The dating app Upward, previously known as FTH, officially re-launched this year to help Christian singles connect with each other during the pandemic.
“We believe that Jesus would encourage people to embrace new technologies and advancements in society as well as guide people to find a like-minded, lifelong partner who strives to know Him well and create a happy, loving relationship with His teachings at the center,” Alexis Ferraro Luerssen, vice president of marketing and communications for Match Affinity, said to The Christain Post about the app.
According to research released by Stanford University sociologist Michael Rosenfeld, the No. 1 way couples now meet is by using online dating apps, as they're less likely to meet through friends and family.
“Upward offers a user-friendly platform where members can describe their faith in their own words to be shared on their profiles,” the app’s description reads.
Once signed up for the free app, faith-based users are encouraged to swipe left or right on profiles and chat with their matches.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post’s interview with Ferraro Luerssen, who details their motivation behind creating the app and reveals its success rate as a new way to find love.
CP: Your app underwent a brand change. Why? And what does Upward stand for?
Ferraro Luerssen: We started out as FTH, which stood for Faith, but after much thought and member discussion, we arrived at Upward. Upward stood out to us from some verses and the clear call — specifically Philippians 3:14 — which reads, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
The writer of Philippians was one of Jesus' disciples, Paul. He used the analogy of a runner who focuses on the goal ahead of him. Staying on the "path" and preventing distractions and stumbling. Paul's spiritual goal is stated directly here: "The prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Our goal for the Upward app is to bring Christian singles who value like-minded, faithful partners together for a chance at love. Staying on their path and preventing the same type of distractions Paul was facing.
Paul's focus is on forward momentum, not prior mistakes. We see this same focus for our members. Letting go of the past, focusing on the potential of the future and allowing the Upward app to help find a relationship where commitment and faith lead to finding a partner. Paul had a clear goal: being in Heaven with the Lord, or his "upward call." He looks forward to the ultimate reward for his faithful service.
This prize is to be with Christ. We see the prize of the Upward app to find a relationship where God is glorified and at the center.
Upward's mission is simple: to create a community where Christian believers meet and find love based in faith at the center of their relationship.
CP: Who is your app geared toward?
Ferraro Luerssen: Upward is geared toward Christian singles, ages 18-35, who are looking for faith-focused relationships. We did extensive market research and discovered that these Gen Z and millennial age groups needed a welcoming, fresh and youthful place to connect with other like-minded, Christ-centered singles.
CP: For those afraid of dating apps, can you explain how you vet your users?
Ferraro Luerssen: We have a robust set of tools, including automated systems and human review, to capture any bad users on our platform. We review every profile that is created on our app, and users are able to report bad behavior that we review and take very seriously. Our goal is to make our app the safest and best possible experience for members.
CP: Your app sends messages of encouragement to its users. Can you explain the reasoning behind that?
Ferraro Luerssen: When creating Upward, we wanted to ensure that it was more personal, faith-focused and thoughtful than superficial dating apps since that’s reflective of the types of relationships we want to foster.
We share messages of positivity and encouragement in a few ways, like through our push notifications, Instagram feed, and brand partnerships. We’ve gotten wonderful feedback from our users about the overall positive community aspect of Upward, and we think it’s really making a difference in the quality and likemindedness of singles on the app.
CP: Do you think Jesus would encourage people to meet this way?
Ferraro Luerssen: We believe that Jesus would encourage people to embrace new technologies and advancements in society as well as guide people to find a like-minded, lifelong partner who strives to know Him well and create a happy, loving relationship with His teachings at the center.
CP: What are good signs users can look for and warning signs users should also look out for?
Ferraro Luerssen: Meeting new people is exciting, and doing it online gives singles a unique opportunity to get to know others on their own personal timetables and level of comfort.
Singles should use similar judgement that they would when meeting someone in person as well as pick up on certain cues to gauge how the relationship is developing, such as conversation flow, common interests, and communication style.
While we put the care and safety of our users first, they should always be cautious when interacting with someone they don’t know and use their best judgment, whether you are exchanging initial messages or meeting in person.
CP: How has the pandemic impacted your app?
Ferraro Luerssen: Upward’s launch coincided with the onset of the pandemic when we saw singles’ dating habits begin to change given the unique circumstances. As a result, we’ve seen Gen Z and millennial singles’ dating habits shift drastically in the past few months.
For example, 64% of Upward users said that their desire to meet a partner of the same faith has increased during the pandemic. Similarly, 64% of users said that they are open to a long-distance relationship (two+ hours) if they matched with the right person.
More singles are seeking “the one,” or at least a longterm romantic partner that they could realistically see a future with because of pandemic-induced shrinking social circles and growing desire for companionship.
In just a few months since launching, Upward is already the No. 1 downloaded Christian dating app, which shows Gen Z and millennial Christians' craving for faith-focused relationships.
CP: Can you share about your app’s success rate and a testimony of a love story?
Ferraro Luerssen: Since launching Upward in March 2020 (back when it was named FTH), we’ve seen incredible success with singles finding love. There are thousands of relationships, countless engagements and even a marriage already! In a recent survey we conducted, we found that over 90% of Upward users joined the app hoping to find a longterm relationship leading to marriage.
We’re blessed with the opportunity to connect Christian singles with their true matches for faith-focused relationships.
One heartwarming Upward love story is Candie and Elias’ — a young couple who got engaged after connecting on Upward! Prior to downloading Upward, Candie had downloaded other online Christian dating apps and quickly uninstalled them because they weren't user friendly.
When Candie matched with Elias, they quickly got to know each other and fell more and more in love. They are long-distance, so the first time they met in person was when Candie was in Colorado Springs for a girls' trip. He drove to her Airbnb to pick her up for their first date! Now, a few months later, Candie and Elias are happily engaged and are planning their perfect wedding.
CP: Have you ventured into partnering with churches and their singles ministries?
Ferraro Luerssen: This is definitely something we’re exploring and looking at for the future. Open to connection!
CP: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Ferraro Luerssen: As part of Match Group (experts in the dating space and creators of other niche dating apps), we have created several community apps: Chispa for Latino singles and BLK for black singles, for example, to better serve singles who are looking for like-minded partners with shared values and backgrounds. Upward launched out of that same focus, to help Christian singles who are looking for more from their dating app to find love with their faith as the foundation.
In looking at other dating app data, we found that females under 25 years old who mention any variation of “Christ” in their profiles receive 25% fewer right swipes/likes than females who don’t mention it.
With that in mind, a specific community for Christians like Upward gives faith-focused, Christian singles a welcoming and comfortable space to meet and develop relationships with partners who value religion and faith the same way they do.