Is Dating in Church the New “Meet” Market?
By Mel Bancroft
Love seekers grow weary of trying everything from letting friends and family set them up on a date to waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right to show up on the doorstep. Nightclubs, the Internet, social gatherings, and even the grocery store are sometimes exhausted in an effort to find fertile ground for dating. When people look to God and the church, one might think the almighty place of worship would prove to be a sure bet. Finding pure love is heavenly when it’s truly of divine order, but is it a good idea to be dating in church? Should church strictly be a place for seeking the word of God, not chasing the tail of the opposite sex?
Anthony, an avid churchgoer, says he believes dating in church is a bad idea. “There has been at least a hand full of women at my church inviting me over for dinner or asking me out,” he asserted. “They were all highly disappointed and got mad at me when I told them I don’t date women in my church. I was called ‘gay’ and every other name in the book. I saw what happens to people when they do it, and it can get real ugly, so I don’t do it.”
Just how ugly can it get? There have been countless cases of clergy sexually engaging with members of the church producing scandal faster than can be read in the headline news. The imbalance of power between officials and the congregation can become abusive, leaving the spiritual and physical body of the church in shambles. Similarly, individuals who are dating in church may find their relationship playing out before the church. Rumors start before a relationship has had a chance to develop. Couples dating in church may also find themselves tempted to be sexually involved. If the relationship goes sour before the church’s eyes, it can lead to ridicule, compromise of one’s spiritual growth, and having to find another church to attend to avoid scrutiny.
No one knows that better than Michelle, a praise dancer who became involved with another member of her church. “I loved my church, but I had to change to another one when I found out my fiancé was dating another woman at the same church. She was a praise dancer, too. Dating in church was an embarrassment that I couldn’t bear,” she added. “We… me and the other woman, were treated like crap and taken off the praise dance team, but my ex…well, he was just given a good talking to and they let him continue his activities in the church.”
While some have found their place of worship detrimental to dating, others have used it to establish a long lasting connection.
Pamela and Darius met at their church 13 years ago and have been together ever since then. “We both went to church to gain spiritual guidance and fortitude. That was our number one goal. We just happened to find each other there,” Darius stated. They had been members for years before they started dating and agreed to only see each other outside of church. “We met for dinner and a movie or a walk in the park about 20 miles or so outside our neighborhood to avoid seeing people from church,” Pamela said. “By the time anybody knew anything, we were engaged. Dating in church isn’t bad, it depends on how you go about doing it,” she added.
So maybe dating in church can be like having icing on a cake. The cake is food, sustenance our bodies need, somewhat like the way God’s Word is food. The icing on the cake is like finding the perfect mate in the process of knowing God’s love. We need the cake. The icing is extra grace.