Most people have probably never heard the phrases “dating culture” and “church” together in the same sentence before. Or maybe they’ve never even imagined them going together. We don’t blame them. There are probably a couple of good reasons for that.
Dating is a relatively new concept, especially in relation to the Church. The word “dating” was first coined by a columnist in Chicago in 1896 and didn’t even become popular in the U.S. until the mid 1930’s (BBC). There are certainly no references to dating in the Bible, and modern connotations with dating aren’t so positive. In the eyes of many churchgoers, dating implies worldly ideas from which the church steers clear.
All valid points. But dating and the church don’t need to be mutually exclusive. So what does the church have to do with dating and more specifically, why do churches need to cultivate a healthy dating culture?
Before you cultivate a healthy dating culture…
Before you cultivate a healthy dating culture, it’s important to know why you need one.
Classical courtship at the turn of the 19th century evolved into dating as we know it today, and it’s changed virtually every decade as each generation added its own spin.
Fast forward a bit: the 1990’s brought about a dating culture that was centered around “hooking up”...which really meant no strings attached to enjoy all the benefits of marriage in a casual dating relationship. When Tinder became available to all smartphones in 2013, technology began to perpetuate the concept of virtual dating. Many couples today no longer meet through college affiliation, family or friends. Instead, they meet on a dating app. (Sources: mic.com, NYT, The Atlantic).
You might be thinking, where do Christians fit in with that? As we see it, even though we don’t fit into the modern “hookup” dating model, we can’t really get around dating as a means of finding a spouse. There’s a better alternative to Christian singles trying to find their way around a broken system that doesn’t line up with their values and beliefs though.
We think the Church has a great advantage here to step in to fill the void for Christian singles. It’s time to make some room to support, teach and provide spaces for healthy Christian dating and relationships.
Okay, so we should make space for Christian dating and the church. What next?
There are a couple things church leadership can do to create a welcoming, healthy (and dare we say, fun?) dating culture for singles.
Here are our suggestions…
Talk about dating from the pulpit and in small groups.
Navigating relationships today takes wisdom. But that wisdom is often directed to those who are already married or engaged. Sermons and small group discussions that only focus on married people leave out an entire demographic of the church that needs to apply God’s wisdom to their current situations.
Singles - just like any other Christian - are hungry for God’s word and the “now” words that will help them navigate their current situations. If the Church doesn’t fill in the gap to feed the singles with guiding wisdom on dating, we can best believe that the world will have enough to say. Even advice from well meaning friends or family who aren’t walking with the Lord can lead singles astray and add undue pressure if we’re not careful and don’t have a solid foundation to stand on.
Pastors, be on guard to shepherd the flock, encourage this topic in your congregation and speak about it yourself!
“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” - Acts 20:28
Encourage mentorship throughout the process of dating.
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in abundance of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 11:14
Even if you are talking about dating at your church, singles likely aren’t hearing the kind of substantive advice they need about walking through dating in a Godly way from multiple sources. Many pastors are equipped to talk about marriage and relationship advice, but what about the stage of dating when someone is first going on dates until they are in an actual relationship? This stage of dating is arguably one of the hardest phases because it requires a different skill set than boyfriend/girlfriend skills.
A great resource to tap into are Christian Dating Coaches! They specifically help singles with difficult dating skills (communication skills, how to ask out a girl, how to “drop the hankie” and show interest to a man, etc.). What better way to come besides singles than to encourage a culture of mentorship from those who have walked this before? Having an abundance of counselors is Biblical wisdom! (Proverbs 12:15)
Click here to learn more about coaching for Christian Dating.
It doesn’t need to be weird. Teach people how to date well!
Think about it this way, strong marriages are built long before someone is married. Strong marriages start with individuals walking through their own refining fire as individuals and then when they’re joined together as a couple, too. Some things we can only learn in marriage, but other things we can prepare for in dating.
So teach singles early and teach them well. Teach them about how to prepare their hearts and what Godly relationships look like! The fruit of the Spirit is relevant whether we are single or not.
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness…” 2 Peter 1:5
Create opportunities for singles to meet.
Build it and they will come! We can say from experience that there is a real hunger to meet people in person again. Everyone is tired of dating apps and the Bible tells us not to neglect meeting with one another, so let’s follow suit.
You might not have a budget or a singles ministry pastor dedicated to this work at your church, but we guarantee there are willing church members who are excited to organize events, create small groups and do singles outreach.
Is your church looking for a new way for singles in your area to meet one another? Check out IYKYK Christian Dating Mixers on Instagram! We partner with local churches to host singles mixers.
Would you like to help your young adults and adults become healthy, Godly singles that can easily spot other Godly singles during their dating journey? I personally run a Christian Dating Coaching practice! Click here to learn more.