Why doesn’t the church facilitate dating?

RELATIONSHIP QUESTIONS (#16 in a series)
To access previous posts in the series, use the “Relationship Questions” link under “Categories” and the “Older Posts” button.

Why doesn’t the church do more to facilitate dating among single Christians?

Frankly, when I first received this question, my immediate thought was, “Are you sure that’s what you want?”

I’m reminded of the question I addressed earlier in this series: “Why is it so hard being single in the church?” Given such challenges and concerns, I wouldn’t want a local congregation to start facilitating dating relationships until they got their theology of marriage and community straight. The goal should not be to get people paired off so they seem normal and we know what to do with them. (That would not, of course, be the stated goal of the ministry; the official language would probably say something about “fellowship.”) Any ministry that begins from such unstated, underlying assumptions is in danger of turning into a meat market.

So let me reframe the question to get at what I think is the more basic problem: “Why doesn’t the church provide safe, welcoming spaces for people to really get to know one another, in the context of a common commitment to grow in our relationship with Christ?”

One of the reasons online dating services have proliferated is because it seems to be getting harder and harder to meet people. I recall the story of the couple who had to meet through eHarmony, even though they lived in the same apartment building and could see each other from their living room windows. People shuttle back and forth from home to work to home, closing the door on their private spaces and distracting themselves until it’s time for bed. Wake up, repeat.

Against that background, the church may seem like an ideal place — for some, perhaps the only place — to safely meet new people. I get it. And certainly, the potential is there. Indeed, you may know happy couples who would proudly say, “We met at church!” as they gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes.

But we need to go carefully here. Would that happy couple represent a “success story” for how we understand the ministry of the local church? Or are we about something else?

What does it mean for the church to be the church? What are the implications for how we should live as a community, as one body in Christ? How do these commitments interact with the unstated cultural assumptions above love and romance, dating and marriage, that we bring into our congregations? Many of us are already used to highly privatized lifestyles. Would church-based dating assistance merely reproduce this, pairing people off to go and found their own little private domestic unit?

I would be more in favor of ministries that foster deeper relationships between a diverse array of believers without the burden of romantic expectations. No one in the body of Christ, after all, should be alone and unknown. Building authentic community should be part of our mandate.

And if in that context you happen to meet someone who becomes even more special to you, that’s great.

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