I have no name for the collection of thoughts I am about to share. They are birthed out of 30 years of counseling people. I have seen dating success stories and tremendous failures that end up hurting everybody. I also am the father of a daughter and a son, so I have a personal investment in seeing the church in general protect the singles as much as possible from immorality that can cause decades of pain for those who are left to their own hormones.
I start this conversation with an honest heart. I grew up with only the dating program and made cultural mistakes early in my walk with the Lord. My hope is that by exposing these ideas to you that your generation can be a leader in creating a dating/courting structure in your local church.
I am truly amazed at churches in general that provide absolutely no guidelines for dating/courting. There is no policy, no classes or agreed-upon evaluations, no feedback or anything for couples dating. After the engagement, we seem to quietly move along and in the better churches add a few sessions of premarital counseling. My question is the process leading up to the engagement.
The church has pretty much let any man come into a church. He then has access to all of our precious and somewhat naive Christian daughters. He can sexually plunder several before he is even questioned. I don't know of any healthy family that would allow this to knowingly go on. I haven't met a singles minister yet who didn't tell me the biggest problem they face is fornication. They seemed puzzled and confused by this, but powerless to deter the immorality in their singles congregation. We know God hates immorality, but the church has by and large closed their eyes to it. We have yet to really set up a process making it difficult for immorality to occur.
Some Thoughts on Accountability
Dream with me if you will. Suppose you went to a church that actually had a dating/courtship policy. As a single who grew up in this church, you knew what was expected. As a newcomer or new convert, you also knew what was expected. I am not talking legalism, but principles to be followed so the church can have more couples marrying in purity during your generation than in the immoral generation of your parents.
You are several generations removed from a community that readily practiced virginity and abstinence.
The church can no longer ignore that it is not dealing with the generation of long ago when character was greater than pleasure. You are in a hedonist sexual culture that worships sex and its pleasures, including television, movies and worse yet the greatest temptation ever invented, the internet. I think the church through this generation of singles needs to rise up and become a pure generation.
Back to the dream: Suppose every family in church agreed that if a young man were interested in pursuing a romantic relationship with a Christian woman he had to first ask her parents. If her parents were not Christians or immediately in the geographical area, he would ask the spiritual parents or pastor of this young woman. Then the woman and her parents would consider this and contact the young man.
The couple would be assigned couple mentors who would give them things to read and discuss. This mentor couple would help establish the boundaries for dating. Once these rules were agreed upon, the mentor couple would ask about maintaining these boundaries. These boundaries might include the balance of social and alone time, locations of alone time and the when a couple should be alone together. Also the mentor couple would be trained to ask very specific questions about types and frequency of their physical activity together. A couple determines with the mentor couple the boundaries and the questions. Now this couple starts dating with a safety net. If there are issues or boundary violations, the couple can talk to the mentor before they become immoral.
In this same dream, a church would set up a "before I ask" class. In this class the singles aggressively deal with past issues, especially sexual issues. After this class, they are deemed datable.
We send so many singles into dating and courting without even thinking about their past or skills for future relationships. What if we send them out healthier? My guess is they would be attracted to healthier people as well.
Ladies, let me talk straight with you for a moment. Men do much better if they are accountable. By not having someone to protect you, you are sending a clear message that you are independent and that you can make your own choices. How a man interprets this is that you are vulnerable and all he has to do is manipulate you to get what he wants.
A young man who is made to be accountable for his behaviors will respect you more and see you as more valuable. He knows he will be answering questions at least a couple times a month and unless you conspire to lie together he knows he'd better be above reproach because he has to answer to someone other than you. It also keeps everything in your relationship on the up and up. Every woman wants a man of character and only a man of character would pass such a structure.
Understand ladies, if he is not accountable to other men during his singleness, your married days can be very unpleasant to say the least. An unaccountable man is one who will struggle with bad choices and bad consequences more so than a humble man who seeks counsel and accountability.
As the couple becomes more serious, they are taken through several premarital materials. They can also take various premarital tests like Prepare/Enrich. Tests like this give insights into the strengths and weaknesses that this relationship might have. Also, some other personality tests might be helpful: The Myers-Briggs, Taylor-Johnson and any other personality profiles. These offer the couple intelligent approaches to evaluate and look at themselves and each other. These are not designed to do anything but allow further investigation of this coupleship.
I dated my wife, Lisa ,for about five years. When we really knew we were headed to engagement, we read every book we could on marriage and relationships. We learned a lot about each other, which I think helped our transition into engagement and marriage.
As we continue to dream about this process, the couple approaches thoughts of engagement. Prior to this happening, there would be a meeting with the parents, spiritual mentor and a pastor, and if desired a friend or two. In this gathering, the couple shares their discoveries about themselves and their desire to marry. At the conclusion of this meeting, those gathered pray over and bless the couple if appropriate. All gathered make a commitment to be available for the couple throughout their engagement period.
The couple still meets regularly until marriage. At this time I would suggest that the couple walk through some marriage books like Intimacy: A 100 Day Guide to Lasting Relationships. The rest is history; the couple has navigated the autonomy and support. They walk down the aisle with eyes open, skilled and supported. I think we would have fewer divorces in such a process.
Doug Weiss, Ph.D., is a nationally known author, speaker and licensed psychologist. He is the executive director of Heart to Heart Counseling Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the author of several books including Intimacy: 100 Day Guide to Lasting Relationship. You may contact Dr. Weiss via his website, drdougweiss.com or on his Facebook or by phone at 719-278-3708 or through email at [email protected].
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