Dating… boyfriends, girlfriends, hookups and breakups. As a high school minister, it is all part of the scene. Teens are dating someone, wanting to date someone or trying to get out of dating someone (and sometimes it is all three at the same time). As we attempt to lead teens closer to Christ, we cannot ignore this enormous part of their lives.
Spring is in the air! For the rest of the school year, you can bet some new relationships will begin sprouting. So, what do you do when young love begins to show its face with hand holding, flirting, and long embraces at Life Teen?
First, let’s look at the types of relationships we see:
- Two members of the youth group decide they like each other and start dating. These couples typically don’t bother youth ministers because these are “involved” teens who are looking in the “right place” for someone to date. We’re so proud that all those “How to date a potential mate” talks are sinking in!
- A teen you know and an “outsider” begin dating. This new teen, whom you’ve never seen before, and whom you know nothing about, doesn’t seem interested in anything but your teen. These can make us mad. “Who the heck is this kid and why is he/she sitting so close to my teen??”
- The Serial Dater. You know the one… the teen who happily introduces themselves to the newest member of the opposite sex when they walk in the door. Within a week, your teen is dating the newbie. And then a week or 2 after that, the “serial dater” is single again and the new teen has disappeared.
How should you explain the standards for proper behavior between guys and gals at your events without alienating teens or making them feel stupid? How do we approach a couple that just won’t listen to the constant gentle reminders to “leave room for the Holy Spirit”?
“Love does not delight in evil. Love rejoices in the truth.”
Make a general announcement to the entire group. Tell them the truth about the purpose of the youth group and clearly define appropriate behavior when they are participating in your events. Be positive, use humor, but be firm and clear. You know your group and you know what exactly needs to be said regarding what you have seen. Making this statement to the entire group is a good reminder for all – Life Teen is about growing closer to CHRIST and understanding HIS love. Restating the true focus of the ministry keeps the daters from feeling “called out” and is good for everyone to hear.
“Love is patient, love is kind.”
Truthfully, one announcement won’t work for all. Most likely, teens’ behavior won’t be offensive or out of control, just standard teenage flirting. Get ready to dig in! It will take a few weeks of patient and gentle reminders from you and your adults for them to understand and put into practice the standards you have set. The good news is, the general majority will listen and you will see change.
Unfortunately, there are teens who think the rules don’t apply to them and still won’t comply. Discuss the matter with your Core Team and decide on the best approach for addressing these teens. It will depend on the teens, their specific actions, and their level of involvement in the youth group. A coordinated adult guy-to-teen guy and adult gal-to-teen gal chat with the couple will probably be in order.
Remember: We get nowhere without patience, kindness, and love when addressing this sensitive subject. Remind them that you aren’t punishing them, but are empowering them to become amazing young people who give witness to their faith by their actions.