By Pastor Brenda Timberlake

Q. When should I allow my child to start dating?
A. It depends upon the maturity of your child. However, don\’t allow your child to date unless there is some form of accountability at all times during the date.

When our children were dating age, my husband and I discussed our expectations with them so that they had no doubts. We fostered open and honest communication with them and monitored their friends. Does it take all of that? Yes. Each child is unique and you will have to ask God for wisdom, protection and guidance on what is best for them.

I suggest that you encourage group activity dates. This provides accountability and discourages intimate or risky activities (sex, drugs, etc.).

Q. How do I help my 14 and 16-year old children make better choices?
A. The best thing you can do is to set a good example. Live a life that they can imitate. Also, be responsive to them and give them practical advice whenever possible.

* Peer pressure, self-esteem and home life are among the leading influences on teens\’ choices. The “broad road” (see Matt.7:13-14) is definitely the easier and most popular choice, but in the long run, it will lead to the destruction of the mind, body and spirit.

* Unbelieving (non-Christian) friends will not understand why you do or don\’t do certain things, and they will most likely pressure you to go against your beliefs

Q: What does the Bible say about dating/ courting?
A: The words “courtship” and “dating” are not found in the Bible. However, we are given principles to follow during the time before marriage.

* Separate yourself from the world\’s view on dating. God\’s way contradicts the world\’s (2 Peter 2:20).

* Discover the character of a person before making any commitment to him or her. Is he or she “born again” in the Spirit of Christ (John 3:3-8)? Does he or she shares the same desire toward Christ-likeness (Philippians 2:5)?

* Remember to love the Lord above all else (Matthew 10:37). To say or believe that another person is “everything” or the most important thing in one\’s life is idolatry (Galatians 5:20; Colossians 3:5).

* Do not defile your body by having premarital sex (1 Corinthians 6:9, 13; 2 Timothy 2:22). Sexual immorality is a sin not only against God but against your own body
(1 Corinthians 6:18).

Whether dating or courting, following biblical principles is the best way to have a secure foundation for a marriage. God intended marriage to be permanent and unbreakable (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5).

*(Rentz, Suzanne. Daughter of Heaven Devotional: Lessons in Life for Young Women, Harrison House, 2003.)