Youth in Focus

On teenage love and dating

Feb 2010    

MANY YEARS AGO WHEN I WAS 17, my girlfriends and I did a naughty thing. On the wet cemented pavement outside our campus, we scribbled these words “Being Single Rocks” and laughed our way off.

Back in my time, infatuation was common, but kissing was sacred and not to be seen in public. Sexual experimentation was taboo. One out of every 15 teenagers dated. And waiting for the right person was a cool thing to do. That was 20 years ago.

Today, teens can express mutual interest in one another, text affections via their mobile phones, hang out exclusively over the weekends and still declare to others that they are not officially dating. This contradictory behaviour is common in the postmodern generation of teens.

Terminologies have changed and boundaries have shifted. The way teens think about dating has evolved and changing cultures are morphing their attitude towards love. An article in The Straits Times (Oct 27, 2009) revealed that more teens were hit by sexual infections last year and people are becoming more sexually aware from a young age. It indicated that teens have a skewed perspective on love from unreliable sources, with little supervision from reliable people.

As adults, we can hit the panic button, tie our teens to the chairs and scream at them, “No Dating Allowed”. Or we can be a learner of their world where Tarzan is eager to have Jane, build relational bridges and coach them to play the waiting game well.

Today’s teens are more vocal to talk about their challenges in boy-girl relationships (BGR) than my generation was. They chat about love and dating easily. “Dating is a status game in my school,” one teen told me. One in five of their peers had dated or is currently involved in a dating relationship.

They face intense pressure from their peers to “go out” with someone. Dating can become a badge of acceptance. The world bombards them with the message that love is an end in itself. And so, they become increasingly bored with waiting in singleness and are easily tempted for a radical experience in dating.

We need to seize the moment to help teens learn a biblical approach to love. My advice to anyone ministering to this age group is to spend time with them. Listen, empathise, clarify, direct and pray with them. We need to show them the Trinitarian nature of God as a model of love. And we should not apologise for educating that true love is everlasting, sustaining, honoured in commitment and worth the wait.

Opinion influencers in their lives rank highest with parents, followed by youth mentors, trusted friends and teachers. While it is commendable that schools are educating teens on this topic, it is insufficient because they are cynical with textbook answers. There needs to be a collaborative effort among parents, schools and the church to help a teen make informed decisions on love and dating.

Teens want to be engaged in discussions by people who care for them. Availing time to them provides such a platform to sow spiritual truths on boy-girl relationship during teachable moments. And if they do make mistakes along the way, stay loving to help them, evaluate their actions in light of their intentions and guide them to make wiser choices in the future.

“How can I help you make informed choices on BGR issues?” I asked the teens in my Youth Ministry recently. “Advise us, give us space to process your opinions and please be there for us” were their echoed responses. And this is precisely what we need to keep doing and doing it well. By Wendy Chiang

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Rev Lawrence Chua is new MMS head

THE REV LAWRENCE T. C. CHUA has been appointed as the Executive Director of the Methodist Missions Society (MMS) with effect from January 2010.

He succeeded the Rev Dr Norman Wong, who had headed the MMS for four years and has been posted to Kampong Kapor Methodist Church as Pastor.

A minister with Trinity Annual Conference, the Rev Chua continues in his ministry of more than 25 years of teaching, training and discipling.

His passion for the Kingdom of God and his obedience to God’s will and mission will continue to put the MMS on track to “Go and make disciples of all nations”.

He will lead the MMS to fulfil the call to build healthy, Great Commission, disciple-making communities, movements and churches.

He has been serving as the MMS Area Director for the Mekong Delta Region (Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam) since August 2007.

He has also been engaged in training leaders in local churches and in the mission fields of the MMS.

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