What is Courtship?

So, what is courtship anyway? How is it different from dating?
Couple on a Road

Grace and I get this question a lot. Here is our official answer.

Courtship: If Jesus ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy.

  • Courtship has a purpose and happens to be a lot fun. As opposed to being fun and happening to have a purpose.
  • Courtship is about identifying martial compatibility.
  • Courtship about honesty and intentionality instead of playing manipulative games.
  • Courtship includes family and friends (in that order) instead of excluding community.
  • Courtship spurs couples towards Christ instead of distracting them from Him.
  • Courtship is about standing alongside each other serving Christ instead of facing each other thinking primarily about the couple.
  • Courtship is not about rules. It is about identifying the true motivations of the heart.
  • Courtship is about accountability. Not secrecy.
  • Courtship is about pleasing God in physical and emotional intimacy first and pleasing each other second.
  • Courtship is about treating each other like a son or daughter of the King. Not like an object to be used and used up.
  • Courtship is about thinking of the other as more important.
  • Courtship is about bringing families together, not about excluding the parents.
  • Courtship is fun. Anyone who says it isn’t hasn’t tried it.

Happiness is a side effect of courtship. Not the goal.

Specific differences from dating (for us):

  • Most of the time we have spent together so far has been with our families or with groups of friends.
  • We see our families as allies, not as enemies or obstacles. Grace’s siblings are becoming my friends and my siblings are becoming Grace’s friends.
  • We keep our parents in the loop and are accountable to them. I am learning that moms are a good source of advice when it comes to what women want. And more importantly what they don’t want.
  • We don’t touch each other much. As a single guy, watching unwed couples hang all over each other made me feel uncomfortable. I don’t want to perpetuate that. If this courtship ends in a green light then there will be plenty of time for touching. If it ends in a red light we will be glad we kept our hands to ourselves. This doesn’t mean we don’t touch at all. Grace and I went to the Spring Formal Dance for instance. But we don’t touch much.

You may think we are a couple of fuddy duddies for our lack of physical contact and you are entitled to that opinion. But I will say that this has been one of the most exhilarating times of my life and I don’t need to have my hands all over Grace to have a good time with her.

I think Grace says it best:

“Courtship is allowing God to be the focus of a relationship instead of the couple being the focus, or the world of couples (culture).”

Thomas Umstattd Jr. is the author of Courtship in Crisis, the former head of PracticalCourtship.com, and co-founder of the Austin Rhetoric Club, a homeschool speech and debate club in Austin, Texas. He is a professional speaker and CEO of Author Media. He sits on the board of directors for several nonprofits, including the Texas Alliance for Life.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

5 thoughts on “What is Courtship?

  1. I would like to comment on a few things.

    "Courtship is not about rules. It is about identifying the true motivations of the heart.

    Courtship is about accountability. Not secrecy."

    I agree. Rules are not the focus. However, I believe that sometimes couples think they are more self-controlled than they really are and written rules, what you would call some kind of written covenant, is a useful tool. But of course we must avoid the extremes of legalism, but then again it sets boundaries for all parties involved to understand how things will run.

    Accountability is a good thing. The quality of it is who is holding you accountable. It has to be someone willing to get in your face. I'm not saying they can't be somewhat graceful, but they can't be someone who will cheer you on, blowing on those flames of emotion that will only speed things up sooner than they should go. This happens sometimes among peers. I think it is better to take the approach of not discussing it too much in a … longing kind of attitude with peers.

    I had a second thought about the touching issue. I don't think courtship should include some addition physical mannerisms that you would be able to exercise. I think it is better to treat a courtee physically similar to your sisters in Christ; I mean those who are possibly further removed in closeness, not the very closest. Although it is obvious that when you're courting someone you're giving that person special attention, as a way to protect hearts and respect/honor I think this is a good approach.

    We have to keep in mind that the courtee should be viewed as someone else's spouse. I often times hear this as a reason not to be kissing. Well, it should go more extensive than that. How would you feel if your future spouse was hugged for long periods of time, cuddling, holding hands, napping together, etc. with someone else?

    Sorry for the long comments. If you think of me as opinionated or too strict/conservative or … not flexible, well, that may be so, but there is good reason. Truly, marriage is a holy, honorable estate. It deserves to be treated as such.

  2. I certainly agree that God, not the couple, should be first in a relationship. I also agree that family should be involved. I learned the hard way that my parents have good advice to offer, even though (or perhaps because) they didn't exactly do things the "right way." Unfortunately, in addition to living two hours away, my parents probably wouldn't know courtship if it came over for dinner. Not that I would know it either… In fact I'm not entirely sure I'm even comfortable with that term.

    How can parents who live far away and don't seem to expect any more than to be kept in the loop be brought into the process? What if both sets of parents are far away?

    And what if dating is the norm in one's church community? How might one make a point to "date" in a family-oriented, real-life, honest, respectful, God-honouring way?

  3. If your parents are far away I don’t think courtship is feasible. Courtship is not for everyone. It needs to take place in the context of strong families.

    Christian dating is a good substitute where the church community fills the family role in courtship.

  4. That is awesome Thomas! I didn't know you were involved in a courtship! How pleasant for you! When I am older, and more wise and prepared, I plan to allow God to enter me into a courtship with my future husband. I really love to meet other people who take their walk with Christ so seriously, because He IS supposed to be the center of EVERYTHING. Where I grew up, that fact was forgotten; but where I am now, it is vividly and daily remembered. Success to your courtship, whatever the outcome may be!

  5. What do you see as the difference between "christian dating" and courtship?. If courtship is ideal, I think you shouldn't constrain it to only happen in context of blood family when so many single people live away from home in this day and age. I've seen couples away from home date in the context of an "adopted" family and it work out. I've also seen the people part ways after a month or two.

    What do you think about long – distance courtship?

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