“A courtship is more than just one man and one woman joining their lives together. It involves the physical and spiritual family to which they’re connected-the community of people who witness, affirm, protect, and celebrate their love.”
Before we get started, I just want to say three things about dating and courtship:
1- There is no magic formula for being in a successful relationship. There are only patterns, strategies and biblical suggestions, as well as red flags, that either lead you towards a healthy relationship or away from one. These are my opinions, sometimes based on statistics but always based on my experiences in the world of Christianity. Some are lessons I’ve learned on my own while others are the experiences of my friends and family that I’ve witnessed firsthand.
2- These are CHRISTIAN perspectives on dating based on biblical truths. If you don’t agree, that’s fine, but hey, I didn’t write the Bible lol.
3- Every couple has a different story. Some get married within 6 months while others get married within 4. Some date, some court. Some get married, some break up. Don’t compare your story to others, but also don’t be naive and ignore warning signs . Be sure that you’re not going against the Bible OR against the opinions of those people you value most.
Now, let’s get on with the post:
Christians often hear the term courtship being thrown around relationship conversations, but no one ever made a church-wide announcement as to what courtship really is. Is it the same as dating? If not, how is it different? These are questions I get asked all the time by singles and those in relationships. Using several different resources, I’m going to try to clear it up for you.
The origin of the word courtship comes from the 16th century. To court someone means “to seek the affections of” or “woo.” Courtship means “paying court to a woman with intention of marriage.” Another definition is “the act, period, or art of seeking the love of someone with intent to marry.”
In a nutshell, courtship is the act of a man pursuing a woman with the intent of marrying her.
Dating, on the other hand, literally means that you are “going out socially with a member of the opposite sex.” Dating is a more casual way of getting to know someone, and involves less of a commitment. In a nutshell: courtship = commitment while dating = let’s just have fun getting to know each other and see what happens. For millennials, one of our key traits is hating commitment. We don’t like involving ourselves in long term contracts or commitments in case we don’t like it and want to break free, so modern day courtship has taken a hit because it takes us awhile to commit.
A major difference between courtship and dating is actually what happens beforehand. Before you enter into a courtship with someone, you get to know him or her as a friend. You begin courtship after you have prayed and sought counsel and feel that this could be the person God has for you. When you date, you get to know someone through going out socially, usually just the two of you.
The focus of courtship is to get to know a person in two ways: in groups and through ministry. This might seemed old fashioned, but let’s take a closer look as to why this is the better option most of the time. One of the things I’ve seen a lot of people fall victim to is dating someone who ends up being a jerk. Do you ever wonder WHY this happens?
It happens because he/she fakes his way through the relationship. It’s very easy for someone to be fake when they are alone with a person. You can put on a mask without worrying that anyone is going to hold you accountable.
This is the danger with couples who spend a majority of their time alone with each other. It’s often hard to tell a person’s true character when you’re alone with them; they can easily be hiding their true selves. Think about it, right now I can go on a date with a guy and tell him that I’m a single actress from L.A. who just moved to NYC. Guess what? He would believe me because there’s no one to tell him otherwise. But imagine that I’m with a group of my friends and I tell the same story. They’ll look at me like I’m crazy and call me out on it. This is why getting to know someone in group settings is so helpful. You can see how they interact with other people, and especially with their friends and family.
Serving God together is also an amazing way to get to know someone. You cannot fake serving in ministry when things get tough. Someone’s true colors always come out in times of testing. Watching someone serve is an amazing way of learning his or her true character. It shows how selfless and dedicated a person can be, and that’s very important. There is nothing more romantic then serving God alongside someone you are interested in. To see them serve God and people passionately goes way deeper than spending time at a beautiful restaurant. This, of course, poses a problem if you don’t serve in the same ministry, but there are other forms of ministry that you can do together outside of church, like participating in an outreach, volunteering somewhere or sharing the gospel with someone. This is why so many people fall in love on missions trips.
Everyone needs to remember that the most important thing about the person you are going to marry is his or her CHARACTER! The most important thing is not their looks, career, amount in their savings account, or the chemistry you have with them. All of these things are surface level and can change and vanish in the blink of an eye.
However, someone’s character and heart are God-given, and if these are right, everything else will fall into place.
If the person you are in a relationship with has a horrible character and a bad heart, you are in for a lifetime of heartache. God alone can fix the heart and character, and so if someone does not totally surrender to God, their character won’t change (no matter how hard you try to change them, or how many promises they make to change).
I am a radical believer in courtship. Building a romantic relationship on a strong foundation of friendship sets you up for a strong marriage. Developing a friendship with someone first will help you know whether or not you can see yourself with this person in the future.
Aside from the strong foundation it creates, courtship can often prevent heartache. When you get to know someone through dating, you often realize too late that this isn’t the person for you. If you had been this person’s friend first, you would have noticed sooner that this person wasn’t right for you. People often date a lot before they meet their future spouse, when they could’ve just opted for one courtship instead. One great thing about courtship is that when you’re someone’s friend, you know their strengths AND weaknesses. If you’re still interested in them while knowing their weaknesses, you know this is real interest.
You may be thinking, courtship sounds great in theory but how does this work practically? After all, from a societal perspective, courtship seems SO old fashioned.
Well, I’ll use myself as an example. When Jason first shared his feelings with me, I told him that I didn’t date. He was a bit confused by that because he wasn’t too familiar with courtship. I told him that if he wanted to be with me, he had to become like my best friend. We decided that our focus would be getting to know each other in groups. So, we hung out a LOT with our friends, and it was a lot of fun. It was awesome because our friends were able to participate and keep us accountable.They also loved seeing our friendship blossom into romance. I was able to see how he acted towards other people and whether or not he was always nice or just nice with me. Did he hold doors open for all women or just me? Was he polite to waiters, cleaning staff, etc.?
We didn’t get into trouble because we rarely spent alone time together. I saw how he interacted with others, and I saw his true character. In addition to this, we both served together in our young adult ministry, and it was wonderful because I was able to see him serve people and serve God. We didn’t want to be one of those couples who fall off of the map as soon as they start dating. We wanted our community to play a very active role in our relationship. Once we became official, we spent more alone time together.
The courtship phase is beautiful. It’s challenging at times, but extremely refining and rewarding. It helps you to honor God with your relationship, and keeps you pure and holy. It helps you to honor God with your relationship and keep Christ at the center.
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there’s no perfect formula for dating, it’s key to know that, however there are certain things you can look out for and other things you can stick to that will REDUCE your chances of getting hurt.
If you any questions or comments about courtship, comment below, I would LOVE to hear from you.
“Why do we need community? Because like a good wedding, courtship is meant to be a shared celebration.”
P.S. If you liked this post, SHARE it!