An Incomplete Guide… Part one.
This session could be looked at in tandem with the session on sexual health. This session is huge so use what you need or consider using over 2-3 sessions.
Share any stories you have from personal experience. This is very powerful when married couples share stories sensitively, especially couples who the young people like or can relate to.
Just before I started youth work at my church, I heard that most of the 20 or so young people in the newly formed youth work had or were dating each other. Someone would go out with one person, then move on etc. Not exactly serious but certainly serial dating..!
Dating is obviously is a big issue with young people (and everyone!) In this session we take a look at marriage, sex and the Bible, have a few exercises, bits for you to do, look at the issue of dating non-Christians and use what’s useful.
A good place to start is Proverbs 31.10-31 which describes some of the characteristics of a good wife. But this isn’t just for women as it shares info for a good husband too! And yes this describes super-woman, but it’s not a set of rules it’s helpful guidance!
If you’re thinking of a prospective life partner (or even a date) this is a good place to go find out some info. Here’s a summary of Proverbs 31. I’d say for all of these, the wife / husband are inter-changeable, so what is true for one should be true of the other!
– a good wife / husband can be hard to find so choose with care!
– in a relationship, trust and loyalty are essential. Should have total confidence in them!
– ladies, as tough as blokes may seem, the truth is most are quite sensitive. Don’t mock blokes. A good wife / girlfriend brings her man good and not harm.
– a relationship is for a lifetime, not just for Christmas.
– a good woman / man is a hard worker. Not obsessive but someone who works well and honestly
– someone who puts the needs of others, their family first.
– a woman / guy who will provide for the family and treat others with respect.
– someone who sees a good bargain, a good investment. A partner who looks after the pennies, who is financially savvy.
– a partner who cares for people, looks out for the poor and needy.
– a person who makes sure her family are clothed, provided for and that the house is looked after
– the husband / wife are respected within their area of work and beyond
– they show wisdom, have good relationships with other people, and serve according to their calling faithfully in the church.
– the husband or wife really pays attention to their spouse and praises them in public and private, genuinely appreciating and loving them
– a person who gives faithful instruction to the spouse, friends and family
– someone who is not lazy
– the spouse and children speak highly of the person and praise them
– a person who fears God, loves God, trusts God, is obedient to God, growing in God. Beauty is only temporary but as Brian Houston at Hillsong says, you should view a woman as the archaeologist sees his wife – with age, she grows ever more interesting!
SOUNDS LIKE A LOT HUH?! Yep. But the life of love is a life of faithful loyalty. Marriage is another one of God’s ways to make us more holy and more complete as a child of God. Before thinking of marriage, life partners, think hard: do you want to be made more holy by God?!
Other Common Sense Principles to think about..
Are you thinking about dating someone? Some fit lad or lass caught your eye? Here’s some good ideas. These are from the wisdom that people have told me and God has revealed to me, not from personal experience.
– Remember that a Godly relationship involves 3 people – there’s you and your wife / husband or girlfriend / boyfriend. But right at the centre is God. He must be central otherwise your relationship will fail.
– What are your girlfriend’s / boyfriend’s family like? This is often a good guide. A Christian family brings with it a Christian spiritual inheritance that is rarely found elsewhere. You can very often tell where people’s families have a Christian, missionary, Godly legacy. Not always but it can help!
– What is the mother of the girl like? (If possible to know this, I realise death, adoption, family breakup may not always make this possible). Very often a girl will become like her mother. A bloke usually turns out fairly like the old man, but this is not as guaranteed. When you meet or hear about the family, the parents, do you like what you see and feel? Is it loving, caring, Godly, do they demonstrate characteristics you are looking for in your life partner? It’s a good sign if they do!
– What is your potential spouse like with other people? Are they a gossip, arrogant, full of themselves? Selfish? Two-faced? Do they lie? Think very long and hard about marrying someone – they won’t magically change when they are married!
– Can you trust them? Trust is essential. If they can’t be trusted with small things, how can you trust them in a relationship? Integrity, faithfulness, loyalty are essential.
– Are they reliable? Do they turn up to things – reliability values people. If they are regularly late or unreliable, this needs sorting before things go much further!
– How does someone present in public and in private? Do the private and public life match up? A good sign if they do and both are Godly!
– What do they want out of a relationship? If you want to go out with someone who you’ll marry and your partner just wants someone to date, you may be best off avoiding that relationship.
– Be careful of someone who puts lots of demands on you very quickly. This isn’t a great sign. What do I mean by great demands? You must live in my home town, you should quit your job, if you really loved me you’d do x, y or z. That type of thing probably shows a controlling person, a clingy person or someone not yet mature enough to handle a long-lasting relationship!
– How do the terms of the relationship work out? For example, does one person almost use the other person. I’ve looked on at a relationship where the girl saw the bloke as her fall-back person.. The girl contacted the lad when she was lonely, depressed, bored or when her mates weren’t around. The bloke ended up feeling used, which he was being. This is not the basis for a relationship! That relationship didn’t work out not surprisingly!
– On the flipside, blokes need to remember that girls are sensitive and need care, little touches such as sending cards, flowers, text messages, gifts, surprise things, cooking food for her etc. It shows how you value the female. A female likes the male to be attentive to her, not obsessively though! Simply listening to her, commenting on her appearance will show amazing results!
– Girls, remember to support your bloke publicly and privately and do not reveal secrets about in your chats with mates.
– Remember in a relationship not to forget those around you, such as your friends. You may have had your friends for a long time, your relationship may or may not work out. Make sure you have friends and family to come back to if things fail. More than that, if the price of a relationship is to the exclusion of everyone else, it’s not worth pursuing. On the flipside of this, don’t treat the other person simply as another friend – they must and should be much more than this, your best friend (apart from Jesus who should always be number one!)
– What skills does each person bring to the relationship? For example, if you’re both terrible at organisation, it may not be great, or you’ll both need to learn pretty quickly. We’re not looking for clones of us, often we look for someone with skills to compliment ours. But important skills that are too wide apart, or non-existent in both parties, won’t help!
– Are they spiritually and emotionally stable? I would avoid a girl who said stuff like, ‘need a bloke to help me in my spiritual life’. That’s a big danger sign to me! Why? We should look for spiritual compatibility not just emotional or physical. While it’s good to be there for someone, you don’t want to be drained by them, but support each other!
– Do you share the same priorities in life? If I like hip hop and love hip hop ministry, I probably won’t get on with someone who hates it. On a deeper level, if someone doesn’t want children and another does, that’s a big enough tension to sound warning bells! If someone likes cats and dogs (like me!), do you both like animals?
– Shared values – this is even deeper. I would look for a woman who shared the same spiritual values, wants to go a similar way on the faith journey, believes similar things to what I do about the Bible.
– Do you pray together, want to pray together? Believe me, you should as it brings a spiritual connection between people. In fact, there’s a warning here for those working with others of the opposite sex, be careful not to pray together just the two of you. It does forge a bond between 2 people, this is why it’s so essential in a relationship or marriage.
– Do you want to work together in ministry? How would this work out? Talk and think about it?
– Similar intelligence is not always a great guide but it can seriously help. If you’re fairly bright and a thinking person, you won’t click with someone who doesn’t want to think too much!
– Similar age is a significant factor. These days, people are coming together from different ages (age becomes less important as you get older) but when you’re say 17, 18, 19, life is different and has different priorities, opportunities, challenges to when you’re in your 20s, 30s etc. Having said this I know a couple who were married for many years (before he died) where the age gap was 19 years!
– How independent minded is the other person? Someone who’s too independent minded is someone who doesn’t, or feels they don’t need someone else. This is difficult because a relationship is about allowing someone else to love, care for and value you. If you won’t let them or if they won’t let you, this will make for a very difficult relationship.
– Ladies, listen closely, you aren’t responsible for, and you won’t be able to ‘change’ a man in some kind of miraculous way. So stop thinking that way. Yes, you will have an impact. So look for deep and Godly characteristics in a man now rather than demanding them later. And remember, it’s the Holy Spirit that changes people, not you! (Same lesson for blokes too)
– At the end of the day, though, God brings man and woman together. Let no-one set apart what God has sorted out!
That game where you have a licorice lace, and a girl at one end and a lad at the other. They have to eat the lace towards each other. If you feel dodgy about this, get a husband and wife team to do this bit, much to the amusement of the young people I’m sure..
Or the game where people sit around in the room and one has to go up to another, present them with a gift and say ‘I love you’ without laughing. Or variations on this. Play it by ear as for many young people this is a difficult to deal with area. It may be safer to stick with leaders doing silly stuff or getting young people doing this who don’t mind!!
BIBLE EXAMPLES OF MAN AND WOMAN BROUGHT TOGETHER
There’s a mad thing that went round people’s emails about the different and bizarre ways man and woman were brought together in the Bible – here’s just a few:
‘Help water your future wife’s flock’ – Moses and Zipporah, Exodus 2.16-21
‘Go attack and defeat a city and get the king’s daughter in marriage’ – Othniel and Acsah, Joshua 15.16-17
‘Defeat the philistines, bring back their foreskins to the king and get the king’s daughter’ – David and Michal, 1 Samuel 18.26-28
‘Be the slave of a man with a family of only daughters’ – Jarha and wife, 1 Chronicles 2.34-36
‘Bring back the woman who helps you get a drink from the well and waters your camels to be the wife of your master’s son’ – Isaac and Rebekah, Genesis 24
I’m off down to the well.. OK, so I’m sending my servant down the well for me..
A basic principle nicely put to advise young people on the do’s and don’t’s of dating is – don’t touch what you haven’t got and don’t touch between the top of the torso and the top of the legs. Kind of simplistic but effective! Also, if a situation is getting risky, get out! Respect people’s privacy. No means no. Remember that people have feelings and messing round with people’s feelings is never nice.
And as the slogan says, ‘True Love Waits’ (until marriage before having sex). An amazing thing that God has set there for our protection and enjoyment.
(Bible verses from Genesis 1.27-28, Genesis 2.24, Exodus 20.14 & 17, Matthew 5.27-30).
FOR YOUNG PEOPLE TO THINK…
About a time when you or one of your mates went out with someone, it ended, horrible, oh no, and then the girl (or lad) started dissing you (or your mate). Actually, despite your bravado, that can really hurt. People may say, ‘she was a tart’ or ‘he was a useless kisser’ and so on.. Marriage should be a place where a lot of this is very secure. Sex, your intimate secrets and more can be between you and your husband/wife, not on display. What a real sense of security, trust and protection.
Some sexually transmitted disease (STI) infection rates continue to rise despite endless ‘sex education’ teaching. Marriage is a place where if two people have been and are continue to be faithful, you are pretty much guaranteed to avoid these problems. There is also very real medical (and moral and spiritual!) concerns about the risk and potential damage caused by the morning-after-pill. Finally many young people wish they had waited before having sex. A survey of 3000 young people in the UK showed that 40% of women and 26% of men believed their first sexual experience happened too early in life (link to one report, accessed April 2019)
For obvious reasons, use married couples (and youth leaders who are going to be married) to expand on these points and present them. For more specific boy-girl topics, break down into all-male and all-female groups, as I’m sure you’re aware!
Topics you could look at – sex, how far do you go, relationship rules, periods, hormones, masturbation, love, lust, homosexuality etc. Be very not to expose young people’s minds to things they don’t need to be exposed to. For example, one youth leader no longer in our youth team did a sex talk where they talked about very inappropriate things that some of the guys had no idea about. Don’t pollute their minds or yours. The Bible says think on things that are noble, pure and good (Philippians 4.8). You can talk about principles and not specific examples unless the young people ask.
MALE AND FEMALE DIFFERENCES?
Give a brief description of the differences between lads and girls. What relationships mean, what they look for, how they react, differences in flirting, what girls and lads look for in the opposite sex, the little signs and things to look for, dirty talk, teenage girls and how their minds work – this last point especially aimed at male youth leaders so they can protect themselves and be aware.
In these days of so-called ‘gender neutrality’ or people identifying as ‘non-binary’ or transgender issues, does this affect what we think? Is the Bible able to address these issues? What does the Bible say?
The Bible starts with a man and a woman (Genesis) and ends with a feast between the ‘bride’ and the ‘bridegroom’ (Revelation). Does this affect what we think about gender issues and about marriage or dating?