Many people still ask me this question. They want to know how dating should be different among Christians, and/or why it feels so hard, and/or why Christian dating seems to involve people treating others badly. I believe it should be different, and God wants us to do it differently. So in part 1, we will unpack what Christian dating isn’t.
Thinking about how to date well has been a big part of my thinking for a while now. I get excited when I deliver a talk or write a blog and people chat with me or leave feedback afterwards to say that it helped them, that it’s caused them to think differently, or understand where God fits in more.
However, I also get people saying that their experience of dating involves hurt, and sometimes being let down by other Christians, which is really upsetting.
So what is Christian dating? What should it look like?
While opinions vary, and not everything can be said in a two-part blog, I do want to highlight some key principles. I really believe we as Christians should try to follow these in order to: protect ourselves and each other, make God central to our search, and allow us to create mutual enjoyment in our relationships.
As I think about what I really try to highlight when people ask me about this, taking into account all my years of experience, I think it’s best to stress that Christian dating isn’t:
- A Seven-Step Plan
- Something to Rush
- For People Who Pray More
A Seven-Step Plan
Christian dating, or any dating, isn’t a one-size-fits-all model. No formula can promise that if you do ‘X Y Z’ you are guaranteed a ‘happy ending’.
I always prefer to talk about principles rather than ‘rules’ or ‘steps’, because they are too rigid, and we are all different and unique. We all have different hopes, fears, and experiences. (Read Warning: Dating Is Not A Simple Seven Step Process).
So one principle may be applied differently to someone who has been on a lot of dates, compared to someone who has been in a relationship for a few years, compared to someone who has gone through a bad break up, or someone who has never been on a date. Nevertheless, the same principles can be made relevant to different situations.
Dating isn’t easy, and it can’t be reduced to a seven-step plan
Dating isn’t easy, and it can’t be reduced to a seven-step plan that belittles the confusion many people face as they date.
I find that people who just give rules and plans often end up only helping a specific group of people. Whereas principles can help everyone, and help us all engage and evaluate our situation and approach.
Something to Rush
In church, dating can often be seen as something to rush through. Due to the fact that marriage is held up so high, this ideal can unintentionally communicate to those that aren’t married that they ‘haven’t arrived yet’.
But I think dating is a relationship that can honour God in and of itself. The way we treat each other can add value to our lives and for those we date, and be an example of how God’s Kingdom is transforming the ‘norms’ of our surrounding culture.
Dating should be about a time where you get to know each other. It’s time to let them see the real you and vice versa, to decide if you want to take that next step of commitment (E.g. go on a second date, or become an official couple, or eventually to marriage.) (Read How To Stop Waiting, And Start ‘Making The One’)
And it is meant to be enjoyed!
Rushing it, rushing to the next stage, will not help us get to know each other. The pressure to put a ring on it will not make it less confusing, it will only mean that we won’t be able to enjoy getting to know someone and falling in love. We need to remember dating has value, and there is no need to see it as just a ‘step’ to marriage.
For People Who Pray More
Good dating, ‘successful’ dating, doesn’t happen to those people who pray more.
So often people say things like ‘pray more and you will find someone’. Or people think they need to pray for God to show them ‘The One’. I think this is dangerous and can make us feel angry with God, or ourselves, if things do not happen the way we want. (Read Will God Answer My Prayers About Who I Should Date?)
Dating is not about praying enough to convince God
God wants to be involved, and wants us to learn how to ‘make the One’, rather than ‘find the One’. Christian dating isn’t about praying enough to convince God to help us out. (Read Why I Chose To Reject Finding ‘The One’)
Part 2 looks at some key principles around what Christian dating is, and what Christian dating should look like. For now, imagine if we turned down the noise and reminded ourselves dating is valuable in itself, to be enjoyed and not rushed, and God has a better plan than we could hope for which involves us being part of the search.
Christian dating isn’t: A Seven-Step Plan, Something to Rush, or something For People Who Pray More (Read Why I Told Joshua Harris To Redeem Rather Than Reject Dating.)
Do you think Christian dating is valued or not? Comments welcomed below.
Originally posted 20/5/2019