Christian Dating Advice for Your Kids

December 13, 2022

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In this episode, Elizabeth Urbanowicz shares advice on how parents can help their children build a healthy, biblical foundation for dating. With solid advice and scripture-based insights, this episode will equip you with the tools needed to help your children have a proper perspective on dating. If you're a Christian parent of teens or soon to be, tune in for dating advice to help set your child up for success.

Transcript

Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.

Elizabeth Urbanowicz:

Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast, where we seek to answer your questions so that you can get the kids God has placed in your care carefully evaluating every idea they encounter so they can understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I am thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Today's question says, do you have any advice for kids dating? How did your parents set out dating rules for dos and don'ts? Do I have dating advice? Oh, do I ever? No, I'm just kidding. This is actually a question for kids, obviously teens, which is a little bit older than we typically cover in Foundation Worldview. But this question came in a recent webinar and I thought it would be great to talk through simply because the rules that we set out for dating, we want to make sure that we have these in place before our kids are actually in a place where they might be able to begin dating. So we should begin to think through these things even when they're ages 10 or potentially even a little bit younger.

So there's two parts to this question. The first part is, do I have any advice for dating? And then the second part is, how did my parents do this with me and my siblings? So I'll answer that second part of the question first. So my parents, when I was growing up, the rule in my household that my parents set was that we were not allowed to date until we were 16, my parents just thought that before that age, we were very, very far away from the potential age where we could marry. So it would be unwise for us to get entangled emotionally and physically in a relationship. So the rule was that we couldn't date until we were 16 and that the person needed to be a Christian.

And whenever we would push back against this, my parents, we would maybe say, "I'm not necessarily going to marry this person, I'm just dating them." My mom would always respond with, "But are you going to marry someone that you don't date?" And obviously the answer to that question was no. So the person had to be a Christian, which I mentioned in a previous episode that I grew up in a very secular area of the country. And so this made dating almost impossible, that I really hardly knew any guys when I was in high school who were Christians. So most of the guys that were pursuing me were non-Christians. So that just made it so that I really didn't date at all in high school. And my siblings for the most part as well.

My parents really encouraged us to spend the majority of our time in groups so that we weren't spending so much one-on-one time with someone at a very young age when we would be tempted in a lot of different ways physically. When we were in a group setting, we were able to get to know the person that we were interested in. But there was also the accountability of having others around. We could also see how that person interacted with others. And then something else that my parents did, not only for us in dating, but also just for us in friendships, is they intentionally opened up their home at all times so that we would want to spend the majority of our time there. I mean, I'm more of a homebody, so I didn't go over to friend's houses a ton anyway. Both of my siblings are a little bit more extroverted than I am, so they did go over to other people's houses more frequently.

But with all three of us, we spent the majority of our time at home because my parents just always opened up their home. They were intentional that when we were growing up in our basement, that that was an area that we would just want to spend time. They made sure they had a TV with a really big screen on it. They had really loud speakers for a sound system, both for the TV and then for playing music. They had a ping pong table. We had weights down there. I think there was just like a little mini basketball hoop. We had a basketball hoop in our driveway as well. And so my parents just always wanted our home to be a place that we and our friends wanted to spend time with.

My mom always also made sure that she had food, and she was always ready and willing to prepare it for us. That whenever we had friends over, my mom would bring out the popcorn, the chips, the dip, the ice cream, everything, just so that it was a fun environment where our friends wanted to be so that my parents could get to know our friends, so that they could be monitoring what we were doing. And obviously we had a curfew. We had times that we had to be at home if we were out. There were times after midnight, obviously nobody could be at our house, but my parents were never like, "Oh, we want to go to bed so you guys have to leave." They always wanted to make sure that our home was a very inviting place so that they got to know us, they got to know our friends, they got to know the people that we were interested in dating.

So those were things my parents intentionally did and rules that they set up. And I would say they were successful in that as teenagers, we did spend the majority of our time in our parents' house. Our parents got to know our friends very, very well, and they were able to speak wisdom into those areas of our lives. And also, I'm still not married, but both of my siblings are married and my brother is married to a woman who loves Jesus and who is raising their kids in a home that's very gospel centered. My sister is married to a man that loves Jesus and is leading their home very well. And so I would say my parents were fairly successful, by God's grace, they would say, by God's grace and a ton of prayer that my siblings who are married, they have married people who love Jesus.

And so the first part of the question was asking me what I personally thought about rules for dating when thinking about teenagers. And so my advice would be, I think the things that my parents did were excellent. I think actually setting an age, that kids can't date underneath a certain age, I think that's a great idea. I think making sure they spend the majority of their time in groups is a great idea. I think making sure that your home is a place that's open and inviting for them to come. I think that's a wonderful idea as well.

And then I would say biblically, I would take the model that's set forth in the New Testament, in the epistles where in most of Paul's letters, if you read them as a whole, you'll see that he spends the first half of them on what we would call orthodoxy. And so that's right belief. So he lays the foundation for who is Jesus? What has he done for us? What does this mean? And then the second half of most of Paul's letters, he shifts into orthopraxy, and that's how does this sound theology translate into how we live? And so when we're thinking about laying the groundwork for our children being able to date, or if you want to call it courting or just intentionally getting to know anyone of the opposite sex, anyone who could potentially be a spouse, we want to lay forth this orthodoxy.

And first, just making sure that our children know that any person they're dating or courting or in an intentional relationship with, or even just interested in, that person is an image bearer, that our culture primarily looks at people who we're attracted to in thinking of what can that person do for me? What value do they bring to me? What attention are they going to bring to me? Where that is just the opposite of what scripture teaches. Scripture teaches it that that person is not someone that we can use for our advantage or our pleasure, but that person is an image bearer of the holy God. So that's the foundational thing. Our children need to know that anyone they're interested in is an image bearer.

Then they need to know that the goal really in dating or courting or intentionally getting to know someone, is while you're intentionally getting to know that person, to point them to Jesus. The ultimate end goal of dating or courting or whatever is marriage. That that's where that relationship should be heading. And so if your children are not in an age where they're old enough yet to get married, they probably shouldn't be one-on-one dating yet. But the goal of that one-on-one relationship is marriage. And so if marriage is this picture of Christ and the church, then any marriage should be pointing both the people in it and the people surrounding it to Jesus. So that should be the goal of a dating relationship, that we're pointing this other person and anyone else watching towards Jesus.

Another thing that we should think through just in laying the theological framework is that if we're truly loving that person, if we're loving that person in the way that love is described in the Bible, whereby laying down our life for that person, everything that we do should be preparing that other person for a godly marriage if God has marriage and his planned for them one day. So everything we do meaning that physically we should not be doing things with that person, that should be reserved just for their spouse. And I don't just mean the act of sexual intercourse. I mean, there are other things that we can do with our bodies that really should just be reserved for marriage.

There's also things emotionally, ways we can get attached to someone emotionally that really should just be reserved for marriage. So our children, their goal in this relationship should be to love this person by preparing them for a godly marriage, meaning that they're not getting involved with that person physically in a way that really only that person's spouse should be involved with them. They shouldn't be getting involved emotionally in a way that really only that person's future spouse should be involved in them, and they should be setting up good practices that are preparing that person for marriage. As your daughter starts to date someone, she's kind of teaching that boy to speak female. And as you know, like your son dates a woman, he's teaching that woman to speak male because we just speak different languages a lot of times. So just preparing that person for their future spouse and then helping that person to more fully reflect Christ should be another goal.

I mean, this should even be a goal in our friendships, not just in romantic relationships or in marriage. Anytime I get together with a friend, my goal should be to help that friend more fully reflect Jesus, to help them see who Jesus is, to understand the truth of the gospel more fully, to help them understand their sin, to gently point it out when it arises, just as I expect for them to do to me. So we want to lay this theological framework that this person is an image bearer, that we should be helping point this person to Jesus. We should be preparing them for their future marriage. We should be helping them more fully reflect Christ, that Jesus is the goal. Christ likeness is the goal in all of this.

The goal is not that I would feel emotionally fulfilled. The goal is not that my physical or sexual desires would be fulfilled. The goal is not that this person would fill me up. The goal is not that other people would think well of me because I'm dating a really good looking person. The goal is that through getting to know this person intentionally, both I and this other person will more fully reflect Jesus. So that's the theological framework. So that's the orthodoxy. So now we're moving into the orthopraxy. So how does this actually look in real life?

If we just go into the dos and don'ts first, there's going to be no foundation there. So we need to start with this foundation, this theological foundation. But then we can't just stay there with this theological foundation because think about a house. We can't just build the foundation and be like, "Oh, that's great." Okay, we actually need the walls, and the roof, and the windows, and the doors on there. So the same thing is true after we've laid this theological foundation for our children to understand what the goal should be in dating. Then we need to actually build on that foundation. Okay, the orthopraxy. What does this look like in everyday life? And we should specifically look for boundaries. Okay, what are good boundaries? So if the goal is to help this person look more like Jesus and that I will look more like Jesus, what are some healthy physical boundaries that we should set up? Okay. Is it okay if we're holding hands? Okay, is it okay if we're cuddling on the couch? Is it okay if we're kissing?

Are these things actually helping point us towards Jesus? And for most teens, anything aside from holding hands, I hate to sound like a curmudgeon here, but anything that they're doing physically really outside of holding hands, isn't necessarily pointing that person to Jesus. As they grow, as they're in relationships that are more serious where they're nearing engagement, or they're engaged and they're nearing marriage, there can be maybe a little bit more physical involvement. But most physical involvement is not pointing that person towards Jesus, where physical involvement in marriage is a beautiful thing because you have two people becoming one flesh. And that's a picture of Christ and the church in its proper context. So that's where physical love should be expressed within marriage. So thinking about physical boundaries and really for teens, you really need to lay this out. Okay. What does this look like? How close will you be seated on the couch? How often are you going to be alone? What do you do when you're in the car alone with someone? What do you do in this situation? What do you do in that situation?

Also, thinking of emotional boundaries. Okay, how are you going to let this person know that you care for them and let them know that they're special? Really get to know them without using words that are going to indicate that you're in a place of commitment that you can't be. Okay. When are you going to wait to tell them that you love them? Or how are you going to be careful with the compliments that you give them so that you're not getting their heart attached to you too soon? If they say things to you that really aren't appropriate to say, how are you going to respond?

If you have two teens who really love Jesus and they're very spiritually mature, it's even wise to talk through, what are your boundaries going to be around sharing your prayer life? Because our relationship with God is the most in-depth, intimate part of us, because God knows us better than we know ourselves. Our relationship with God is the most intimate relationship that we can have. And so when we're talking to God, that is one of the most intimate conversations that we can have, and we should pray with one another. But especially for teens that are very spiritually sensitive, just being careful how much one-on-one time are they spending praying together? Because then they're really pouring their heart out before the Lord, and this person is seeing that and getting even more drawn to them. So I'm not saying don't pray together, but just how much one-on-one time are they praying together? And then also thinking about just how much one-on-one time are they spending together, that it's really difficult not to get prematurely emotionally attached to someone if you're spending a ton of one-on-one time with them.

Then the final boundaries that I would recommend looking through with teens are time boundaries. When people are excited about one another, it's really easy to ditch all your friends, ditch your homework, ditch everything else, and just spend time together. But talk through what does this look like appropriately? How often should you be spending time together? How often should you be texting one another? Just because with texting, it's so easy to get wrapped up emotionally when you're not spending time with this person and getting to know them, and you can be texting someone at all hours of day and night. So really think through what are healthy time boundaries, in-person time, on the phone time, texting time to make sure that this person is still developing healthy relationships with their family, with their church family, with their friends, with their classmates, to make sure that you're not just so wrapped up in one another that all other parts of your world just crumble because that's not ultimately to anyone's benefit.

So really thinking through the orthopraxy with physical, emotional and time boundaries and just looking at, okay, how can we actually help this person reflect Jesus more? How can we include this person in our family? How can we care for them? How can we encourage them to invest time in their friends, to keep investing in these different relationships? So that would be my advice for dating.

And then I also recommend, I've recommended this book before. But this book, Every Moment Holy by Douglas Kaine McKelvey, he has a lot of liturgies just for everyday moments in life. And so I think that this can be a great thing. He actually has a liturgy for those who are beginning dating or courting, and it can be a great thing to read through with your kids ahead of time when they're starting to date someone to think through this. So I'm actually just going to close by reading through this because I think it's a great prayer for us to have for our children and for whoever they're dating.

And so this liturgy for dating or courtship says, "Here's where I am, oh Lord. I find myself drawn to one in whom I see a striking beauty of personhood, a depth of soul, a sensitivity to goodness and truth, a vibrant intentionality of life and choice. I praise you God for creating such a person and displaying in them unique expression of your glory. I thank you that my path has crossed theirs in this time and place in history. I am increasingly drawn to this one you have created, and I desire to know them more. But I am finite and limited, and I cannot see the path that lies ahead on this journey toward eternity. So give me wisdom, Lord, do not let my emotions get ahead of me. In the time that I spend with this your beloved child, let me not act selfishly. Let me not take lightly my constant responsibility for the heart and well-being of another, regardless of the tenor of my own feelings and desires.

Let me remember that this relationship does not affect only the two of us. It exists in that greater web of loving and sacrificial bonds of parents and grandparents, family and friends who had already invested years of nurture, and care, and love, and prayer, and tears and delight in this person long before I ever met them. So let me now act and always in this relationship in ways that would honor and affirm the tender investment of all who love this person. Let me build on that good foundation that whatever the two of us create together would be a blessing to all who know us. Indeed, oh Lord, give us in our shared hours, wisdom to build well, that even if all we cultivate in partnership is a small garden where friendship can grow, it will still in its own humble way, be a place of encouragement and beauty that would bring a smile and a joy to passerbyers.

Or if we awaken one day to the understanding that what we were creating all along was not just a garden of friendship, but an enduring love, and the foundation of a castle, and a tended ground, where the remainder of our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren, and all our friendship and all our service to you, oh God, would be lived out together in a bond of wedded love and intimacy. That all the more reason we should build well and with intentionality and unselfish love here at the beginning. Give me this wisdom, therefore, give me this grace. Give me patience and an eternal perspective that would govern well my choices today and in all the days to follow. Do not let my emotions get ahead of me, oh Lord, let me love you by loving this person well. And in kindness and self-restraint, let me always choose their greatest good as if it were my own. Amen."

Well, that's a wrap for today. But as always, my prayer as we leave this time together is that God would continue to richly bless you as you faithfully disciple the children that He's placed in your care. I'll see you next time.

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