Here is the Introduction and Overview to Preparing Children for Marriage: How to Teach God’s Good Design for Marriage, Sex, Purity, and Dating by Josh Mulvihill. Releasing Friday, 9/29, but available for pre-order (and on sale) from Amazon: $11.86.

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In all my years as a pastor, I’ve found that few topics generate more interest or angst than dating and marriage. Parents regularly contact me for guidance and resources to help them prepare their children for this critical time of life.

Many years ago, a number of single mothers approached me and asked me to take their sons away for a weekend to have “the talk.” I agreed and began the task of finding resources to help equip these young boys for marriage. What I found was a lot of resources about purity and puberty. I found books that taught young people to remain sexually pure and to expect physical changes in adolescence, but I couldn’t find a resource that taught young people the biblical principles of marriage.

If you search the market, you will find plenty of books about marriage for adults, but you will have a difficult time finding a book that helps parents teach the biblical truths of marriage to their children. In addition, you can find very good books on dating and purity, but you won’t find all these topics in the same book.

Parents already have the most valuable tool for preparing their children for marriage. The Bible is sufficient for all matters of life and godliness (see 2 Peter 1:3), but few parents use it to address this subject. Most overlook it. Few know how to apply it to preparing their children for marriage. Many look to sources outside Scripture for dealing with this subject, using the Bible as a seasoning. Yet the Bible contains the foundational truths parents need in order to successfully train children for marriage, dating, and purity. If children know the basic foundational truths of Scripture, they can apply those truths in any and every scenario that confronts them.

While I can’t touch on every subject related to marriage, dating, and purity in this book, I have four main goals:

  • to see young people treasure Christ and live in a God-honoring way
  • to equip parents, grandparents, pastors, and Christian educators to teach the biblical principles of marriage to children, and at the earliest possible age
  • to provide a one-stop shop on these topics for young people of all ages
  • to generate discussion that will drive parents and their children to God’s Word

Are You Prepared?

The Bible teaches that God created marriage for his glory and man’s good and that marriage is the expected norm for men and women. God has placed within us the desire to love and to be loved. This desire is good and should be pursued in its proper time. It may be strange for a young person to think of himself or herself as a future married person; however, it is also one of the most profitable thoughts that young people can have.

This is a foundation-laying book that will provide theological training for a critical area of parenting. I will provide a biblical definition for marriage and will explore the primary passages that can be used to train children in this area. If you are unclear about the meaning and purpose of marriage, you cannot provide the proper guidance to young people or effectively prepare them for a marriage that pleases God.

Too often, the church addresses these topics with young people and does not include the parents in any significant way. This robs parents of an opportunity to nurture their children’s faith and minimizes children’s interactions with their parents during an important milestone of life. It is my desire to see parents and grandparents taking an active role in the preparation of children for marriage, and this book is a tool for that purpose.

While it is the role of parents to train their children, their discussions of marriage in the home do not negate the need for discussions in the church as well. The church has an important role to play itself in the preparation of children for marriage. God has given the church the mission of discipling all its members and teaching them the full counsel of God. Churches cannot neglect teaching this topic to children, but they do need to be discerning in how they address it, and this book will provide some direction.

Churches and families must work together in presenting a unified message because society makes it exceedingly difficult to be holy. Culture communicates powerful messages about dating and marriage, and young people without strong, consistent biblical teaching and parental example are likely to be influenced toward unbiblical views. Homosexuality and divorce are inconsistent with God’s plan for marriage, yet young people are confronted with the argument that marriage between one man and one woman for an entire lifetime is outdated and closed-minded.

Young people are also in danger of making marriage into a me-focused, romance-intoxicated, Christ-neglecting “thing.” We must protect against and root out this culturally contaminated view by teaching the truth of Scripture to our children. It is my prayer that your child embraces an eternal, high, Christ-glorifying view of marriage. The days of “first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carriage” are long gone in American culture. Even Christian children are getting the order wrong. It is critical that parents teach a correct biblical order to love, marriage, and sex through words and actions. Chances are, your children are not hearing this anywhere else.

Preparation for marriage can begin today as you teach your child biblical principles about marriage, pray for your child’s future spouse, and help your child protect his or her heart from sexual immorality. Knowing what God desires for a young person will help that young person to prepare for one of the most important decisions of his or her life.

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Overview of the Book

The lessons in this book should prove helpful for children of all ages, from early elementary through high school, and can be used by parents, grandparents, pastors, small groups, Sunday school classes, health curriculums, and college classes. Anyone who has a spiritual influence in the life of a child can use this book to teach that child the truths of God’s Word and point him or her to Christ.

Children’s grade school years are the ideal time to begin in-depth discussions with them about marriage, dating, and purity. Biologically, children will be interested in members of the opposite sex when they are around nine or ten years old. Preemptively addressing this subject allows parents to be the first and loudest voice that their children will hear on it. Paul David Tripp refers to the preteen years as “the age of opportunity” (*1) and encourages parents to intentionally utilize this time of life. Parents have a window, prior to the teenage years, when children are open and receptive to parental guidance. Wise parents capitalize on this opportunity and reinforce the same truths as children age.

Parents are often unaware of the need to address this topic early. I continually hear from parents about sexual experiences their children have had much sooner than the parents anticipated. A high percentage of parents expect that the middle and high school years will be filled with dating and purity challenges, but many do not realize that this happens for many students as early as kindergarten. This book will help parents teach the truths of God’s Word to a young child and a teenager in an age-appropriate and comprehensive way.

A Note to Church Leaders

If you are a pastor (or a children’s or youth director) and you work with young people, I want to point out that you have a responsibility to address these topics with children as well. Moses, Joshua, Nehemiah, and Paul all taught children about marriage and sex. However, in each instance, parents were always present. I have taught on these topics many times, on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, with young people ranging from kindergarten through twelfth grade. I have found that three things make this a success.

Communicating Plans to Parents in Advance

I do this by email a few weeks before tackling the topic. If anything, you should overcommunicate. Surprising parents with this topic is not a good idea. You want to avoid a scenario in which parents learn what their child was taught on the car ride home.

Including a Word-for-Word Manuscript of the Talk

This eliminates fear and builds trust with parents. If you are interested in what this looks like, appendix B is one of the lessons that I teach kindergartners through sixth graders on marriage. I send this as an attachment to parents.

Inviting Parents to Join You

Many parents will learn along with their children. One of my most memorable moments came when I invited parents of fifth and sixth graders to join me as I taught through Genesis 2 and the meaning of marriage. A room that seated almost three hundred was filled to capacity, and about a half dozen parents brought video cameras and tripods to record the teaching. I invite parents because I want to honor them as the primary spiritual influence in their children’s lives, but I also teach on the subject in order to be faithful to God and the responsibility he has given me as a pastor.

Part 1: Getting Started

Parents often ask, “What subjects should I address with my child, and at what age?” and “When is it appropriate to talk to children about marriage, sex, and dating?” To answer these questions, I explore the pattern of what the Bible teaches to young people at what ages, and I encourage you to follow God’s example. I also provide communication guidelines in order to help you avoid major land mines and create fruitful discussion as you navigate the rest of the topics in this book with your child.

Once children understand biblical principles and are given applications of them, they can apply Scripture as their life situations demand. One of our jobs as parents is to teach the biblical principles that children need to know and help children make wise, God-honoring decisions as opportunities arise.

Part 2: Marriage

Part 2 focuses on teaching children the biblical principles of marriage. Young people will learn what marriage is, what it is not, and why God created it. This section will also equip parents to prepare their children for the roles of husband and wife. Each chapter ends with a series of Bible study questions for generating discussion.

Part 3: Sex and Purity

Part 3 demonstrates how to teach a child about sex from a biblical perspective and teaches parents how to have “the talk” with their children using Proverbs 5. The section also addresses how a young person can remain sexually pure in a hypersexual culture.

Part 4: Dating

In this last section, I help parents and children to think about dating in a biblical and balanced way, answering the following questions: What’s the purpose of dating? How old should a person be in order to date? What is a parent’s role in a child’s dating life? What kind of person should you date? And what are the biblical criteria for choosing a spouse?

Many adults have regrets about the dating decisions they made themselves while in middle or high school. Your children have the opportunity to avoid this fate and to look back on their dating days with fondness because their actions were pleasing to God, to you, and to their future spouses. Most importantly, your child has the opportunity to choose a spouse who loves Jesus and to display the gospel through his or her marriage.

(*1). Paul David Tripp, Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens, 2nd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2001).