Maybe the number one conversation I have with teens and parents is on the topic of dating. I get asked everything from what is okay to do while dating from teens to if I know about a certain student and what I think about them. There are so many things that we can face, helicopter moms, teens who sneak behind their parents backs, and parents who simply do not know what the Bible has to say about these kind of relationships.
Here are three conversations that you need to be having in your ministry. All of them are essential and deserve your full attention.
Having Conversations With Teens
Hormones are raging and the opposite sex has become more than just friends. Society has advertising in television shows and on billboards that you need to just get naked with several boys. It’s normal. Strong emotions of infatuation disguise themselves as deep love, something they may not get a lot of with busy and tired families. The question is, as a youth leader, what are you and your volunteers saying about it?
Have you had discussions on what God thinks of dating, kissing, sex, and marriage? Do teens feel that you and your leadership are trusted people to talk with and know what you are talking about? Is it really a safe place to have these conversations? Do not shy away from these conversations. Study what the Bible says in 1 & 2 Samuel, Song of Solomon, and the New Testament. If you are dating or married, be a positive and public example to show them what it looks like. Finally, make sure you have proper boundaries and do not get yourself into a situation where you are in a one-on-one conversation with a teen of the opposite sex. Have trusted and available volunteers who can either have these conversations or sit in with you and be an accountable person.
Having Conversations with Parents
Parents are a key audience that we need to be engaged with on this topic of dating. They can either be one of the biggest assets and supporters on this topic or one of your worst nightmares. We need to win them with a firm and sound foundation on what Scripture says that is void of your own bias and experience. Then build a report with the parents by having a meeting or asking to give a sermon that hits on this topic. Finally, ask them questions, directly or indirectly, about what they think about it.
The hope is that you can begin the conversation with them and field any fears that they may have about the subject and how they are interacting with their children. Have resources on hand to either refer them to, or better, have them in your office to give them away. So when they do ask the questions, you will have a plethora of wisdom to draw from. The questions youth workers should not be answering is if parents should let their teens date or if a boy or girl is okay to see, we need to let them decide that point.
Keep the parents informed at all times. If you give a sermon on dating, let them see it a week or two in advanced. If you are asked to meet one-on-one with a student, let the parents ALWAYS know. Then keeps you and the student safe at all times and ensures that the words you are giving the students are the same as what the parents would say too.
Having Conversations with Resources and Church Staff
We need to have conversations with the staff of the church that we work with as well as those that we may need to bring into the discussion. Having senior pastors back your conversation and know exactly what you are talking about can go miles with interacting with students and parents. If a parent comes in concerned before or after you give a lesson on it, you have a huge supporter in your corner if you need to call on them.
I also stated that you need to have conversations with other resources that may need to be necessary to utilize. You need to know the phone number, “spiritual stance”, and history of counselors that have worked specifically with gender identity issues, rape, and parent/teen conflict. Ensure that all of the church staff have access to their information as well and develop a good relationship with these people, encase an emergency were to come up. We need to be prepared for all situations and know that we can have people to come around us when we need them.
What conversations are you having about dating and teens in your ministry?