Thursday, February 24, 2011

True Love Waits...but only a little while

If you haven't read my first post in this series, click here.

In today's post, I want to address some specific dangers when our teens choose to date. We've already seen a retrospective look at attitudes, mindsets and character issues many parents recall from their own dating years, but we've also seen that time seems to dull our memories as parents. In fact, many parents may see dating as a "harmless phase" that all teens go through. I would even argue that many Christian parents feel a false sense of security because of the heavy emphasis on Abstinence Education in both the public and private sector.

Abstinence programs are a great idea, but we have the misguided notion that they offer protections for our dating kids. Let's think about it though... Isn’t it unrealistic to expect a teenager who has been pursuing emotional romance since age 12, and a limited physical relationship for about the same length of time, to refrain from sexual relations until he marries a decade later? What about those kids who 'take the pledge?' It’s interesting to note that a study done in 2001 by the American Journal of Sociology states that virginity pledges were found to delay intercourse only by an average of 18 months.In other words, for many kids, a pledge might delay activity for a while, but not until they are married.

Make no mistake, I am THRILLED with the moves towards abstinence education, but I believe educating our kids about sexual purity and expecting them to remain sexually pure while they date is a lot like an Alcoholics Anonymous group choosing to hold their meetings in a bar.

Equally as sobering is the sad statistic Josh McDowell quotes in his book Why True Love Waits: The Definitive Book on How to Help Your Kids Resist Sexual Pressure regarding 'churched kids.' Lest we assume, as Christian parents, that because of our faith and church involvement that our kids are safe, we should be aware that while “religion conscious” girls are 86% more likely to say that it is important to be a virgin at marriage than “non-religion-conscious” girls, those same religious conscious girls are only 14% more likely to actually be virgins. Thus, being active in church is no guarantee that a young person is immune to the pressures pushing teens into premarital sexual involvement.

If our kids become sexually active, 1 in 4 will get an STD. Out of all the teen girls you know, 4 out of 10 of them are likely to get pregnant. 

Makes you want to lock them in a tower a la Rapunzel, doesn't it? 

As parent, we need to be careful to not reduce purity to just sexual purity...the term purity encompasses to much more. That's the subject of my next post. Hope you'll be back.

Monday, February 21, 2011

On Dating. Or...This fruit isn't as tasty as it looks.

As a parent of young adults (some would call them teenagers), we are entering a vast new territory with regards to issues in parenting. No more are we worried about how to stop tattling or separation anxiety...No, now there are bigger fish to fry.

Like dating.

Many families today subscribe to our cultures ideals that casual dating, or 'catch and release' relationships are a harmless part of growing up. We are not one of those families. Perhaps after being challenged to consider--really consider--this teen ritual, you won't be either.

Like many of our parenting choices, this isn't a decision we arrived at overnight or after a casual conversation. We labored, prayed, discussed, read, talked and studied. We recalled our own dating experiences. We wanted something better for our children.

In reflecting on what exactly teen dating is, and considering what the motivation is for such behavior, I concluded that this is yet another place the worldly philosophy of humanism has crept in and usurped Biblical principles. Think about it. Humanism suggests that man is supreme and everything revolves around man. The Bible says we should consider everyone better than ourselves. Humanism is selfish, Biblical Christianity is selfless. While Christians everywhere may struggle with selfishness, to have a whole practice based on selfish motivations is completely different. Thus, my conclusion that recreational dating by it's very nature is based in humanism.

There are far more egregious sins that are commonly attached to humanism because they are much easier to peg. A selfish spouse pursuing adultery, an inconvenienced woman considering abortion...most Christians see these actions as clearly wrong. Recreational dating though, really??

It's very subtle.

Jesus says in Luke 6:44 that we will know a tree by it's fruit. Let's have a look at some of the 'fruit' the modern dating scene provides. A short (anonymous) survey of other parents identified these 'fruits' from their dating experiences.

Suicidal thoughts.
Improper thoughts.
Hindered Spiritual growth.
Strained relationship with parents.
Feeling of being used.

Suddenly, the dating scene looks a lot less enticing, doesn't it. And it's a lot easier to see the inherent dangers associated with the teen dating scene.

The problem of course, is that this survey is a retrospective survey given to parents. Teens may not give the same kinds of answers for reasons of self-preservation, selfishness, or just because they are dishonest and don't want to admit that some of these feelings are happening to them, right now, as a result of their relationship choices.

Honestly, if parents were not asked to think about and reflect on their dating experiences, it probably wouldn't cross our minds. For most of us, dating was such a long time ago, we've forgotten how it felt. Time has the tendency to erase hard edges and even 'romanticize' young love. We don't remember the pain, hurt, disillusionment and heartbreak associated with those early relationships.

I would even venture to say that as parents, we may even equivocate the idea that because our teens relationships can't really "go anywhere," there is no harm or danger involved. In other words, "Meh, they're only 13 and 14...They can't get married...What's the harm in them having a little fun. They're so cute."

Oh friends, if only there were no real 'dangers.' Remember the list...and stay tuned. Part deux is coming.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Purity. Dating. Courtship. Intentional Parenting.

I just had the opportunity to speak to my local homeschooling support group on Dating and Courtship. While composing the list a resources, it occurred to me that my blog readers and cyber friends might could benefit from my research...

God has also granted us a plethora of resources on the topic, starting of course with the Bible. Here is a list of other resources, many of which I referenced or studied in preparing my presentation.


There are a couple of online sermon series that I found to be both relevant and challenging. The first, from Pastor Brian Watts, is entitled Deterring Dating and Clarifying Courtship. This page has brief outlines as well as audio files for you to either listen to online or download. If you prefer a longer printed outline for reading, click here.

Another series I found was by Pastor Steve Lewis, From Modesty to Marriage:Training our Sons and Daughters in Purity. This is a six part series that explores modesty and purity as well as relationships with the opposite gender in a Biblical context. I have not listened to the whole series, but found the outlines to be very Scripturally sound and I am looking forward to listening to the whole series. You also have the option to watch a slideshow with audio on this site.

Respected and Author Michael Farris wrote this article: Five Lessons on Courtship. He also wrote about avoiding the dating trap through emotional abstinence. I like to call it 'guarding your heart.'

Dr. Jeff Myers writes about having integrity in relationships. In this article, he covers three simple principles to apply to relationships.

This graph illustrates the three stages of courtship.

If after reviewing this material, you and your family decide to pursue courtship, you may find these "parent/child agreements" beneficial.

In our Christian faith, it can be very easy to take new ideas or teachings and begin to elevate them to a place they don't deserve. We begin to follow the 'letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law.' That's called legalism and it's very dangerous. Here's a good read for some perspective on how to best avoid the legalism trap: Morality is not the Point.


One of the questions at the meeting was wondering how to best equip our kids to navigate the questions and pressure from peers. I have a couple thoughts on this. First, we cannot expect that if we simply tell our kids our convictions over and over that they will understand or comply all the time. One of the challenges of parenting is getting our kids not to be outwardly compliant, but motivated by the condition of their hearts. We must get them to own the principles, values and faith of our family for themselves. The best way to do this is start early. While it's never too late to introduce new principles or convictions to your children, you have an edge when they are much younger. To this end, these are fantastic resources dealing with the broader topic of purity geared toward tweens and younger:

8 Great Dates for Moms and Daughters: How to Talk About True Beauty, Cool Fashion, and...Modesty! (Secret Keeper Girl) A very helpful, fun, fresh and relevant guide for mom's to go through with their little girls. Lots of fantastic conversation starters. There is also a Secret Keepers website loaded with tons of other great resources!

Princess & the Kiss: A Story of God's Gift of Purity
This is a beautifully illustrated, sweet story on purity to read to your daughter. Appropriate for 4-10ish.

Life Lessons from the Princess and the Kiss (Revive Our Hearts)
This is a Bible Study Guide that accompanies the book. Good for you to work through with your tween age girls.

The Squire and the Scroll: A Tale of the Reward of a Pure Heart This is by the same author as the Princess books, only targeted towards boys. Appropriate for 4-10ish.

Life Lessons from the Squire and the Scroll (Revive Our Hearts) This is a Bible Study Guide that accompanies the book. great for dads (or moms) to work through with tween boys.

Teknon and the CHAMPION Warriors: Mentor Guide - Father
Teknon and the CHAMPION Warriors Mission Guide - Son
Teknon and the CHAMPION Warriors
This is a fantastic 16 week interactive course for fathers to tackle with their tween-age boys. The lessons are fast paced, practical, and easy to use. There is a 'mentor guide' for dad, a 'mission guide' for son, and a fast paced, futuristic, sci-fi novel as well. The lessons tackle themes like family relationships, pornography, peer pressure, dating, managing discouragement, overcoming failure, sexual temptation and developing convictions. I highly recommend it.

Passport2Purity (Book & CD Set) If you are looking for a product to give you a weekend away and a chance to impact your tween by giving you some sound Biblical talking points, look no further than this great resource from Dennis and Barbara Rainey. It's worth noting that you will want to review and customize this material and your presentation to fit your child and your families convictions, especially if you are leaning towards the courtship model for relationships. However, this is still a sound choice for reviewing Biblical standards for purity, modesty and morality.

For older kids:

Author Vicky Courtney has written some very helpful books on navigating the teen years with a good dose of Biblical wisdom and practical applications sprinkled with wit and humor. These are some of my favorites. It's worth noting that if your family prefers a 'dating' approach to the 'courtship' ideals, these books provide some tips, tricks and helpful parameters and boundaries for romantic relationships in the teen years.

Your Girl: Raising a Godly Daughter in an Ungodly World This book is rich in scripture and advice to help you navigate the culture and gives you key talking points for discussion with your daughter or even a group of other moms!

Five Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter This book by the same author as the book above is a vital tool in any mom's tool box. She covers five specific areas
1. You are more than the sum of your parts
2. Don't be in such a hurry to grow up
3. Sex is great and worth the wait
4. It's OK to dream about marriage and motherhood
5. Girls gone wild are a dime a dozen--dare to be virtuous
and gives points to have these discussions from 5 yrs and up!

Your Boy: Raising a Godly Son in an Ungodly World This book is rich in scripture and advice to help you navigate the culture and gives you key talking points for discussion with your son or even a group of other moms!

Secret Keeper: The Delicate Power of Modesty If you are looking for talking points on modesty, purity and how to 'dress appropriately' for your tween/teenage daughter, look no further than this powerful, insightful and relevant book by Dannah Gresh. Fun, fresh, and fashion forward.

Authentic Beauty: The Shaping of a Set-Apart Young Woman In this book, author Leslie Ludy candidly shares from her own experiences her journey to realize her worth should be found in Christ. She explains how finding that worth transforms you and helps you realize and begin to live a set-apart life. Very personal, some details may be a bit intense for your younger girls, I recommend this for about 14 and up. A wise mom might couple it with the Bible study guide listed below.

Authentic Beauty, Going Deeper: A Study Guide for the Set-Apart Young Woman
In this accompanying journal, Leslie gives you the opportunity to talk, write, and think through what it means to find unshakable fulfillment in a daily romance with Christ. Whether you are reading on your own or with a group, this 12-part guide will point you to Jesus Christ - the heroic Prince you have always dreamed of — and enable you to fall in love with Him like never before. Discover what it means to become fully set-apart for Christ, and experience the only true answer to the deepest longings of your feminine heart.

On sexual purity:

Why True Love Waits: The Definitive Book on How to Help Your Kids Resist Sexual Pressure
From leading Christian Apologist and well known speaker Josh McDowell comes this definitive reference book loaded with sobering statistics. It is intended to prepare adults with answers and a solution to kids' struggles to remain sexually pure in today's culture.

Back to the topic at hand...Courtship and dating:

I Kissed Dating Goodbye
This is the first book I read that both challenged my thoughts on recreational dating yet validated what I had been telling teens in our youth group. (You shouldn't date until you are ready to be married.) The main message of this book (to me) was that teens should treasure the gift of the season of singleness that the teen years provide and instead of pursuing empty romantic entanglements, pursue a stronger relationship with Christ. It challenges young people to use that season for worthy pursuits like missions trips, apprenticeships, volunteer opportunities or even entrepreneurial pursuits.

Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations While not on dating or courtship, I'm including this book. Written by Josh's younger brothers (Alex and Brett), it takes the message of harnessing your teen years and using them for good and really challenges the reader to do something exceptional. I highly recommend it.

Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ's Control Before Josh Harris came onto the scene with his book (I Kissed Dating Goodbye), this was the definitive work on leaving your love life in God's hands. By Elisabeth Elliot

Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship
A practical follow-up book to I Kissed Dating Goodbye filled with true-life stories, personal anecdotes, practical principles and Biblical wisdom. A "nuts and bolts" look at what to to do when you are ready to pursue a romantic relationship without being legalistic or contrived.

The Dating Trap: Helping Your Children Make Wise Choices in Their Relationships
I found this under-rated jewel perusing McKay's one day. Highly practical, Biblically grounded, thoroughly researched, deeply challenging. Well written, and since the intended audience is parents, this book provides a completely different perspective. I highly recommend this, especially if you find yourself on the fence.

Of Knights and Fair Maidens: A Radical New Way to Develop Old-fashioned Relationships
You remember when you reached that epiphany, "I quit this dating stuff. I'm just going to be friends with everyone until I get a 'green light' from God." I had that kind of 'stop light' moment and took a break from the dating scene for a little over a year in college. I would venture that most adults remember a time like that. This book was birthed from the authors moments like that...only while they were taking their break, they were introduced to the ideals and principles of courtship. Written in a highly readable, interview style...this book helps readers learn fun, creative ways to get to know each other, strategies for developing character together, ideas to help a guy get to know a girls dad, and answers to tough questions about relationships.

When God Writes Your Love Story (Expanded Edition): The Ultimate Guide to Guy/Girl Relationships In this book, Eric and Leslie Ludy want to offer an exciting vision of hope, proving that the Author of romance is alive and well and that true and lasting love can become a reality. Using the “four secrets to an amazing love story,” Eric and Leslie present a Christ-centered approach to building a relationship that will stand the test of time. The principles presented here will benefit any young adult pursuing a romantic relationship.

When Dreams Come True: A Love Story Only God Could Write This book is a first person account of Eric and Leslie's relationship from their individual upbringings, through when they met and finally married. A beautiful story, with alternating chapters written by both of them, you get both perspectives of their budding romance. I think everyone wondering about principled romantic relationships will enjoy this book, but I believe youth workers will find it especially relevant to refer their youth struggling with relationship choices to this story. The authors are both brutally honest and transparent about early teen mistakes and heartbreaks. Their honesty gives their story a great deal of credibility and brings a message that will resonate with many young people searching for 'something better.'

Whew! That's a lot of reading, isn't it? Pick what sounds good to you and go slow. Be ready and willing to have your ideas challenged and your mind stretched. Pray a lot. Do your level best not to turn this is new idea into a formula for success or set of hard and fast rules, instead adopt the principles that work for your family. I'm praying for you!