In my interview on After 9, we discussed small groups a lot. Small groups are a great venue for tough topics to be unpacked and discussed, inspiring further growth and development in the life of a young believer. One topic that comes up a lot this time of year in youth groups is dating (and guys, girls, purity, etc.). How do you even start to broach such a contentious subject?
Whether you are in the middle of planning a purity weekend or winter retreat, chances are you’ve pondered how to approach this topic in a loving and Bible-centered way. It’s tough, I know.
My middle school and high school years took place in the heyday of the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” movement…trend…whatever you want to call it. While my family and I didn’t strictly follow Joshua Harris’ philosophy, little triggers from his materials as well as other materials planted themselves in my mind in regards to dating:
- Dating is mostly bad.
- Misleading a boy is very bad.
- “Losing” your purity is very, very bad.
As I navigated building relationships with guys and dating, I struggled with knowing how to share my feelings in a healthy way. I struggled with boundaries enforced by my parents. Basically, I began to realize that having a real relationship was messier and more dynamic than the ones espoused on paper, and that was okay.
As I was building a relationship with my future husband, God planted a seed in my heart to write something that would encourage the generation coming up behind me in this messy topic. To write what I wish I could have learned ten years earlier. Yes, there are tons of books on dating and relationships out there, so what makes this one different?
Change the Conversation is a handbook for how parents, youth workers, and teens can have meaningful conversations about dating. My approach focuses more on principles and mindsets towards relationships versus a specific program to follow or a list of dos and don’ts. It’s been encouraging to receive feedback from a variety of people who have read the book and gained some nugget from it.
In the book, I also spend a lot of time talking about purity in relationship to Scripture that I just didn’t hear talked a lot about growing up. As Christians, we should be pursing purity all the time, in every area, with every relationship, not just in dating relationships. That’s one area in which I wished the conversation could have continued when I was growing up. God calls us pure because we have been washed by Jesus’ blood. And yet so many teachings on dating (while they may not mean to) can inspire feelings of guilt in students, rather than inspire them to passionately pursue the purity that God has called all of his kids to.
And finally, I focus on the benefit of approaching all our relationships with intentionality, no matter if you’re dating someone or not. To arrive at any destination, you have to know where you are currently and where you are headed. I encourage readers to be clear and reasonable about the stage of life they are in and to be clear about where they are headed. If they don’t, they will more than likely end up in a place they never planned on being.
That’s what being intentional is all about.
If you’d like to download a free chapter from the book, you can sign up here and download it now!
About The Author: Samantha Hanni
Samantha is the author of Change the Conversation and the "Bloom" devotional series. She is also published in the devotional book Big Dreams from Small Spaces by Group Publishing and blogs at mrshanni.com. Her work has also appeared on Devotional Diva, To Love Honor and Vacuum, and in the OCHEC Informer. From teaching dance classes to leading Sunday school and small groups, Samantha has taught and mentored girls since 2007. Her latest book, Bloom Book 1: Me & God is the first in a devotional series for girls ages 10 and up, and is available for purchase through Amazon. She and her husband Kurtis live in Oklahoma