One of the things that people used to ask me all the time about my “search” for a wife was something to the effect of, “Have you tried at Church? I mean there are all sorts of women there. Are you asking them out?”
What makes this an even better question in my case is that throughout my 30’s I attended a church of the hot chick. In other words I attended a church in which there were lots of single people, many of whom were attractive. In fact many people go there partly because of this. I mean what better place to meet someone than a 2000 person church where singles are actually welcomed right? Well sort of.
Here’s the thing about “Christian” dating – it’s never simple. It’s a huge disadvantage really.
For starters, it can be hard to figure out the approach etiquette at church. I mean the “talk to them in the lobby” thing has some value, but our lobby was small and the window to approach was short. But that is nothing compared to the mind games you have to play.
In the church as a guy, if you never approach anyone then you are obviously passive, and not a real Christian leader. But if you approach too many people you are “that guy”. And here’s the best part about that. There are two “that guys”. The one who approaches and gets shot down by everyone and the one who is successful in the approach but then decides he doesn’t want a second date (or third, or fourth, or doesn’t want to marry that girl). In a hurry you become either the creeper or the player. Welcome to dating in the church as a guy.
To top it off, you get to be called out by the pastor. “Men just need to man up and initiate.” As someone in a class I was teaching a couple of weeks ago said, “You need to ‘man up’. But only once.” Truth!
Here’s the reality. In our church culture, the church can be one of the least safe places to ask someone out.
Think about it. If I go to a bar, for example, I approach a girl, she says no, I move on. There’s a good chance she won’t be there in a week. Or I just go to a different bar if I want. Grocery store, book store, mall, your waitress, and certainly online – all way safer. Less blowback and less expectations. Heck the only thing more dangerous than church might be work. . . maybe.
There a lot of reasons for this. I won’t even try to cover them all, but here are a few (I’ll have more to say about some of these later).
It starts with the general idea in evangelical culture that women are basically innocent and men are basically lustful or immature. You don’t hear many sermons about it being time to woman up. There is not space in this post to get into this but think about it for any length of time and you see it.
In church the expectation is marriage. This isn’t all bad. It should be the ultimate goal of dating. But it shouldn’t be the goal of the first date. If a guy approaches a woman, she shouldn’t have to answer if she wants to marry him, just if she wants coffee. At the same time, for the love of all things, a few dates does not a marriage make. No other context creates this type of pressure.
If it goes bad, you still have to go to church there. In other words, I like my church. If I ask someone out, she’ll still be there next week. What if she says no? What if she says yes? What if we kiss and then break up? What if I then ask someone else out? No matter what happens this is both people’s place of worship.
It only takes one scorn woman to mess with your reputation. Choose wisely.
I know this much – I always hesitated to ask out anyone from church.
This needs to change. Here are a few quick thoughts on how.
First off we need to get in our heads that both men and women are good and bad. Men need more than the three categories of creeper, player, and perfect.
Second men and women need to show each other this grace thing we all talk so much about. I remember once I asked out this woman from church. She said yes, and then changed her mind to no. I was frustrated and we had a bit of a rough exchange. I then realized she was into someone else. I walked up to her the next Sunday and simply said, “Hey, are we good?” She said yes and you know what we were. Revolutionary I know.
Third and maybe most important. If the leaders of a church are going to tell men that they need to “man up”, then they better dang well have their back when they do. The male leadership of the church need to be able to stand up to women, not just stand up for them. I’ve been blessed to have seen this done well at my church several times. It’s huge. There’s a time to call out both the creeper and the player, but there is also time to stand up for the guy and tell the woman to let it go.
What about you? What would make the church a safer place to pursue women? What is your church’s culture of dating? Does it make you want to pursue or scare you off? How would you change it?