Dating as a missionary? : Some thoughts on relationships for missionaries

One of the biggest problems that many have as they are single when they become a missionary. At some point, they would like to get married but what are the rules for dating for missionaries? The very concept of it creates quite a few problems in and of itself.

Of course, you could wait until you was married to go to the mission field and that is best in most cases. Personally, I am not a fan of people going to the mission field and then marrying a local. There will always be that nagging question of their motive in ministry. It just presents many problems.

However, let’s face it: missionaries will be attracted to other single people that they do life with. In most cases, that would be local women in the field they serve. If Tom is a missionary in the Philippines, he will likely consider dating a Filipino at some point. If Shawn is serving in Kenya, he will likely consider a Kenyan. As problematic as it is, it does not change the reality of it happening.

Why missionaries shouldn’t be dating locals

As I said, it is problematic in most cases. People on the mission field assume that you came to the field in search of a woman. People back home think you are there because of a woman now. The vision of the great commission takes a backseat to everyone zooming in on the elephant in the room: white missionary is dating local convert. (Is she is not even saved, you have a even bigger problem)

You will also have to worry about complex problems that others would not have to face. Relationships is at a emotional level and when you mix emotions and cultures, you have a pending disaster on your hands in most cases. Relationships are hard no matter what but they are even harder when you add different cultural expectations into the mix.

This can become a spiritual issue. Will you proclaim the gospel faithfully if it could cause issues within your relationship? It is important that you understand that with relationships come the fear of man in many ways. This is even more true if her family is known in the community. Image is everything in some cultures.

Couple holding hands in cafe

I choose to remain single

As a rule, I try and remain out of romantic entanglements with women where I am serving. It just is asking for trouble in most cases. If people have a problem with me, I want it to be for what I preach and my position on moral issues, not some silly things some woman said about me.

It is not like I have taken some oath of being single for life. I do want to get married someday and I plan to do so. However, I know that dating local women as a missionary just does not work. It is like playing with fire and expecting not to get burn.

I want the gospel to be what gets me in trouble, not women. Simple as that.


  • Ben
    May 22, 2018 - 4:25 pm

    You need to stop looking down on nationals as a rich foreigner. A lot of what you describe has nothing to do with whether or not a woman is godly or would be a good help mate for you. You seem more concerned with the praise and condemnation of men than whether or not such a marriage would be to the glory of God.

    Some things? Sure. A new convert, gold-digging, or just seeking status are the wrong traits. But a woman who’s eyes are firmly fixed on God, a woman after Jesus’ own heart? Someone who pours out fruit of the Spirit in ministry and service? Such is a gift from God, not something you find for yourself. Is it wise to turn your nose up at such a gift?

    Your greatest barrier is that you are probably relatively rich and live an almost unattainable lifestyle to the local population. Or at the very least, that is their perception. It can be just as detrimental that you exude that their women are untouchable to you as being too friendly. The way you should evaluate women from your host country should be the same as from your sending. Coming from your passport country just means you’re going to assume you share similar values and experiences.

    In one arrangement, you think you have similarities and then find differences. In another, you think you have differences and then find similarities. You would be better served in and better able to serve through marriage if you had the latter mindset, regardless of whom you marry.

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    • Azusa Report
      May 22, 2018 - 10:39 pm

      I think you over spiritualized this article. It was written by a missionary to missionaries giving them practical advice; not theological positions.

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  • Gary
    June 7, 2019 - 11:45 am

    Being a missionary has to be one of the most difficult things to do on the planet.Forcing or should I say trying to get people to convert to a religion that is as foreign to them as the missionary that is standing in front of them.If a man or woman is single and you have a 4 or 5 year commitment to be in that region, then somebody is going to date someone.It is as natural as life itself. If a married or single missionary frowns on that , then that is judging and a sin.On the other hand if a missionary has no desire to have sex and doesn’t see members of the opposite sex as part of normal relationship emotions then just walk through the mountains and villages with a severe hard on.

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