I did at age 31. Wish I had not overestimated ministry and under-estimated marriage. We could have married earlier and had more kids. Too many young men do the same. I tell them that marriage IS ministry and urge them to get a job, get a house, get a wife, and get a child—in that order!
As a youth director, I tried to keep the guys and gals apart. Now Karen and I are trying to get them together. Some guys have the chicken spirit. I have told them I understand and will help them. The Bible says, “He that finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Prov. 18:22). Finding means looking. I do what I can to break guys out of passivity and into an aggressive search. Many are just waiting. Makes for a lot of discouraged women.
Looking means dating. I don’t believe in recreational dating. What’s the point? Not much goes well with recreational dating. Tell me what good happens to a guy and a girl alone late at night. A few years ago I told a jammed crowd of young adults in our basement that Karen and I wanted to meet with every couple that started dating. A guy from the back yelled out an in-your-face question: “Why?” My immediate answer, “Because if I asked you to raise your hand if you had some sad stories about relationships that were bad or broken, most of you would put your hand up.” He got the point. So did everyone else.
Since then we have met with the majority of couples that started dating. Dating with the view toward marriage makes sense. Dating with the view toward having fun does not, unless it releases people into a place of freedom with the opposite sex and good boundaries are in place.
We talk straightforwardly about them. Because of our “urge to merge,” we encourage agreement between a guy and a gal and accountability with mentors regarding boundaries, like a) never alone in a house or apartment, b) never let the feet leave the ground, c) don’t touch trigger points meant to move you toward merger, and d) no prolonged making out. When relationships get too physical, some meant to lead toward the altar don’t. Really sad! Many dating couples are accountable to no one. Where’s Dad? (Wish I had been far more involved).
Dads and Moms, talk in MUCH detail with you teens and beyond about specifics. Ask where they are going, what they are doing, who they are with, what they plan to watch. Ask how physical they are. Ask why they are dating. Find out everything you can about the date and do not let them date someone who is not a healthy Christian. Being a Christian is not enough! Sadly, most Christians sleep together before marriage. Shouldn’t happen.
Be vulnerable about your relationships, good and bad. Then we won’t have to pray with so many to lift the shame of crossing lines they did not intend to cross—or did intend and succeeded.
If kids say, “Don’t you trust me?” respond, “Of course I don’t. That is why I guard myself as a married person and why I’m interrogating you.” Sadly, few parents talk with their children about these important details. That can change. Healthy courtships build trust and strengthen lifelong marriages. Young adult, don’t get nervous if your parents pry. They are out to protect you. Don’t say something stupid like, “I’m an adult.” Thine anger saith too much. Those who want to honor God and live a pure life welcome accountability.