Dating in Church (or outside) – a guide for pastors and singles
Dating in Church (or outside)
– a guide for pastors and singles
This is a long read, so make yourself some tea (if you’re British) or coffee (if you’re not) and take time to read through it. These are my thoughts on singleness and dating in church done well, written some time ago in request of leaders in the field of church and relationships. I hope you enjoy reading it, please leave a response if you do!
Our society tends to undervalue singleness as well as marriage. Singleness, when done well, is honouring to God and can be a very good place to be. And when it’s wholeheartedly chosen, can be fulfilling and happy like Paul states in his famous letter to the Corinthians. But marriage is equally undervalued. If done well it can be an even happier place to be. Research shows happily married people are happier than singles who claim to be happy. The differences aren’t big, but they are there. Other research shows happily married people can cope with the stresses of life better and are generally in a better health. Our society tells us, especially in big cities, to hover between singleness and marriage. To not commit, but not be alone either. To have ‘the best of both worlds’, only to end up with nothing. Because if you’re not committing, a marriage will not be happy. And if you’re not wholeheartedly choosing singleness, singleness will not be happy. The bible challenges us to do both. To value singleness and marriage equally. To see Gods love in both ways of doing life.
In today’s churches in Great Britain, 30% of people are single, and this number is growing. Of the under 35’s the number is as high as 60%. Compared to outside church where of the total population 40% is single this means that there’s probably a percentage of singles leaving church, or that people in church are more committed to marry. Or, most likely, a bit of both. But the differences aren’t big. Single men are most underrepresented in church, on average there’s about 1 single guy to every 2 single women, and this unbalance is growing. This represents a big problem for single women hoping to marry a Christian guy. There’s not nearly enough of them in church. That doesn’t mean you cannot find them outside church, but that’s a lot trickier when you’re in the dating game. Because how can you know if you share values and faith when he’s not worshipping in a church?
Why teach on dating in church?
The other day I tweeted on ‘The problems of being single’. Immediately I got a response from a woman stating ‘I resent you use the word problems here. There is nothing wrong with being single’. ‘I couldn’t agree with you more’, I replied, ‘there’s nothing wrong with being single at all. It’s just that 98% of singles admits they’d rather be in a relationship’. And there you have the tension. There’s nothing wrong with being single, but what if you want to be in a relationship and don’t know how to get from A (being single) to B (being in a relationship)? And no one in church will tell you? Only 1 in 5 respondents of an Evangelical Alliance survey approved of the use of online dating sites. The only answer most churches seem to have to the issue of dating is to ‘pray and wait’. That’s the also message of the number one bestselling book on dating for years. But if that would be true, then being single wanting a relationship you have a real issue. A problem, if you want to call it that way.
There’s lots of myths regarding singleness and dating in church. The ‘pray and wait’-myth not least of all. In a lot of churches the answer you will get as a single person longing for a partner is to ‘just pray and wait’, and, better still, ‘to trust Gods timing, because He will provide’. But how can God provide a partner to someone who’s never meeting anyone new? Who goes to the same job day in day out, hangs out with the same friends every weekend, sits next to the same few people in church every Sunday but never goes on a date? ‘God will let the person I’m supposed to marry ring my doorbell if He needs to’, was my favourite answer to that question for a while. ‘I trust Him that much’. It sounded very holy, but was it true? Almost every night I blamed Him and complained to Him for not bringing me the love of my life yet.
One of the key problems of singleness is loneliness. 21% of single women and 16% of single men admitted to feeling lonely in a Christian Connection survey. Now this doesn’t mean loneliness is something necessarily connected to singleness. People can feel lonely in all stages of life and it is a more prevalent problem lately than it has been in previous years. We live more isolated lives. But we do know loneliness is a real issue for singles, especially when they live alone. Other issues they struggle with are sex, the desire to have children and the social pressure of dating (men mainly report this).
Now these findings are reported in an online, anonymous survey. But that is another ‘problem’ of singleness. People will not usually share their real feelings regarding missing a partner. They will say things like: ‘There are no good Christian men’, or: ‘All the good ones are taken’, or: ‘Christian women only want to talk about children on a first date’. But they will not own up to the feelings behind their anger. They will not address their loneliness, the hurt they feel inside, the feeling of being left behind, overlooked or not good enough. And as long as they are not sharing their real feelings married friends will often shrug and say: ‘He/she is just too picky, that’s why they’re single’.
In this day and age marriage seems like a risky enterprise. Divorce rates are high (though you have to be really careful which sources to trust when it comes to the real figures), and heartbreak is a massive issue most people hope to avoid at all cost. ‘It’s just easier to stay alone’, singles conclude on large scale. Except, it’s not. So they find themselves stuck in a ‘dating zone’ for years. As Lori Gottlieb writes in her book ‘The case for settling for Mr. Good enough’, some women (hardly ever men) end up in a pattern of dating someone, than breaking up because they feel something is wrong only to end up with a new partner who lacks in another department. The guys all end up married and having children, the women seem to end up childless and desperate. So yes, there is such a thing as being too picky, just as the opposite can be true. The problem however with the statement ‘you’re just too picky’ is that although it may be true, it’s seldom said in love. And truth without love doesn’t change people, it’s only truth spoken in love that has the power to help people change their behaviour. Which is one of the pillars of healthy dating, we will get back to that.
Some (especially evangelical) young couples complain they got married too quickly because they fell in love at 18, 19 or 20 and felt pressured by church or each other to get married in order to avoid ‘burning with passion’ (1Cor 7:9). They feel they haven’t had enough opportunity to develop as an individual and haven’t looked enough at their options before settling down. Now this may be true, but as we know from research on couples counselling (especially Emotionally Focussed Couples counselling), a lot can be done for people who feel stuck in their marriage, and even after a severe marriage crisis people can fall in love with each other again and end up in a better place together than before the crisis. This points to the importance of another pillar for healthy dating and healthy relationships, establishing good communication patterns from the start.
How and what to teach
Now how can these issues be resolved? Teaching about dating is starting with teaching on singleness, validating singleness and considering healthy foundations first. Successful dating is connected to living a whole and fulfilling life as a single, without ignoring your longing for a partner. Moreover, acknowledging that longing is part of healthy singleness. The longing for a partner is a God given, holy longing. Adam longed for a partner before sin entered the world and God acknowledged his feeling, stating ‘It is not good for man to be alone’ (Gen 2:18). Adam cried out to God about his loneliness, and how he missed someone beside him to help him with the challenges he faced in his life, and God listened, He created Eve while Adam was sleeping. Now it hasn’t been as easy to find a partner ever since, but this first ‘coming together’ story in the bible tells us something about the significance of a single person, longing for a marriage.
God creating Eve didn’t mean he was devaluating Adam as a single person. It didn’t mean Adam wasn’t complete in his own being. It did mean Adam could use a helpmate, someone who he could connect to. ‘Why do you stress the value of being single so much?’ a participant of a train the trainer event I did asked me last week, ‘it sounds almost defensive the way you keep repeating that there’s nothing wrong with singleness?’ ‘You are right’, I answered. ‘It does sound defensive. But the thing is, if you don’t start with validating singleness you will have lost the attention of half of your audience, the single women, before you’ve even started on dating. They need to hear this. They crave to hear this. Because most of them have felt inferior for their entire single lives. Like they are not able to secure a husband, like they failed at being married and having children before 35. They feel they are on the bottom of the church hierarchy. So your first job is to validate them in their current state as complete individuals, with a holy longing’.
Healthy dating starts with healthy singleness. It starts with laying the right foundations for dating. Next is the dating ‘game’ itself, and finally we get to building healthy relationships from the start. Practically this can be a three day course spread out over weeks, days, or squeezed into one day as I currently do. It can be taught in a big group or in a small group, either allowing less or more interaction. Leaving some space between the sessions seem to help with the impact, as do practical assignments to help people think about their own point of view regarding the issues mentioned.
1. Dating done well: the basics
Consider this: how many people have you met last week that were: a) new to you, b) in roughly your own age category, c) single and d) of whom you have enough contact information to follow through on your meeting. None last week? Last month maybe? Last year? Now suppose you are single and over 25 and would like to meet someone. How hard is it to spontaneously meet someone new? For most people that is very hard. Most people over 25 have settled down at least a bit, found themselves a house beyond student housing, secured a job hopefully and have a circle of friends that is more or less fixed. Because that’s a healthy thing to do when you are over 25. Some people postpone these decisions until 30, or even 40, but that doesn’t make them easier. It usually makes them much harder. So people who settle down around the age of 25, whether single or married, do a sensible thing.
But… if you want to be married and you are single, over 25 and settled down like this, chances are you have to make an effort to meet new people. Especially single people that you’d like to date. Compare it with finding a job or a house. If you want one, you go on a hunt. You first figure out what you want, what sort of job, or what size of house, in what area, for what budget or salary, and then you make known you are available. You put in an offer on a house you like, you send your resume to employers that seem interesting. There is a process involved on how to get from a to b.
For dating this process is somewhat similar. You first figure out what you want or think you need. Usually I let participants to my course draft a list of requirements in a partner. Some people hardly can come up with a list and they need some help drafting it. But most people have a list that’s way too long. They have to be challenged to narrow their list down to 5 character traits (in other words: colour of hair and type of shoes should not be on the list). It helps to define what you’re looking for, what is really important to you as a person. Falling in love is not a requirement. It can be nice and helpful in the process, but people often fall in love for the wrong reasons.
Singles over 25 usually fall in to either one of two categories: 1. They have dates, but the wrong ones, with the wrong types or they have divorced and want to get back into the dating game but haven’t fixed their issues with finding safe people yet; 2. They don’t have dates. The second category is easier to help than the first, but both can be helped.
People in the first category often have issues with falling in love. They overvalue feelings and underestimate the power of choosing well. They are going for a ‘click’ or ‘connection’ they feel, ‘within 5 seconds’ as they will usually tell you. They have an idea about relationships that’s based on a fixed mindset. Relationships should be chosen, and cannot grow. That’s actually not true. Married people usually have a growth mindset, especially the happily married people. As Tim Keller says in his brilliant book ‘The Meaning of Marriage’, ‘when you first fall in love, you think you love the person, but you don’t really. You can’t know the person right away. That takes years. You actually love the idea of the person – and that is always, at first, one-dimensional and somewhat mistaken’ (p. 94). So the first category needs help understanding that relationships are grown, not made. That infatuation may be nice, but that real love is a feeling that grows over years of getting to know the other person, not how they make you feel, but how they are. They need help understanding their own perfectionism and how to deal with it. Because as Keller says: ‘Perfectionism can have far less room in a relationship than in the single life’ (p.41).
The second group, the ones who don’t date, mainly seem to suffer from fear. Fear of making the wrong choices, fear of mistakes, and fear of being rejected when getting out there. They mainly need help understanding how (un)realistic their fears are and how those fears are keeping them from what they really want: to be in an intimate relationship. This is scary enough in and of itself. I was part of that second group for years until I discovered Christian psychologist Henry Clouds book ‘How to get a date worth keeping’. It changed my life. I went from zero dates in three years at age 28 to 60 dates in the two years thereafter. Not an amount of dating I would necessarily recommend to everyone, but it has taught me so much in addition to my training as a psychologist and couples counsellor on dating and on life. It has helped me understand the process so much better and it has opened my mind to a lot of types of men.
So healthy dating starts with being connected to God, to yourself and to your community. In my book Dare to Date I explain much more about these connections, but let me stick to the key points here. Being rooted in Christ and in His love for us is the best thing we can do, single or married. God as source of love takes the pressure of other people as sources of love. If I look to God first to feel loved, than to myself and my community, I’m less dependent on other singles to find love. It takes the pressure of dating.
Now loving God, yourself and your community are highly connected. I believe God gives us people around us to make His love for us visible and tangible. God cannot hug me. My friends can. I cannot hug myself, my family can. We need people around us to feel loved. We need to have real connections with the people around us to be rooted and fuelled in love and connection. But also to develop and to grow. I cannot grow if I don’t ask for input from other people, if I don’t allow them to speak truth (in love!) over my life. Being in a marriage or a relationship means you automatically have this input. Being single means you have to actively look for this input by inviting people into your journey.
One of the key concepts of the Dare to Date course and of Cloud’s book How to get a date worth keeping is to organize a team of people around you when dating. This team can consist of married or single friends, family members, your pastor, your counsellor and can be as structured or unstructured as you wish. I’ve heard of WhattsApp groups started for teams and of teams coming together every week to discuss progress and of every form in between. The point is that you share your journey. Once you’ve decided to go dating and actively looking for a partner it helps to have this little group of people who love you enough to tell you the truth about your behaviour or mindset. They will help you protect your boundaries and make the right choices when it comes to dating. They will be your accountability partners in times when you find it hard to connect, or want to quit, or getting into a relationship too crazy, too fast. They will keep you grounded and real.
2. Every marriage starts with a first date
So once you’ve found yourself rooted in God, connected to yourself and accountable to your team you can start dating. Let the fun begin! This is another important part of the dating journey if done well. ‘Dating is not about marriage’, is Henry Cloud’s mantra in How to get a date worth keeping. ‘Dare to date’ is the title of my own book. There is another tension here. Dating can be scary, yet you have to find ways to take the pressure off. Christian singles tend to take dating far too seriously. They tend to think they have to decide whether or not to marry someone right away. But as the previously quoted Keller passage says rightly: it can take years to really get to know a person.
This is the process: somewhere between three dates and three years you have to figure out whether or not to marry this person. But that is the process that is called ‘a Relationship’. That is NOT the process called ‘Dating’. Dating is about getting to know the other person well enough to establish whether or not you would want to be in such a relationship with this person. So dating is NOT any form of physical contact other than shaking hands to get to know each other. Dating is not about establishing how many children you want together. Dating is not about figuring out if you are soul mates. Dating is just getting to know the other person, over coffee, in a zoo, on a walk at the beach. Not at their or your home. Not over a fancy three+ course dinner. Someone asked me last week in a seminar: ‘So how much is too much to spend on a first date, 300 pounds?’ You are in a lot of trouble if that’s your perspective on dating. If you think impressing is the goal, or showing how well off you are financially you have to go back to step 1, Foundations, and get more connected to God and yourself and your team. Dating is low key getting to know each other.
Think back on how your closest friendships began. Did you intentionally get to know the other person fully on your first encounter? Or did you have a good time together and think: ‘Wow, this person is fun, I’d like to spend another coffee date with him/her’. Probably the latter. That’s what dating is, deciding on whether or not you want to see this person a second time. And than a third time.
Now I’ve heard all varieties of dating you can think of. I know a lovely couple, married for almost seven years now, who both came out of another relationship that was quite turbulent. They needed a year of low key dating, meeting once or twice a month, to recover from previous experiences and get to know each other slowly. After that year they were ready to commit to a relationship. I know another couple that met three times in one week for hours on end and decided to call each other boyfriend and girlfriend at the end of that week, getting married a year later. Both couples are happy with how they started out together. There is no fixed recipe for dating.
But somewhere in between those three dates and a year of going out you should be able to determine whether or not you want to be in a relationship with this person. I’ve also heard too many stories of women or men being stringed along for a year or a few years without any decision on the part of the person they were dating. You shouldn’t be endlessly waiting for someone to make up their mind and put the rest of your dating life on hold. Dating doesn’t necessarily need to be exclusive in this stage. Especially when you are dating someone who is very uncommitted, don’t feel obliged to hang around for months or years until they’ve made up their mind. Find someone else.
A single lady told me this morning about a guy she was interested in for years. Everyone and their mum seemed to think they were a right fit, but the guy never made a clear move. She decided to end things, to stop seeing him and he acted surprised! He wanted to be in touch, but he still didn’t want to commit to anything. This left her feeling confused and hurt all over again. She had to make her boundaries clear in the nicest possible way, by saying: ‘I like you. But I can only be in a relationship with you, I don’t want to be friends’. When she did he backed away. She had a hard time for three months, and then she started dating someone else with whom she is now in a relationship.
All that to say: be clear, kind and honest when dating. This goes for both parties. Be clear when you do want to proceed dating, be clear when you don’t. Be honest about your intentions, at the risk of being rejected or laughed at. Be honest when you don’t know how to proceed. On my third date with my now husband this is what I told him when he said he wanted to pursue a relationship with me. ‘I don’t want to not be with you. I’m sorry, that is all I’ve got’. Thankfully that was enough for him and he allowed me space in the first three months of our relationship to figure out what I was feeling and thinking. There can be good reasons you are confused about where things are going, or how you feel about someone, but as long as you openly communicate about these feelings and allow the other person to establish their boundaries, a lot is possible.
Now my husband’s response was kind, gracious and generous and showed how securely rooted he was in God, himself and his team. That is not necessarily the case for everyone. Someone else might have said: ‘That is not good enough for me. I need you to be in or out, not somewhere in between’. That’s their boundaries being communicated, and that is also a good thing. Again, there is no protocol, no one way of doing things right. There’s just two people figuring out if and how they match.
Dating a second or third time around after divorce or losing your partner is in many ways a similar process. It depends on how happy your first marriage was. In general people find it easier to recover from losing a happy marriage than a very unhappy marriage. And in general men find it easier to remarry soon than women do. In one of the workshops I was teaching a gentlemen came up to me saying: ‘I’m 73 and a widower. Should I date?’ ‘It’s up to you’, I said. ‘Do you want a new partner?’ ‘Yes’, he said, ‘very much so, but I’m afraid I will not do my new partner justice because I also still love my late wife’. ‘You’re blessed to have had a happy marriage’, was my reply, ‘but I don’t think you are replacing your wife when you start dating again. You can have space both for mourning the loss of your beloved wife and for a new partner in your life, as long as that’s ok with your new partner’.
Now divorced people have a bit more work to do before they start dating generally. They have to consider their own part in the divorce and check if their ‘people picker’ is fixed. A woman who was recently divorced asked me ‘Why do all Christian men want sex on a first date? They do, they all do’, she said convincingly. ‘Do you have a type?’ I asked her. ‘No…’, she said, ‘they just shouldn’t be boring’. She was in her late 40’s, beginning 50’s. ‘Do you find Christian men in general boring?’ I asked. ‘Why yes!’ She said, ‘they are!’. Then I get that you only find the ones who want sex on a first date. What you classify as ‘not boring’ is probably ‘not boundaried’ and may have something to do with your first husband. Did he have boundary issues?’ ‘He abused me’, she said. There you go. Hence the importance of a team, and, in this case, probably a counsellor. People have a blind spot for the patterns they are in. They need an outsiders perspective to point out they are getting themselves in trouble. This lady needed to learn how to tell the good men from the bad and how to set boundaries and recognize boundaries. She had work to do.
There’s a reason why sex shouldn’t have a place in dating (or beginning relationships). Physical intimacy blurs emotions. It makes people feel feelings that do not necessarily have to do with the other person. It makes them talk about ‘love’ where ‘lust’ is a more appropriate term. ‘Call me old-fashioned, but I believe singles shouldn’t have sex’, I always say, ‘equally, married people should have sex’, I always add. That makes singles laugh, but the point is to put things into perspective. ‘Eyes on the prize’, I say, ‘it’s a long term vision’. Not having sex now means a better relationship later and hopefully and quite possibly better sex later too.
So dating is a means to an end. ‘You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince’, the saying goes, although kissing, as may be clear, is not to be meant literal here. The goal is though, to de-stigmatize dating and make it a viable option for Christian single people, a road to get from A to B that should be travelled, not avoided because of possible car crashes and other dangers. If you want fewer car crashes you have to better educate drivers and set clearer boundaries as in speed limits and road marks. If you want less dating misery you shouldn’t forbid dating but teach how to do it the right way with the right boundaries.
Dealing with rejection is another hot topic here. Important to me is that people don’t avoid dating out of fear of rejection. Rejection is part of the process! And it should be. If you never reject it probably means you’re either not dating or you married your high school sweetheart and are not part of a dating course. There’s nothing wrong with rejection. It’s just a way of saying ‘we don’t fit’. Churches should also destigmatize breaking up, because it’s part of the process of finding a relationship for a lot of people. Breaking up is a real possibility, but should be done with caution, grace and kindness.
3. Beyond those first dates
If you’re not rejecting the person you date, the beginning of a relationship marks the end of the dating stage, just as starting to date could mark the end of singleness (even though a lot of times it doesn’t). This is not a point of no return, a wedding is (or should be). Entering a relationship however is a commitment made to decide whether or not to marry. It means getting to know each other better within the safety of a relationship, so you know you don’t have to compete with other potential partners when getting to know each other better. It also means having fun together! Friends of mine had endless discussions about the state of their relationship. ‘It’s just not fun’, she complained one day. ‘We have to talk so much’. ‘Don’t you forget you’re also still dating?’ I asked her, ‘as in, doing fun things you both enjoy so that you can have a laugh together?’
Sometimes single people are so fearful of intimacy, especially when they have been single for a long time and have a hard time choosing, they need to take a relationship month by month as it comes. I was treating a client who was extremely anxious. She had found a guy she really liked, but she was so afraid of hurting him or getting hurt herself that she didn’t want to enter into the relationship stage with him. But he refused to date her any longer, wanting to make matters more clear between them, so he asked for a relationship. ‘What should I do?’ she asked me, with panic in her eyes. The fear was real! ‘What are you most afraid of’, I asked her. ‘In your mind, how do you picture your fears? If they were monsters, how would you describe them?’ ‘Oh they are monsters’, she immediately replied, ‘big, blue monsters, hovering over me, suffocating me with their presence’. ‘Okay, I said, can you name them?’ ‘Oh yes’, she said, ‘One is perfectionism and the other is fear of losing myself’.
Often people with real issues committing find themselves trapped between wanting to commit and wanting to be free. They feel they will lose themselves when committing. They crave the intimacy and long for the safety of a relationship, yet they hesitate because of their fear of losing themselves and the perfect image they have of themselves. Being intimate with another person means owning up to those fears. This can be a real struggle for months. My client decided to give the relationship a go for three months. Thankfully at the end of these three months her partner demanded of her to commit in such an inviting way that she found herself able to manage her fears yet to choose him and the relationship. This is not always the case. Sometimes single people can shy away from commitment only to find their fears confirmed and lose themselves in loneliness rather than commitment. You cannot force attachment. It needs to be nurtured to grow, just like a baby does or a tiny plant. You cannot will it big and strong, it needs time.
Others dive in too fast. They marry within three months saying ‘God has called us to do so’, therefore putting all responsibility on God and not taking any of it themselves. What happens when things go wrong? Who will be to blame? And things will go wrong. Maybe not irreparably so, but trouble is bound to happen when people marry while still in a state of being in love, not having reached real intimacy, real knowing each other yet. It may take a while but at some point they start struggling over housekeeping issues or sleepless nights with the baby. And when they haven’t established a healthy communication pattern yet, the impact of these struggles will be bigger than when they have learned in their relationship and engagement to talk things through.
Often church leaders are people who married young. And the longer we are married, the more beautiful our story of getting together seems to become. This is a phenomenon linked to how our memories work. People will say ‘It was love at first sight’, when actually it was like that for only one of them. Or it was in this case but they’ve had dates with people with whom they’ve experienced the same over and over again, only to find that this relationship was the one that lasted. They leave that bit of information out because it’s not relevant to them anymore. But it is very relevant to singles! This is what distorts their perception of love and how it’s supposed to begin, stories that only cover part of the truth. This is how church leaders can help single people: by sharing their doubts about their relationships, the ups and the downs, the highs and the lows. The real struggles of the beginning, the things to figure out and how marriage is a never ending journey in this life. How you continually grow together. The real stories about real relationships will help single people discover their own adventures in dating and relationship and will help them cope with the struggles they face in the process.
So there’s two ways to go from being in a relationship: moving towards engagement and marriage or breaking up. To start with the latter, even breaking up can be done well. ‘Thank you for breaking up with me in such a positive way’, a friend of mine told me a few years ago, ‘for it helped me to marry’. What he meant was: breaking up in a way that was not blaming or victimizing, but in a way that was honest and kind helped him to not feel defeated for long but to pick up the dating adventure again and meet his current wife, knowing that what lacked in our match he did find with her. This is what rejection means in dating: ‘You and I, for reasons I can name and reasons I cannot name, don’t fit good enough to proceed’. Just like you can find three jobs equally fitting your profile only to accept the one that really feels like ‘you’. That doesn’t mean the other jobs are lousy or horrible, it just means they’re not for you.
Moving towards engagement is the other way of ‘ending’ the relationship, or at least this phase of it. ‘How do I know when to marry this person?’ people ask me all the time. ‘You don’t’, is my honest answer. You can have enough information to go on deciding whether or not you dare to take the plunge, but a plunge marriage is and always will be to a certain extent. And then it’s a matter of starting to swim. Don’t expect marriage to be a warm bath you can just sink into, it’s more a fast flowing stream with peaceful places and rough patches, but swim you have to stay afloat. And that’s a good thing. It means you are alive and your marriage is alive. ‘Standing still is going backwards’, the saying goes. Don’t be afraid of turbulence, it’s part of the journey. But marriage could very well be one of the greatest adventures in life we can embark on!
What to remember from this article?
Teaching on dating:
- is necessary but should start with validating singleness;
- can be divided into three sections: foundations, dating (as in going out) and relationships (between going out and engagement);
- should revolve around connectedness to God, yourself and your community;
- involves the following core attitude: to be clear, kind and honest;
How to encourage and involve single people who want to be dating:
- provide teaching events (or outsource those by hiring any of the people/organizations listed below);
- provide meeting events for singles over 25;
- provide community gatherings that involve single people as much as families or couples;
- use examples of single peoples’ lives in sermons and teaching;
- be honest and clear about the struggles of marriage and relationships without ignoring the blessings of marriage.
- Dare to Date – Aukelien van Abbema. SPCK publishing, UK 2017.
- The Dating Dilemma – Andre Adefope and Rachel Gardner. IVP, UK 2015.
- Meaning of Marriage – Tim Keller, USA 2011.
- How to get a date worth keeping – Henry Cloud. Zondervan, USA 2005.
- vanabbema.co.uk – My website as counsellor and speaker on Dating and relationships. More information on how to host a Dare to Date course in your church or community and upcoming speaking events as well as past speaking events audio recordings.
- christianconnection.com – Online dating site with weekly blog full of dating- and relationships advice.
- engage-mcmp.org.uk – Resources on singleness, dating and relationships within the UK.
- nothinghidden.com/single-life-workshop/ – Bethel’s Single life workshop, an extensive three day workshop on singleness and dating.
- ntrelationships.com – author of ‘The relationship dilemma’ Andre Adefope’s website full of relationship and dating advice. Aiming mostly at the online community. Andre is also available as a speaker on all matters single and dating.
- singlefriendlychurch.com – Resources on singles in church and statistics and what singles need from churches. Speakers can also be invited to come to your church.
 Singlefriendly Church
 How is the family – Evangelical Alliance
 Henry Cloud’s term in ‘How to get a date worth keeping’