One of the most important issues to a teen or young adult is his or her relationships with the opposite gender. As a dad, you have a responsibility to help your children navigate those relationships. Will you allow them to date in high school? Will your family do courting or dating? What stipulations will you place on your children’s relationships?
Christian dad, you must teach your children about dating and shepherd them through the process. Here are nine pitfalls to use as talking points when discussing this important matter.
1. Parents not being involved
Biblical examples of parents being involved in this area can be found in Genesis 24:1-9; Ruth 2:18-3:18; and Proverbs 5:1-23, 6:20-35, and 7:1-27. Based on these and other passages, some families prefer courtship to dating. Other cultures go so far as to have arranged marriages! However, whichever model you use, parents should be involved.
This is part of what it means to honor your parents (Eph 6:1-3) and is also very practical. After all, who knows a child better than his or her parents? And parents also want what’s best for their children. Why not work together on this?
2. Dating an unbeliever
The Bible is very clear that Christians are not to marry unbelievers. 1 Corinthians 6:14-15 says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever?”
Negative examples in this area include Esau, Judah, Samson, and Solomon. But what about dating an unbeliever? What if the guy says he is saved but doesn’t act like it? Can you witness through dating? I believe Scripture would say “no” to both, but these are important discussions to have with your kids.
3. Dating for fun rather than to find a spouse
“What could go wrong,” your teen might ask, “with dating for fun?” The answer, of course, is, “a lot.” Explain to your children that when you date, you are awakening a romantic attraction that can’t lead to its logical end until marriage.
Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” It is very difficult to “flee youthful lusts” while dating recreationally. This is one of the reasons I highly discourage teenage dating.
4. Getting married too soon or too late
Genesis 2:24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” You aren’t ready to get married until you are prepared to leave your parents and support a family. Young men should ask themselves, “Do I have a job that can pay all the bills?” Young ladies should ask themselves, “Am I ready to have children?”
Your grandparents may have gotten married when he was 18 and she was 17, but that probably won’t work well today. Sometimes, a couple will rush into marriage, and it turns out badly for them.
On the flip side, some couples wait too long to get married. I heard of a couple who dated for 10 years so that the guy could pay off his house before marriage! An engagement that long introduces a lot of temptation. At some point, you just have to trust God and move forward.
5. Dating before you know what you’re looking for in a spouse
Think about it: you wouldn’t start shopping for a house or a car before you first sat down and thought about what you were looking for. In the same way, you shouldn’t start dating until you know what you are looking for in a spouse.
One of the challenges my dad gave to me before I started dating was to make a list of “negotiables” and “non-negotiables" that I was looking for in a wife. Once I was done, we discussed the list together. What a productive exercise! (And also fun, when it comes to discussing “negotiables” like looks, interests, etc.)
Of course, when it comes to non-negotiables, the Bible must be our guide. This is a time for a young person to dig deep into God’s word to determine what God values most in a spouse.
6. Allowing your head to follow your heart in a dating relationship
If your kids have grown up watching Disney movies, they’ve been told that following their hearts is the key to success in romantic relationships. What a lie! Proverbs 28:26 says, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.”
One of the biggest dangers in dating is becoming emotionally invested before you’ve had time to think hard or pray about it. This is a recipe for disaster. As opposed to following their hearts, teens and young adults must be warned to guard their hearts while they’re dating. The dating process is a gradual giving away of your heart to the other person as you approach the day when you two will get married.
7. Idolizing your boyfriend or girlfriend
The “idols of the heart” concept is so important for us to grasp! Apart from being sinful, idolatry simply does not work. Anytime we try to make one of God’s good gifts ultimate, we crush it under our weight. Loving your boyfriend or girlfriend biblically and helping them draw close to the Lord is good. Idolizing them is bad, both for you and for them!
Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”1 If God’s plan for your child is marriage, they will quickly find that their spouse cannot satisfy their every desire. If God’s plan for your child is singleness, it is crucial that they find their contentment in Him. Why not help your kids learn this lesson ahead of time? Only Christ can satisfy!
8. Not setting up standards or inviting accountability
Of course, one of the most devastating failures when it comes to dating is not being pure. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” According to our Creator, the only acceptable context for sexual activity is biblical marriage.
This means that premarital sex, pornography, masturbation, sexting, etc. are all off-limits. Make sure your teenagers understand these things clearly, since they will face these temptations.
Also, help your children avoid these temptations by setting up standards and systems of accountability. Is it appropriate to hold hands, sit close, or kiss? What safeguards will they have about being alone in a vehicle?
One of the most neglected areas of accountability when it comes to Christian young people is smart phone usage. How will your daughter be accountable for pictures she sends to her boyfriend or topics of conversation they discuss via Messenger? If your teenagers are not wise and humble enough to see the wisdom of safeguards, then they are not ready to date.2
9. Ignoring red flags
Proverbs 27:12 says, “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself; the simple pass on and are punished.” One of the goals for dating is to look for red flags that reveal bad character. These may be hard to spot at first but will gradually reveal themselves over time. Once you are emotionally invested in a relationship, it is tempting to overlook these red flags, but do not do so! You will almost certainly regret it.
Parents can help their teens and young adults notice red flags if their children are willing to listen. This highlights the importance of developing and maintaining a good relationship with your children.3
Dads, there are few choices your children will make in life as impactful as who they will marry. Do you love them enough to teach and shepherd them through the process of finding a spouse?
This reference is printed on the inside of my wedding ring. ↩︎
The booklet, “Dating Standards” by Sam Brock, director of Ironwood Christian Camp in Southern California is a great resource to help your teens make their own dating standards under your supervision. ↩︎
Growing Fathers Team
Kristopher serves as as the youth and discipleship pastor at Northwest Valley Baptist Church in Glendale, AZ. He and his wife, Elise, have four young children—Anaya, Felicity, Mollie Jo, and Klayton.View all posts by Kristopher