It's rare that a church would be brave to talk about dating. Bel Air Presbyterian Church (PC USA) in Los Angeles has been doing just that. It's difficult to find a meaningful place for singles when most churches try to sweep us under the carpet of "community". One church even told me that "single people are just a part of the fellowship like everyone else." Ummm, right. The only valid conclusion is, There is no normal when it comes to dating. Our expectations are often too high. And I'm not sure anyone is truly clear on whether or not men and women can be friends.
You can watch video of the opening talk here: www.foundryla.com
After that, the men and women split into groups. We're adults, so I'm not really sure why this has to happen when there wouldn't be a single question that either side would ask that we haven't heard before. Call me cynical. Besides, I want to know what they were talking about.
I found out later that some of the guys asked actual practical questions.
When girls start talking about their problems, do they want us to solve them?
Why are girls always mad at us?
Meanwhile, the girls decided that they can't be friends with men because you can't keep those friendships? What? It depends. Guyfriends aren't like girlfriends--that would be a mistake. But guyfriends can help you with things that girlfriends can't. Some of the girls have decided that it's not even worth the time to even talk to the guys because they have an adversarial view of relationships. And one girl asked if she should play hard-to-get. Another asked how much the idea that "he's just not that into you" applies if they guy is interested but too shy to approach. Sorry ladies, but interested and asking you out are two different things. This kind of worship from afar is not a date, relationship, engagement or wedding. In fact, it may never result in anything. Girls were a little upset with guys who aren't ready because they go to all of the girls for different things and fear that the guy will never be ready because he is getting all of his needs met by being friends with all of the girls. Quite frankly if a guy is doing that, then he just isn't ready.
They told us not to expect a guy to pray with us early on, not to tell them our hopes and dreams because it's too much pressure. My last attempt at a Christian boyfriend (Astro) involved none of these elements.
I found some of the "advice" distressing. One of the girls asked if it was OK to date a non-Christian. One of the "advisors" said basically it was just a date and that there might be something to learn from the experience. Ummm, where did that come from? In my experience it often leads to being propositioned in some way--not always, but often.
Most likely the best thing this group the church is doing is saying that it's OK to go on a date. It doesn't have to lead to anything. They will also be hosting a coffee hour before the service and are encouraging people to attend. One girl was advised to keep coming to their activities and that love might result naturally from that. But what if she did all of those things, what if she HAS done all of those things and no one came along? There were enough single people there that it clearly hasn't worked very well for most of them.
On a personal level, I thought this was more helpful for someone in their early twenties or college. But I have been single for a bit longer. I don't mind being platonic friends with a guy. I'm not attracted to every guy out there and I know not to expect very much from a cup of coffee. I want to have guy friends because it will make me feel better to have them and to be treated with respect by them. Dinner, shopping, long phone conversations--those are for girlfriends. But guy friends can be great in their own way.
There is also a misconception that in older times there was no element of choice in marriage. In bible times, maybe not. But in the 1700s, 1800s and early 1900s part of society involved families knowing each other, organizing social events and making sure that their children met and mixed. They helped things along. They hired matchmakers to find similar people if the field was limited. Now we're all lost because we're looking for a "feeling" This last part sounds not so unfamiliar. Nowadays matchmaking companies and internet dating sites are sprouting like weeds. Some of the non-Christian dating services like It's Just Lunch promise us that they have just the man for us to get our money.
Here's hoping that the church in general will catch on and do something more.
This might really help:
Biblical Ways of Knowing She's the One
A Ring By Next Spring (Someone at church tells me how I will be married in 6 months if I just read a magic Christian book.)