Are Your Kids Old Enough To Date?

kids-to-young-to-dateThe other day, my two-year-old mentioned in passing that two of his friends “liked” each other. Now he probably did not know what he was saying, but his discussion reveals our kids are never too far away from thinking about dating and boyfriends and girlfriends. And when they do land on these topics and want our opinion, we should be ready with an answer.

Thankfully the Bible gives us direction on this subject. In Mark 10:6-8, we read:

But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh.

From this passage, we can extra three important principles for determining when are children are ready to date.

1. Our children will be ready to date when they are attracted to members of the opposite sex. As parents devoted to the Scriptures, we can only encourage our children to date members of the opposite sex. This is God’s design for the universe. We do not get to decide. God does. He has already declared that boys should date girls and that girls should date boys. Any variation upon this plan is wrong and sinful. As Godly parents, we should only encourage our children to date if they are willing to follow God’s design for gender and marriage.

2. Our children are ready to date if they are ready to leave and cleave. If your son is too young to get a job and to provide for his future wife, he is too young to date. If your daughter is too young to leave your house and set up a new home with her boyfriend, she is too young to date. If you are taking your daughter to the movie theatre and picking up your son from the ice cream shop, your kids are too young to date. They cannot in any meaningfully hope to leave and cling to that cute guy in school or to the pretty girl down the street. They lack the social and economic skills needed to create their own family. However, the high school senior that has a job and pays for all of his bills may be ready for marriage.

3. Our children are not controlled by animal impulses. We should be encouraged to see that our young men are attracted to young ladies and that our young ladies are attracted to young men. We must realize that such urges and desires to be with members of the opposite sex are good and right. But, we must also realize that these desires can come early and be perverted by all kinds of sin. Because we live in a fallen world, our kids will experience hormonal surges and desires for intimacy that they cannot implement without breaking God’s commands. Many children and youth will desire to express their physical urges before they have the ability to leave and cleave. When this happens, we must remind our kids that God’s commands do not conflict. Sexuality and intimacy between a man and woman are always supposed to occur in marriage. And until they are ready for marriage, our children must wait to express these things. As Josh McDowel tells teenagers,

Yes your hormones are strong. Yes, it can be difficult to wait, but the bottom line is sex is a choice. You are not an animal. You are a human being with God-given ability to love, to think , to create, and to make moral choices.

Consequently, the best way to handle the urges for marriage is to trust Christ. We should not encourage our kids to date before they are ready for a one flesh union. Rather, we should point them to Christ and tell them to wait, trusting that God will meet their needs and empower them to overcome temptation until they are ready for their spouse.

As I Corinthians 10:13 says,

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

God is always faithful.

Now, my two-year-old and his friends will not be dating anytime soon. Nor does he really want to. His greatest loves are basketball and Mickey Mouse. But at some point, he will want to talk about more than Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Your kids too will be interested in dating if they are not already. When the subject comes up, what will you tell them?

Can A Baby Solve Your Marriage Problems?

marriage-baby-1.jpgWe all long for community. We all long to be known and to know. When our relationship with our spouse begins to fracture, we look for solutions. We look for ways to fix the every widening gulf between our loved one and ourselves. And quite often, many settle on the idea of a child. “What is more intimate and more glorious than having a child” is the thought process. But it is correct?

At one level, the answer does seem plausible. Children are a blessing from the Lord. Psalm 127 makes this point abundantly clear. Having children in our homes is a very good and a very God thing. But are children the solution to our marital problems? Does their blessed nature help us overcome our lack of trust or poor communication issues? Will creating another life and building a relationship with that small person empower us to reshape our relationship with our spouse?

The answer to this question is, “No.” Children cannot restore or fix our marriage because they were not designed to be marital talismans or good luck charms. If anything, they are the opposites. According to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, children actually exacerbate martial tensions and stresses. The common idea that having a child will improve your already troubled marriage is at best a myth; and at worst, it is destructive and harmful.

Marriages struggle not because of children nor because of a lack of children. They struggle because men and women are putting their own needs and their own desires above their spouse’s needs and desires. They are selfishly deciding not to share about their day or about their recent success at work because they do not trust their spouse. They do not want to get hurt, so they withdraw from the intimacy of the marriage. Or perhaps, you have already been hurt by your spouse’s anger, cutting words, or neglect and you do not want to do the hard work of helping your spouse change. Regardless of the issue, the temptation to run to children is often nothing more than a distraction and escape. It is an attempt to fix deep spiritual and heart issues with physical things, i.e other people.

Having a child to fix your marriage would be like going on a cruise ship to cure your cancer. It may provide a brief rest from cancer, but the cancer remains. The disease will get stronger and will hurt you more and more. A child may briefly distract you from your conflict with your spouse, but eventually the arguments will come back. But now, you struggles occur within the frame work of sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, and the despair that comes from listening to a baby cry for hours upon hours.

Ultimately the marriage that is weak, broken, and defined by a lack of trust does not need more children. It needs more of Christ. Both spouses need to reengage Jesus. Instead of channeling their marriage through their sinful desires, they need to channel their marriage though Christ. They need to remember that Christ loved them long before they loved Christ (1 John 4:10). And they need to remember that they need to love their spouse regardless of what their spouse does. Love is not conditional. It is a free gift that we must daily work to extend.

All marriage problems have one source: our sinful hearts. As James 1:14-15 says,

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Our marriage problems are sins problems. And sin problems can only be fixed by refocusing on the heavenly dwelling of Christ. There is no other way. Kids will not make our marriages great again. Are you ready to deal with this reality?  Are you ready to do the hard work and get serious about your marriage issues?

5 Ways To Encourage Your Nursery Team!

nursery-workersOften when we come stumbling into to the church nursery with hands full of kids, books, and bags, we are celebrating survival. We made it to church.Yes we began the day as a two-touchdown underdog. But we are here! Praise the Lord!

And as we bolt for worship service after a hasty “goodbye,” we often give very little thought to the nursery workers who just inherited are sweet, little children bent on destruction.

While we celebrate the power of the gospel a few hundred feet away, those brave nursery workers we left behind begin to face the never-ending onslaught of toys, pee, temper tantrums, bottles, and crackers. Not too surprisingly, most nursery workers cannot wait for the service too end and for us to come back.  “Oh where are the parents?”

While there are things that our churches should do (such as insisting that nursery workers regularly attend church services) to maintain the health of their nursery program, we parents can also do a lot to help keep our church’s volunteers happy and healthy.

Here are 5 ways, we can count nursery workers as more significant than ourselves (Phil. 3-5).

1. Keep Sick Children at Home

I think it is great that you want to be a church. But if Sally is contagious and feeling ill, she does not belong in the nursery. She could infect the nursery workers and the other kids. By bringing your sick child to church, you could cause your friends to miss work, to incur doctor bills, and to spend sleepless nights.

Now I fully understand that we don’t always know when our children are sick. Not too long ago, my kids infected a few other families because my wife and I misread their little bodies. But if we know that our children our sick and infectious, we should not risk our neighbors health. We should count others as more important than ourselves and keep our little deranged steroid users at home.

2. Be Prepared

Again, I know this is hard. However if we can prepare well for nursery, we will save our kids and our nursery volunteers some heartache. If little Bobby is wheat, soy, lactose, corn, and water intolerant please send some snacks with him. Yes, our churches love your kids, but they cannot anticipate the specific dietary, discipline, and behavior needs of every child. If you can send food, toys, or information that will help your child last the 1-2 hours that he is in the nursery please do so. Don’t expect your church to have the resources of high-end private hospital.

And just in case you are wondering, the answer is yes. Yes, I have arrived at church without my son’s cup and diaper bag. I totally get no one is perfect. This not a rule but more a heart attitude. Instead of having a heart that demands your church’s to accommodate your child’s every need, seek to equip your nursery to minister well to your child.

3. Come Quickly.

Friends, I get that adult time is special. But if we are going to put others first, we must not impose upon the nursery team. They often have families and their own kids. The longer we wait to pick up our kids, the longer we keep others from adult conversations and from caring for their own families.

I know some parents assume the following, “Nursery workers love kids. What is wrong with giving them a few extra minutes with my darling little guy or girl?” Think of it this way.

I knew of a valet who was once responsible for a parking a brand new jaguar sports car. It was so beautiful, strong, and sleek that the valet could not help himself.  About 18 miles, 15 minutes, and a broken axle later, he put the car into the restaurant’s parking garage that was a mere two blocks away. When the patron, got his jaguar back, he noticed that the changes to his car. He was furious. And the valet: he was out of a job.

Friends, the men and women in the nursery have agreed to watch your children for a few blocks.  Thirty minute joy rides go are not part of the package. Please respect your nursery workers and make a good faith effort to pick up your children quickly.

I understand we will be late on occasion. I once dropped my son off in the nursery during our 8:45AM service and totally forgot about him. I was actually locking the doors to our kids’ center a little after 12:30PM when some very gracious nursery workers brought to me. Hashtag Fail!

There are also times when we may need to talk for 30 minutes to encourage a friend who just loss their mother to cancer. I get that and support such actions. But in general, we should always seek to quickly get our kids.

4. Say, “Thank You”

We know our kids. We love them. They are amazing. But they are our kids. Full of our faults and bad habits. They are little sinners. When you pick them up, thank the workers who just spent an hour or so with them. Let the volunteers know how much you appreciate them sacrificing for you and your children. The volunteers did not have to come and play with your child. But because they love Jesus, they came. Please, say thank you!

5. Serve

In today’s age of safety, I know not everyone can serve. There are interviews, background checks, and other hurdles to jump over.  You may not be able to serve in your church kids’ ministry. I am not trying to guilt trip you into anything. But, the best way to understand what the typical nursery worker experiences is to spend some time in their shoes. Spend time changing other kid’s diapers, wiping up other kids’ spills, and listening to other kids’ cry. By being in the nursery,  you will gain a better understanding of how much others have sacrificed for you and your family. You also will gain a better understanding of why your child’s diaper wasn’t changed or why your baby’s feeding was a little late, and why people are happy to see you pick up your child.

We should never forget that nursery is an awesome blessing. And we should always want to interact with the nursery workers in an understanding and loving manner. We should always seek to think more of them and less of us. Who’s with me?