(This post was written by Matt Grimes, Middle School Ministry Pastor)
One of the values of our Family Ministry is to fight for the heart of our kids. A huge battle that rages with major implications on the hearts of our kids is dating. I know that many parents are starting to get a little queasy even thinking about this subject, but it is one that desperately needs our attention. The challenge is that the Bible really doesn’t have much to say about dating, so the issue is one of whether or not it is a wise choice for you to allow your student to date. Yes you heard me correctly; the decision is ultimately up to you as the parent to give them the green light to move ahead in this area. Let’s take a look at some steps you can take to get ahead of the game in this area.
Step 1: Establish when they can date. This is challenging because there is no magical date that says this is when you should let your students start dating. I know plenty of 20-something’s that have no business dating because they are not ready. It is a question of maturity. My caution would be that middle schoolers are just not ready to date, and I wouldn’t encourage them to date, but sooner or later they will be ready. So sit down with your spouse and create a list of qualities/characteristics that will indicate to you that your student is ready to start the conversation about dating. Once you have created this list, sit down with your student and go over it with them. Discuss how each characteristic proves that they are ready for the responsibility of dating. What you will find is that when your students are clear in their understanding of your expectations, it will cut out a lot of the arguments over this subject. Clear expectations go a long way to create peace.
Step 2: Set clear and consistent boundaries for dating. When it is time for your student to start dating, they need to have clear and consistent boundaries to keep them out of danger. They need boundaries to protect them in three specific areas: their purity, their identity, and their physical safety. Even if your student is not ready yet to date, sit down with your spouse and come up with at least three clear and consistent boundaries for each of these three areas. Then sit down with your student. Talk about the three areas where they need boundaries in dating, and ask them what they think are some appropriate boundaries for each area. Then combine both, and agree to a set of boundaries for dating. Talk about them regularly so that they are ingrained in your student’s mind when they are ready to start dating. If they are already dating, have check-up conversations with them about how they are doing with living inside those boundaries and any areas where they may need help. Clear and consistent boundaries keep us out of the danger zones when it comes to dating.
Step 3: Discuss qualities that should be present in someone they want to date. It is important to help our students discover the qualities and characteristics that should be present in someone we would consider dating. We don’t want them to date anybody with a pulse, so we need to establish certain qualities that should be present in someone worthy of dating. Again, this is a great conversation to have with your students, even if they are not ready to date. Agreeing ahead of time to a list of qualities of someone they should date can automatically help them eliminate people that they should not date. Who knows, it may even postpone their dating, and that is definitely a good thing.
Let’s not just stand by as our students hearts are being wounded by this world’s view of dating and love. Let’s step up and fight for our students hearts.