February 20, 2015
A conversation on how teenagers can date differently, as this is a season for teenagers to prepare themselves for marriage, not a season to practice.
I think this topic—how you handle dating, sex, and marriage as a teenager—will help you flourish as a young person, or it will destroy you. You see, before sin came into the world, we didn’t need to have conversations around “how teenagers should date for the glory of God.” Because we live in a post-Genesis 3 world, and a post-Industrial Revolution world at that (which became ground zero for a new phenomena known as youth culture), conversations like this need to happen. Here is what I want to get off my chest right from the beginning: the way young people view and pursue dating, sex, and marriage today = DISASTER! I have been working with teenagers and their families for the past 10 years, and nothing brings more counseling sessions with conflicted parents and teens who are full of guilt and shame to my office than this topic. Whenever these conversations, counseling sessions, teaching moments, and sermons take place, I always go back to 5 words to guide our conversation:
GOD, ME, THEM, US, WE.
Here’s what I mean by these words:
Let’s begin our conversation with God.
GOD: Remember that God CREATED sex, dating, and marriage and called it good… in the right context (Gen. 2:23-25).
Just because we misuse something, it does not negate the value of it. I don’t think we should necessarily accept or reject the current dating approach of teenagers today. I do, though, think we should redeem it.
It all began with God. God created everything—the universe, the earth, animals, and man. Adam woke up one day, because God scooped up dirt and created him, and he saw this incredible world that God had given him. Shortly thereafter, God created Eve to be a helper for Adam. It was good. It was incredible. They were naked, and they weren’t ashamed. It was in this context (before sin came into world) that they flourished. We must always remember that sex and marriage are good things, and we must teach teenagers to pursue these things as nothing but gifts from God to be used in the right context. I will come back to this again, but the purpose of dating is not recreation, but marriage.
ME: Prepare yourself RIGHT NOW to be married one day.
After our discussion on the GOD-given purpose of dating, sex, and marriage (which by no means do we have the space here for an exhaustive conversation on purpose), we then move our discussion onto ME. Contrary to popular dating habits, this is a season for teenagers to prepare themselves for marriage, not a season to practice dating. Here is what I would suggest as a road map for preparing yourself as a teenager for marriage (again, not exhaustive, but a good place to start):
THEM: Test the CHARACTER of the person you wish to date.
Again, if we view this time as a season of preparation—pursuing the marks of manhood and womanhood now—then naturally we will move into this discussion when one begins to move into the dating, or courtship, years. Often times, though, when it comes to the person in which we are interested, our foundation for pursuing that relationship is physical attraction. Although this is important, it’s not the most important. The character of the person you wish to date must be primary. When was the last time you looked across a room and noticed someone’s character? Exactly! It takes time to get to know someone’s character. I can’t say it enough—this is a season of preparation, not practice.
US: Ask yourself several questions if you are currently in a dating relationship as a teenager.
If you can’t answer these questions in the affirmative, then push pause and hold the breaks for a while.
WE: Do we have approval by godly (and older) counsel, and most importantly, do we have approval by our parents to move forward into marriage?
Men, when you are ready to pursue a woman for marriage, you need to bring both families into the conversation. In fact, I would recommend both sets of parents being involved in the conversation even before the dating relationship begins. Furthermore, until a dad gives away his daughter on the marriage day, the dad is the leader, provider, and protector of his little girl—not the interested potential guy.
Parents, set up a framework in your home where your children know and understand the standard of how dating will take place. I talk with parents often who parent in reactionary ways concerning sex and dating. They don’t start talking about it until their child brings home a boyfriend or girlfriend, and then they show up in my office wanting me to talk with them. By this time, it’s too late. One of our many goals in parenting is to set our children up for success as adults—allowing them to date whoever they desire, whenever they desire, with no standard and understood framework in your home, is the opposite of setting them up for success throughout the teenage years.
I have talked with many parents throughout the years who have called this approach to dating legalistic. The main point lies within the thought that teenagers should not date until they are ready for marriage. Remember, the purpose of dating is not recreation, but marriage. I realize that can seem legalistic at first glance. However, parenting and shepherding our children to pursue Christ, purity, mature manhood and womanhood, and to prepare themselves for marriage now, instead of practice, is nothing but attempting to parent your children the best you can in a post-Genesis 3 world. And that, my friend, is anything but legalistic. In fact, I would say it is God honoring!
Living in a post-Genesis 3 world takes work. It doesn’t come to us naturally. If we simply follow the world’s way of doing things, in every area (including dating), we will slowly begin to look like the world and not the redeemed believers that we are. Prepare now. Be intentional now. And ask God to provide you with the man or woman who will one day be your husband or wife.
Greg Gibson is an elder and family ministries pastor at Foothills Church in Knoxville, TN. Follow him on Twitter at @gregrgibson.
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