I just wrote a piece for Boundless entitled “21st-Century Love” that is my attempt at helping singles who want to get married find their way to the altar. I propose a system called “dateship” which is 1/4 cup dating and 3/4 cup courtship.
Here are the first two steps of what “dateship” can look like:
Step One: Interested Friendship. Men and women go on dates in a low-key, low-pressure way, but with accountability to others. This isn’t secular dating — if anyone does that anymore — but is instead a wise and godly means of getting to know one another. You do things like go to coffee, play Ultimate with friends and then talk afterwards, or listen to a sermon together and discuss it.
Step Two: Purposeful Dating. If the first date goes well, the man asks the woman’s father (or father figure) if it’s OK to go on a few more dates. If yes, then you do. This can happen, by the way, even if both sides are wondering about the other. The woman might find the guy odd in certain ways. The man might find the woman confusing. That’s OK. There’s no major pressure if the dates end, and nothing further takes place.
Dateship cannot solve every problem, of course. Fundamentally, no “system” of romance can lead to lasting fulfillment; that is found only in Christ. We do know from Scripture, though, that God designed marriage, and that it was not good for Adam to be alone (Genesis 2). For the record, I think that courtship is a far better path to marriage than any worldly way. I know many friends who have benefited from it, and I lean heavily on it in the dateship model.
Too many single young men and women today languish. They want to be married, but they don’t know how to get there. All around them in their church are godly members of the opposite sex. Yet in some congregations there seems to be an invisible force field between Christian men and women. The men don’t work up the nerve to ask a girl out. The women feel disinclined to give guys a chance.
Dateship is my humble attempt to restore the once-thriving neutral zone of man-woman interaction. Provided couples are doing so responsibly, I want young men and women to consider one another for marriage. There’s no heartache-proof pill one can take; you always risk in going out on a date. But if holiness and concern for the other person are made preeminent, I think it’s healthy for a guy to take a risk in asking a girl out, and a girl to take a risk in saying yes to a guy if she can.
That’s not all dateship is, but it’s the first step. I propose it not because it’s perfect, but because I know there are many frustrated single men and women out there. Marriage won’t solve their greatest needs. But if they are called to it–and most people are–it will bring much blessing to them.