Should my student date someone who isn’t a Christian?
Kris Butz, Central Youth Pastor
One of the thoughts that comes up in our student small groups is not just the idea of dating but, dating someone who may not be a Christian. Our students rarely would say that the person isn't a Christian. They would say that the person doesn't attend church much and will just leave it at that. We've learned to read between the lines on this one and as a parent, you probably have done the same thing. You have also probably (or in the future will) question the individual that your student is dating because you don't want them to pull your student away from church or a relationship with Christ. Here's how we as Youth and Small Group Leaders respond:
Can I date someone who isn’t a Christian?
You can but that doesn’t mean you should.
Most parents settle for allowing their student to date someone who goes to their church. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than going to Taco Bell makes you a taco. Parents, the best thing you can do is get to know the person your student would like to date. Have them over. Go out to eat with them. Observe them as much as possible before making that judgement.
2 Corinthians 6:14 tells us to not be “unequally yoked.” That means to refrain from relationships that can pull us off track. It’s a picture of 2 oxen of different sizes and strengths. If tied together, they will not be able to walk a straight line. One will pull the other off course. It’s unintentional but also inevitable. It can’t help but happen because of the difference in size and strength. A student who is trying to live a Christian life, while dating a person who is not, may be able to help that person live a little better but, both will get pulled off their original course.
As a parent, how can you have a conversation about this topic without it erupting into a raging dumpster fire of emotion?
There are 2 mistakes that we often make as parents:
- We think that kids are just like we are right now. We believe that they can think just like we do right now. We want to have confidence in our kids but that particular confidence is misplaced because while your kids experience emotions just like an adult, they don't think like an adult. For example: a kid that loses a baseball game experiences the same emotions that an adult does. However, they do not have the ability to control those emotions to the degree than an adult can. Most kids get mad, might cry, and may pout. Hopefully most adults, while frustrated, can figure out what cause the outcome and work to not repeat those mistakes without being angry or rage crying! Even though they may be capable of doing some adult things, like dating or driving or working, kids just don’t have the ability to process emotions and events the way an adult can.
- We also tend to think that kids today are just like we were when we were there age. Let me be really clear on this one. They are not like you when you were their age. They have grown up in a different culture that accepts and glorifies a lot of different things that we didn't. They have been exposed to things that we never even heard of until we were adults! Those exposures are common place in the world they’re navigating. They are growing up in a culture that uses words like “transgender” and “gay” every day. In junior high, most of us had no idea what those things were. Information travels quicker than it ever could when we were kids. They have heard and seen things that you never have thanks to access to the internet 24/7 on their phones. The world your child is growing up in is radically different than the one you grew up in.
Don't make the mistake of thinking they are just like you are or like you were. They have the emotions we have but, they don't think process them like we do. You will need to be patient and explain to them several times why dating a non-Christian person isn't what they should be doing.
Location: Choose a place that has some privacy. In a house full of people, getting ready to run out the door, is not the right location to have this conversation! That might the moment you find out who they are going out with but, don’t attempt to tackle something like this when people are in a hurry and less likely to be open to hearing what you’re really saying about it. Open up the conversation in a place where you can sit with minimal distraction or somewhere that they can talk about how and why they might disagree with you and express themselves. Take a walk in a park or on a beach. Create a space where you can both be heard. Don’t forget to listen to your child. Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. This is about relationship and this is an opportunity for you to build relationship. YES, you are right but it’s not ok to be so hard on a child that you dismantle your relationship with them.
Have a dating policy: The best offense is a great defense. It’s a whole lot easier to enforce a rule that already exists than have to invent one on the spot. I always feel like a good dating policy is to say that your student can't go anywhere alone with the opposite sex. If they are going out, then other friends have to be there as well. Group dates are always a little safer and you can insist that you know the friends that are accompanying your child on this date/whatever-they-are-calling-it. Just to clarify: Just because they don't call it a “date” doesn't mean it isn’t one.
Pray: Seek the help of the Holy Spirit when parenting your teenager. You need it. You will find so often that after you have prayed, God completely changes the way in which you were about to deal with a situation. You were about to come in hot and His patience and peace allowed you to have a much more calm demeanor and that enabled you to truly communicate with your child. Never underestimate the power of a praying parent.
We hope this has helped you and would love to interact with you further. Comment below with questions or a response. We will see you next week.