Many of you are entering (or have entered) into the stage of life where you are confronted with the idea of your teenager dating. In response to several requests, the session of Uptown Church has put together the following article for what we hope will be a helpful resource. It is our desire that this will help give you the confidence to enter into this conversation with your teenager. As with every other area of parenting, this is a tremendous opportunity for you to point them to the gospel and speak truth into a potentially confusing time.
What should we do about dating? How should I respond to my son’s newfound attraction to girls? Will I let my daughter date in high school? Can’t we just skip this stage? If you have kids, it is inevitable, you will have to face these questions with your teenager. As we read through the Bible it is clear that scripture places a high value on marriage. It is marriage that reflects the relationship between Christ and His church. In light of this, we too should hold a high value of marriage and look forward to the day that our children start their own family. The uncertainty lies in getting them there. How will you shepherd them through the transition of singleness into marriage? This document has been put together in an effort to encourage you as a parent. We want our kids to get married one day. The process of finding a spouse is not something to fear, but should be seen as yet another opportunity to speak godly wisdom and direction into the life of your child. There are many questions you should be asking, but we can’t give you all the answers. There is no set script. The Bible makes no mention of dating, at least not in the modern sense of the word. In biblical times, marriages were mostly arranged by parents. The concept of dinner and a movie, learning about one another’s likes and dislikes over coffee, and exploring the possibility of compatibility did not exist. Therefore it is not directly addressed in scripture.
However, the fact that the Bible does not speak to a modern sociological change does not mean it excludes any clear and appropriate instruction in this area. For example, adolescence did not exist in biblical times in the same way that it does today. And yet, we have no problem applying biblical truths to the parenting of teenagers. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible does give us specific commands in the area of purity, love, honesty, wise judgment and a whole compilation of exhortations that must be applied when Christians begin to build close relationships with the opposite sex.
The biggest issue in modern dating is the lack of parental oversight, not the act of dating itself. Christian parents must teach, articulate, and apply these truths of scripture as they shepherd their teenagers to think and act biblically when it comes to finding a spouse. Many of these decisions are a parent’s judgment call. We want you to make those decisions. Therefore, we designed this document to be a resource for the kinds of questions you should be asking and most importantly to encourage you to effectively communicate the answers to your teenager.
Here is a list of questions we think you should prayerfully consider and discuss as parents and in turn communicate with your teenager. Use this document as a helpful starting point in applying biblical principles to the area of dating.
- How do you define dating? This may seem like a small question but it is important to have a clear idea of what you mean when you say the term dating. Do you mean courting? Does a date have to be chaperoned? Is it only an exclusive relationship for the purpose of finding a spouse? If so will you allow for a casual trip to go get ice cream with a friend of the opposite sex? How about with a group? How about prom with a friend? Your teenager has different categories for each of these. Do you? How will you define the different levels of possible relationships? It is wise to be on the same page with your definitions to avoid talking past one another.
- What role do you as the parent play in the dating process? On one end of the spectrum are arranged marriages. On the other end, teenagers are completely autonomous. Where in that spectrum should you be? As a teenager, your child will soon be 18 and a legal adult. At some point before then, you ought to teach them how to make right decisions concerning the opposite sex. As a parent you should desire that your child would one day find a spouse. The important question is how will they get there? How will you intentionally shepherd them towards this? How much oversight will you give in both the decision over when to date as well as whom to date? Your instruction should begin long before your child is actually ready to date.
- Proverbs 4
- Deuteronomy 6:6-7 “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
- When is it all right to start dating? Ultimately this is a wisdom issue that you as the parent will need to decide. There is no set age, rather through prayer, discernment and conversations with your teenager. You, as the parent will gauge the maturity and readiness of your child. Is your daughter prone to be boy crazy? Does your son show signs of responsibility and integrity? Have you talked with them about sex and purity? Do they understand that singleness, even if it is temporary, is a gift (1 Cor. 7:35)? First and foremost do they love Jesus? What are your child’s besetting sins and natural tendencies? What behaviors do they demonstrate (modesty, flirting, comments, and body language) that could be misleading to others? The answer to these questions will reveal potential areas to address and work on as you guide them towards dating. In other words, as with the rest of life, you should proactively prepare them to find a spouse rather than react in panic when they come to you asking to go on a date. How will you be intentional in preparing them for that day?
- Can a Christian date a non-Christian? Scripture is clear that a Christian is not to marry a non-Christian, but what about dating? As the parent you should think through and decide at what point a relationship with the opposite sex becomes a violation of scripture. Can they go to lunch with a non- Christian? When does a relationship begin to move toward marriage? Does that only include the more exclusive relationships? Again, your definition of dating and the levels of relationships will help dictate your answer.
- 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?”
- How far is too far physically? Again, Scripture is very clear. Sex is reserved for marriage, but what is allowed physically in a relationship outside of marriage? Is holding hands? Kissing? Can a couple lie down on the couch to watch a movie? What are they allowed to touch? What is off limits? What if the couple is cold, can they snuggle under a blanket? Too often young people are left alone to figure this question out on the go, often at the pace of the other person. We suggest that you as the parent give direction in this area. Decide what is too far (down to the specifics) and communicate this with your teenager before they ever get into a potentially tempting situation. It may be awkward but your teenager will greatly benefit.
Scripture has a high standard in regard to sexual activity outside of marriage.
- Ephesians 5:3 “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.”
- Proverbs 6:27-28 “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?”
- 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
- How will technology impact dating? Technology plays a huge role in relationships today and provides excellent tools for connecting with friends and loved ones. However, it is also an obvious danger. Does your family have a tech strategy for phones, computer use, game consoles, etc.? How will you set proper boundaries on screen time? Will you allow texting with the opposite sex? When is it not appropriate? Have you talked through the potential dangers of the Internet, texting, and social media? Screen time will only ramp up when your teenager is attracted to someone. Communicate clearly what is allowed and not allowed. Have a plan in place. Make the distinction between privacy and secrecy. Prepare your teenager to exhibit godly wisdom and character with their use of technology.
- 1 Peter 3:13 “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
- John 3:20-21 “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
Ask Your Shepherding Elder!
-Degler, Jennifer. “Meet the Parents: Questions to Ask and Guidelines to Give Your Daughter’s
-DeYoung, Kevin. Hole in Our Holiness. “Chapter 8: Saints and Sexual Immorality.” Wheaton:
-Harris, Joshua. “Seven Habits of Highly Defective Dating.” Journal of Biblical Counseling
16 no. 2 (1998).
-Hendricks, Paula. Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey From Neediness to Freedom.
Chicago: Moody Press, 2013.
-Kostenberger, Andreas. God, Marriage, and Family: Rebuilding the Biblical Foundation. Wheaton:
-Maxwell, Paul. “Toward a Biblical Approach to Dating.” Online: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/10/23/toward-a-biblical-approach-to-dating/
-Meier, Mindy. Sex and Dating: Questions You Wish You Had Answers To. Downers Grove:
Intervarsity Press, 2007.
-Pure Hope Coalition. “Parenting in a Sexualized Culture.” Online: