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How Does Courtship Work In Our Family?

We believe that courtship, rather than dating, will result in happier marriages. Therefore, our family recently adopted this practice to aid in our daughters' search for godly spouses.

Courtship can mean different things in different circles, but for our family it means that if a man who is a Christian wants to "date" one of our daughters, he must first speak with us and express his interest in pursuing a relationship with her. He must, of course, be spiritually and financially prepared to marry her if they fall in love; there are no casual “tryouts” in courtship. That is why we did not encourage courtship or dating during our daughters' high school or college years.

We believe courtship has physical, emotional, and spiritual safeguards over dating. For starters, dating can be a setup for divorce. Modern society expects single people to start dating in their early teens and proceed through a long series of short-term relationships and breakups, often resulting in serious emotional distress. This type of casual dating process, in our opinion, does much to foster the idea that divorce/remarriage is an acceptable pattern in romantic relationships, thereby doing nothing to train young Christians for a lifetime commitment in marriage to one (and only one) person.

Even in a lasting marriage, the emotional baggage left over from previous dating relationships can be frustrating and painful. As Christian parents, we talk a lot about sexual abstinence, but we should also keep in mind the need for emotional abstinence. Dating, by its very nature, opens the door to heartache and disappointment. Courtship, on the other hand, is a process by which dedicated Christian singles can get to know and enjoy one another while maintaining their physical and emotional integrity.

One benefit of courtship is that it allows us, as a family, to get to know and understand the men who are interested in our daughters. Courtship activities can include playing games by the fire, practicing new hymns, participating in sports together, working on household projects together, preparing dinner together, going out to dinner or concerts, or just taking a walk through a forest preserve. All of these activities can reveal a person’s character, integrity, and responsibility. By allowing for this practical and productive time together, courtship enables a couple to look beyond physical attraction to focus on things that are truly important.

If a man expresses an interest in one of our daughters, and (through the practice described above) the two determine that they share many interests, are well-matched spiritually and emotionally, and are seriously considering making a lifelong commitment to each other, then the couple would begin spending more time alone together. However, we would encourage them to limit physical contact to handholding and hugs until they have determined if they will indeed enter into an engagement. And even after an engagement is decided upon, we hope they would put very strict limits on physical interaction in order to abide by God’s laws regarding sexual conduct outside of marriage and to safeguard their purity if the engagement does not result in marriage (engagements, unlike marriages, are easily broken).

Our family has only just begun the practice of courtship. Neither of our daughters has yet met a man who exemplifies all of the strong Christian characteristics for which she is looking---at least not one who has shown a mutual interest in her AND also respected her and our family enough to at least consider the concept of courtship (we're convinced that the "right" man will think it's a great idea). We know for sure that God has a plan for our daughters. If He wills that they should marry, then He will send the right men into their lives---men who will be very glad to cooperate in the practice of courtship in order to gain godly wives who reflect the virtues of the woman in Proverbs 31. We pray for our family as a whole, for each individual family member, and for our daughters’ prospective husbands, as God prepares them for marriage.

We want to encourage you to take time to pray specifically about this subject. This article may be your first exposure to the concept of courtship. On the other hand, you may know far more about it than what we’ve presented here. Either way, we hope that you will ask the Lord to show you whether you should participate in the courtship process. Our hope and prayer is that through courtship we can help our family serve God in this world and prepare ourselves for service to Him throughout eternity.