Friday, August 2, 2013

Worse things than "dating"? (part 2)

In my previous post I described a loophole created by teens in response to the "no dating" position of their parents. The "bestest friends" construct has some serious and significant consequences that can affect one's view of committed relationships.  But this isn't the only loophole...

While "bestest friends" is a loophole devised by teens, "Church as a safe social hangout" is a loophole that has been accidentally created by their parents. Some "no dating" parents have resigned themselves to the reality that their teen has a special someone. So in order to deflect and reduce the tension caused by these two realities, these parents have declared that their teen may only spend time with their special someone during the time that the family is at church.

On the surface this sounds like a preferable compromise to supervised dating. They're at church. It is a public and safe place.  As good as it initially sounds, there are unintended consequences associated with this decision.

The most fundamental consequence is that the emphasis of attending church is changed.  It shifts from a destination to corporately worship God to a place to hang out with their special someone.  They look forward to spending more time at the church simply to spend more time with their serious other. Every ministry event becomes a pretext for additional time together.

These teen couples don't simply sit together in the sanctuary... that would make it too obvious that they are a couple. Instead they pair off seeking out a quiet, private nook or corner in which to spend some time alone. Rarely does anything physical happen, but it does reinforce the natural tendency to hide. This establishes and reinforces the perspective that spending time as a couple is wrong and must be hidden... once again this loophole short circuits honoring the relationship, mutual accountability, and the opportunity to learn proper ways of interacting with a special someone.

From a ministry perspective, making the church a social hangout for teens who are not permitted to date results in difficulty in impromptu adult ministry and counseling. The quiet corners of a worship center become private spots for these young couples.  It also sets a poor example for younger teens who see the older ones and conclude that it is an acceptable thing to do.

All things in the proper order at the proper time.

(concludes in part 3)