Biblical Principles for Teen Dating

Teen_datingDating is part of the teenage experience. Most teenagers at some point will engage in dating relationships. As someone who works with teenagers I have seen almost everything when it comes to teens and dating. I have seen middle school students “fall in love.” I have seen high school students date for years and continue dating into their college years. I have seen teenagers hit rock bottom as the person they are dating ends the relationship. I have seen teenagers jump from one dating relationship to another just because they need that “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” relationship. I have sat with students who are dating that honestly want to honor God in their relationship so they set boundaries and spiritual goals for their relationship. If you are around teenagers, maybe as a parent or youth worker like me, you have seen some of this stuff. If you care about teenagers, as parents and youth workers do, you want to help them navigate and work through the strange world of dating.

So when it comes to dating many of us want to know what does the Bible says so that we can pass it  on to teenagers. We want them to obey God’s Word in all areas of their lives, especially when it comes to dating relationships. But here is the tricky part – the Bible doesn’t address dating. Yep, dating is never mentioned or even referred to in God’s Word. The simple answer as to why is because dating as we know it today didn’t exist back then.

So what are we to do? First, we tell them the Bible doesn’t address it. We need to be honest about that. Second, we look into God’s Word and draw principles out of it that can be applied to dating. That’s what we need to pass on to teenagers. We need to show them clear Biblical principles that can and should be applied to dating so they can go about it in a way that honors and glorifies God.

Here are some Biblical principles that can and should be applied to dating relationships. These are the Biblical truths we should pass on to teenagers to help them date in a way that would honor God.

Obey your parents dating rules. When it comes to dating, parents have different views. Some parents encourage it while other strongly discourage it. Some allow their children to date whenever their kid decides to while others set an age when their children can start dating. No matter what the rules are God expects teenagers to obey their parents. Ephesians 6:1 (ESV) says, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” Parents should set rules and boundaries for their teenagers when it comes to dating and teenagers should obey those rules.

Date other Christians. Christian teenagers should date other Christians. When a Christian teenager decides to date a non-Christian it usually hinders the faith of the Christian teenager. They will usually be pulled away from their relationship with God and be tempted to walk in a way that doesn’t line up with their Christian faith. In 2 Corinthians 6:14 (ESV) says, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?” Even though this verse is usually applied to marriage, it also can be applied to dating. If we would encourage Christians to marry Christians, doesn’t it make sense to encourage Christians to date other Christians? I think so. In this video, Tim Keller explains how it’s not practical for Christians to date non-Christians. In her book Sex and Dating, Mindy Meier adds a good point to remember. She says, “It’s fine to have friendships with non-Christians, but do not commit to anyone who does not share your same faith. True compatibility grows from a join quest to follow God, to conform your life to the guidelines of the Bible and to draw from the spiritual resources found in Christ.”

Pursue sexual purity. The biggest issue with teenage dating is the door it opens to sexual temptation. I have never met a teenage dating couple who does not struggle in this area. Teenagers need to understand that God created sex to be enjoyed in the context of marriage. When you engage in sex, or any sexual activity for that matter, outside of marriage it is sin. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 (ESV) says, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.” First Corinthians 6:18 (ESV) says, “Flee from sexual immorality..” Both of these verses use the term “sexual immorality,” which is the Biblical term that covers all forms of sexual activity outside of marriage. Teenagers should know that the Bible considers more than just intercourse outside of marriage a sin. God commands us to abstain and flee from any sexual activity outside of marriage.

Don’t let the person you are dating become the center of your life. Many times when teenagers date they place the person they are dating at the center of their lives. They neglect friends, family, and even God at times because their boyfriend or girlfriend has become the most important person in their life. Teenagers must understand that God should be the most important person in their lives. He doesn’t tolerate or share that spot with anyone. Whenever we put anything before God, it’s becomes idolatry. It’s safe to say many teenagers make the person they are dating an idol. Teenagers who desire to maintain a healthy dating relationship will not put the person they are dating as their first priority.

A few weeks ago I talked to our students about dating in our “Dating, Marriage, and Sex” series. Much of what I posted above was from that talk. However, if you want to hear more about these Biblical principles that can be applied to dating I’d encourage you to listen to that talk online. Click here to listen.

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Top Posts from 2014

2014_updated_health_reform_timelineEvery December I like to share my top posts from that year. These are posts that I wrote during the year and had the highest views. Below are my top four posts from this year.

What Bruno Mars is Teaching Teens. Bruno Mars had a good year in music. He had some hits come out this year and also performed at the Super Bowl. In this post I talk about what one of popular songs Locked Out of Heaven teaches teens. It’s a catchy song but packs a distorted message of sex.

Using Instagram in Student Ministry. Because students are surrounded by and use social media constantly it is a wise thing for student pastors and youth workers to use social media in their ministries. In this post I share a few ways to use Instagram in a student ministry context.

Sobrr – What Parents Need to Know. Sobrr was an app that came out this year that gained some popularity. It’s far from competing with other social media app but it’s still an app parents need to be aware of. In this post I explain how Sobrr works and what parents need to be aware of.

What “Hot or Not” is Teaching Teens. Hot or Not is a pretty popular app among teens. However the whole idea of the app teaches teens that their worth and value is determined by what others think of them, especially their looks when it comes to this app. I explain more of that in this post.

I’ve enjoyed writing these posts this past year. I look forward to writing more posts this coming year.

Yik Yak – What Parents Need to Know

XP1PspM3There is an app that is has been growing in popularity among teens that parents need to be aware of called Yik Yak. In this post I want to share a few things parents need to know about this app.

How Does this App Work
Yik Yak is very much like Twitter but with some unique differences. On Yik Yak everything is anonymous. That is the big catch with this app. Users post what is called a “Yak.” A “Yak” must be 200 characters or shorter. Once a user post a “Yak” it is posted on a live stream. The other big catch with this app is that is location based. So the live stream of “Yaks” is made up of only users within a 10 miles radius of where you are. Users have the ability to reply to “Yaks” as well as “upvote” (like) or “downvote” (dislike) them. The two big things to remember about this app is that everything is anonymous and is location based.

Some Negative Things to Be Aware Of
There are a few negative things about this app parents need to be aware of. First, sexually explicit content is common on this app. For an example, when I downloaded this app and opened it up, three out of the first six “Yaks” on my feed were sexually explicit statements. I know some people will argue that sexually explicit content can be found on any form of social media but apps like this (and others like Snapchat and Whisper) make it easier for teenagers to view and share this type of content. A second thing parents need to be aware of is the cyberbullying risk that comes with this app. Like Ask.fm, since users can post anything as an anonymous user there is a huge opportunity for users to cyberbully other users. This will often happen through users replying to other users “Yaks.” Because of this, many schools, both high school and college, have banned this app. Yik Yak developers do use a technology called geofencing, which allows certain areas like schools to be “fenced” off to avoid cyberbullying. However, this doesn’t always work and is not always used which leads to continued cyberbulling on this app. The last thing I want to make sure parents are aware of with this app is the illusion of location privacy. Even though this app, and many others like it, ensure location privacy there are always ways for people to find out where other users are. This may not be easy to do and the average user will not be able to do it but it can be done. For an example, two teenage girls where arrested when they made threats about a campus shooting on this app. The two girls were tracked down by police and arrested. One article reminds us that “every digital device has an IP address that allows for it to be tracked.”

What Parents Should Do
Once parents are informed about this app and are aware of how it works as well as some of the negatives things that come with it, what should they do next? First and foremost parents must not be afraid to have an open conversation with their teenager about this app. Explain to them how it works if their teenager doesn’t know already (impressive them if they don’t) and talk to them about some of the negative things that come with using this app. Once parents have done this they will need to decide if this is an app they are ok with their teenager using or not. My suggestion for parents is to not let their teenager use this app. There isn’t really any point to it and there is no good way for parents to track what their teenager may be viewing or doing on this app. However, a parent could see what their teenager has posted as a “Yak” or their replies to other “Yaks.”

I’d encourage parents to also check out iparent.tv’s post on this app. They share some good insight on this app that would be worth checking out.

What Parents Need to Know About Their Teen and Sexting

teen-using-cell-phoneOne of the popular trends among teenagers today that parents need to be aware of is sexting. In this post I want to share a few thoughts on sexting that I believe will both inform and help parents have conversations with their teen about sexting.

What is sexting? The first thing we need to do is establish what sexting is. Sexting is sending sexually explicit messages, photos, or videos via text messaging or some other form of social media messaging. In the past the idea of sexting has been referred to as phone sex or cybersex. Research from Pew Research found that last year 78% of teenagers had their own cell phone. They also found that half of them not only had a cell phone, but had a smartphone. We can assume the percent of teens with cell phones has risen above 78% since last year and with the popularity of smartphones more teens are not just getting a cell phone but a smartphone. The majority of sexting happens via text messaging. However, sexting, as we see in the definition above, can be done also through social media networks. So sexting can happen via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram since these networks all have private messaging features. Other apps like Snapchat are extremely popular for sexting.

Why is sexting popular with teens? There are a few reasons why I think sexting is popular with teens that I think are important for parents to know about. First, sexting seems to be popular with teens because “everyone is doing it.” Many teens who may not feel comfortable sexting will eventually do it because their friends are. Which leads to the second reason I think sexting popular with teens, which is peer pressure. Teens feel pressured to sext because “everyone is doing it” or maybe their boyfriend or girlfriend is pressuring them into it. For example, one girl said she was pressured into sexting when she was only 12 years old by the boy she was “going out with.” Usually it’s the guy that pressures the girl into sexting. One article says that 51% of girls said they felt pressured by guys to sext while only 18% of guys said they felt pressured from a girl. The third reason sexting seems to be popular with teens is the false sense of safety that comes with. Many teens that will not engage sexual activity in person will sext because they feel “safe” or “comfortable” behind the screen on their phone. Also, the app Snapchat has a feature that allows you to set a time limit on how long someone can view your picture. However, all this is a false sense of safety and comfort. An article I already linked to mentions two great points on this – photos and videos sent privately can be easily shared publicly and once digital images or videos are out there they leave a digital footprint cannot be “taken back.” When a teen sends a semi-nude or fully nude photo to someone within a private message the person that receives that message can easily save the image to their phone and share it however they want. Even though apps like Snapchat give the user the ability to set a time limit, the person receiving the picture can easily take a screenshot before the time limit expires. There are many more reasons why sexting is popular with teens, but these are a few important ones for parents to know about.

Why is sexting is a bad idea? For starters, sexting is a bad idea because it can lead to teens being publicly humiliated if their private photo or video goes public. Not only that, but in many states sexting is actually illegal and is considered a major crime (click here to sexting-related laws based on your state). What I am about to say next may not sit well with you if you do not believe in the Bible and view it as God’s standard of absolute truth. However, since I am a Christian and believe in the Bible I want to point out what God has revealed about sexual activity, which is what sexting is. 1 Corinthians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, and Ephesians 5:3 tells us to flee, abstain, and to not even have a hint of sexual immorality. What does sexually immorality mean? Sexual immorality, when used in the Bible (Greek word – porneia), refers to any form of sexual activity outside of the context of marriage between one man and one woman. God’s design is for a man and a woman to enjoy sexual activity within the context of their marriage. Any form of sexual activity outside of that, like sexting, is considered sin and is wrong.

What can parents do about their teen and sexting? The best thing parents can do is to have an open conversation with their teen about sexting. Talk to them about the pressures and dangers that come with sexting. Talk to them about how they should use text messaging and social media. Also, do some research and learn about the sexting trend among teens so you be informed and be intentional about helping your teen in this area. Lastly, don’t be afraid to set boundaries for your teen when it comes to their phone. Keep an eye on their social media accounts (get their username and password so you can check them from time to time) and other things they may be doing on their phone.

There is much more we could say on this topic, but this should inform you as a parent and help you understand your teen and sexting.

2014-2015 Student Ministry Calendar

I like creating calendars for my students and their parents. It gives them something to save on their computer or hang on their refrigerator to remind them of what’s happening in our student ministry. We always create one that covers the summer months (June-August) and one that covers the school year (September-May). I am also blessed to work at a church that has a great graphics team that can help put together good looking calendars. Below is the calendar for this coming school year.

2014-2015 Stow Student Min Calendar