As parents, the issue of dating is one of those areas where we want to have all the answers. We’d love to have a black and white biblical list of rules that we can hand our kids and tell them to follow it, but honestly, it doesn’t exist. There are books with the different “Christian philosophies” for us to consider, but the bottom line is that there are no hard and fast Biblical rules.
When my children were growing up, there were a number of popular books available to help us form our philosophy of dating. We studied them and decided what we agreed with and decided what ideals we wanted to teach our kids. But in doing that, what we ended up doing was taking those ideals and imposing them onto real life people. If these ideals are not Biblical, but a man’s idea of how he thinks things need to be to walked out, we are in danger of imposing on our kids a burden that was never meant to be imposed. We could ultimately cause them frustration and hinder their growth.
We must give room for God to work in our children as individuals, giving them opportunity to learn, grow, and think for themselves. Maybe this whole dating issue is a little simpler than we want to make it.
What not to do:
- Don’t react against our cultural extremes and throw out the whole concept of dating. Just because our culture may not have boundaries in dating doesn’t mean the concept is wrong. Of course, we must separate from any world view that is not consistent with God’s heart. (2 Peter 2: 20)
- Don’t idealize the practices of another era (ie the Victorian era)or culture, decide that it is “God’s way” to do things, and then impose them on your kids.
- Don’t let this issue be one that causes division among believers. This is another one of those issues that actually causes division amongst believers, and that is tragic! I’ve known moms that proudly announce “MY kids DON’T date!” and with that announcement they put up walls between themselves and another mom whose kids do date, or whose kids may be struggling in this particular area. Any issue that is not clearly set out in scripture should not be one that causes division. We need to give room for the biblical principles that are found in scripture that might be applied to the concept of dating or courtship to look different from person to another.
- Glean what we can from books written about the topic of dating, but not hold them up as the gospel truth. Since there is so little in scripture written about the subject, we must remember that these are merely ideas that a man ( or woman) have come to. They are suggestions about how one might date in a God honoring way.
What to do?
- Pray for wisdom. The fact that the rules of dating are not found in scripture give us as parents another opportunity to pray for God to guide us in the lives of each child, and even consider the fact that they are individuals and that this might even look a bit different from one child to the next.
- Teach our children. We can look at biblical principles and do our best to teach them to our children so that they can apply them to all their relationships, including those of the opposite sex in whom they may find themselves attracted to.
- Start the conversation early. Since there is no “biblical” or magical age for when dating should begin, we might want to view it in light of maturity rather than age. But the discussion can start long before our children are anywhere near the time when dating might begin. We all know that being attracted to the opposite sex begins very early in life. It is a normal, God given desire and attraction. We should never make our kids feel guilty for having a normal attraction, but begin the discussion about how to handle that desire. They can begin learning how practice Biblical principles at a very young age.
- Come up with some goals. You can begin by sharing that the ultimate goal in dating is to meet a potential marriage partner. but it can also provide a way for us to learn how to interact with the opposite sex in a God honoring way
- Try not to dictate. We need to remember that our children are individuals who will be attracted to, and want to spend time with, the opposite sex as they get older. It is a normal God given desire. We need to take the time to engage our kids in an ongoing conversations about this, drawing them out so that we can hear their thoughts and heart, and not just dictate to them how they should think.
- Again, pray for wisdom. We need to pray for, and with our kids, asking God for wisdom to know how to help our kids walk out this area in their lives. We need to encourage our kids to be praying about what this should look like in their lives. When the time comes that they come to you and are interested in someone, you can pray for wisdom on how to handle the friendship.
Read the Word, pray, seek God’s direction, pray for your children, and allow God to do things His way in your children and their relationships. He is more than able to guide and do a miraculous work in your child’s life…even in the area of dating!
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8