A friend and I began planning an event for our church where unmarried men and women could mingle and get to know each other. The church’s leadership wanted to create a subtle night of games where singles could interact naturally. In the process, maybe they’d get a phone number or two. But I wanted to plan an evening of outright speed dating. They agreed. Their only condition was that it wouldn’t be an official church event even though they would pay for the venue, snacks, and drinks. Fair enough.
In the end, however, my co-planner began dating a guy, and I lost interest in planning the evening alone. The night of speed dating never happened. But I still feel blessed that I attend a church that isn’t afraid to talk about dating or help singles meet.
For now, forget any talk of how to directly set up singles—that’s a big pill to swallow for any church. Let’s begin with answering a more fundamental question: Why is it in the church’s best interest to discuss dating?
Healthy Dating Leads to Healthy Marriages
If churches value healthy marriages, they also should value the process that leads to it; namely, dating. Healthy marriages don’t begin way before the wedding day. For example, if a dating couple communicates and solves conflict well, their chances of continuing this in marriage are higher. The converse is also true. Addictions, unaddressed trauma, and unhealthy patterns that fester in the lives of dating couples will carry over and hurt a marriage. If churches can help unmarried men and women heal and learn to communicate clearly in dating, this will undoubtedly help mitigate some future issues in marriage.
Pre-marital programs are essential. Yet by the time they get engaged, most couples are so starry-eyed and focused on the wedding that they’ll say “yes” to anything in order to get married.
Where Else Will They Learn to Date?
Where do Christian singles learn how to date? Through friends? Their parents? Books? Hollywood? These are valid resources, save the last one. But where is the church’s voice? Singles need pastors, leaders, and mentors to teach them biblical principles on how to date well. Although the Bible doesn’t mention dating, singles can learn a ton about relationships, marriages, and how to grow spiritually from passages such as Genesis 2:24, Matthew 7:12, Romans 12:1-2,1 Corinthians 13:4-13, and Titus 2:6.
More than that, singles need to rub shoulders and interact with mature married couples. The model of a healthy marriage is invaluable. They also need one-on-one mentoring—someone to walk alongside them as they search for a spouse. Mentors can listen, guide, and offer a shoulder to cry on when dating relationships get tough.
The Church is a Great Place for Singles to Meet
The church building itself and its programs for singles are an ideal place where they can meet, mingle, date, and get married. Isn’t the church lobby better than lounging at nightclubs? The sanctuary better than flirting at sports bars? No pastor I know would disagree. At the same time, unmarried men and women need to explicitly hear from the pulpit that the church is a safe place where singles can meet and interact.
One way pastors can do this is by preaching pro-dating sermons. Let singles know that if they want to marry, you are rallying for them to find a spouse and are here to help. Create a welcoming church environment for singles, letting them know that you value them, whether they get married or not.
Talking About Dating Benefits Everyone
Healthy dating not only leads to healthy marriages, but also healthy churches. Sometimes teaching about dating and helping singles meet gets messy, and dating itself can be confusing. But these reasons are precisely why we need the church’s help—to figure it out together.
ERIC DEMETER is the author of How Should A Christian Date?: It’s Not As Complicated As You Think. He is a relationship and conflict resolution specialist with advanced studies in mediation, peacemaking and negotiation.