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I’m Michael Johnson and my wife, Julie, and I have been partners in parenting our own brood of “blessings from above,” consisting of three homegrown and two adopted children, ranging in ages from 18 to 26.
In 2003 we founded Future Marriage University (FMU) to empower students and young adults to grow spiritually and date wisely so they can marry well. Our goal is to help them avoid as much heartbreak, rejection, and regret as possible. To accomplish this daunting objective, we provide what we call Love Education (LoveEd for short).
LoveEd: the missing link between the sex ed you get in middle school and the premarital counseling you don’t get until you think you’ve already found “the one.”
(Yes, we know. You wish you would have had something like that growing up. We hear that a lot. Precisely how we feel. And why we do what we do.)
So how can we help you?
First let me encourage you on a couple points, talking to you parent-to-parent, with a couple truths I felt impressed to remind you of here:
Your Child Needs You
Your child doesn’t so much need “a talk” so much as they need a relationship.
Not with a girl or boyfriend. A relationship with YOU!
Yes. Sometimes that’s hard to believe, because when our kids age into the double digits, they can act like they need parents like they need a case of acne, but the reality is this: No one can replace the influence you were called to have in your child’s life. No one.
Of course, you know the impact a parent has on their child because you know the impact your parents had on you. For better or for worse. And while that is surely an awesome responsibility, remember this:
God knew you were just the right parent for your child and they just the right child for you.
Does that fact magically make the sun come out and the flowers bloom in your parent-child relationship?
No it doesn’t, but we hope it’s a truth you can cling to as you prayerfully proceed (and you’ll need as much prayer as anything you’ll find here) to address issues like puberty, pop culture, porn, dating, courting, cliques, sexting, physical boundaries, sexual identity, and the latest app from hell.
Our kids need us, even if they, in their immaturity and insecurity, simply can’t see it.
You Don’t Have to Do it All Right
The hard truth? We’re not going to do it all right. No matter how hard we try.
I talked to my oldest son about sex too early. I talked to my second son about sex too late. And I had my first “sex talk” with each of them at the same exact age. In the past, I’ve considered missteps like this as failures, but…
Instead of looking at mistakes and misunderstandings as failures, I want to encourage you to think of them as lessons.
Failures are experiences we should naturally feel bad about, but lessons are experiences we should wisely learn from. So don’t think, “I keep failing,” but think, “I’m still learning.”
Because at the end of the day, the Christian life is not about success. I truly wish it was, as success is one of my favorite things. I probably love it more than chocolate. Or even sex. Maybe both. I really like it. But God calls His followers not to success, but faithfulness.
The beauty of this is that you can still be a faithful follower of God even after a failu… I mean a lesson. The faithful follower isn’t necessarily perfect. They’re faithful to confess their sins or mistakes and faithful to learn from them. And then move forward in faith that God will never give up on us.
Let this Website Guide Your Discussions
Having said all of that we have good news and bad news:
- First the bad news: none of the resources you find on this site were written to parents.
- Now the good news: none of the resources you find on this site were written to parents.
But don’t just pass the buck. Remember:
Your kids don’t need helpful information as much as they need healthy relationships, especially a healthy relationship with YOU!
How to Pray for Your Child
Talk to your God before you talk to your child. Specifically pray for clarity on: truth, teacher, and timing.
Identify the specific truth about the specific issue you sense needs to be addressed with your child. Subtle hints, vague suggestions, and beating around the bush generally won’t produce the best outcomes. Not in any significant discussions. This is especially true when you’re wanting to talk about sex, dating, or relationships with your child.
In addition to praying about it, if you’re not totally sure what truth needs to be conveyed, go to God’s word and seek wise counsel from the church, whether it be a book, a pastor, or a trusted friend.
Next confirm that you’re actually the specific individual God is asking to present this truth to your child. I always assumed it had to be me. That assumption was often wrong. Because, it’s often far easier for children learning how to “walk on their own” to hear the exact same truths from other adults they respect, but feel less threatened by than their parents.
Maybe there’s a pastor or coach they might best hear the same message from. Or a book, video, or blog post. This is the very reason so many parents send their kids to our classes.
Lastly, even if the truth is clear and you’re to be the teacher, you know from experience timing can make or break a difficult conversation. So make sure you avoid initiating an important discussion when any elements of WRATH might be involved (that is when either you or your child would likely be Worried, Rushed, Angry, Tired, or Hungry).
And before you pray for your child’s heart, be sure to pray for your own. Make sure you’re right before God. You know, like getting the log out of your eye.
Tips For Talking about Touchy Topics
Finally, before we get to content, here are three suggestions for engaging in these discussions:
Pick just one or two posts/videos and have your child read it by themselves first. Then discuss with them afterward. That way you enable the post/video to break the ice, and give you a common starting point from which to launch off on a thrilling discussion of relational adventure!
Agreement can’t be the goal. Let your goal be mutual understanding.
More than simply telling your child what they should believe or do, you want to know what they do believe (and why), whether you agree with it or not. Whether it scares you witless or not. And you want them to understand what you believe and why.
Focus more on your relationship with your child than on the issue at hand. If your child comes to believe you truly want what’s best for them (albeit in your antiquated, fuddy-duddy, uncool sort of way) it can help keep their heart soft to the truth.
For a quick starter kit, begin with our Parental Guidance playlist on our YouTube Channel.
Or check scroll down for suggested viewing and readings for each of the main topics we address around FMU headquarters: sex, dating and relationships. Or if pornography is a a particular concern go no further than our Hot Topic page dedicated to choosing freedom from porn.
Let’s Talk about Sex
Whew! What a daunting task! Talking with a child about “the do” (That’s what the kids are calling sex now. Well, at least they were five minutes ago. The terminology may have changed multiple times since then, but we can’t update this section hourly.)
Here’s a great place for a parent to start: our Date Night Advice (DNA) series: The Sexual Intercourse. In this dialogue about human sexuality, we present ten insights we believe you’ll find as compelling as your child will.
The series begins with this post about a certain city in Pennsylvania known as Intercourse. It has also been our #1 most read DNA post for the last two years! (I guess people really like Pennsylvania.)
We’ve also addressed sex multiple times in our weekly LoveEd broadcast featured on our FMUniversity YouTube channel. As a parent, you might want to start with the video below, which addresses the widely held assumption of the kids today that sex is the most important part of a serious relationship.
Yes. We know you just laughed, but the kids are not laughing.
They’re dead serious. As are many adults.
To Date or not to Date? That is the Question.
Since we’re all parents here, we figure we should first address the whole dating/courtship debate.
Simply put, we don’t say much about it at FMU, because for starters, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus on what courtship is. We’ve seen it look a lot like arranged marriage, and we’ve seen it look more like. Ah. Plain ol dating. And, of course, everything in between.
Rather than getting tied up in what you call it, we’re all about how you date. And even more importantly why you date, so we spend a lot of our time casting vision, uncovering motives and clarifying the purpose and goal of dating.
If that makes sense to you, a great place to begin your journey would be this DNA post I (Michael) wrote on the evening of our eldest son’s senior prom. It’s part of a DNA series called Purpose-Driven Dating where we set out to reclaim the lost art of dating.
Speaking of Purpose-Driven Dating, we introduce and then break down that concept in a series of LoveEd broadcasts featured on our FMUniversity YouTube channel. Here’s the first episode in that series.
Where do You Most want Your Child to Succeed?
We already clarified at the top of this page what you already know, but the kids can hardly believe: relationships are so much bigger than sex and dating. However, I’d like to challenge you on a different front: which do you believe is the most important part of your child’s future: their career or their relationships?
Let me put it this way: where do you most want your child to succeed?
If you had to pick, would you rather they wind up in a rewarding, high-paying career or in a life-giving, life-long marriage? And if you’re still not sure which you would pick, think about yourself for a moment. When you’re lying on your death bed, which will matter most: your success at work or your faithfulness at home?
If you picked relationships, marriage and home, then you are most assuredly in the right place, because at FMU our end game is to equip you to empower your children to prepare for their future marriage like a successful career: intentionally, intelligently and IN ADVANCE!
In fact, we’d like to encourage you to consider making the kind of commitment I (Michael) make to my children when they turn 13. Yes, I give them a promise ring, but the promises made are mine. Not theirs. And they’re more about our children’s relational future than their sexual purity. You can read about it in this DNA post.
Regardless, as you’re probably well aware, not only does our contemporary culture do little to prepare us for marital success. The priorities and perspective of our culture actually threaten the future marriages of our kids before they ever start dating.
To illustrate that, here’s another LoveEd broadcast from our FMU YouTube channel. As you ponder what we’re all up against in seeing our children understand, prepare for and discern God’s call to marriage, I think this video will resonate with you.
Too much to Lose! So much more to Gain!
The stakes are high and the threats are real, but you’re the parent for the job!
So what are you waiting for? Start preparing your son(s) and/or daughter(s) for their future! And invite other parents to join you!
If you like what you read here, consider hosting a FMU LoveEd Parental Guidance conference or retreat in your area! We take this show on the road.