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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Games We Played Last Month

Spring_Watercolors_01Finding good games for your student ministry can be a very time consuming thing. In order to help other youth workers save time in this area I want to share the games we played this past month in our student ministry. All of these games went pretty well and were fun for our students. Be sure to click the game title to download the game graphic or purchase the game content. As a side note, you will notice many of these games come from Download Youth Ministry. I love DYM and the amazing content they are providing for youth workers. If you find yourself using their stuff often you should look into getting a DYM membership. You get tons of member only content as well as $20 store credit monthly for games and other content! One of the games we did this month that isn’t listed below was a game that was only available to DYM members. So become a member and get cool member only stuff too! Now to the games. Here are the games we played last month.

Whip or Nae Nae
How it Works:
All your students know the song “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae).” They probably also know the dance moves to go along with it. This is a simple game where the crowd must pick a move – the whip or the nae nae. The game content comes with a video that will have both moves rotating and then when you are ready you can stop it by clicking which move you want it to stay on. Whoever picks that move is in (or out depending on how you want it to work). The games continues until there is one person left.
Supplies: Game content from DYM (click game title to download)

Poop Deck
How it Works: This is a classic game that is always a hit. Divide the room up into three parts: low deck, mid deck, and poop deck. Everyone starts in one of the decks and must run to whatever deck the game leader calls out. Last person into that deck is out. You continue until there is one person left. You can also throw in “man overboard,” which means everyone must go touch a wall and “hit the deck,” which means everyone must drop to the floor and lay on their stomachs.
Supplies: Something to divide the room into three decks. We just tape down lines on the floor.

Lady, Knights, and Horse
How it Works: Students split up into groups of two. They each start on separate sides of the room and when the game leader calls out one of the three positions they must get in that position with their partner. “Lady” means one must jump into the arms of the other. “Knights” means one must get on one knee while the other sits on their knee. “Horses” means one must get on both hands and knees while the other sits on their back. Last group to get into position is out and the game continues until there is one group left.
Supplies: None!

Ninja, Gun, Gorilla
How it Works: This a twist to the classic game paper rock scissors. Students find an opponent and must stand back to back. When they turn around they must pick one of the three things: Ninja (get into a ninja stance), Gun (make a hand gun), or Gorilla (beat their chest). When someone wins they find other winner to play. Game continues until there is one person left.
Supplies: None!

Turkey Bowling
How it Works: We did this at our Thanksgiving night with our high school students. We put down two rolls of painters plastic to act as “lanes.” We then used 2 liter soda bottles for the pins. We decided the group up by girls and guys and had them bowl with frozen turkey breasts. It was awesome!
Supplies: Painters plastic, 2 liter soda bottles or real bowling pins, and frozen turkey breasts or turkeys.

Cell Phone Shootout: Truth or Dare
How it Works: This is one of my favorite games from DYM! It has a few different versions and this truth or dare version was my favorite so far. The game content comes with a video that has a various truths and dares that rotate very fast. Your contestants must use their cell phone to snap a picture of the video screen. After they snap a picture look at their phone and find out what truth or dare they took a picture of. They then have to either answer the truth question or perform the dare.
Supplies: Game content from DYM (click game title to download)

Games We Played Last Month

Spring_Watercolors_01Love them or hate them, games are a part of student ministry. It’s easy to spend way too much time searching for good games to play with your students. In order to help other youth workers save some time in this area I want to share the games we played last month in our student ministry. Below are all the games we played during our weekly program during the month of October. Sometimes we play the same game multiple times a year so any games we played last month that we already played during a previous month I will not include in this post (click here to see the games we played in September). Below are the games we played in October. Be sure to click the title of the game to download the graphic or purchase the game content.

Headbangers Bop
How It Works: Bring a few contestants up front and give them each a headband that has a pedometer attached to it. Explain to them that when the music (which works best if it’s some heavy metal music) starts they will have one minute to “headbang” as fast as they can to see how many steps they can get on the pedometer. The one with the highest number of steps wins. We played a few head to head rounds with the winner of each round advancing to the final round.
Supplies: Headbands, pedometers, and heavy metal playlist.

Jump The River
How It Works: This is a super simple game I many of use played in some form or another on the playground as kids. Tape a line down on the floor and then make another line with something that can be moved. The two lines should form a small gap. The point of the game is to jump from the first line and make it past the other one. If you don’t make it or hit the lines with your feet you’re out. If you clear the gap you’re in and advance to the next round. Each round the second line should be moved further and further until there is only one student one clears it.
Supplies: Tape and something to make another line that can be moved easily (we used a rope and had two leaders hold it on the ground with their feet).

Epic Battles
How It Works: This is a simple but fun game from Download Youth Ministry. The game includes short video clips of two things going head to head in a boxing ring. Students have a few seconds to pick who they think will win and then the videos has the two fighting until one comes out as the winner. When you download the game from DYM you get all the video files and things you need to play this game. brought two students up front for each round and had them pick (with the crowds help of course) who they thought would win. We gave the winner of each round a free item from the snack bar.
Supplies: Epic Battles game from DYM (click the game title to download it).

Speedball
How It Works: Have everyone start on one side of the room. When you say “go” have someone throw out a bucket of tennis balls. Throw out a few less balls then you have students playing. The goal of the game if for everyone to run and grab a ball. If you don’t get a ball you’re out but if you get one you advance to the next round. Continue doing this until there are two students left but only one ball. If you have a large crowd you can simply speed the game up by making sure their are 5-10 less balls than students playing each round. How many balls you take out will determine how fast or slow this game goes.
Supplies: Tennis balls

Trump or Animal
How It Works:
With Donald Trump being so popular right now this game was a hit. It’s another simple but fun game from DYM. The point of the game is to guess if a zoomed up picture of hair is Donal Trump’s hair or hair of an animal. You’ll be surprised at how hard it really is. When you download the game you will get all the slides you need to play this game. I brought two students up front and had them play head to head.
Supplies: Trump or Animal game from DYM (click the game title to download it).

Mountain Dew Plunge
How It Works: We played this game for our Halloween themed night. It’s basically bobbing applies but instead of in water you have them do it in Mountain Dew. What student (especially middle school student) doesn’t want to stick their face into a pool of Mountain Dew? We did this up front with a few students so everyone else could watch. Also, we had them do it in a clear bin so people could see what was happening through the bin.
Supplies: Clear bin (we got one from the storage bin section at Wal-Mart), Mountain Dew, apples.

The Purge Meets the Walking Dead
How it Works: Last year for our Halloween night we played a game called The Purge. It was a hit so we decided to bring it back this year but with a twist. Everyone starts by getting a ballon (have these already blown up before you hand them out). Have everyone spread out in the room with their balloon. When you say “go” the goal of the game is to be the last one standing with your balloon in hand and not popped. If your balloon gets popped you’re out. The only rules are everyone must stay in the room and you cannot physical hurt someone. Students will try to not only protect their balloon but will want to pop other peoples balloons. We also there out a box of “supplies” (rope, duct tape, small balls, straws) that students could use to aid in their popping of balloons. All of this is the Purge part of the game. We added the Walking Dead element by releasing all the students who were out (dead=zombies) back into the game to try and pop the balloons of the students still in the game with their balloons. We waited until there were about 10-15 students left before we released those who were out. We had the lights down very low and had music playing from The Purge movie soundtrack.
Supplies: Balloons (we bought red balloons and had enough for everyone to play two rounds), box of radon supplies (be sure there is nothing sharp students could hurt each other with).

Bare Knuckles Fistacuffs
How it Works: Our intern ran this game and I actually wasn’t there so here is how it is explained by Youth Group Collective: “Have everyone find a partner. Each person stands with both feet together, facing each other, arms length apart. The object of the game is to get the other person to lose balance. This can only be achieved by pushing your opponent’s hands. Hands do not have to maintain contact. Often times a player will act as if he is about to push another player’s hands and then immediately pull away so as to cause his opponent to lose balance.After every pair has decided a winner and a loser, have those who lost sit and the winners stand. Then have each winner find a new partner. Rinse and Repeat.”
Supplies: None!

Book Review: Parent’s Guide to Understanding Sex & Dating

parents-guide-sex-and-datingLast year I did a parent seminar called “Social Media 101” and in preparation for that seminar I read Mark Oestreicher and Adam Mclane’s book A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media. I really enjoyed that book and would highly recommend it to parents. A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Sex & Dating by Mark Oestreicher and Joel Mayward is another book in this series that I really enjoyed and would also recommend to parents.

Packed in this little book is a ton of helpful information for parents (and youth workers) about teen sex and dating. Oestreicher and Mayward start the book with laying a theological foundation for sex. Whenever we talk about things regarding sex it’s always important to go back to the theological foundation God put in place for sex, marriage, and relationships. I love how they started the book with this and even explained how the fact humans have been created in the “image of God” (imago dei) impacts how our sexuality. On that Biblical foundation the writers deal with myths from culture and the church about sex (chapter 2), gender-specific sexual issues (chapter 3), how to talk to your teenager about sex and creating boundaries for dating (chapter 4-5), and covering specific issues in regards to sex and dating such as masturbation, homosexuality, oral sex, and modesty (chapter 6).

As much as I liked this book, I did however disagree with some of the writers conclusions on a few of the sexual issues they covered in the last chapter, namely masturbation and homosexuality.

In regards to masturbation, they say, “Masturbation is one of those subjects that Christians have done a horrible job of addressing” (page 59). I totally agree with that. Masturbation is a subject many times in the church we overlook and don’t address while teenagers, especially guys, are struggling with this addictive habit. However, the writers seem to simply dismiss masturbation is an issue that is normal for teens (being part of their development) and we shouldn’t worry too much about it. I have a hard time being ok with that conclusion. I do not believe the act of masturbation is a sin. There is no verse in the Bible that says it is. However, masturbation and lust are linked. One cannot masturbate without lusting (well maybe 1 in 1 billion people can). Also, I would argue that God’s plan if for a man and a woman to come together in sex and when one masturbates that receive sexual gratification in a way different from what God has planned. Because of that, I think masturbation is an issue we need to address with teens and help them see it’s closely linked to lust, which is clearly a sin, and goes against God’s plan for sex.

Not only did the writers conclusion on masturbation not sit well with me, their conclusion on homosexuality was a little fuzzy and not clear. They seemed to skip around the issue of homosexuality being a sin and just addressed how we should respond to teens struggling with this issue. I agree we need to respond better than the church has in the past towards homosexuality and we need to love and help those grapple with their sexuality, but at the end of the day homosexuality is a sin and we must call it a sin.

Overall I really enjoyed this book and it gave me a better understanding of teen sex and dating. It also helped me understand how important parents are in this area and how I can encourage them to shepherd their child in the area of their sexuality. I would recommend parents of teenagers to grab a copy of this little book and read it. It will help you understand you minister and shepherd your teen immensely.

How to Spend More Time With Students This Summer

Like many student pastors I struggle with finding time to hangout with students. In the summer I feel this struggle more than ever. During the school year most students are too busy to hangout with you anyways, but during the summer many of them are always looking for something to do. There are days when I’m in my office planning an event, answering emails, and recording money coming in for a mission trip and in the back of my head I know I could be out with some of our students building relationships. Let’s face it, you can’t leave the office and spend everyday with students this summer. If you do, you will probably get fired! But how do we manage hanging out with our students this summer while making sure all the office work gets done and our ministry doesn’t fall apart? Here are a few ideas that have helped me spend more time with my students this summer while still getting stuff done in the office.

Get to the office earlier. I wanted to mention this first so I could get it out of the way because honestly I suck at this one. I have managed to do it a few times this summer, but it’s always tough since I’m not a wake up at 5am to read your Bible and pray kind of guy! However, getting to your office early allows you to knock out some work while your students are sleeping in until noon. This way you can hangout with them during the afternoon while knowing you got much off the office work done during the morning.

Take them along with you. Awhile back I wrote about this idea of taking students along with you while you do stuff during the day. I’ve seen this work great so far this summer! A few weeks ago I needed to go to Walmart to buy some storage bins for some supplies and I decided to take two of my high school guys along. It was a great time to get to know them better and let them get a glimpse into my everyday life. I love doing this because it allows me to do what I need to do while still hanging out with students! It’s a no brainer! Take students with you when you do stuff during the day this summer!

Do stuff at night. During the summer students want to stay out late and rather be out doing something than sitting at home on Facebook or Twitter. So instead of hanging out with them during the day hangout with them at night! Have them over to your place or meet them for bowling or putt-putt. Either way, look for things you can do with them at night. This will allow you to get office work done during the day and then spend time with students at night. This summer I have been doing Monday night basketball with our high school guys at a local park. We start playing at 8:00 and play under the lights until 10:00. One caution here for married student pastors and youth workers, don’t sacrifice your spouse for this! You can click here to read more about my thoughts on keeping your spouse first in student ministry.

Take them out to lunch. Students love food and I do too so take them out to lunch! When noon hits your ready to get out of the office and grab some lunch so pick up a student or two and take them with you. I can guarantee that no student will turn you down if you call them and ask if they want to go to lunch and it’s on you! One thing to remember with this is don’t take a student out of the opposite sex if it’s just you two. If your married, have your spouse come with you or send them off to have lunch with a student of their same sex.

These are just a few ways I have been hanging out with students this summer while still getting stuff done in the office. Summer is such a great time to do relational ministry with your students, but it takes intentionally and discipline while you still have other things you need to do. What are some ways you are creatively spending time with students this summer?