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Questions Father's Have

When should my preparation for courtship begin?

What are the keys to a successful courtship?

Is courtship a Biblical concept?

Isn't this hard on the young man?

Why are fathers important to the courtship process?

Why should I teach my children about marriage?

Do I have the time for this?

What is the value to my children?

What if your child does not want to embrace courtship?

Q: When should my preparation for courtship begin?
So often, fathers begin to talk with me after a young man has inquired about his daughter or he has already given permission for a courtship to begin. In my perspective you are in the final stretch at that point. If your objective is to be proactive and purposeful, then preparing your children in their early teen years or before will be your best prospect. The opportunity to teach your children the really important concepts about marriage – permanence, sacrifice, selflessness, honor, imitating Christ – is yours during these earlier years. Not only can you teach, you can demonstrate these things in your own marriage. If you start later, then do your best to catch up. If you start early you will be able to teach these concepts over time and as they come up in your home.

Q: What are the keys to a successful courtship?
A: There is a critical ingredient to making courtship work – relationship. Not just one relationship, but two. First, you want to encourage within your child their own relationship with God. Children will often follow your lead spiritually in their early years. They must transition to their own belief in God and embrace Him fully as the mature – and as a parent you must release them to tie their loyalty to God. A successful courtship and marriage must be driven by their internal belief in God and their relationship with Him. It is this relationship that will guide them to the right spouse through the Holy Spirit or else they will follow their own desires to their detriment. Cultivate your child’s relationship with God and challenge them to stand on their own with God as the foundation for a successful life and marriage.

Secondly, fathers are to instruct their children in righteousness (1 Thes. 2:11, Ps. 78:5-7, Heb. 12:9-10, Deut. 6:7, 20-25, Eph. 6:14). Each father has an innate desire to do good for his children (Luke 11:13) and protect them (Mark 5:22-23). When it comes to courtship, a relationship with them is essential to do them good. In this case, good is not choosing a mate for them, but it does involve protection and mature counsel. That protection and counsel is modeled repeatedly in Proverbs as the writer says, “my child” – hear instruction (1:8), avoid sinners (1:10), keep your feet from evil (1:15), discern the fear of the Lord & the knowledge of God (2:5), remember my teaching (3:1), accept God’s discipline (3:11; 19:27), make the Lord your confidence (3:21-26), keep my commandments and live (4:4, 10; 6:20; 7:1), my words are life and health (4:20-22), watch over your heart with all diligence (4:23), avoid the adultress (5:7-8), deliver yourself from surety (6:1-5),  have wise words (23:15), have wise friends (23:19), give me your heart and protect your eyes (23:26), fear the Lord and the king (24:21), let your wisdom be my response to others (27:11), have self-control and defend the rights of the needy (31:2-9). The writer is striving to communicate wisdom to his children to protect them and point them toward God’s best. Courtship is a matter of your children putting an enormous amount of trust in your counsel and Biblically centered wisdom. Even if you build a great relationship and high level of trust, there will be times when your children will wonder if they have made the right decision. Your humility, prayers, expression of desiring their best and continued pursuit of a relationship, are the things that will keep them moored to their commitment to seek God’s best. Never break their trust.

So the matter of relationship is two-pronged. As a father you must encourage a loyalty and dependence on God separate and apart from you. At the same time, you need to develop a trusting relationship with your child so they can gain the wisdom, protection and experience you have to offer.

Q: Is courtship a Biblical concept?
A: Scripture presents us with several models for establishing a husband/wife relationship. None of them turn out to be courtship.
           •            Parental selection (Abraham)
           •            Betrothal (Mary & Joseph)
           •            Work for a bride (Jacob)
           •            Kidnapping (Judges 21)
           •            Beauty contest (Esther)
           •            Political alignment (Solomon, 1 Kings 3; Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron 18)
           •            Murder the present husband (2 Sam. 11)
           •            Lust (Samson)

So why courtship? Because it honors many Biblical principles and the character of God. I list the principles that I have discovered so far in Seasons of Courtship

Q: Isn't this hard on the young man?
A: Yes. Even so, God designed young men to stand up to challenges. If he really believes that this girl is worth the effort, then he will pay the price to gain permission to court her. From a father's perspective, a young man is asking permission to develop a relationship with his daughter that may take her away. This is as extremely valuable "possesion" that the father is being asked to relinquish. He has been given oversite and responsibility for that daughter. He has every reason to want to protect her until he determines that this young man will value, cherish and protect her as much as he does. A young man needs to keep the prize in view and respect the value of the prize he wants to obtain.

Q: Why are fathers important to the courtship process?
A: I will be encouraging you as fathers to be strategic in your approach to teaching, modeling and carrying out a plan to help your children toward marriage. Your plan may not look like mine, but I will be challenging you with many questions that need to be answered to prepare a successful plan. You can procrastinate or be passive with your responsibilities, but that is not what your children are looking for. They want your guidance – if they can trust you. They want your counsel if you have their best interests in mind. You may tell yourself that you are too timid to make the judgments required of a father in courtship. This is the time to be bold. This is the time to do things and ask questions that are typically uncomfortable – for the sake of your children.

This is not meant to be a solo act for fathers. There will be years of preparatory training where you lay down the foundations of what marriage should be and what it should look like. When an actual courtship starts you need to involve your wife since she will have insights you do not have. This becomes very important when you are evaluating potential suitors and will build your relationship as a couple. If there is no father in the home, a mother can enlist the help of a trusted older man to act as the male perspective in the accountability/evaluation process.

Q: Why should I teach my children about marriage?
A: If you do not, the world stands ready to teach them a very different view of marriage. Deuteronomy 6 reminds us to teach our children all through our day. Certainly, teaching about marriage must be one of the important things we should teach. Our marriages are, in some small way, giving others a visual picture of Christ's relationship with the Church (Eph. 5). That is a pretty important picture and not one I am willing to give over to the world.

Q: Do I have the time for this?
A: If you don't have time to build a relationship with your children, then what do you have time for? Some of you may just not feel you can do all this. I would encourage you to determine before God if courtship is what you should do, and if it is the right thing, then do it. I really don't want to give you an escape hatch, but if you choose not to do courtship, then a reasonable alternative would be this. Frankly, it still involves building trust with your daughter and is mostly a lecture to the young man, but it does briefly cover some of the same concepts. What it leaves out is making an objective determination about what is desired in a spouse, and opens a daughter to the piecemeal distribution of her heart to others.

Q: What is the value to my children?
A: No matter their age, your child must understand that both you and God want them to be successful. Ponder this for a moment - how are you going to communicate that reality to your child? This heart knowledge requires consistent input so that they can trust God today and into their future, especially through the transitional teen years. In addition, they need to know their father is fully and constantly desiring their success. You must be humble so that they will believe you want the best for them. They need to see and hear you pray for their future life partner. You can draw their heart to you, but you cannot demand it. To demand their heart will only close it off to you. Think of the way the writer of Proverbs appeals to his son to listen, heed, and harken to his words. Work at capturing their heart.

Q: What if your child does not want to embrace courtship?
A: This is hard because as a child grows to adulthood we should be incrementally releasing them to the decisions of adulthood. This is why training at a younger age is so important. Shaping how your child sees courtship and marriage are important goals. If they choose to reject courtship, then try to shape their outlook as best you can. Major on relationship. You may be able to influence them more than you think by being there for them and honestly caring for them. Even if your child rejects your counsel and marrys against your will, you can strive to serve them and win their heart.