I do not have a daughter, but I do have a sister. A sister who recently got engaged. Before she got engaged, her then-boyfriend and I had a conversation. My latent CIA interrogation skills, like my now-father-in-law’s almost two years ago, kicked into gear. I wanted to protect my sister, and to get to know and encourage the man who was already contemplating proposing. I wanted her best in the Lord, and his.
By no means are the questions I came up with exhaustive. And some might be better suited at different times throughout the relationship (before the first date, or as the relationship becomes more serious, or before engagement, or after). I asked these questions before the proposal, and I pray they serve as a good starting place for other brothers (and even fathers) as they sit down to talk with a young man pursuing one of our treasured women.
1. How did God save you?
To begin with, let’s not assume that nice guy equals genuine Christian. A man’s ability to be on his best behavior before a girl’s family does not require new birth. As fathers with daughters under your care, or as big brothers who feel a godly responsibility to protect a younger sister, we fend off both worldly wolves and polite, well-groomed goats.
While not making it a full interrogation, and receiving professions of faith with due charity, listen for who he is, where he comes from, and for evidence of vital signs in the Lord. This could result in a worshipful time together (as it did for me) as you both share and testify to God’s overwhelming grace in your lives.
2. What does following Christ look like now?
Does he have healthy Christian rhythms? Is he growing in his love for God’s word? Does he have a prayer life? Is he increasingly serious about holiness? Does he long to live for the glory of God? Does he show the type of masculinity that concerns itself with the lost, gladly shoulders responsibility, and consistently sacrifices for others’ gain? Is he an active member of a healthy church? Trajectory is a helpful word here. Is the man sitting before you today sowing seeds to become a godly husband of tomorrow?
3. Do you struggle with pornography?
This is not the first question to ask, but we should ask directly, unequivocally, looking the young man in the eyes, “Do you struggle with pornography?” A young man’s lust burns a fire that, when not killed by the Spirit, will boil over to affect his treatment of your daughter. Two things to look for: trajectory and warfare. Does he consistently battle his sinful desires or give in to them? How has the history been the last few years? What helps does he have in his life to cut off his limbs to spare his soul (Matthew 5:30)?
Look at this opportunity to care, not only for her as your daughter, but also for him as a son or younger brother in Christ. If he perpetually “falls,” and still desires to date your daughter, perhaps insist he take some time to grow in this area — not merely to win your approval, but to prepare to be a man who puts his own sin to death daily. In some cases, you might make a great model of a purity and soldiery he has not encountered yet.
4. Do you have close male friends?
Surprisingly, some young men today fill their friend group with mostly women. If his inner circle consists of females, this signals unhealth. If few men (or none) know him in his local church, this waves a warning flag.
If he does have friends, what are they like? A companion of fools will suffer harm, just as a woman who dates a man with a companion of fools (Proverbs 13:20). If he has no thoughts of fellowship with men, no desire for older men to disciple him, no males who know him and from whom he draws strength (Ecclesiastes 4:12), he proves that he — barring unique circumstances — is unsuitable at present to lead your daughter.
If he does have close friends, you could ask to speak to one who can tell you more about this man’s character.
5. What do you like about her?
Now here, as with all the other questions, he may tell you what you think you want to hear. But if his polished answer behind how charming and kind he finds her seems shallow, chances remain high that he isn’t ready to pursue anything further. Does he care for her because of Christ? Is it evident that he sees (and loves) what is most precious — her soul? Ask what my father-in-law did: if made to stand trial, what evidence can he show that he genuinely cares for her?
6. Do you have plans moving forward?
A man need not have a full ten-year plan. But does he have any sense of where God is leading him (and potentially your daughter) in the next few years? Does he have realistic expectations and prospects of providing for her, sacrificing personal comforts for her good, and ensuring her well-being, even when it’s inconvenient and costly? He may be a student that still is unsure — this need not preclude him from marriage. But does he think responsibly about the future? Has he considered how his continuing commitment affects that future? Or is he trapped in infatuation and merely wants the relationship with her for the fun of it?
7. What has your community advised?
Good young men, even godly young men, may not have a strong community for a variety of reasons. This need not be an automatic indictment against his character, but rather an indication of his current situation. Listen for whether or not he has categories for seeking and heeding others’ counsel.
Does he show signs of humility that looks outside himself instead of endlessly within? Has he discussed his pursuit with a godly mentor, pastor, or small-group leader? It could be a problem if he has such men in his life and yet has not allowed them a voice. “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed” (Proverbs 15:22). “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Proverbs 18:1).
Care Enough to Speak
Situations will vary, prudence must be applied, prayers offered, and considerations of your daughter’s desires appropriately measured, but in the end, a father (or brother) in the Lord should speak with a daughter’s (or sister’s) pursuer. Can you think of any good reason not to?
As one preacher has asked, if a man came to the door asking to take our car keys, ensuring he’d have our vehicle back by nine that evening, would any of us just hand him the keys? We would have questions for him: Who is he? Is he trustworthy? What are his intentions? The question then becomes, Are our daughters (and sisters) of less value than melded steel resting on four wheels?
Even if she is not a Christian but under your roof and provision, and protesting to make her own choices, remember that God calls us to care for our children even more than they, at times, want you to care for them. Parenting isn’t about popularity and style points, but loving provision and protection.
So, while the daughters of this age date with less supervision than ever, men of God rise to the occasion with grace and truth, to ask directly, speak clearly, and love with righteous intervention.