I might as well come right out and say it. I'm old-fashioned. So is my beautiful, romantic wife. Before our marriage we solved the dating dilemma through courtship. That's right, courtshipold-fashioned, knights-and-fair-maidens courtship. To courtship proponents, good relationships don't just "happen."
Instead, with marriage as the goal, a courting couple seeks out mentors for spiritual accountability, encourages familial involvement in the relationship, plans character development activities rather than dinner-and-movie dates, and purposes to maintain emotional as well as physical purity.
Before you roll your eyes, read this update. The courtship phenomenon may have answers to some of your group's guy/girl relationship problems. The courtship approach has become quite popular in the last few years. Of Knights and Fair Maidens, the book my wife, Danielle, and I wrote to share our courtship experience, is now in its ninth printing in just two years. Youth speaker Ron Luce encourages courtship in his books and seminars, Elisabeth Eliot has written extensively about it, and Josh Harris' book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, is on the Christian best-seller list.
While taking somewhat different approaches, courtship proponents agree on three key principles: accountability, character, and preparation.
1. Accountability. The most healthy guy/girl relationships are those which seek out the advice of parents and other mentors. In particular, the guy spends time with the girl's whole family (especially her father), welcoming their guidance.
Even though Danielle and I were single adults when we met, we still approached our parents for accountability. We also spent lots of time with older couples who had sustained healthy marriages, some for up to 50 years. Being accountable to others helped us develop respect for each other and avoid isolation from other vital relationships.
2. Character. Rather than focusing on physical gratification, the courtship relationship emphasizes character development. The focus is on becoming the right person rather than finding the right person. Courtship says that before the commitment to marriage, a guy and girl are brother and sister in the Lord and should behave like brother and sister, not boyfriend and girlfriend.
In our courtship relationship, Danielle and I designed creative ways to spend time together while ministering to others. This provided a stronger and more reliable foundation for the relationship and helped us avoid sexual temptation.
3. Preparation. Young adults should not pursue exclusive relationships until they are spiritually, emotionally, and financially prepared for marriage.
Passages such as Song of Solomon 2:7 (not awakening desire before its time) and Proverbs 24:27 (preparing your fields before you build your house) demonstrate the wisdom of getting an education, developing a realistic career goal, creating a plan for gaining financial stability, and learning practical life skills before focusing on issues of the "home," such as courting and marriage.
George Washington, for example, became a commander in the army by age 23, gaining experience in leadership, and then settled into marriage and home management in his later twenties. This established a foundation for his success as a businessman, military commander, and statesman.
The courtship idea has much to teach us about developing integrity in relationships. It goes against the cultural flow, but it pays huge dividends. In the end, our honoring of integrity in relationships will honor the God who is, after all, the author of true romance.
- Inpired Leadership
For more information on Dr. Myers and his ministry, visit his Web site.
Jeff holds a Ph..D. in Human Communication Studies from the University of Denver and is the author of the popular book Playpen to Podium: How to Give Your Children the Communication Advantage in Every Area of Life. From 1989 to the present, Jeff has worked with Summit Ministries of Manitou Springs, Colorado, as a leadership curriculum developer and trainer. In 1991, Jeff formed Heartland Educational Consultants as a vehicle for writing, consulting, and speaking on leadership development. Jeff is also a full-time professor at Bryan College. Jeff and his wife Danielle have two children.