One of the tough parts about communicating is that sometimes the message doesn’t get received the way it was intended. This happens all too often on church signs. My favorite is “Don’t let worry kill you. Let the church help.” It’s also happened with Sam when I’ve told him to throw something in the trash can, and he goes to the kitchen and pulls out the stinky trash can when he could have put it in his room.
Yesterday I sent out my weekly email to the student ministry parents. One of the regular columns is a preview of what we’ll be talking about that Wednesday night. My goal with that is to give everyone a heads-up as to what we’ll be talking about so that you can have conversations with your student about what we’re talking about. As most of you know, we’ve been spending the last several weeks talking about developing a Christian worldview. We’ve covered a lot of different things: how we watch the news, who we are in Christ, what our purpose is, how we handle media, and more. As I was developing the curriculum plan I knew I wanted to take a night and talk about dating. What I didn’t know as I was developing it was how that discussion would take shape.
I knew I wanted to speak against what is typically seen in the big picture of our society, and push students to a better path. I’d read books like I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Boy Meets Girl by Josh Harris, What He Must Be If He Wants to Marry My Daughter by Voddie Bauchaum, blogs from Focus on the Family, and many conversations with student pastors. From all of those I felt a discontent with what we see teenagers & young adults doing, but I never felt satisfied fully with the alternatives proposed in those works. Along came the book Sex, Dating & Relationships: A Fresh Look, by Gerald Hiestand & Jay Thomas, which has really shaped my thinking in the last few weeks on this subject. Finally, I felt like I had found the alternative path for Christians to walk in and I was ready to teach on it.
In my preview I made some comments that were brought to my attention that could have read wrong. I want to first apologize for any offense that may have caused. In no way, shape, or form was that my intent. My goal in that column was to provide a preview of what we’ll be talking about. I will take a little time and elaborate on a few parts that have been brought to my attention.
“Some of the students won’t like me” – I hate hearing hard truth. It’s not fun, and to be honest during high school and college my youth & college pastors had some very hard truth for me. And I was ticked at them for it, because I knew I needed to make some changes and they were right. I have no doubts that tonight’s discussion may not make everyone happy – I know for a fact it wouldn’t have made me when I was 16, I was too girl crazy to think with much wisdom. But tomorrow night is covered in love, because over and over again Carrie and I have talked about our regrets in not only our dating relationship but others before we met, and how if we had it to do over again we’d have taken a much different path. My goal is to provide a different path.
“concept of dating in our society” – Our society has a pretty warped view of dating on the big scheme of things. What started as a way for young men & young women to spend time together to determine marriage prospects has devolved into a really bad reality show – complete with unhealthy physical intimacy, no commitment, no accountability, and often unnecessary heartbreak. A summary of the data is this: our teens are growing older younger, and with that comes much baggage and devastation in the heart and psyche. I emphasize the words our society to show that this is not directed at any individual or particular context, but the whole big picture of what is happening in our society. In the midst of the world’s confusion and competing voices, tonight is to point to a better path.
“glorified divorce practice” – I had a friend growing up who went through girlfriends so fast after some point I quit even keeping up with them. The tragic comedy of Josh’s life would be funny now if it wasn’t so common. Relationships begin and end with such frequency, no real understanding of commitment, and a real lack of intention that patterns develop and habits form – patterns & habits that carry over into adulthood. Again, tonight is pointing to a better path.
“removes the role of parents” – The person who brought this to my attention said that it looked like I was saying “people who allow their kids to date aren’t involved.” That was not my intent to say that. My point was that the societal view of dating, the world’s view, removes parents from the equation – it creates another peer culture. The removal of parents is a fairly new phenomenon, before parents were involved throughout the courtship and budding romance of their children. Now, in many cases the parents function as chauffeurs (unless your mom wears curlers, like mine did, then it becomes ‘drop me off a mile away I’ll walk from here’) or as passive observers in the process. I did not intend to nor do I feel that my inclusion of that phrase implies that parents who allow their children to date are not involved – far from it.
The phrase that I want to emphasize is “in our society.” Again, I cannot emphasize that enough. I was intending to make broad strokes about a big-picture cultural observation. On the whole, we have a problem. We have a broken system to find a spouse. For Christians who are committed to Christ and living for Him, at times that means there is a need for a counter-cultural stance. My position is that this (a new approach to dating, friendships, and relationships) is such an opportunity.
“Do I think teenagers or young adults should date?” I would answer no, I do not. I would point them to patience & purity until they are ready to pursue marriage as a realistic option. Until then, they should pursue friendship & purity. This is our hope for Samuel as he grows up to manhood and our future children as well, and it is the path I would encourage and plead with parents to do.
“What if someone disagrees?” That’s fine, I can live with disagreement. Because this is a gray area and there isn’t an explicit Scripture reference, we’re left to walk the path of wisdom rather than declare something to be sin or not. I would encourage those who disagree to search Scripture and devote to prayer this issue. I ultimately leave this in the hands of parents to lead their children as the primary disciple-maker. Christians can live with disagreement, it’s part of the unity of diversity in 1 Corinthians, the oneness of the Body of Christ in Galatians 4 and mutual submission in Ephesians 5. It’s actually wonderful – the world divides over disagreement, but the Church is called to unity in the midst of differing opinions.
Should anyone have further questions I would be more than happy to discuss this with you. I’d also invite you to come tomorrow night where I’ll present this. Sit through it, soak it in, and let’s talk. Again, I do apologize for any insensitivity or if what I intended to say didn’t quite come out the way I intended it to. Thank you!