I’ve received so many questions lately from women who are navigating the waters of online dating. Traditional dating can be confusing enough. Add dating apps to the mix, and it leaves us with so many questions about what’s okay or right or normal!
I know it’s daunting enough to go out with someone you’ve only “met” through a profile and quick text conversation. But I’ve talked to so many people who find the trickiest part is figuring out how to bring up their faith in a natural way. What we’re really wondering is “How do I know if this guy is a Christian?” We want to know because we don’t want to be hurt yet again. We don’t want to get attached to someone only to realize he doesn’t have the same faith we do.
And friend, you are not alone in this struggle.
I remember the awkwardness of sitting across the table from someone I was interested in, trying to read the clues.
Did he mention Jesus?
Did he talk about his small group?
And if not, could I ask him if he was a Christian, or would that be awkward or pushy? I just wanted to know quickly! I wanted to know so I didn’t open up too much of my heart only to realize we didn’t share such a fundamental aspect of our lives (and if you’re wondering whether it can work for a Christian to date a non-Christian, click here!).
A few weeks ago, I was talking to my wise friend Hanna about this. We both dated quite a bit before we got married, and she had a super simple strategy for handling this uncomfortable question. Want to hear it?
On the first date, she always said, “So tell me about yourself.”
That’s it! Sometimes we put so much pressure on ourselves to get all the information. We feel like we need to ask pointed questions on faith or values right away. We might want to know how he feels about certain verses or how he prays. We want to know if we can imagine worshiping alongside him and if he’ll be a good spiritual leader for us (and for our future kids!).
But friend, that’s a LOT to figure out on a first date. It does not all need to happen at once.
Of course, I understand why you might want to know everything on the first date. I wanted a signed, sealed contract from God that a relationship would work out before I started to open up (wouldn’t that be amazing?). It’s so hard to open up, to get to know someone, when you don’t know if it will work out.
And I do think there’s wisdom to knowing what you are looking for and taking it slow until you find out if that potential is there. But I think what this wisdom looks like in practice is starting to get to know a guy on a first date (dipping in your toe!), then learning about him more on the second and third dates (maybe dangle your feet in the water for a while?). It doesn’t look like an interrogation when you first meet—because even then, even if he checks all the right boxes, it’s possible the relationship won’t work out.
Relationships take risk, always. I know that’s so scary, and you want to guard your heart so carefully (I did too!). But dating requires us to be ready for plenty of strikeouts and misses. Remember, it’s natural to have a terrible batting average because the best case scenario (the one we’re hoping for!) is that every relationship ends until we experience THE ONE that knocks it out of the park!
So then, what do we do? What intentional questions should we be asking on the first date? And how do we find out if we share the same faith?
The way I see it, you have two options:
1. You can directly ask him if he's a Christian on the first date
If you know you’re not messing around, and you know you’re not interested in a second date if you don’t have your faith in common (which is totally okay!), you can ask right away. But here are two things to keep in mind if you go this route:
First, we need to be careful not to ask too many questions…
“What’s your relationship with Jesus like?”
“How often do you go to church?”
“What is your testimony?”
“How do you feel about XYZ boundaries?”
Yikes! Turning a first date into an interrogation might kill the possibility of a connection. It might make him feel like you’re coming on WAY too strong.
And second, we need to remember that this “Are you a Christian?” question is so nuanced. Even a direct yes or no doesn’t tell us what we actually want to know. The things we want to know—who he is, what his relationship with Jesus looks like, how it impacts his life—aren’t things we can learn on the first date. You’re looking for more than just a checked box. You’re looking for someone whose heart is in the same place as yours. And unfortunately, it takes getting to know someone before you really find that out.
So maybe his “Yes, I’m a Christian!” tells you enough for you to decide to go on a second date. But remember that it doesn’t give you an ironclad insurance policy that this is going to work out. There are lots of other important factors as well.
2. Your second option is to use Hanna's question
Say, “So tell me about yourself!” and listen to his answers. Listen to the way he talks about his life and about the people in his life. Pay attention to his actions to learn about his character. Pay attention to the way he treats you.
Finally, whether you decide to ask him directly about his faith on the first date or not, remember that getting to know someone is a process. The more dates you go on with someone, the more he will reveal his heart to you. In fact, I’m still learning about my husband after five years of marriage! Just the other night, I was at dinner with Carl and some girlfriends when I learned a beautiful new detail about his testimony. I had never heard about that moment from him before. We are still learning about each other’s faith, which is such a fun and beautiful part of marriage.
Last bit of encouragement:
First dates can be so daunting. I know they can be. But the thing that helped me tremendously along the way was realizing I had time. I didn’t need to know if a guy was marriage material right away. (And actually, you really can’t know something like that right off the bat!) As my friend Carly says, “On the first date, all we need is enough information to know if we want to go on a second date.” (Click here to read my discussion with Carly on first dates!)