Why young Christians aren't waiting anymore

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Jim's picture

Lee's picture

As parents and church leaders you teach and encourage what Scripture states and not what our morally bankrupt society has decided is the best plan. We have bought into the societal model that the requisite for marriage is financial stability (translate: finish college and have a job). Scripture unequivocally states "...to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband..." with nary a word about financial security, feet on the ground w/out head in the clouds maturity, or much of anything else. IOW, when it is time to get married, get married.

You want to see the incidence of premarital sex go down? Make it easy to do what Scripture states. Particularly colleges should be frothing all over themselves to accommodate married students in an affordable and educationally functional manner instead of making it well nigh impossible for a married student to afford an education or be a vital player in all aspects of the educational process.

There are few things in Scripture addressed and emphasized more than the matter of moral/sexual purity. It behooves us to take the Scripture model and run with it even when it flies in the face of societal practice, or what we consider reasonable and rational. Fulfilling sexual desires rarely falls into the auspices of reasonable and rational action. Make much of what Scripture makes much of.


Jim's picture

1967: Susie Williams and Bobbie Kearns - just graduated from High School

  • Bobbie to Susie's Dad: Mr Williams, I love your daughter and we want to get married
  • Mr Williams: I know you are in love. How will you provide for my daughter?
  • Bobbie: I'm working at the Smith Machine Shop just outside of town
  • Mr Williams: I give you my daughter's hand in marriage. We will pay for the wedding (reception ... peanuts an mints .... plus of course the cake)

2011: Susie Williams and Bobbie Kearns - just graduated from High School

  • Bobbie to Susie's Dad: Mr Williams, I love your daughter and we want to get married
  • Mr Williams: Bobbie ... you're awfully young. You need to go to college and get a decent job. Susie's going off to college too and will need to wait 4 years.
  • Bobbie: But we are in love
  • Mr Williams: What does an 18 year old know about love?!
  • Bobbie: ... but ... but ....
  • Mr Williams: How will you provide for my daughter?
  • Bobbie: (no good response .... http://www.epi.org/publication/briefingpapers_bp147/ the vast majority of manufacturing jobs are gone. Some blame NAFTA )
  • Mr Williams: I suggest you have a conversation with our youth pastor
  • Youth Pastor to Bobbie: You should go off to Bible college ...

Not an official study but

  1. My parents' generation: Married just after HS
  2. My generation (graduated from HS in '67): Many marry the Summer after HS graduation. Some marry in Junior Yr of college and live in married students' housing. I wait relatively long ... 25!
  3. Current generation: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005061.html Older yet
Wayne Wilson's picture

I don’t think the age issue is paramount here, and I don’t think we should be pushing young people to marry at 18, not with an easy divorce culture. Many godly saints in the past married in their mid-twenties or later.

The bigger problem is that our young people live in a culture that celebrates porneia at every turn, a culture most evangelical young people are swimming in and delighting in every day. (Check out their favorites lists on Facebook) And the most perverse and corrupting aspects of our decadent culture are one click away and easy to hide and indulge in through all sorts of electronic hiding places. Add to that the loss of honor as a cultural norm for males and modesty as a cultural norm for girls, and the absence of all the social conventions that once made fornication difficult, even if the temptation was there, and I don’t see how it could be different.

I also think the main message most young evangelicals get at church and youth group is self-fulfillment. Holiness was abandoned long ago in many, many churches.

J.Schmitz's picture

I think I'm inclining to be more flexible in letting younger (18ish) people marry. However, it makes me wonder what it would take for someone to get married at 18 today?

I see these as a bare minimum:

  1. A desire to grow in the Lord
  2. The capacity to work hard
  3. The maturity to remain committed no matter what happens.

    And to be honest, if I were in a position to be marrying unsaved people (boat captain? Justice of the peace? Relatives?), I could whittle that down to just commitment, but I don't think I could let that one go. Unfortunately, that lack of commitment is precisely the reason we have people marrying later in life today.

    Commitment is a key problem in our society today. Maybe it's one facet of a bigger problem (immaturity, free spirits, selfishness), but for various reasons previous generations at least had the ability to commit to something and stay with it. Nowadays, we literally don't have to commit to anything in our society. Houses, children, work, church, school, friends - there is very little that ties people to these things.

    If I had some 18-year-olds ask me to marry them in my church, having their parents' blessing, my first question to them would be (perhaps in private), "2 months after your wedding you discover your spouse is cheating on you. How are you going to respond? Spell each step out for me." However they respond, I want to know that they have actually considered the idea, and that they are prepared to hold their end of the vow, even when their spouse hasn't.

    Any 18-year-olds that could answer that question appropriately and thoughtfully I don't have too many worries about, and would be happy to move forward in considering their marriage.

Susan R's picture


We simply can't think past our current societal norms. We'd think it completely bizarre to put a 12 yob in charge of something of national importance, but back in the day it was no big deal.

It seems counter-intuitive to me that God would create humanity with the desire and ability to reproduce at 14-15 years old, and then expect people to not marry until their 20's, especially since avoiding fornication is given as a reason to marry.

Beginning with Rousseau, childhood has been idealized and prolonged. Compulsory attendance and child labor laws impeded efforts to instill a work ethic in youth, and perpetual adolescence has nailed the coffin of responsible adulthood shut.

So what should a Christian parent or youth pastor do? How do they convince more young Christians to wait until marriage, or should they stop even trying?

It's not really our job to convince IMO. That is a work of the Holy Spirit on a regenerate person. But any teaching and training that parents do in the area of self-control will help a young person deny their fleshly desires in any area of their life, including sex. We tend to compartmentalize discipleship, but there are many virtues that connect with a variety of behaviors.

Jeffrey Dean's picture

Irresponsible adults are the result of compulsory school attendance and child labor laws? That is an amazing statement. Things were so much better when 6 year olds were working double shifts. Ahhh, the good old days. Maybe we can bring back arranged marriages, 12 year old brides, enforced modesty, and public flogging. Or we can just move to Afghanistan.

Susan R's picture


Jeffrey Dean wrote:
Irresponsible adults are the result of compulsory school attendance and child labor laws? That is an amazing statement. Things were so much better when 6 year olds were working double shifts. Ahhh, the good old days. Maybe we can bring back arranged marriages, 12 year old brides, enforced modesty, and public flogging. Or we can just move to Afghanistan.

That is what you got out of my post? Try again.

J.Schmitz's picture

No one is arguing that 6 year olds should be going to the factory. However, the changes our society has brought with fixing the abuses of child labor have allowed a new kind of "child abuse" - letting them learn to NOT work. Can we not recognize that there are a host of teenagers who might be better off if they were allowed to work instead of attend a school that has left them behind?

There is always going to be abuse of the system. I am glad that society recognized the evils of unrestrained child labor. But when do we recognize that by fixing one problem, we introduced others that also may need to be addressed?

Jay's picture

Wayne, that post was excellent and summed up nicely what I'd planned on saying.

I'd also say - and I'm banging on an old drum here - that we continue to treat teenagers as some sort of irresponsible group that is old enough to drive and vote and hold a job, but then insist that they can't possibly be mature enough to get married and start living their life when they want to. I don't think that God designed the endrocrine/hormonal system to be suspended while they person 'grows up' according to our culture - they're (for the most part) already mature enough to do these things, and we shackle them with restraints that should not be placed on them.

Wikipedia says it well:

In many societies, adolescence was not recognized as a phase of life. Most societies simply distinguished between childhood and adulthood. Stanley Hall is generally credited with "discovering" adolescence with his 1904 study "Adolescence" in which he describes the developmental phase now recognized as adolescence. Hall attributed the new stage to social changes at the turn of the 20th century. Child labor laws kept individuals under 16 out of the work force, and universal education laws kept them in secondary school, thus prolonging the period of dependence—a dependence that allowed them to address psychological tasks they might have ignored when they took on adult roles straight out of childhood.

When I read history, and I find out facts like George Washington was in charge of an army in the French/Indian War at twenty two (and serving in the military long before that), or that Alexander the Great was regent and heir apparent at sixteen, it makes me afraid at the way we handle teens as some sort or "other/not yet" quasi adults, especially when we say that they are old enough to make their own decisions, but then shield them from conseqences because they are too young.

The other problem, of course, is that all the vows and rings and pledges in the world can't protect a person from selfish desire. If a guy really wants to sleep with his girlfriend, and she's willing, no amount of external items will stop them. It's the sinful desire that drives behavior - and that's something that no external rule can stop (Matthew 15:17-20, Romans 7:7-20).

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Susan R's picture


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Farragut ]David Farragut-

Through the influence of his adoptive father, at the age of nine, Farragut was commissioned a midshipman in the United States Navy on December 17, 1810. A prize master by the age of 12, Farragut fought in the War of 1812, serving in Captain David Porter's frigate USS Essex. The young midshipman quelled a mutiny by telling an assailant that he'd be thrown over the side if there was any trouble. Farragut participated in capture of HMS Alert on August 13 of 1812 and then helped to establish America's first naval base and colony in the Pacific, named Madisonville. At the same time the Americans battled the hostile tribes on the islands with the help of their Te I'i allies. Farragut was wounded and captured while serving on the Essex during the engagement at Valparaiso Bay, Chile against the British on March 28, 1814.

I think we've confused our young people by expecting them to be irresponsible. Teenage behavior is far too often excused as being 'normal', when it is usually just sin. And the sins that teens face are not unique to their age group. Lust, deceitfulness, and arrogance are snares to us all. Giving kids the impression that it is just part of a 'phase' that they are battling fleshly desires hobbles them in the future.

Steve Newman's picture

The big issue that no one's talked about here is the problem of abdication of parental responsibility. We have allowed children to have their peers be the most important people in their life at earlier and earlier stages. Don't you think they have sex because the most important people in their life are telling them to do it? The problem is that we have allowed the voices of the ungodly to be the most important people in their lives. For pre-college kids, this is already true in most instances. The church "youth group" often contributes to this as well.
When parents turn their kids over to others and are not careful in preparing them, or don't know or care what the others believe, and wash their hands of the situation, they contribute to the problem.
Once the kids are on their own, they can turn to their own way like any other sinners do. What are we doing to prepare them to make right choices at this point in life?

Susan R's picture


What is sad is how little support many a parent can expect from their church if they try to discourage peer dependency, the dad takes his job as head of the household seriously, and they make efforts to actually bond with their own children. Chances are you may be mocked and accused of being overprotective, helicopter parents.

I am seeing a trend of parents taking back the reins of their family and getting serious about discipleship, and some in church leadership are getting whiplash.