ILLUSTRATION BY MARK HERRON
I never expected the day my daughter reached the dating age of 16 to be a
happy one. I dreaded seeing some of the guys she would drag home. After all,
this is the age of body-piercing and tattooing. I know its my archaic,
arthritically minded temperament (as my daughter puts it) that causes this, but
I didnt pray things like, I hope he doesnt have a stud in his ear, or a tattoo
on his arm. No, I was praying things like, Please, Lord, let his body- piercing
metal be less than five pounds. And, Let all the tattoos be concealed by
clothing most of the time.
In the process, I discovered a powerful tool for evangelism.
It started because I wasnt sure how to handle the dating thing. Nicole and I
decided on just a couple of rules.
One, whoever she went out with had to meet me before the date, so I could
talk to him. This was a protective kind of thing. If I sensed the boy in chair
number one was a clandestine serial killer, I could head off disaster before it
The second rule was that Nicole could date only Christians. This was a
toughie. Nicole wailed, All the Christian guys are nerds. And, I dont know any
Find some, I told her. Pick one out and date him.
Finally the day came when Nicole had a date. I think it was .3 seconds after
she turned sixteen. The night before the actual date, Nicole hustled him over
to our house, telling him, presumably, You have to talk to my father about some
things before we can go out.
The sheepish, cowed, nervous suitor entered our living room. Nicole
introduced me. This is my Dad. Dad, this is Eric. Go easy.
I shook Eric's hand. So, tell me about yourself, Eric, I said, trying to
He told me what sports he played, what hobbies he had, how his grades were.
Everything looked rosy. I asked more questions, just a few I didnt want this to
seem like I suspected I was interrogating a terrorist. Finally, I approached
the biggie. So what do you think about Jesus Christ?
He said, Oh, I go to church.
Unsatisfied, I went back to my question, Do you have any particular belief
This time Eric gave me a more specific answer. Oh, I believe in Him.
I think He was the Savior. I was baptized when I was twelve and
That was enough for me.
Sometimes these young men would go on and on, regaling me with spiritual
experiences that left out only their recent battle with Goliath. But in the
end, I let my daughter go out with them.
Over the next two years, I interviewed a couple of hundred no, it only
seemed that way maybe a dozen guys who Nicole dated. All of them went to
church, but on a few occasions their commitment to Christ was dicey. However,
I'd agreed with Nicole that if they went to church and were willing to undergo
my interrogation, that was enough for me. I mean, how far can we go in
requiring our kids to date only Christians? I discovered that pinning down some
of these guys to exactly what they believed was very tough their differing
backgrounds made it hard for me to pull out of them precisely what the
evangelism books claimed they should say.
As time wore on, my ability to get to the heart of the matter improved. Some
of the materials I'd used years ago from Evangelism Explosion and the A-B-C
method were helpful. I also began using the classic question of evangelism as
the primary way to find out about a suitors status before God. If you were to
die today and stand before God, and He said to you, Why should I let you into
heaven? what would you say?
In most cases, the guys answered correctly, and I felt relieved and
As weve done this, its become a source of joy. Ive gained opportunities to
witness to some young men who clearly didn't know the gospel even though they
attended church. And I've found myself witnessing to more people per month
through this process, sharpening my evangelism skills. Nicole has learned from
the process too. Ive begun to look forward to the meetings.
I dont encourage my kids to date non-Christians. But I think talking to
their dates can be a powerful and effective way to reach more people with the
Here are tips for using this opportunity to show your daughters (and
sons) the importance all relationships play in an on mission
Establish the rules from the start. If you want to talk to your daughters or
sons prospective date about his or her religious beliefs, then start out with
rules that are clear and concise.
Have a plan of how you will approach the subject. Think through what you
want to say.
Be kind and understanding. Not everyone your daughter or son dates will have
precisely the same understanding you do of the process of salvation. Try to see
from the dates point of view.
Dont miss the opportunity. If that possible future mate clearly is not a
Christian, share the gospel. You might want to have a tract
Should you let your son or daughter go out with someone who clearly isnt
saved? Thats a whole other issue.
In the end, I decided that if the date was willing to meet me and talk, hear
my spiel and be serious about it, that was enough for me for a first
If the relationship happened to get beyond that first dinner and movie,
perhaps future conversations on the dates spiritual journey would move beyond
any shadow of a doubt.
Mark Littleton, of Gladstone, Missouri, is a writer,
speaker and author of 63 books.
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