Faith & Family — Is my teenage child ready to start dating

Faith & Family — Is my teenage child ready to start dating

Teenage dating

Kayley and Kaitlyn are 14-year-old twins. Kayley has matured a lot in the past year. Active in her church youth group and several activities at school, she has taken on many responsibilities and shown good judgment in her decision-making.

She always has seemed more deliberate in her choices than her sister, who everyone considers the fun-loving one.
Kaitlyn is outgoing but also impulsive. She seldom thinks before she acts.

Both girls recently have started talking about boys they like, and they want to go out to a movie with the boys and some other friends. They call it a double-date and seem very excited. Mom and Dad aren’t sure. Are their girls really ready to date?


Helping teens enter the dating world is part of family discipleship

By Michael Bozeman, M.A.C.E., MA, ALC
Pathways Professional Counseling

Is my teenager ready to date? What are the appropriate boundaries I should set in place? What should I know about their boyfriend/girlfriend? How do I talk with my child about this topic?

These are just a few questions that every parent should be prepared to answer when they are making decisions about allowing their teenager to date. There are many books written on this subject. There are plenty of blog posts out there for parents to get direction from an “expert.” The problem is, when it comes to allowing your teenager to date, every situation is unique. It is unique because there is no cookie-cutter approach to teenagers. They all are very unique in the way God has made them, and no two families operate in the exact same way.

There is one thing that I know for sure: the Word of God is the truth and nothing can change that. As we seek to follow Christ, we should cling to the truth and allow it to be the driving force behind all the decisions we make.

This is true for parents as well as their children. Parents just have the awesome opportunity to point their children to

truth as they seek to make decisions in their life.

How do I know my teen is ready?

This question is much harder to answer than one would expect. It should not come with age necessarily but rather from the maturity level of each teenager. It also is important for parents to recognize that dating looks much different in today’s culture than it did when today’s parents were kids.

Sexual promiscuity is growing, even among Christian teens. Many teenagers also do not receive the moral guidance necessary to help them in their decision-making. This is why it is so important that parents really know the person their teenager decides to date.

It also is crucial that parents know the other parents as well. Group dating is a great way for parents to feel more at ease with sending their teenager out on their first dating experience.

If your teen shows common sense and sound moral judgment, dating could be a great experience in their developmental process. They can learn how to relate to the opposite sex in a very positive and healthy way, thus leading them to understand the qualities that they are looking for in a marriage partner.

Potential dangers of teen dating

In his book, “Handbook on Counseling Youth,” Josh McDowell defines several dangers in teenage dating:

  • Danger of isolating oneself from friends
  • Danger of forgetting other important relationships (i.e. family)
  • Danger of dating for the wrong reasons (for example: to impress others, get back at someone or cause jealousy)
  • Danger of becoming so date-conscious that you discount other people because you do not see them as potential dates
  • Danger of feeling trapped
  • Danger of getting hurt and/or hurting someone else
  • Danger of mistaking emotional and physical attraction for real love
  • Danger of letting sexual desires get out of control

McDowell goes on to say that “far too many teens, especially those that begin dating early, are woefully unprepared for the dangers of dating, and as a result, expose themselves unnecessarily to the worst that the dating experience has to offer.”

Knowing and understanding these dangers will help parents as they seek to have honest conversations with their teens about the subject of dating. It also will allow them to witness negative behaviors that may come when their teen begins dating.

Parents must be willing to have awkward conversations with their teenagers. When I am sitting across from a teenager struggling with issues that have come out of a dating relationship, many times it is evident that the teen and his or her parents have not had much-needed conversations.

Many of my friends who are in the trenches working with teenagers on a daily basis report similar observations.
“Too many parents are unwilling to talk with their teens about this topic. It’s uncomfortable. The teens want nothing to do with it.

Often attempting to discuss it will lead to the teens being sullen and non-responsive,” said Eric Sexton, a former youth pastor who now serves as collegiate minister with the Etowah Baptist Association.

His advice to hesitant parents?

“Do it anyway.”

Sexton said conversations between fathers and sons and between mothers and daughters may be the best way to go. The conversation also should be held in an attitude of love.

“It is important to communicate to the teen how precious they are and how you as the parent want to know what they are looking for in dating. Waiting to have this conversation when they want to date someone specifically is waiting too long. Ultimately, as parents we need to be discipling our children. That means talking about relationships of the opposite sex, marriage and intimacy. Failure to do this will make communicating about this topic difficult,” Sexton said.

Other youth pastors and ministry volunteers I spoke with also mentioned the pitfalls that can easily come when teens begin dating before they are ready to do so. They talked about how many teens almost seem to practice divorce many times in their high school and college years, as they have many different boyfriends or girlfriends and each breakup acts as a divorce. They even talked about how dating within the youth group is costly because when it ends it almost always takes one or the other away from the church.

This is not to say that there is not a place for teenagers when it comes to dating. Dating done in a God-honoring, appropriate way can be very positive. It can yield a more confident individual who has learned positive ways to associate with the opposite sex.

Guiding teenagers through their first dating experiences is yet another way parents disciple their children. Always be willing to point your teenager to truth. Disciple them in their walk with Christ, understanding that they are in a daily battle with the enemy who desires to use any means necessary to bring about destruction in their life.

The truth from God’s Word will always expose the lies the enemy is selling your teenager. Be encouraged that the Lord has chosen you as their parent and tasked you with an awesome responsibility to point them to this life-giving truth.

EDITOR’S NOTE — Michael Bozeman is a former youth pastor and current associate licensed counselor serving central Alabama with Pathways Professional Counseling, a sister ministry of the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries.


Fellow Alabama Baptists share their dating lessons learned in life

Teenagers and young adults have more ways to meet and communicate with potential dates than ever before, but the essentials of healthy dating relationships have not really changed.

We asked Hannah Muñoz, customer relations specialist at The Alabama Baptist, to share her perspective as a young adult in the dating world. The recent Samford University graduate and member of the Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham can relate to the challenges teens and young adults face when it comes to dating.

TAB: What or who helped you decide who to go out with?

HM: After a long-term, long-distance relationship during high school and college, I didn’t know how to date people, where to meet people or what God’s plan even was for my life in terms of romantic relationships. I decided to try a dating app, but got guidance from friends on which pictures to share and how to describe myself in the bio section. I didn’t go to meet someone until I thought I had a good idea of the type of person they were, for my own safety, and when I did plan a date, I usually kept it within a time limit in a busy area, like at a Chick-Fil-A during my lunch break.

TAB: How did faith play a role in your decisions?

HM: Faith has played an important role in deciding both who I date and how I date. I met several people through the dating app I used and always made sure that the topic of Christianity was brought up. Usually it came up pretty early on, especially because I mentioned in my bio on the app that I worked for a Baptist newspaper and graduated from a Baptist school. Other times I would bring it up when I mentioned that in my free time I enjoyed spending time with my friends from church or when describing my family. It is important to me to find someone who also is a Christian when it comes to dating.

TAB: What do you wish you had known then that you know now?

HM: I’ve learned a lot in the short time that I’ve been dating after graduating from college, but two things stick out to me. The first is one that so many of us know, but it might take a few times of hearing it to really believe it. God has a plan for everyone and it’s different for each of us. Some may get married right after high school or shortly after graduating from college, but that isn’t true for everyone. If that doesn’t describe you, don’t be discouraged. God didn’t forget about you. He still has a plan for your life and if you seek Him first, that plan will come into fruition in His timing. The good news is that this doesn’t just apply to dating, it applies to everything in your life.

I’ve also learned that the singles ministry at church isn’t a dirty word or something to be ashamed of. It’s not something to get in and out of in the shortest amount of time. Find a church with a singles ministry that you enjoy and get to know the people around you. They’re going through the same life experiences as you. It is a great way to meet new people, make close Christian friends and even do fun events and get to know your city better. (TAB)

Other voices

One thing I wish I had known before I started dating is …

“How much more important my relationship with my family is compared to others in my life.”
— Kimberly Beach, associational WMU director for Tuscaloosa Baptist Association

“The value of a godly relationship and not compromising! The best things are built on strong foundations!”
— Colt Hudson, pastor, Mount Enon Baptist Church, Midland City

“The closer I could be to God the Father, the better and stronger all of my relationships would be. That trying to have a dating relationship with someone that didn’t share my desire to continually submit myself to God, and who might not have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, only put my witness and myself at risk.”
— Justin Tidwell, deacon, Six Mile Baptist Church, Brierfield


First dates: 3 tips for parents of teens

  1. Encourage your teenager at the appropriate time to begin dating in a group setting. This will ease them into dating and help them as they develop in their maturity. This also will reduce the pressure that comes from being alone with the opposite sex.
  2. Draw clear boundaries when it comes to the rules of dating. Do not let your teen question what is expected when it comes to their dating relationships. Your teen should know your family’s rules when it comes to dating. This will help them in their decision-making process.
  3. Make it a point to know your teen’s boyfriend/girlfriend as well as their family. This should be a nonnegotiable when it comes to deciding if your teen is ready to date. Make it a point to spend time with them and their family. Parents should always know who they are allowing to speak into the life of their child.

Source: Michael Bozeman, Pathways Professional Counseling


Resources for teens

  • “The Truth About Dating, Love, and Just Being Friends” by Chad Eastham
  • “10 Things for Teen Girls” by Kate Conner
  • “Dateable: Are You? Are They?” by Hayley Morgan DiMarco and Justin Lookadoo
  • “The Guy’s Guide to God, Girls, and the Phone in Your Pocket: 101 Real-World Tips for Teenaged Guys” by Jonathan McKee

Resources for parents

  • “Boundaries with Teens: When to Say Yes, How to Say No” by John Townsend
  • “Praying the Scriptures for Your Teenagers: Discover How to Pray God’s Purpose for Their Lives” by Jodie Berndt

Compiled by Carrie Brown McWhorter


In dating as in life, remember to encourage teens to see their identity in Christ

By Eric Sexton
Collegiate/Student Ministries Director
Etowah Baptist Association

For parents, talking to their teens about dating can be daunting. It can be compared to riding a rollercoaster that begins with dread and concludes with yelling and someone feeling sick. For the believer, there is no part of the Bible that talks about teenagers going on a date. So what are parents to do?

Before beginning the conversation, parents must ask where the teen’s identity is found? More specifically, is the teen’s identity found in Christ? The answer to this question comes in the context of discipleship between the parents and their teen. Parents cannot abdicate discipleship to the youth minister or pastor. As parents they have the greatest responsibility of discipling their child.

If parents are discipling their teen, then they are already discussing topics like dating, values and sexuality. But they are discussing them in the context of a foundation and identity in Christ.

When parents disciple their kids, they provide them a strong biblical worldview. They are giving them a good foundation for an identity in Christ. A teen’s identity will guide his or her decision making.

In the book of Daniel, there is no information about Daniel’s parents. The book begins with Daniel and his three friends as teenagers who had been forced from their homes and sent to Babylon. The Babylonians wanted to indoctrinate and assimilate them into the culture. But Daniel’s identity was as a follower of God. He would not defile himself by eating the king’s food. His identity in God informed all the decisions he made. He had been discipled as a young man and had a strong biblical foundation.

When parents are discussing dating with their teens, it must be in the context of discipleship and identity. So in the context of parental discipleship, let’s dive into how to talk about dating with teenagers. The two areas to look at are holiness and the purpose of dating.

As Christians, we are called to be holy. Holiness should be pursued. First Peter 1:15–16 says, “But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.”

Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:3–7, “For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you keep away from sexual immorality, that each of you knows how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not with lustful passions, like the Gentiles, who don’t know God. This means one must not transgress against and take advantage of a brother or sister in this manner, because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you. For God has not called us to impurity but to live in holiness.”

It is important that teens understand that God calls them to live lives that are holy. Part of that call is to flee sexual immorality. Parents need to communicate that Jesus died so that they might live in holiness and in good relationship with God.

This applies to their relationships with the opposite sex. Not that the Christian life is all rules and regulations, but if teens are pursuing a life of holiness, then they will understand why they can’t date a non-believer (2 Cor. 6:14).

Understanding holiness will help teens see why their bodies are to honor God (1 Cor. 6:19). Understanding their pursuit of holiness will help teens see why boundaries are important and why they must flee sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:18).

And ultimately what is the purpose of dating? It is to find a husband or wife (Gen. 2:24). How does one find a spouse? By pursuing holiness and healthy Christ-led relationships.

Listening and patience

How does one know if their teen is ready to date? To determine this, it requires an open dialogue between parents and teen. It means having uncomfortable conversations. It means listening and patience on both sides.

Fortunately parents do not have to go at this alone. God has sent His Holy Spirit to guide His people. As believers, we have access to prayer, and parents should be daily interceding, both for their teen and their teen’s future spouse. As you encourage your teen, you must pursue God as well. When parents are pursuing the Lord, they can trust in His sovereignty.