Relating, Dating, and Marrying
About the Guest
Steve and Holly Crain's greatest passion is ministering to single adults in their home church, First Baptist of Houston, Texas. The Crains give insight into a single person's day-to-day world, and encourage parents to help their sons understand that the goal of dating is marriage, which requires them to be self-sacrificing. They also give some of the reasons singles fear marriage, and some of the mistakes singles make along their dating journey.
Steve and Holly Crain’s greatest passion is ministering to single adults in their home church. They give some of the reasons singles fear marriage, and some of the mistakes singles make along their dating journey.
Relating, Dating, and Marrying
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, January 2nd. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. When was the last time that you had single adults joining your family in your home? When was the last time you reached out and included them? We’re going to talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We’ve got some folks, who are pretty passionate about what we’re talking about; don’t we?
Dennis: We do. We have some people, who listen to FamilyLife Today, who are passionate about FamilyLife Today and our message here. I’ll tell you who they are—they are single people—
Steve: That’s right.
Dennis: —because they’re looking for hope.
Steve: That’s right.
Dennis: They are looking for real family life. They want to know how to do relationships God’s way, and they are finding that they can count on this broadcast to steer them in the direction of Scripture of how they need to establish a relationship with the opposite sex and venture in to what is a great adventure—filled with risks/filled with dangers—but it is one of the most rewarding relationships on the planet. In fact, I’m thinking back—
—I’m thinking, “So what would be more rewarding?” And I’m not thinking of one that is better than Barbara.
So, let me just introduce our guests to you. Steve and Holly Crain join us.
Steve: Thank you.
Holly: Thank you.
Dennis: Glad you guys are here. Married in 1997—they live in Houston and have four children. They have a workshop that we’re going to talk about today—
Dennis: —a workshop for singles called Relating, Dating & Marrying. So, where do you start in your workshop, Steve?
Steve: Well, on a retreat—
Holly: —on a retreat.
Steve: —I was asked to speak. I said, “What topic?” They said, “Anything you want.” I said, “I want to speak on relating, dating, and marrying.” We didn’t know how it would go over, because nothing like that was being done.
Dennis: You were already married.
Steve: I was already married.
Holly: —married; yes. Steve was one of the breakout speakers. We had hundreds on the retreat. It was during their free time; and hundreds showed up to hear what Steve had to say about relating, dating, and marrying. That’s when he pulled out a football and did a Vince Lombardi—said, “This is a football.”
Instead of that, he said—he took the dry erase marker—he said, “This is a man; this is a woman.” The whole audience just burst out in laughter.
Steve: —I think in nervous tension.
Steve: They were glad somebody was finally broaching this subject.
Dennis: You were pointing out that there is a difference—
Dennis: —between man and woman.
Steve: We’re going back to the beginning!
Holly: Going back to the basics.
Steve: They wanted it.
Holly: Yes; it was just kind of a release of that tension. Steve finished and finished well. We started talking about biblical truths about what God’s Word says. We got back home, and the singles minister put a note out to all the directors—he said: “If you’d like Steve to come and speak in your class, then let us know. He’s going to do…”
Dennis: It’s a big church too.
Holly: Big church—we had 18 singles classes. He had almost a full year teaching, twice in each class. It set it off.
Steve: It was at that point we knew we were on to something.
Holly: They were hungry.
Steve: They were starving. We were scratching an itch that they had, and they were hungry for it. We decided to set up a six-week seminar on Wednesday nights. What I did was—I got other mentor couples—a lot of couples who had helped us in our premarital preparation programs and things. I would—each night, I would feature one of them. I would speak—I did the first night/the last night—but then I would feature one.
Then I stole something that I saw, two years ago, from a man named Bob Lepine at one of the conferences—[Laughter]—he had this bistro table, where he interviews. I would have the couple up there. I would just let them tell how they met—just like you guys were doing—how they met: “Was it easy?” Then, all along the way, we’re asking the participants to ask questions, you know, on cards; so we can screen them.
The first night, we have this one couple—they’ll speak on 1 Corinthians 13 or have different things. We let them explain that: “Well, we knew each other—we were just out of high school.” One of them was—knew each other since 8th grade—they said, “We didn’t know anything when we got married.” Anyway, it encourages them to see what it was really like to meet and fall in love with someone.
Then the questions at the end were very telling, because they would ask these questions—example of questions—and we would let these couples or myself answer them. They would see the disparity of like—“Oh my gosh! You didn’t know what he was going to do for a career, and you married him?!”—you know, and these different things. It began to open their eyes.
I knew that we had success/I viewed success: “If, after each talk, those couples were just surrounded by singles”; and they were.
They are hungry for leadership; they are hungry for guidance; they are hungry for people to be involved in their life; they are hungry for people to want to see them have success in the areas of relationships.
Holly: They wanted to know what was real and what was counterfeit; the world was telling them a whole a lot of different messages. This was a time where the church could be the church—the church could tell them what the real/real marriages look like—godly marriages look like. A lot of them weren’t getting through to see what that looked like.
At the end of every session, we would release the cell phone numbers of those couples, and ours as well. People would want to stay and visit and talk; and then they—
Steve: —for hours.
Holly: —continued those conversations after the workshop.
Steve: Here’s—let me say this—in one seminar I did, I put a stack of books all the way across.
I said, “These are the best books on marriage, and dating, and relating, and everything.” I said, “If you read all these books, do you think you would have what you needed to make it?” You know, of course, they didn’t. That’s where the church comes in—it’s relationship from the very beginning.
When marriages are formed in the Bible, there were always other people involved—or frequently. It wasn’t like somebody went out on his own; you know? It’s like: “I’m sending my servant to find…and here is what we’re looking for…” So, without the relationship, the knowledge is somewhat limited. We realized that we had to make the connection to those couples/to those people, and we had to invest in their lives because families are divorced now—they are broken. I’ll say, “What does your father think?” “Well, my father lives—he’s on his third wife, and my mom lives on the East Coast.” They have nobody!
One of the questions that one of the girls sent in was: “I’ve been seeing this guy for a year.
“He’s not moving forward. What do I do?” I said, “Well, if I was your father, I would call the guy and say, ‘What are your intentions with my daughter?’” She goes, “Well, would you do that for me?”—I did!
These are the kinds of things that are missing—they’re not being advocated for. They’re kind of on their own, really—young adults living independently. When they ask their parents for advice, frequently, their parents say: “I’m not giving you any advice. I don’t know what to tell you. You’re on your own on that.”
Holly: I think we help encourage the single adults to—especially the men/the young men—like Proverbs 18:22 says—“He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” We encourage them to pursue that—pursue women for marriage. A lot of times, what they’re hearing from the church are some cliché answers:
“Just be content,” “Don’t seek it,” “Don’t make it your idol,” “Don’t…”—this, this, and this.
Steve: “It’ll happen when it happens.”
Holly: “It’ll happen when it happens.”
There’s a lady in our church, and she’s in her 70s. She said—Steve asked her, “Why do we tell them this?”
Steve: “Why do we tell singles this?”
Holly: She paused and she said: “I think it’s because it used to be true. When a 19-year-old young woman or a 20-year-old woman would ask and be in despair about it, we knew that, within a few short months or a year or so, she would be married.”
Young adults are being left alone, and there is so much loneliness in that. What Steve and I try to do is just—we invite them in/invite them into our home. Let them see our marriage/our family. Then we just do this simple thing of putting a table cloth on the table and then just cooking a little bit of extra.
They—we sit with our children and these young adults. It works both ways—our children get to see these amazing young adults that are articulate—they are mature; they are growing in their faith—and they [singles] get to see family.
Our children run off and go do their homework; and then we go and have coffee and then hear from them—hear what’s going on in their life. We legitimize what’s going on—their pain and their loneliness—we try to legitimize that and not dismiss it. Then we take time, and we pray for them to have a spouse.
Steve: If who we marry is second biggest decision we make in our life, why are we not praying for it more? Why are we not giving it more focus and emphasis? If you’re sick, we’re going to pray for your health. If you’re childless, we’re going to pray for you to have a child. If you’re unemployed, we pray for a job. You would be surprised—ask half the young singles, “Do you pray for a spouse?” “Oh, no, no; that would be too selfish.”
I’m thinking: “Why do they think that’s selfish? Why would that be selfish?” It’s like—it’s God intentional plan; and if it’s a big decision, we should be praying about it; right?
Bob: I’m talking to young singles, who are saying to me, at 25 and 26/27, “Well, yes, eventually, I want to get married; but in this season of life, I’m kind of enjoying the freedom that I have in this and that.” So, Holly, what is the reality? What do singles, who are 27 years old, want today?
Holly: Well, when they come over to our house, and they take that wall down, they tell us that they do want to get married, especially when they get up into those older-20 ages. A lot of times, I think we tell them: “Just be content,”—you know—“This is going to happen,” “Don’t worry”—
Steve: You and I don’t tell them that.
Holly: We don’t.
Steve: That’s the message they feel they are getting.
Holly: Right; they hear that from people. We try to just resist the urge to give them those quick, easy answers and not be dismissive about their true situation.
Steve: Yes; we find that, when we listen to them and legitimize it, that it makes them feel valued; but if we dismiss it, they go home feeling just as lonely and hopeless.
I heard a great speaker on the radio, not too long ago, referring back to a congress in 1975, where the great Prof, Howard Hendricks, said, “Unless we have a revival of equipping the single adults, we’re going to be in some kind of trouble.” Then, you went on—when you were doing a chapel—and saying, “Who would have thought this would be ground zero?” But Satan, when he is ruining the families and wants to do that, what better thing than to take it on back one notch? You know, healthy families come from healthy singles. Healthy singles come from healthy families. It’s just kind of a repetitive cycle.
Dennis: So, if a mom and a dad—who are raising, maybe, a high school student—
—and they know, in two or three years, they are going to let the arrow fly; and they are going to go out into the university world—maybe, to work, to service, to their calling—what do they need to be focusing on to help a young man or a young lady relate to the opposite sex?
Steve: They need to be teaching them about the Golden Rule, for one thing. We were talking to one of your workers, here, earlier—and I’ve had this in one of my counseling sessions—I said to a young married man—I said, “What do you think the goal of marriage is?” He said: “It’s to make me happy. It’s to fulfill me. It’s to complete me.”
Well, part of our culture—we need to be teaching them the biblical truths—that it is: “Husbands love your wives sacrificially.” This is going to be a sacrifice; this is going to be, where you put that other person—and you’re willing to lay down your life for that person. Ephesians, Chapter 5, goes on and on about explaining this beautiful marriage relationship; and he says, “But what I’m talking about is Christ and the church.”
We need to instill in them what it means to be self-sacrificing and be responsible.
Purity is something that has really changed the game, I think. Years and years ago, before effective birth control, if you messed around like that, a woman got pregnant; and it showed. There was no way out of it. She held her ground and said: “You want me; I want a ring. You want me; I need some commitment. You want me; I need this.” Now, we’ve removed a lot of those barriers; and we’re finding that singles are in this pseudo—taking trips together, staying over late evenings, and perhaps, getting physically involved. What’s the incentive to go ahead and step up to the plate?
Dennis: How prevalent is cohabitation among singles in the church?
Steve: I don’t think many are cohabitating; but I know, for sure, that there is a number that are having sex.
Bob: Yes; in fact, the path today for most people—now, I’m just talking about the culture; I’m not talking about in the church—but in the culture today, the path is:
“Date for a while, start having sex, move in, have kids, get married.”
Steve: —“get a dog.”
Bob: Yes; right! Getting married is the end of the process—
Bob: —rather than: “Date for a while, get married, move in, have sex, have kids.”
Steve: Right; it’s backwards.
Steve: Scott Stanley says it like: “Falling into marriage.” You know Scott Stanley?
Holly: He does a video called Sliding vs Deciding.
Steve: Sliding vs Deciding—just what you were saying.
Holly: All those decisions that you could make—that they feel like they have this freedom in—get removed. When they get a cell phone plan together, they get a dog, and they sign a lease together or buy a house together, then, all of a sudden, their lives are entangled.
All those things that they thought they were going to be free of from marriage are now—they’re more entangled in a worse way, really.
Bob: So, why aren’t they just getting married in the first place? I mean, they are signing leases together and moving in together. Why don’t they just say: “You know, it looks like we belong together. We should get married.” What’s the fear that’s behind a commitment to marriage?
Holly: I think that this generation of young adults has seen, possibly, their parents/their friends’ parents—they know more people who are divorced in those situations than not. When Steve and I were growing up, we lived in completely different places; and yet, we just knew that one token family that got divorced. We didn’t know any more. The young adults, now, saw all that happen; and they were part of that—whether to themselves or their friends.
They go into it, thinking, “I’m fearful.”
Steve: So, how do we reintroduce this mystery to this generation? I’m afraid, to the world, it may be—some of them may be lost—but there is always the remnant—there is the church. How do we reintroduce this excitement?—this mystery?—this like: “It’s worth waiting; it’s worth making the commitment”?
Bob: Part of what you guys are doing is exactly how it gets reintroduced; because I think a lot of couples, are growing up, saying: “I’ve got no model/no map. What I have seen are relationships that have not done well,” “… husbands and wives, who have stuck together and not been one—they’ve been isolated,” “…husbands and wives, who haven’t stuck together.”
They grow up really doubting whether, in the 21st century, a man and a woman can commit to one another for a lifetime. They hear about things like serial monogamy and think: “Well, maybe, we weren’t intended to be monogamous. I mean, that’s not, biologically, what we’re made to be.”
There are all kinds of confusing messages.
Bob: There’s a longing in their heart to be married and intimate with one person for a lifetime. Yet, the culture is sending them all kinds of mixed messages. I think part of the way that you reintroduce the wonder is—you have single folks over; you model for them a healthy, strong, committed relationship; and they start to get some confidence and go: “Okay, this is possible. The desire in my heart—there are people who have found a way to do this,” and “I want to know what the roadmap is to get there.”
Steve: It still works; it still works.
Dennis: It does. There is one last question I want to ask both of you—and I do not know how you will answer it.
Dennis: Okay? It’s my favorite question to ask people; alright? “What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done in all your life?” And courage is not the absence of fear—it’s doing your duty in the face of fear. Why are you pointing to him? [Laughter] You want him to go first?
Holly: I want him to go first. [Laughter]
Steve: I will tell you—I can tell you this.
It was when I was 19 years old, and I was struggling with becoming a Christian. I prayed a prayer at a junior college in Burnham, Texas, under severe distress. I told the Lord that I would give Him my life completely and that He could do to me whatever needed to be done—I would be willing to pay any price; but I couldn’t do it on my own. I needed Him to help me; I needed Him to bring me to that point. And if I was 92, and it was the day before I died: “I need You to do this for me, Lord; and I will serve You with my life, and I will never try to pretend to be anything more than what I am.” I just laid it all out there, and I feel the same way today.
Holly: For me, the most courageous moment was when I stepped back into the church. I had fallen away from my faith, and I was walking back in with a five-year-old and a newborn after my husband had left me during pregnancy.
When I walked in, I didn’t know what they would say; I didn’t know what they would do; I didn’t know if they would have a place for me.
What I found was God was faithful. He had a place prepared for me. He had a church ready to receive me well, and they were expecting me. They opened their arms to me. They wrapped their arms around me, and they showed me the way. They let me back in the full rights of fellowship, and that was the most courageous time for me. What happened was healing—a true time of healing: spiritually, emotionally, physically. From that, I grew spiritually, and I was able to thrive and raise my family.
Steve: I hate to tag on to that, but what I’ve got to say is—
—when I saw Holly, I saw a new creation in Christ. I might have had some questions in my mind; and the Lord said, “Steve, who are you to judge what I have made clean and pure?” I saw a true transformation.
The second scariest thing I’ve ever done was come in here and talk to you guys today. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, you two guys—as a couple, you are heroes—
Holly: Thank you.
Dennis: —because you’re stepping into a ministry that, in my opinion, is one of the pioneering ministries of our day. There need to be more couples—who have got imperfect marriages / they don’t have perfect relationships—but they are willing to share their journey with single people and give them hope! They need to know it can be done.
Dennis: They really do. You guys are heroes, and you’re both very courageous people. Thanks for joining us.
Steve: Thank you all.
Holly: Thank you. It’s an honor.
Bob: Well, let me encourage our listeners, especially single listeners.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. We’ve talked about this subject on past broadcasts, and we’ve got links there for their podcasts you can listen to about singleness and how to thrive during whatever season of singleness you are living in. There are books and articles—other resources we’ve got. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to dive deeper on this subject and to know how to thrive, as a single adult.
You know, we got a note recently from a listener, who said: “In a time when I was hopeless, and miserable, and lonely, your program helped me realize I needed a relationship with Jesus, first, in order to develop any other relationship. Jesus has poured His love over me continuously. I am so moved by Him and by His glory.”
We love hearing stories like that from listeners.
In fact, when we are out travelling, Dennis, you know we often will have FamilyLife Today listeners, who come up to us and share with us how God has used a particular program, or something they’ve heard, something you or Barbara have shared with them and how you’ve helped mentor them in their marriage and in their family.
We’re asking those of you, who are regular listeners, “If you’ve got a story like that, would you share it with us?” In fact, we’d love to have you call 1-800-FL-TODAY—this is all set up automated—we’ll send you to a voice mailbox—but we’d love to have you record your story. Take a few minutes—just jot down a few thoughts—and then call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say: “I’ve got a story I want to share about how God has used FamilyLife Today,” or “…how God’s used Dennis or Barbara in my life.” Again, call 1-800-FL-TODAY once you’ve got your thoughts put together; and you’ll be able to share those thoughts with us. That’ll be a great encouragement to our team, and we look forward to hearing from you.
And we hope you can join us back tomorrow when we’re going to talk about how a wife can thrive and find happiness in marriage, even if she’s married to a flawed husband; because the reality is—you are married to a flawed husband. My wife’s married to a flawed husband—that’s the way we come—all of us, as husbands. Jen Weaver is going to be with us tomorrow to talk about a wife’s secret to happiness. I hope you can be with us for that as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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