As The Dating Conference began taking shape in my heart, I felt an incredible desire to create space for guys and girls to put God first in every aspect of their life, especially in their dating relationships. This desire reminds me we have an incredible opportunity to care for the hearts of those who God loves through serving and leading the next generation toward Jesus.
I remember my teen years being full of uncertainty, expectation, and stress because of the social pressure connected to dating. At my middle school and high school, one’s social status, emotional well-being, and personal fulfillment were often closely connected to their dating relationships.
As the conference unfolded, it became clear that 1 John 5:21 would be the anthem of the weekend. The weekend was full of incredible worship music led by The Neverclaim. It is just so sweet to see a room full of teens worshipping the King.
For me, allowing God to write the story of our relationships is incredibly meaningful. This is so critical for the teen years because it is often difficult to see anything beyond the current crush, or the current relationship, or the current love interest. It can be hard to hold back when one feels so strongly or is flooded with emotion and desire. It can feel like God is keeping us from something so good…but that is not true. God is inviting us into something so much better.
When I was 4 years old, I met my wife for the first time. From the age of 4 on, every decision that I made has impacted the love of my life. Now, neither of our parents condoned dating at the age of 4 or 5, so we did have to wait a while before we became more than friends. But simply knowing our story began at such a young age reminds me regularly that all of our stories happen this way. Relationships, decisions, and choices throughout our life ripple forward.
Reflecting on my teen years and my dating experiences, I have made an important discovery: every dating relationship I’ve ever had ended. It’s true! My wife and I got engaged and then married (hence, no longer dating!), and every other dating relationship ended with the status “Single.” So often dating becomes the pursuit of our energy and heart, but it is fleeting. How much better to pursue an eternal God and bring every aspect of our life before Him and ask Him to lead us, guide us, and write our beautiful story!
God is the Creator, and when we allow Him, He will create beauty inside of us and lead us toward life. God can be trusted with your heart. God can be trusted with the details and desires of your life. When we put God first and we “keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts” (1 John 5:21), we are on a journey that will guard our hearts well and lead us in a direction full of opportunity.
5 Takeaways from The Dating Conference for your next event/conference:
1. Create Space for Students. As we focused on the real life issue of dating, it allowed for students to feel prioritized and valued. It also allowed for students to be surprised when we did not come at them with rules, but with relationship. Put God 1st and let His love shape the choices we make.
2. Create Space for Parents. We incorporated a Parent Workshop into the weekend and invited parents to join us for the final session. This was a huge win! Invite parents to grow with their students.
3. Create Space for Global Impact. We partnered with Living Water International to raise awareness for extending the Gospel through clean drinking water. We served water all weekend and through donations raised enough money to provide clean drinking water to 35 families for the entire year. Create partnership for global impact.
4. Create Space for Prayer Ministry. Students need to experience the love of God through real life care and ministry. As we created space for God to meet our teens through personal prayer, we saw God’s grace poured out in meaningful and powerful ways! Go for it!
5. Create Space for Friendship & Fun. As you schedule an event, intentionally schedule Church group time, conversation time and fun time to help students form life-giving friendships in a positive and healthy environment. Don’t take for granted the value this has in an event or conference. Schedule with intentionality.