Good morning parents!
This past week was a doozy. I'm sure most of you have heard what we have talked about at IMPACT, so let me quickly talk about Sunday school first!
Kevin talked to us about having conversations with unbelievers and how we don't have to proselytize to be effective evangelists. Lots of conversations will happen naturally if we are loving the world like Christ, and we can be an incredible witness for Him every day. Only one more week of Organic Outreach!
This was also day 2 of In God's Image for 2019. We talked about dating and how Christ followers should assess the relationships they are having with the opposite sex. We touched on how pornography is no longer considered a primarily male problem, and how we have ways to help with that as a church. And with topics like this, there was definitely some disagreement. Here is what I proposed in a nutshell. Buckle in :) (if you don't have time to read it all, just hit the bold stuff for an idea!)
Students today live in a world that is saturated by sex. Sex sells products, it indicates desirability, and it has become more normalized than ever before. Imagine that every child born from this moment forward were to have glasses that overlayed their vision with entertainment and advertisements. By the time these babies grew up, it would be seen as normal to have these glasses, and comparatively weird if you did not. I imagine it is not all that different for our students right now, with things like social media and the advertisements that surround them. Why does this matter?
If you were to be one of those children who was given glasses at birth, you wouldn't even know that what you were seeing or experiencing was not "normal" by the standards of the previous generation. I think that I sounded a little crazy to our students this past Sunday, because I was trying to point out the not-normal nature of what they call dating.
Maybe I am naive to think that things were not this way when I was in high school, but it certainly seems that the term dating now encompasses a set of societal expectations that are pretty different from when I was in school (less than 8 years ago!) Students profess love to one another regularly, probably without any idea of how God designed love to look. Kissing seems more casual and doesn't seem as shameful to do in public. Heck, the musical the Zeeland High Players just put on decided to forego stage kissing and just have the actors kiss for real. Students who are in a dating relationship today are expected (or feel expected) to give one another a fairly high level of physical affection. This was the case for me as well, but it seems like it is more intense now. As I walk through the halls at the high schools, there are students doing things with one another that I wouldn't have dreamed of doing with my significant others, much less in public.
So I began our lesson last week by asking why we date. We date people to get to know them, to figure out what we like in future partners, and to enjoy the feeling of being desired. I threw a curveball, and asked students why we couldn't get everything that present day "dating" has to offer without the exclusivity and expectations of a dating relationship? After all, you don't need to be dating to get to know somebody, or even identify things that you are attracted to in them. And if all of those things are possible without the possibility of heartbreak and the reality of physical temptation, why would you place yourself in a commitment like that?
An exclusive relationship ends one of two ways, no matter what; either you break up, or one member dies. So as we think about that in the context of dating (even high school dating), there are some questions that naturally are raised. Questions like "Is this person someone who I can spend the rest of my life with?" and "Would I want this person raising my kids someday?"or "Does this person challenge me to be a better follower of Christ?"
At this point you may be thinking "Noah, they are just kids, chill out man." I wouldn't blame you. It's possible that even you as a parent might disagree with what I told the youth two days ago, and that is okay. Maybe my perspective and intent would be helpful. I remember the regret I had over emotional and physical steps I took toward girls that would not ultimately become my wife. I remember the conversation that I had with Dynelle after we started dating (after getting to know one another as friends ;P) where I told her that there were certain things I would not be able to do with her for the first time. I was devastated. I want to protect our students from that same devastation. Culture is getting more and more casual about sex and physical affection by the day. If my encouraging students to ask these hard questions early prevents them from falling into the mindset or trap of casual sex or physical affection, I will have succeeded.
Even rereading what I just wrote sounds harsh, but I think reality is harsh sometimes. The notion that the person you begin dating at 15 will be the same person at age 25 is ludicrous. High schoolers need to grow, and hopefully they are growing with a strong system of support and not basing any of their worth on a dating relationship.
If you've made it this far, you're a trooper. I feel a little like I just word-vomited a lot of thoughts on a page, and I could have missed something or come across as rude when I did not intend to. If there is anything you want to clarify, tell me, or just give general feedback please email me. I would love to hear what you all think of this (specifically the fathers who don't want their daughters dating until 30, I feel like we would get along.)
In God's Image is always hard to do well. How can I properly stress the importance of healthy relationships without coming off as a prude and remaining helpful? I hope at the very least it has caused some conversation at home this year. If it hasn't, ask your child what they thought. It might be interesting :)
Next week we are inviting the 8th grade students to join us for IMPACT and our end of year fiesta! After that, all incoming freshmen will be invited to all summer events that will be on the calendar later this week!
Thanks again for keeping up with what we are talking about. Ill throw my lesson plans here again so you can see the madness that is my lesson planning style, and see the heart behind it all.
I'm Noah. I do High School things. Expect this page to update every Tuesday morning!