How Should Christians Date?

Why it's time to simplify the puzzle of Christian romance.

A wise man once told me that there were only two outcomes for dating relationships: getting married or breaking up. “The secret,” he said, “is knowing how to handle a dating relationship so you know if the other person is worth marrying or he or she is honored in the breakup.”

Unfortunately, it seems like many young singles struggle to figure out just how to handle dating–and I’m not the only one who’s noticed how weird the Christian dating scene can be. As my friend Lindsey, married and in her thirties, recently remarked, “I’m sure glad I wasn’t much of a Christian when I started dating my husband!”

What if Christians just began to date like normal people—not dating toward immediate marriage and not “hanging out” in no man’s land?

Whether over coffee in my kitchen or on the hallowed ground of women’s small groups, I hear these murmurs constantly. “My daughter was interested in this nice Christian boy, but he strung her along for a year and a half. The next one did too.” Or, “Jeremy acted like they were friends but she told me later that they were hooking up on the side.” With that kind of dismal dating culture at play, let’s consider the options:

First, there’s “Duggar Dating.” Duggar dating is the modern-day form of arranged marriages. I don’t have first-hand knowledge, but thanks to reality TV, I believe it appears to involve asking the woman’s dad if she is available to date, and possibly not kissing until the actual wedding.

Outside the Duggar-verse, there is the less overt but just as prevalent “ideal spouse” dating. This involves judging a potential guy or girl for the 38 qualities you are looking for in an ideal mate—before even grabbing coffee together. It’s like arranged marriages where no one is making the arrangements, and it doesn’t seem to work very well.

At the opposite extreme, there is “Faux Christian Dating”—in which young Christians have no idea what to do with dating, so they avoid it. Instead of dating, lots of “hanging out” occurs. “Hanging out” leads to all kinds of mixed feelings. Does he like me? Is she flirting? What does this text mean? Why did he sit next to me at church? Did she want my sweatshirt because she was cold, or because she likes me?

Sometimes the “hanging out” leads to hooking up, sans dating, which is another uber-confusing side effect of the Faux Christian Dating cycle.

But what if there was another option? What if Christians just began to date like normal people—not dating toward immediate marriage and not eschewing dating for the less-desirable “hanging out” no man’s land? Here’s what I think it would require:

1) Date Indiscriminately

Stop evaluating whether the guy who’s taken an interest in you is strong and tenderhearted enough to raise your future kids. Stop evaluating whether the new girl at church is hot enough and “low-maintenance” enough for your liking.

The great thing about changing expectations is that it lowers the pressure on grabbing dinner together and figuring out if the two of you even like talking to one another!

If you take notice, if you are intrigued or interested, make a date! Get together—one on one. We are talking about one afternoon or evening together, not a lifetime. And unless someone’s making arrangements for you, it’s worth spending at least a little bit of time with the person before you decide if they are worth marrying.

2) Date Casually

Not every date needs to be a total success. But it’s foolish to think that the way a girl or guy acts in a group of friends is the same as how they’ll act one on one. Dating helps two people sort out what it would be like to be together, to be in a friendship. Most of marriage involves time together, one on one, in a friendship. And spending intentional one-on-one time—not too serious, just time—allows both parties to experience what it would be like to continue in the relationship.

I can’t say it clearly enough: Hanging out in groups will not be enough information to determine who is worth marrying. Everyone is different when you get them one-on-one.

3) Date Often

When we were still in college, my husband had 38 first job interviews before he landed a second one. He was horrible at interviews, but by the 38th one, he had learned how to engage with good questions, talk about himself an appropriate amount and gauge interest from himself and the interviewer. He didn’t get necessarily smarter–he got more experienced. Dating can be like that too. Sometimes we all need a little practice with figuring out what we really want–not in terms of our “ideal spouse” but a real flesh-and-blood human.

4) Date Toward Interest, Not Toward Marriage

“Do you think Christian girls make dating too serious?” I asked several guys recently. “I need a buffer of at least five dates before I’m thinking of any future at all!” said one young man.

What if you completely jettison the idea of finding your husband or wife via dating, at least for the first five dates? What if dating is about getting to know someone and gauging interest, not lifelong compatibility?

The great thing about changing expectations is that it lowers the pressure on grabbing dinner together and figuring out if the two of you even like talking to one another!

Of course, one of the biggest obstacles toward casual dating is the inevitable “ending.” So many of us equate kindness with never saying anything hard to anyone. In truth, kindness is not about passivity. Kindness is honoring someone in your treatment of them, but kindness is also honoring them by ending a dating relationship if needed.

If you’ve maintained boundaries and treated your date with respect, you’ve protected him or her from false and premature intimacy. Will it be awkward? Sure, it will! But the purpose of dating isn’t to just accumulate boyfriends or girlfriends—it’s to find a best friend and partner for life. And when you find him or her, chances are, none of those other guys or gals you’ve casually dated will matter much in the light of your spouse.

The reality is that you can’t have it all. You can’t have the attention of multiple dates and still be pursuing a God-honoring relationship with one. You can’t maintain 10 flirty friendships and expect to make space in your heart for one awesome husband or wife. But you can start somewhere—slowly, and casually—and trust God to lead you into more.

Top Comments

Tyler Hernandez


Tyler Hernandez commented…

yeah...this article is full of bad advice. "What if Christian's dated like normal people?" If our first goal in figuring out how christian's should date is to live like "normal people" we have already failed. Normal people don't follow men who tell them to hate their family, carry an ancient execution torture device dying daily, eat his flesh and drink his blood. And I don't care when the topic of marriage comes up, (the fifth date or fiftieth) dating is always wrapped up in the prospects of marriage at some level. If you are certain that a person is not marriage material then you shouldn't be dating them. If you are uncomfortable with being married a year from now then you shouldn't be dating anyone. Dating casually? I couldn't disagree more, let's date intentionally. Dating like normal people? (First of all what does 'normal people' even mean except non-believers.) Let's date in a way that exemplifies Christ.

Chibueze Ngozi


Chibueze Ngozi commented…

It would be useful to see a scriptural basis for perspective is that dating is essentially an evaluation of a life partner by the use of our senses. Sense is is a wrong tool for such a spiritual institution as Marriage. But then, my comment is largely for the consideration of the Christian who strives to be led by the spirit of God. Only by exposing ourselves constantly to the transformational experience of God's culture are we able to identify a suitable partner within the will of God. We should not conform to this world....nor its lifestyle patterns, indeed a modification of a godless culture, does not make it less sin before God.




Harvey commented…

I found this article to be very refreshing. I am a 35 year old single pastor and I have noticed that the church does not do a very good job at helping singles learn how to 1) have healthy friendships with the opposite sex, and 2) create place where Christian singles can get together and meet other like minded Christian singles.

Growing up I was taught that boys and girls could not have friendships because they might stumble and what I have learned is that most issues in marriage stem from the husband and wife not knowing how to have a healthy friendship between the two of them where sex isn't in the center of the relationship but is an outflow of the healthy friendship between the two of them.

I have also found that the church tends to send mixed messages when it comes to Christian singles... The church tells Christians singles that its good for you to be single until God brings the right one, you are whole, you are ready to be used by God in you singleness... BUT then the singles ministries are focused on becoming a better version of yourself and preparing yourself for marriage which leans towards an unspoken assumption that says, "I'm sorry your single, your still technically at the big kids table"...

The mixed messages include having a singles ministry but then having a rule that their is no dating allowed and if you are found to be dating we will ask you to leave!

So its great we have articles about how Christians should date, BUT what about articles that help Christians know where to go to find dates?

I believe singleness in the church is a bigger need to consider since 1/3 of the American population in the USA is single with no intent to marry or cohabitate.

Until we in the church develop a theology of singleness, We can't ever expect to fully be a voice in our culture!

Cuddle Cards


Cuddle Cards commented…

In my experience, cuddling is a way to be intimate on a date without crossing certain boundaries. This site illustrates fun positions:

Matt Atwell


Matt Atwell commented…

I know that this is a complicated issue, but seriously how can we teach anything without using Scripture? Dating isn't in the Bible because it didn't exist by the way we define it today. We need to be careful to teach proper definitions. If we are defining dating as "getting to know someone" then that's fine, but romantic dating with a focus on intimacy is not a proper relationship for a Christian before marriage. 2 Timothy 2:22 says, "Flee from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." Taking dating lightly and being very casual with the subject is not fleeing from youthful passions. I dated my wife. We went out together alone. God protected us, but we made mistakes that we wouldn't have made if I had realized how serious this subject actually is. What we don't need is a lighter view of the subject. What we need is a biblical view of the subject. It is easy to read other people's opinions and get all excited because we like what they say, but people have no authority. God's Word has the authority, and even if it doesn't talk specifically about dating, then we should take notice of that and seek to learn everything we can to help us develop a proper theology of dating, because it most certainly is not a casual topic.

sarah George


sarah George commented…

I don't think a christian wrote this. THis is full of horrible advice and i'm 90% sure this is the article that my friend read to validate her dating a non christian which became an abusive relationship because she always rebuffed me with this harmful rhetoric

Valeria Diego


Valeria Diego commented…

My case is different for i know what Doctor Ehimen did for me this 2017. I was heart broken by my husband because i discovered that he has been cheating on me with his mistress and he filled a divorce on me December last year and i was confused and helpless on what to do. I searched for help around from spiritual helpers but all was to no avail not until i was referred to Doctor Ehimen by a co-worker who told me that he can help me out on my situation. I contacted him and explained to him what am passing through and he said to me that my case is different that if others are complaining about their marriages that mine will be different because i will keep on rejoicing about my marriage as far i have made contact with him. I did all what he told me to do and my husband came back to me within 12 to 16 hours and cancelled the divorce case and we are living in peace and harmony again. You can contact the Doctor via his E-mail at ( ) or visit his website for more info. Valeria Diego from Mexico.

Please log in or register to comment

Log In