Maybe I’m just waking up to a trend that’s been around a while, but I’m noticing that a lot of Christian, dating couples are using their “date time” to serve others. Instead of the standard American dinner and a movie, they are spending some of their “together” time working with and for others. I’ve seen and heard of all sorts of examples: couples who volunteer to babysit for a family in the church, who take grandparents to dr.’s visits, who help clean the church, who make dinner for their parents, who help someone move, etc. They are not being asked. They are consciously choosing to use their time in these ways and finding ways to help.
These people aren’t middle aged, Rotary club members; they are late teens/early 20s, in school, working jobs, and trying to live out their faith every day. And it’s really encouraging to watch.
It’s more than encouraging, though – it’s really, really healthy. It’s good for the couple, because working with someone allows you to get to know them in different ways than a standard date does. You find out what the other person’s work ethic is like in practice, how they do under pressure, or in uncomfortable and unexpected situations. It also sets a pattern for a long-term relationship: marriage is full of work, especially if children arrive, and this sort of service pattern before marriage sets a good, realistic pattern for after the honeymoon ends.
Service dating also allows a couple to bless others. As they work and get to know each other, they are building up the body of Christ. Is there a better way to spend your time? And as they work together, they are allowing the church to get to know them as a couple – to see things in their relationship that otherwise might go unnoticed. Whether these are problems or really good things, having them exposed to the saints is a blessing.
And this sort of service also makes it clear that the relationship is about something bigger than them. A young couple doesn’t spend an afternoon in a nursing home just for kicks. If someone really loves the Lord and is seeking to live their life primarily for His glory, using everything (including a budding romantic relationship) to point to Him and serve Him should be normal.
This doesn’t mean that spending leisure time one-on-one is a bad thing, or a thing that does not bring God glory. Not at all, and no normal couple I know would give that up. But one-on-one time should not take up 100% of the relationship. There is a happy medium. One dating couple I know recently went out for breakfast on Saturday then spent the morning cleaning out a vehicle for someone. This gave them time to spend one-on-one and in a little service project all in one morning.
And breakfast and a vacuum cleaner just might be more of a blessing to everyone than dinner and a movie.