A further look at why Christian dating can be frustrating, and how we can all get better at it.
The church generally doesn’t teach singles much about dating well, turning people down in a loving way, getting over break-ups, figuring out what we want in a mate. The only advice we are given is ‘Don’t have sex.’
Last month I wrote an article about Christian dating from a man’s perspective. (See, Why Won’t Christian Men Date Women Who Go To Their Church?) I interviewed several single guys in Los Angeles and New York, ranging in age from 28 to 40. I asked how they felt about dating within their church community and their answers were rather surprising. Most had tried it, yet were left feeling disillusioned in the process. As a result, they had chosen to search for love some place else.
Over the past month, I’ve received hundreds of comments from readers who related to the article and had insightful perspectives to add to the conversation. It became clear that there was more to say on this topic. Much more.
This time, I set out with a different goal in mind. My hope was not to uncover more problems, but to find answers. I interviewed couples that met each other at church, dated within that environment, and ended up getting married. How did they do it successfully? What were their secrets? What advice did they have for the rest of us—whether dating at church, or dating anywhere else?
I sought out a pastor named Steve Carter who leads a church filled with single people in Orange County, California. It’s called Rock Harbor Fullerton and it’s located in the vicinity of two major universities. Around 80 percent of the congregation is in their 20s and 30s, and about 60-70 percent of them are single. They often come to Carter for advice about dating and relationships, so I asked him what some of their questions were. How does he advise them? How can the Christian church, as a whole, be more supportive of single people?
What the Church Teaches About Marriage
Lastly, in pulling together all of my research, I found there were three main observations everyone seemed to agree with about the church’s treatment of marriage and dating:
1. “The only advice we’re given about dating is ‘Don’t have sex.’ The church generally doesn’t teach us much about dating well, turning people down in a loving way, getting over break-ups, figuring out what we want in a mate.”
2. “There’s a whole demographic of single people, ages 27-40, who are largely ignored and we feel like the church doesn’t really know what to do with us.”
3. “Marriage isn’t necessarily portrayed in the most positive light from the pulpit. Pastors talk about how hard it is, how you have to sacrifice so much, how you’ll be tempted to stray, how there are times when you won’t be having sex with your mate, and how we should embrace our singleness because it’s such a gift and we have so much freedom. As a guy, I found this totally discouraging and wondered what the point was in getting married at all.”
Any of that sound familiar? Then come along with me, and I’ll introduce you to some married couples that were more than happy to provide their perspective on dating well at church.
The married couples
Jeremy and Sarah Livermore, ages 31 and 28, just celebrated their first year of marriage. To be fair, they didn’t exactly meet at church. They originally started talking through Match.com and found early on that they both attended Rock Harbor Costa Mesa. From there, they met in person, dated for the next three years at Rock Harbor, and got married last year. Chivalry Does Exist After College
Kevin and Traci Carpenter are both 29 years old. They have been married for six years, and dated for three before that. Do the math, and that puts them at the tender age of 20 when they met each other at a college retreat hosted by their church.
Scott and Mary Owens are in their 50s. They originally met in a church group and started out as friends. As time went by, they realized their mutual attraction for each other, and four years later, said their vows. They’ve been married for the past 35 years, and raised three children, all of which are grown and out of the house. Are You Mature Enough For Marriage?
While each couple has their own unique story, they all agreed upon certain behaviors and attitudes that helped them date better and avoid loads of heartache. Here is a sampling of their advice.