By Rhonda Stoppe, Crosswalk.com
When our oldest daughter, Meredith, asked to go to a boy’s house to watch movies we were less than thrilled. She said, “His parents will be downstairs so it’ll be fine.”
This was new territory for us. In the many years Steve had youth pastored, we’d observed our youth kids dating. And we were pretty sure it wasn't what we wanted for our kids. I mean, seriously. Letting two hormonally charged teens spend time alone together? Ain’t no good gonna come of that!
But there we were facing our moment of truth. Meredith was a sweet girl who loved the Lord and had great Christian friends. The boy who invited her over was a new believer but his parents weren’t Christians.
When Steve grimaced Meredith was ready with her speech of why she thought we should trust her to go on this date. Upon finishing her discourse, Steve said, “Mer, here’s the thing. I don’t want you alone with a boy. Even if his parents are downstairs. That’s still not what’s best for you.”
Meredith replied, “Dad I know. You’ve been talking about sexual purity for years. I get it. I know. And I can handle it!”
As a youth pastor’s kid Meredith heard the purity talks at church, retreats, and listening as we talked with other teens. Meredith was right, she did know. She had heard. But what she didn’t know was her vulnerability.
Steve said, “Meredith. The fact that you think you can handle being alone with a boy shows me you’re not mature enough to realize how vulnerable you actually are. I’m responsible to protect you and help you learn to protect yourself––even when you don’t think you need to be guarded.”
Steve said, “You’re welcome to invite the boy to come over here while we’re at home. We are not forbidding you from spending time with him, it just has to be on our terms. Alright?”
Meredith could tell this was a non-negotiable option. We knew she didn’t want to be known as the weird kid not allowed to date. We told Meredith we realized that not being able to date like everyone else made her feel like the only one. But we asked her to trust us.
Meredith reluctantly accepted Steve’s offer to invite the boy to our home and the conversation came to an end. But there would be more, many more, conversations to come about boys, dating and sexual purity.
Should Teens Date?
The short answer is––no. And the long answer is––yes.
Answering the question about teens and dating is tricky business. Black and white is how we saw the issue––before our kids became teens.
Although it would have felt easier to say, “Absolutely no dating,” we also knew from years of mentoring youth that this was the time we needed to lean in and listen to our kid’s hearts. Connection was the key to equip them to protect their own purity.
While it may seem easier to make the hard and fast rule of no dating, consider how you may miss the opportunity to train your child to defend their own purity by allowing them to “date” while they are in your home, under your supervision.
We knew of teens whose parents forbade any form of dating, only to find their child was ill-equipped to guard their chastity after they moved out. One girl came home pregnant after her first semester of a Christian college. She was bewildered and tempted to have an abortion to hide her shame.
Train Your Child in the Way They Should Go
Other parents preferred courtship. But we didn’t feel like this was the path for our family. (Click here for more on courtship verses dating).
So, where am I going with this? I told you the answer is tricky! With each of our children the dating question had to be pondered with fresh eyes for what was best for the individual. And my advice to you is to do the same. If God tells you your kid shouldn’t date––don’t let them date. I’m not here to change your mind.
If you’re ready to weigh the pros and cons of allowing your teen to date, please do so with caution. God calls parents to train their child in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). You have to know your child well in order to guide them in all areas of life––including dating. What worked for my kids may not work for yours. So, ask God to grant you His discernment for how He would have you guide your teen.
Priority one, the person they like has to know and love Christ. No exceptions, period. Give your teen the alternative to spend time with that person with a group of Christian friends in your home. Make your home a place where they want to bring their friends so you can oversee what movies they watch and the interaction between the couples.
Don’t be naive to think that at a friend’s house Christian couples won’t pair off for make-out sessions. This is more common than you might think. So, making your home the place where there’s lots of snacks and things to do may be your best contribution to helping your teens interact honorably.
A house full of teens? Exhausting I know. But take it from an older woman who’s walked this path ahead of you, it’s well worth the sacrifice! The time you spend training your teen safe ways to “date” will equip them and help them know you care. To establish these perimeters here are a few things to give to your teen:
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images
1. Give them The Why
It may be uncomfortable to talk about sex and dating. But it’s vital to explain to your teen how:
- being alone with someone they have feelings for is an invitation to stumble
- their bodies will long for intimacy
- Satan’s goal is to seduce them to give in to their longings
- fighting to remain pure is a spiritual battle
- Satan is a roaring lion seeking to devour them. He has heaped destruction on many who’ve failed to guard their purity. (1 Peter 5:8).
So, rather than just saying, “You’re too young”, train your child that spiritual maturity is what you’re looking for. Explain how dating without accountability is a path toward destruction.
Not only can physical attraction go farther than they intended, but teach them how people caught in sexual sin forfeit God’s blessing and guidance in their lives.
Help your teen understand that if he’s a Christian God’s Spirit indwells him to guide his steps toward a life without regrets. This includes helping him one day choose a godly mate. When your teen comes to realize that God’s interested in helping them find true love, they can better understand the importance of not quenching the Spirit by fulfilling their lusts (1 Thessalonians 5:19).
Galatians 5:16-17 says, “…Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”
Why date with supervision? Because it keeps Satan from causing them to stumble and rebel against God and His plan for their life.
2. Give Them HOPE
Let your teen know that you’re on their side. And that God has gifted you the opportunity to guide them through these uncharted waters. Impart confidence that if they keep following His will, God will bring them true love in His timing, if that’s His plan for them.
Expose your teen to hope-filled love stories that show Christ’s sovereignty in knitting two hearts together. That’s why I wrote my book, Real Life Romance. One of my favorite stories is of our youngest daughter, Kayla as a teen, and her now-husband, Estevan.
One day young Estevan asked me, “Why does Steve hate me?”
I replied, “He loves you! Why would you think that?”
Estevan said, “He won’t let me date Kayla.”
I explained to Estevan how Steve could see that he and Kayla deeply cared for each other. And he knew they hoped to marry one day. But since they were so young that day would be a long way off––if ever. So, while they waited, our goal was to help them remain sexually pure in their relationship.
I said, “Kayla’s committed to saving herself for marriage. She needs you to help her keep that commitment. One day you be the man she looks up to as her spiritual leader. She needs that to begin now. Do you understand?”
Estevan nodded and said, “I really do get it. Thanks!”
Rather than crushing their crush by saying, “You guys are too young” we offered them hope that they might end up married, if God wills. But in the meantime we’d help them remain pure. So, they spent time together with their friends––one of whom was Kayla’s older brother, who kept a watchful eye on her as you might imagine! (Watch and share with your teen: Estevan & Kayla telling their love story).
3. Give Them Support
Prayer is an essential support you give your teen as they encounter a culture that says sex and dating is expected. Making time to listen and talk is vital. If you won’t have the hard conversations they’ll find someone who will. But that person may not share your biblical values.
If your child is not a Christian use this season to teach them how knowing Christ will give them His Spirit as a support and guide.
You get one shot at this. So make time to support them as they process their feelings. Help them contemplate how to date in ways that honor Christ, meets your approval and guards their purity.
For Meredith, when she went away to college she met Jake (watch their love story here). They wanted to honor Christ in their dating so they soon realized the wisdom of group dating in or in the home of an older couple who mentored them.
One day your teen will be grown and they’ll be responsible for how they conduct themselves in their dating relationships. For now, ask God to grant you His wisdom for how He would have you guide your child. Give them dating alternatives. Teach them why purity matters. Give them hope and support. For in this you will equip your teen to date without regrets.
Photo Credit: ©Pexels/Duong-Nhan
Rhonda Stoppe is the NO REGRETS WOMAN. With more than 30 years experience of helping women build no-regrets lives. I could have listened to Rhonda talk all night, is what women say about Rhonda’s enthusiastic, humorous, transparent teaching, and zeal as an evangelist.
She’s committed to fulfilling the Titus 2:4 commission by mentoring, teaching and writing books that are inspiring, grounded in Scripture and easy to read––like you're visiting with a friend over coffee.
Rhonda is the author of 6 books and appears on numerous radio programs including Focus on the Family, Family Life Today and Dr. James Dobson’s FamilyTalk, & hosts The No Regrets Hour. She’s an evangelist and speaker at women’s events, College Women’s Chapel, Pastor’s Wives Conferences, MOPs and Homeschool Conventions. Sharing the gospel at her NoRegretsWoman Conference is her sweet spot. Rhonda is a regular contributor for Crosswalk and many other magazines.
Rhonda ministers alongside her husband Steve, who for 20 years has pastored First Baptist Church of Patterson, California. They live out their own Real Life Romance writing books and speaking at their No Regrets Marriage Conferences, but their favorite ministry is their family. They have four grown children and 10 grandchildren. To learn more about Rhonda’s speaking topics, watch her teaching and to book Rhonda for your next event visit: NoRegretsWoman.com