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Friday, October 28, 2011

An Alternative to the "Dating Game"

For the consideration of young people, their parents, and older singles, the following is a biblically wise alternative to the “Dating Game” that I've put together through years of study and discussion with church groups and Christian school classes. I hope you find it helpful, or at least challenging to your thinking. It's based on the basic idea that romance should wait until you're ready to consider marriage, or in other words, "don't shop until you're ready to buy."

(Important note: These are suggestions rather than rules, with the exception of any biblical commands that are referenced.)

If you’re not ready to pursue marriage yet, because of parental rules or your own choice:

Relate to members of the opposite sex as brothers or sisters (1 Tim. 5:1-2), and guard your heart against other thoughts and feelings.  Be open with your parents about all of your relationships, and ask them to fulfill their responsibility of providing counsel, protection, and accountability for you (Eph. 6:1-2, 1 Cor. 7:36-38).  If your parents aren’t able or willing to do those things, seek that help from spiritual leaders (Heb. 13:17).

Stay in groups, don’t spend much time alone with any individual of the other sex (Prov. 4:23, Matt. 6:21).  And be friends; if you do spend time together, do it as friends rather than as a “couple” or “boyfriend/girlfriend.”

If you do get too far along (“too close too soon”), mutually agree to separate totally for a while (principle of “radical amputation” from Matt. 5:29-30).

Commit yourself to serving Christ with the time and energy you have (1 Cor. 7:32-35), and find ways to fill your life with learning, work, and other ministry.

Stay away from media and other influences that will cause you to long for romance or will generate sexual desires (Rom. 13:14).

Use this time as a single young person to grow in Christ, and to learn and practice what the Bible says about good relationships, and to pray and prepare for the right kind of marriage based on biblical principles (Prov. 31, Eph. 5:22-33, 1 Timothy 3, Titus 2, etc.).

Evaluate carefully, and with godly counsel, the reasons why you or your parents think you are not ready to pursue marriage.  Determine if they are really biblical, wise, and legitimate reasons, especially if you are good friends with someone who could be a good life partner for you (Prov. 31:10 11).

When you are ready to “date/court” for the purpose of marriage:

Pray a lot about this and prepare your heart and life to be a godly partner for someone, and evaluate any possible partners according to biblical principles and godly counsel from others—not according to feelings, physical attraction, pressure to get married, etc.

Until you meet someone that you want to “date/court,” or if a relationship doesn’t work out, learn and practice being content with the situation of “singleness” you are in (1 Cor. 7:17-24, Phil 4:11).

If a man wants to pursue a relationship beyond friendship with a woman, he should seek permission/approval from her father (or her spiritual leaders, if the father is not fulfilling his responsibility biblically).  They should continue to be accountable to such protection and guidance, and should again seek permission/approval for engagement, if things go well (1 Cor. 7:36-38).

Fill the dating/courtship stage with worship, Bible Study, prayer, and ministry together, rather than merely the world’s ways of “dinner and a movie,” etc.  Communicate openly about your intentions and plans, focus on serving the other person, and stay away from sexual sin, so that if it doesn’t work out it will not result in a debilitating “heartbreak” for either party.

When you get engaged, make it a short engagement, and get married even earlier if sexual sin is an issue (1 Cor. 7:8-9).  But practice self-control and purity even in the engagement period, because if you don’t the problem will carry over into your marriage.

Get some good biblical premarital counseling (Preparing for Marriage God’s Way by Wayne Mack would be good homework), don’t go into debt on the wedding, and live happily ever after (for the glory of God)!

(For further study I suggest reading Doug Wilson’s Her Hand in Marriage: Biblical Courtship in the Modern World and Dating with Discernment by Sam Andreades. Those books aren’t perfect, of course, but when read with discernment I think the issues they raise are important to consider.)


  1. I believe Christians should not copy the world, and in fact my wife and I submitted our relationship to the elders of our church before we married. All of our parents were against the marriage, citing the facts we were of different races and my wife was a bit older than I, but the elders believed it was of God and counseled us to wait since family was integral to marriage. We did wait, and we married with ALL our parents blessings. We are in our 38th year, and had no premarital sex with each other despite the wait, and now I am 62 and my wife looks better than most women at 40 with no wrinkles. God honored the faith in each of us and we have ministered in many ways together.

    That said, we have observed severe problems in marriages of people with no social experience or who never dated. Love is something that is learned, and non-sexual romance helps people truly find what they like and don't like. We are sticklers for purity, but each know that we truly considered alternatives and love each other out of choice, not the first good match that came down the street.

  2. Terrific thoughts, John! Thanks for contributing.