me insights and resources for meeting men, and I had a blast. I also grew to love my “crowd” even more, having entrusted them with my desire to marry. My trust in the Lord grew as well, and I figure, if God could do that for me, He could do it for other singles.
4word: Share with us your dating journey and how your book “The Crowd Sourced Marriage” came about because of it.
Sharla: I was not much of a dater in high school, college, or once I started my career. I had the occasional serious relationship, about one per decade, but not a constant flow of choices. Those relationships never hit the serious phase or got close to engagement.
In 2007, I read a great book by Henry Cloud, “How to Get a Date Worth Keeping.” It was inspirational and overwhelming as Dr. Cloud challenged singles to find or create five interactions a week for meeting a new guy, interacting long enough to generate interest, and having a way for him to make contact. I didn’t have five of these a year, much less five a week! I tried Dr. Cloud’s approach for a whole year. Although I didn’t meet “Mr. Sharla,” I did have a lot of fun, expanded my small view of whom I would like to date, and met some new friends for life.
In 2010, I tried Dr. Cloud’s approach again, but with some help – Team Sharla. Team Sharla was 40 friends and family, both local and afar, whom I trusted to help me find a date worth keeping. Their job was prayer and exposure: take me places, tell me of new or fun events to attend, or set me up on a date. My job was prayer and attitude: go out with anyone but a hardened criminal.
Knowing the commitment of my ‘team,’ I felt accountable to the them. I started a blog as a way of keeping them informed, without filling up their inboxes. They could opt in to weekly date reports, and occasionally I sent an email with progress updates. A friend sent the blog to a publisher, and “The Crowd-Sourced Marriage: Leveraging Your Trusted Community to Help You Marry Well” was born.
4word: How important was your community to you during your dating journey? How important should community be to singles, and what are some ways you can build your community?
Sharla: My family, friends and faith community were the core of the crowd-sourced marriage process and outcome. Once I recognized that God had given me a crowd who loved me the most and knew me the best, it was a simple decision to rely on them for one of the most important decisions in life.
Ask yourself, who is your community and how has God used them to guide you in life? There are family, friends, church buddies, mentors, coworkers, life group members, and many more people God has put right in front of you. These communities are important to so many aspects of your life including your practical, spiritual, professional, intellectual, and emotional needs and growth. Being intentional about your relationships helps to strengthen these aspects of community. As we live authentically with others, we learn to trust and include them as we pursue our dreams and desires.
4word: How can those already married still be an encourager and help to their single and dating friends?
Sharla: Don’t think you need to only have other singles on your team. Just like in your everyday life, there is a mix of individuals and married people you interact with and work alongside. At least half of my team were married couples. The marrieds also bring in the wisdom of what really matters in a lifelong partnership. The team members who lived afar were amazing prayer warriors, and the locals got in on the interview action and outings. Interview? Yep, I had my team meet Mr. Sharla over time, and it was a reassuring and immeasurably valuable tool.
4word: Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Sharla: You can start a team like mine, or think of your own way to engage your community. Maybe you are the hostess with the most-est. If so, you could start a series of dinner parties for your friends to invite good conversationalists. Do you have a favorite sport or exercise routine? Maybe there is a team of bikers out there waiting to be on your team to look for that special bike rider for you.
Don’t forget the Team Goods, which serve as practical, everyday items that your team members will use frequently and while out in public. Team Sharla received coffee cup koozies with “Team Sharla—I’m on the Team” emblazoned on the side. They served the purpose of reminding team members with every sip of their eight-dollar latte of the most important mission of the day: “pray and get me a date.” I also distributed stickers and visors, and these trinkets were much loved by the team.
The best thing I learned during this intentional process of engaging others was letting go of my small box of lists and requirements for a date. Don’t assume you know more than God on what is BEST for you. Dr. Cloud’s reasoning is that you never know whom you might meet while out with a new guy, and that by dating lots of different types, you could figure out a few things you would like and dislike in a mate. Let every experience build on the last, even the embarrassing ones.
Who is your team? As Sharla stated, having a community of family and friends to surround yourself with is vitally important, not just for finding “the one,” but also for doing life!
Do you feel called to be a mentor? Are you looking for a mentor? The 4word Mentor Program is currently accepting applications for the upcoming fall session. Visit the Mentor Program website today and submit your online application by September 2, 2016!
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Sharla Langston is the author of The Crowd-Sourced Marriage and is passionate about encouraging single Christians to engage their community in finding God’s best. She serves individuals and families as a giving coach by helping faithful stewards discover and execute their unique giving design. Sharla is a founding partner and governing board member of Women Doing Well whose mission is equipping women to live and give in God’s image. She is currently serving as interim co-director of women’s ministry at Northwest Bible Church in Dallas. Sharla has petroleum engineering degree from Louisiana State University and worked in oil fields in Alaska, the Gulf Coast and Peru. She has served as a U.S Congressional committee staff on Capitol Hill, a church stewardship and equipping director, and as a giving liaison for the National Christian Foundation. When they aren’t on the road, Sharla lives in Dallas, Texas, with her husband Mark.