By asking the question, “Why don’t churches talk more about dating?” we’re making an implicit assumption: churches don’t talk a lot about dating.
To be honest, I don’t know if that’s true. There’s no objective criteria or method for evaluating how dating is discussed in every church on the planet.
But I do think it’s how a lot of people who are dating feel. Friends have told me they wish churches talked more about dating — or at least provided more resources.
Regardless of how we feel, though, the more complicated question is, Should churches talk a lot about dating?
I want to approach this issue from both sides. I believe there’s a tremendous opportunity to engage people with the gospel around the topic of dating. But I also believe we are often blind to topics that don’t immediately apply to our current circumstances.
So, the first reason why I think churches don’t talk more about dating is…
Dating is a small chunk of most people’s lives.
When you think about it, there are five main relationship situations that people are in throughout their lives: single, dating, married, divorced or widowed.
All people are single at some point in their lives, and those with the gift of celibacy are single their entire lives. Some people are married for 30, 40, 50 or more years.
On the other hand, dating relationships typically last from a few months to a few years. While people may be in different dating relationships over the span of several years, the season of dating usually lasts nowhere near as long as other life stages.
So if we’re thinking simply in terms of duration, it makes sense that churches don’t devote a ton of time to talking about dating. It also means that at any given point, a multigenerational church will likely have more people who are single or married than dating.
Arguably, people who are divorced or widowed don’t receive much attention in churches, either, unless there’s a specific group to support them.
However, dating is a very important chunk of people’s lives.
I don’t mean to minimize other life stages — it’s important that we talk about those, too. But dating is unique from the others in that it’s always a transition stage.
Dating is marked by constant change. It is an uncertain and emotionally tumultuous time due to the nature of falling in love and the fact that you’re making significant life decisions. It’s also a beautiful, delightful time for the very same reasons.
Whenever major decisions need to be made and emotions are high, we need to gulp down wisdom and be refreshed in our joy in the Lord. We need to be reminded that God can be trusted no matter what happens.
And who can convey wisdom from experience, encouragement from the Lord, and support from togetherness better than the church? It’s important that the church talks about dating because dating is not something that should be done alone.
Girlfriends and boyfriends need believing friends of all ages to speak truth and hope into their lives, putting together the pieces of how the gospel applies to dating.
Dating is very cultural.
And yet, there’s a problem. Dating is not something discussed in the Bible. Unlike marriage, dating was not established by God (Genesis 2:24). It was created by humans.
As a cultural phenomenon, dating is also a very recent development. We often forget that arranged marriages were the status quo until the 1700s at the earliest — and arranged marriage is still considered the norm in many countries today.
This means that there’s not a lot of history within the church to address the topic of dating. And if you talked with people in your church who are 80 or 90 years old, you’d find that dating norms have changed significantly even in the last century.
It’s difficult for churches to talk about dating because dating takes so many shapes and forms, and there’s not one right way to do it.
But cultural practices still require Biblical understanding.
Just because something isn’t mentioned in the Bible does not mean we should not talk about it.
2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” If we are seeking righteousness out of a heart changed by Christ, we can turn to the Bible for guidance in all things, including dating.
You could argue that cultural practices like dating require even more discussion in churches because they’re not spelled out explicitly in the Bible. And since dating is a transition stage filled with decisions, a lot of Biblical wisdom is needed.
Furthermore, as a young person, I find that I often struggle to disentangle my cultural context from my interpretation of the Bible. Young people (who are often the ones dating, but not always) can actually benefit a lot from hearing how believers of different generations and cultures lived out Biblical principles in different ways than them. It helps us identify what is truly from God and what is an expectation we’ve pulled from our culture.
Finally, dating advice often turns into unwarranted rules.
This is the one that causes me to pause and pray for God’s help.
There have been some notable Christian authors who have written detailed books about dating. Years later, people who followed their advice revealed that the books had actually caused a lot of damage in their lives. One author renounced his writing, his marriage and even his Christian faith.
What happened? Whether intentionally or unintentionally, the authors hinted at universal rules and guarantees about dating that were not actually universal or backed up by the Bible.
Because dating is so uncertain, it’s easy to make rules like, “Never kiss before you’re married.” Rules like these are dangerously comforting because they give you a false sense of righteousness when you follow them. They eliminate the guesswork — or rather, the necessary work of learning to discern God’s will (Romans 12:2).
I think sometimes churches hesitate to talk about dating because they are afraid that their teaching will be interpreted as rules. This is a legitimate concern. But because dating is a significant chunk of people’s lives and it requires Biblical understanding, we still need to talk about it.
Dating advice doesn’t have to be about rules.
Despite these risks, I believe it’s possible to give advice about dating that’s not just a bunch of rules.
As I write about dating, I pray that God prevents me from becoming like the Pharisees, who “tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders.” (Matthew 23:4). I must ask, “Will this advice lead people into freedom or bondage?”
Because freedom is what helps us differentiate between human rules and wisdom from God. It is “for freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1) and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17).
Following human rules does not set us free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). Only Jesus Christ can give true freedom from the pride of following the rules, the fear of messing them up, and the slavery they both bring.
And so yes, the church could talk more about dating because what people who are dating need to hear is Christ. They need the gospel applied to dating, and the church already knows how to share that message.
Where To Find Resources for Christian Dating
If you’re dating right now, you may think, “This is great, but where can I turn for advice right now?”
First, you can turn to individual believers in your local church who are dating or married. You may never hear a sermon on dating, but you can have a conversation with someone who’s been where you are now.
You can also read gospel-centered articles and books about dating. Here are a few places where you can find resources for Christian dating:
- Dating & Singleness resources from Desiring God ministries
- Dating resources from The Gospel Coalition
- Dating resources from Boundless (Focus on the Family)
- Not Yet Married by Marshall Segal
There Will Never Be A Perfect Resource
Finally, I think it’s worth noting that perhaps the hunger for Christian dating resources is insatiable.
When I was dating my husband, I found many articles that provided wisdom and encouragement. Yet I never found what I was really searching for — someone who could tell me exactly what to do and promise me it would all work out.
But you will never find the perfect, comprehensive resource for dating. While the fundamental ingredients in the recipe for God-glorifying romance remain constant, each relationship is a beautiful variation.
Perhaps we should spend less time searching for the perfect resource that doesn’t exist and more for the perfect God who does. The God who says, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)