Step Up, Church, and Talk about Sex

Q&AIs it Monday again? It’s time for me to address another question left by a commenter on my Q&A with J at HHH post:

GREG DONNER: “I also mentioned this to Julie [Sibert, I suspect], but I would be interested in your take on how we as believers can (and should) be doing to boldly speak the truth about biblical sexuality in the church. It’s something I’m very passionate (and frankly, very concerned about).”

In some respect, Greg answers his own question: boldly.
Take a look at the letters of Paul in the New Testament: He boldly addresses whatever issue plagues the church and refocuses people on God’s desire for their lives.

Wrongful thinking and behaviors regarding sex permeate our culture. From the sexually abused child to the promiscuous teen to the porn-addicted husband to the withholding wife to the married couple who struggles to connect physically, we are off target a lot. Jesus never turned a blind eye to sin and pain in His midst. It is our God-given duty to speak into others’ pain and confusion, to speak for God where He has spoken, and to pass on God’s desire for their lives, even in the area of sexuality.

What should this boldness look like? Ideally, churches should have a cradle-to-grave approach. Here are some suggestions for how churches can minister to people in various stages:

Childhood/Teen Years

Provide parenting classes to help families address the subject. Plenty of parents want to equip their children with a godly view of sexuality, but they simply don’t know how to talk to their kids about it.

Empower youth ministry to address biblical sexuality with tweens and teens. All too often, parents resist having the subject brought up in church. Guess what? It’s being brought up everywhere else your kid is. Isn’t it better for our children to get information from a biblically-driven youth pastor than from his/her school friend or a TV show?

Host fun, well-supervised teen events. Churches can help teens by hosting events that provide opportunities to mingle and have fun without the sexual temptation that often exists in secular venues. It needs to be something that will attract teens, but also keep them out of pressurized situations. For instance, when I was a teen, a couple of churches hosted teen dances; the likelihood of anything inappropriate happening with my date at the Mormon family dance was practically nil. Here’s another out-of-the-box idea: What if a church rented a bunch of luxury cars and had volunteer members drive teenagers and their dates to and from local proms?

Singles

Provide preengagement and premarital classes and counseling. Preengaged.com focuses on this kind of assistance, and Brad and Kate Aldrich of One Flesh Marriage recently mentioned a premarital program at Watermark Church in Dallas, Texas. There are some excellent studies for dating couples (although I am only familiar with Before You Say I Do by H. Norman Wright). Ask most married couples if they wish they had prepared more, and they will say yes–including in the area of sexual intimacy.

Help singles find a mate. I don’t believe everyone must get married or that being single is a lesser status. However, 1 Corinthians 7:9 says, “It is better to marry than to burn with passion.” And although marriage rates are declining in the U.S., the vast majority of people still want to be married at some point. Hey, the best thing the church ever did for my sex life is introduce me to my husband. But too many single Christians have few options. What can churches do? They can offer area-wide singles events. I’m not suggesting some Christian version of The Bachelor or The Dating Game. Such events shouldn’t be meat markets, but rather worship, fellowship, or Bible studies which allow singles to gather and get to know one another. Love can take it from there.

Marrieds

Make marriage classes, retreats, and seminars routine. In addition to in-depth scriptural and theological studies, churches should teach on the practical application of God’s Word. Look for biblically-based marriage studies or find couples with knowledge to share. Here are a few series I have been through: Dynamic Marriage (Dr. Willard Harley); Love & Respect (Emerson Eggerichs); Love, Sex & Marriage (Joe Beam). I am also a fan of The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman (who has a study titled The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted) and just about anything Dr. Kevin Leman writes (he has a study titled Making the Most of Your Marriage). Several friends have also spoken well of Mark Gungor’s Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage.

Stop skipping the sex part! This is part B of the above suggestion. I was recently told by another blogger that churches often skip the sex lesson in a marriage series–perhaps because the topic is considered too sensitive. That tidbit of information had me V8-headsmacking the rest of the day. (Ouch.) God wants married couples to have growing marriages and great sex! Let’s support healthy marriages by helping couples do exactly that.

Financially support marriage ministries. Many quality marriage resources can only continue through outside financial support, and churches can make that a goal of their budget.

Provide babysitting services to married couples with children. One of the hardest periods for marital intimacy is when your kids are young. A group of church members (e.g., youth, “Golden Agers,” singles) could provide babysitting as a ministry. Or a church could establish a babysitting co-op in which couples keep others’ kids at times and get their own date nights.

Miscellaneous

Take a sex survey of your church and present your findings. Oftentimes, we don’t know that church members are struggling with sexuality. Who’s going to stand up on Sunday morning and say, “Could you address biblical sexuality because I ain’t gettin’ any at home?” We can awaken the attention of church leaders and members by asking for anonymous input about where they are thriving and where they need help.

Be specific. Too often, churches address sexuality at too high a level. For singles, we hear, “God wants you to stay pure.” Yes, He does. But be specific about how a sexually-ramped-up 17-year-old boy can stay cool when a hot girl throws herself at him. Or how a 23-year-old single woman can wait another seven years to let her libido see daylight? For the marrieds, it isn’t enough to say, “God wants you to have a good sex life.” How does a husband figure out how to pleasure his wife to climax? How can a women deal with her lagging interest in sex? How can a couple move beyond negative sexual histories? Be specific.

Bring in special speakers. Christian colleges and universities often have marriage and family therapy or Christian ministry departments with qualified experts. There are also writers, bloggers, counselors, and speakers who address this subject. For instance, get Sheila Gregoire, author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, to come talk to your church (or better yet, my church).

Offer couples counseling. Couples counseling should be available to dating teens, couples in serious relationships, engaged couples, and married couples. The singles may need a session or two to learn strategies for stopping sexual activity before it starts, while a married couple may need to address a lack of intimacy or physical barriers to satisfying sex. If the church does not have the wherewithal to offer such counseling, it can subsidize another church’s counseling center or a Christian-based counseling practice.

Plug into ministries that help those who need special care. Has a child been sexually abused? Is a husband dealing with a porn addiction? Is a couple dealing with adultery? Such issues go beyond typical couples counseling. Find ministries that address specific issues.

Look for experts in your midst. That physician who attends your church? The labor and delivery nurse? The psychologist or counselor? The recovering sex addict? The woman who was sexually-abused as a child and found healing? The couple that lived through an affair and have a thriving marriage? They have something to offer. Ask how they are willing to help support healthy and godly sex lives for church members.

Maintain a quality library with helpful resources on biblical sexuality. There are many Christian-based books and video and tape series available, but cost can be prohibitive for families. Churches could use purchase resources, and then let families know that they are there.

No one church can offer all of this, so we must rely on each other in the larger church body. But each church can address godly sexuality throughout the seasons of life by offering biblical knowledge, specific information, relationship support, and prayer for the purity and intimacy of their members.

Now that I’ve thrown out my brainstorming ideas, what are yours? What are your churches doing to boldly address biblical sexuality? What would you like to see your church or area churches do?

44 thoughts on “Step Up, Church, and Talk about Sex

  1. Pearl

    YES YES AND YES!! The most crucial aspect in my opinion is, as you’ve mentioned, BE SPECIFIC. I am seriously thinking of creating an area-wide teen undertaking, not sure the form it will take. But, the Holy Spirit is convicting me more each day…..I hope He convicts many more across the nation through THIS post. Let’s kick Divorce is the behind by empowering the next generation of brides and grooms to have godly marriages. Thanks, J.

    1. J

      An area-wide teen event is a great idea. That’s also the kind of event that church teens can easily invite their friends to. There is usually an upbeat feel, no one sticks out as a stranger, and important topics can be addressed from a biblical viewpoint. Let’s start a revolution of godly sexuality! Great idea, Pearl! Love it.

  2. Greg

    Great post, J—thank you!

    Like you and Pearl shared, it must be specific—those specifics are what keep it relevant for all of us; but especially younger generations. But it also needs to be appropriate; not graphic—I recall someone saying their church went too far in this regard. Books and biblically-based websites/blogs like yours, Julie’s, Sheila’s, etc. for handling the more intricate details are a good solution.

    * Clear: Motives for talking about sex need to be made clear from the start—it’s biblical truth—not personal opinion. Leave no room for ambiguity or second-guessing.

    * Frequent: IMO at least twice a year. We get bombarded by sexual media virtually every day; we need constant reminders of the truth!

    * Bold and relevant: Leadership starts from the pulpit. Call sin out for what it is, and the need for genuine repentance. What sites are we browsing? What TV shows and movies are we watching? What books are we reading? And why? Pornography/sexting, “friends with benefits,” homosexuality, etc. are not “alternative lifestyles”—they are sin. Beauty and sexuality and not the same thing; porn is a lie, and why; living together destroys—not builds—intimacy; waiting for marriage is a challenge, but worth it, purity goes far beyond abstinence; etc. So many things need to be said!

    * Always end with the positives! Share how sexuality is not only “okay” but is meant to thrive, be sensual/beautiful, is a picture of Christ and the church, bond a husband and wife together, help keep them faithful, satisfy them, provides their children with a loving home where the worlds lies about sex are exposed for the bunk it is, etc.

    …and time to step off my soapbox and let someone else say something. 🙂

    1. Shyreeta

      Yes!! I love this article and I’m so glad I found this site! And Greg, you are definitely on the right soapbox! 🙂 I’m with you as well. Sex has been so perverted by this world and more people need to understand the beauty of sex as God intends it!

    1. J

      Eager to see what you put on your blog, Jess! My recommendations for blogging about sex: (1) Make sure your mother-in-law doesn’t have the website address; (2) Try not to follow particularly sexy or funny moments with your husband with the statement, “This is SO going on my blog”; (3) Be prepared that at least one person will think you’ve gone too far and one will think you didn’t go far enough; (4) Pray; (5) Pray some more; (6) Speak up for what God said about it. Blessings!

  3. Marisa

    Breaks my heart when so few churches deal with this issue. Kids are told to abstain till marriage, but as you said that is not enough. You need to say, why, how to be able to do so, which situations to stay away from etc.

    It also pains me that many parents leave it up to “the church” when the best place to educate your kids about sex is in the home! If you keep the communication open starting at the pre-teen ages and your kids realize it isn’t a “taboo” subject and you are open to discussing it (modified for the age of course) you can have great conversations and equipping times for your kids.

    I have done Passport to Purity with my daughter and my hubby and son will go their round in a year or so. We also keep open discussions at home – critique TV ads and shows (i.e. what is that add portraying – does it line up to what God says in the Bible, let’s see what God has to say about that etc.) to put the right message into their hearts and minds and not what the world is feeding them. The world bombards us with sexuality but leaves it at a physical act and we need to show our kids that it is so much more etc. Parents need to stand up and do their part!

    1. Dorothy

      I love that you address the fact that many parents leave it up to “the church” to educate their kids! I couldn’t agree more that the home should be their number one resource for any topic. My kids are both under 2, but I’m already gleaning information from articles like this and comments like yours on how to equip my children to seek God’s Kingdom first!

  4. Do Not Disturb

    Such great ideas and valuable insight. We certainly are huge advocates at our church about marriage and sexuality so it goes without saying we try to keep things going strong. We know that the pre-marital counseling needs some work but we are figuring that out. Thanks for your great ideas and for spurring us on to continue to minister to marriages.

    Megan

    1. J

      Thanks, Megan. Your church is blessed to have you two as advocates for godly marriage and sexuality. Keep up the kingdom work!

  5. Anonymous

    Great ideas, which I can definitely get behind. However, the vast majority of these are only feasible for megachurches. As someone that goes to a small church, I know there’s no way that the minister (my brother in this case) can provide much of what you suggest and still be able to pay attention to the running of the church. Special speakers on sex? Good luck affording them! A library? Same issue. Plug in various ministries? In a church that averages about a hundred, there is only one whole-church ministry.

    Given that not everyone goes to a megachurch, what would you suggest for small churches with a highly conservative base?

    1. J

      I do not attend a megachurch. I didn’t actually have a megachurch in mind when I wrote this. I do think we need more cooperation among area churches; for example, could several churches pool resources to get a guest speaker? And as for “plugging in,” churches simply need to be aware of outside resources and refer their members as needed (e.g., porn addiction ministries, sexual abuse healing, etc.).

      However, you asked a great question. So let me answer that one! (Squirrel.) If I had to choose only a couple of the above suggestions to focus on, it would be marriage support and parenting classes. I believe any church size can do that. By focusing on improving intimacy in current marriages and then equipping parents to teach the next generation biblical principles of sexuality, we can build a foundation for solid Christian marriages.

      I mentioned some great studies, but if the church cannot afford a video series, or wishes to go another route, there are numerous marriage books that a teacher or preacher can use as inspiration for a class. (Love & Respect and The Five Love Languages are two.) Dr. Kevin Leman has a book about talking to your children about sex (A Chicken’s Guide to Talking Turkey with Your Kids about Sex).

      But ultimately, the Bible itself is the guide for all of these things. I’m sure all churches have one of those. 😉 We have an obligation to foster our marriages (Ephesians 5) and to teach our children (Deuteronomy 6) what we have learned about God’s ways.

      Best wishes!

  6. S

    As a youth minister, I once taught a series called, “How to have Great Sex” by Doug Fields. It was a very practical approach for teenagers to understand that it was more than ‘wait’ because we said so…it was because God has a perfect plan for them to enjoy sex to the fullest. Sadly though, most churches don’t allow this. I was met with a lot of support from parents and even had a few attend the 4weeks I taught. The approach was simple, pointed and not condemning. It’s all written from a victorious and positive standpoint. I think it should be standard in our churches!!!!

    S

    1. J

      Thanks for sharing that resource, S! Youth ministry is not my area, so I’m not familiar with what’s available there. I do, however, know who Doug Fields is, and I understand that his reputation for youth teaching is quite good.

      I also want to give you kudos for stepping up and bodly speaking in this area. I have found that there is trepidation in talking to teens about sex, but when the church does it, almost all parents are supportive because at some level they understand we need to teach our kids a biblical approach.

  7. Jason@SongSix3

    To the anonymous that asked about the small church… we too, have been part of a small church for upwards of 14 years. J had some awesome advice in this paragraph:

    “Look for experts in your midst. That physician who attends your church? The labor and delivery nurse? The psychologist or counselor? The recovering sex addict? The woman who was sexually-abused as a child and found healing? The couple that lived through an affair and have a thriving marriage? They have something to offer. Ask how they are willing to help support healthy and godly sex lives for church members.”

    My wife and I fit right into this group. If you’ve ever dropped by our blog, you can see that for yourself. (SongSix3.org)

    You don’t always have to pay an outsider, IF you’ve got the experience within your own church body. Look around with a discerning eye, and I bet you’ll find some of that experience right there among you!

    ~Jason

    1. J

      Ha! We must have been crafting our responses at the same time, Jason. I posted mine, then approved yours. 🙂

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience in this area. One of the best things about speaking up for godly sexuality is finding support and encouragement from others that are doing the same. Blessings to you and Tiffani in your SongSix3 ministry!

  8. Anonymous

    My pastors wife once commented on how happy my husband and I are together. I told her that was because of all the little things he does to make me happy, like put gas in the car. She asked how I “get” him to do those little things. I told her that I do little things like leave sexy panties in the gas tank. We haven’t really spoken much since… And my pastor never made eye contact with me again. It is a tough topic. Thank you for exploring it.

    1. J

      That was great! If I’d been in the conversation, you’d have gotten a wink and a hi-five, girlfriend!

      I agree, however, that the topic makes some people very uncomfortable. I don’t know why. That wasn’t TMI. You weren’t describing some sexual move or something. You were simply stating that part of the success of your marriage is due to satisfaction with physical intimacy. That sounds quite biblical to me.

      And yes, I’ve made a few people uncomfortable, but I don’t think I’ve crossed lines. And I try to be careful when, where, and to whom I say certain things. But the topic of sexuality itself should not be taboo in the church.

  9. Anonymous

    When I was in high school youth group we had “sex month” once a year. I don’t remember what month it was any more, but every year that month the topic was sex. Unfortunately, they didn’t really say much beyond “don’t do it” and talking about “how far is too far?” I think they probably could have really benefited the church by making it sex month for the entire church, or at least having one adult Sunday School class that talked about it for the month for people who wanted to go. High schoolers aren’t the only ones who need to hear about sex!

    1. J

      Seriously? Sex month? I like that they at least addressed the topic, but it’s kind of weird to proclaim one month of talking about sex and then not say much the other 11 months. Also, “don’t do it” and “how far is too far” is SO NOT the only message God has on this subject. Churches should dig deeper. Thanks for the comment!

    2. Anonymous

      We would often talk about one topic for a month, sex month is the only one i remember being repeated every year, and the only one we’d walk around talking about lol. I think as much as anything they announced it that way to make sure parents were aware of what was going to be talked about in case they had any questions for the youth director.

  10. Anonymous

    I find it interesting on how churches will preach to the hills on how dirty sex is to teens, in fact I’ll go a step further and say that i think that some Pastors have ruined some Christian wives over the years with the sex is dirty message. Kinda hard to change your mind that it’s not dirty just because a woman is married now. One church I used to attend, the youth minister pretty muched damned you to hell if you were so much as dating but looked the other way when it came to his favorites. Screamed hypocrisy at the time. The fact that most churches wont touch the topic with a 10 foot pole other than to deem it as dirty just rubs me the wrong way

    1. J

      I agree that some churches have indeed done exactly as you say. I know several wives who struggled making the switch from thinking sex is bad pre-marriage to sex is good post-marriage because of the teaching from Christian parents and churches. I do, however, see this issue turning around. There are some impressive ministries and church programs in the areas of marriage and sexuality. Also, I personally feel certain that some Christians have had it right for a long time, but simply weren’t the majority or listened to enough.

      I’d love to see us talk about this issue as much as God did, which is far more than churches usually have. We need to equip people to live out godly sexuality as our Lord intended.

    2. David S.

      Yes indeed. Far too often, the church’s approach to this topic can be described in the pithy sentence, “Sex is nasty, dirty and wrong, so save it for the one you love.” Hello, disconnect!

  11. mamarachael

    I am convinced that sex/intimacy is a critical part of a strong marriage, and I am convinced that we need to work harder to make our marriages strong. I’m still figuring out what my role in this is, but your posts, J, have really helped me think deeper about such things and strength our marriage. Thanks!

  12. Jay Dee

    I agree with be specific as well. We grew up all our lives in the church hearing that “marriage takes work”, “not every day is going to be like a honeymoon”, things like that, all vague. So, when we started having serious problems, we just thought it was normal. We never asked for help, we never thought we should. We just thought this was how marriage was.

    8 years later we finally started making improvements. Working hard on changing the marriage, not just working hard on enduring the marriage.

    I’m so glad for the marriage I have now, but I never want anyone else to go through what we did to get there.

  13. David S.

    As a father of three (with one on the way) I will offer resounding “amens” and “yea, verilys” to a babysitting ministry. How about a) at my church, b) starting tomorrow? 😉

  14. A Hubby

    Amen, AMEN, and AMEN!

    I think if any church is serious about valuing marriage they should take each and every one of your suggestions. They are spot on! I feel that the world has somewhat taken over “sex”. Many good Christians feel that even mentioning “SEX” or heaven forbid that it is one of the best parts of being married – is agreeing with the unholy sexual views of the world. Christians and churches need to take the ground back that ground and not conceed it to those that don’t understand God’s purposes of sex within marriage.

  15. A Hubby

    Amen, AMEN, and AMEN!

    I think if any church is serious about valuing marriage they should take each and every one of your suggestions. They are spot on! I feel that the world has somewhat taken over “sex”. Many good Christians feel that even mentioning “SEX” or heaven forbid that it is one of the best parts of being married – is agreeing with the unholy sexual views of the world. Christians and churches need to take the ground back that ground and not conceed it to those that don’t understand God’s purposes of sex within marriage.

  16. ukfred

    J, We have a problem. (I do wish your name was Houston, that would have sounded so much better)

    That problem is that too many people seem to equate being Christian with being nice. We need to be good, not worry about nice. It happens on the web – look at Christian forums which I have simply given up on because the folks there are afraid to even discuss certain Scriptures and close the thread in the marriage area when some topics get mentioned – and it happens in local churches.

    In the church my wife and I attend, there are some women my age (50’S) who will not look at your site, nor Julie Sibert’s nor Sheila Gregoire’s because “it’s too raunchy”. I am serious. This quote was from a woman who had been married over 30 years and has grown up kids. With people like that in the congregation, the preachers will not dare to even mention the word sex, let alone teach about Godly sex.

    So instead our church leadership chickens out of any teaching about sex and marriage at all, and the young people only hear a distorted message abut sex. The married people end up thinking that to want sex is to yield to the temptations of the flesh and not a gift from God, the proper use of which will bring Him honour. Marriages break up (2 in a congregation of about 80 in the last year) and it is simply not mentioned because it is *so painful* for the people involved, children of church members never seem to think that the church has anything relevant to their lives to say to them and so membership is gradually getting older and declining in number. Oh, and the leadership say there is no demand for marriage enrichment courses like “A Day to Treasure” from Family Life.

    Please, J, please keep going. There must be many more like me out there who despair of getting wholesome Christian teaching on sex and marriage in church and rely on sites like this.

  17. Keith Moore

    J – Nicely said. Actually, as I look at this list, I would suggest that perhaps we could encourage hesitant churches/leadership by promoting it as not just talking about sex, but “Marriage and Sexuality”. Because as Christians, we understand that sex is intricately interwoven with marriage, then we have to talk about marriage in the same breath as sex. As one pastor has put it well, there are only 2 approaches to sex – consumer or covenantal.

    1. uk Fred

      I think you are right about this, Keith, but I remember a poster on Christian Forums complaining that a church should not invite people who were not married to the marriage course by Holy Trinity, Brompton. Unfortunately not all Christians are as mature as J those who frequewnt her blog. You might get some opposition from the pews.

  18. Keith Moore

    J – Excellent article. Perhaps one way to approach reluctant pastors, etc is to present the case for a whole-istic ministry for marriage and sex. For those of us who are Christians, we should be careful to ever separate the two, since sex is grounded in the covenant of marriage. Thus, if we are going to talk about marriage, we have to talk about sex, and vice versa.

  19. becominghiseve

    When I read this, I was thinking YES! The church needs to stop ignoring sex and start incorporating a Biblical sex approach into the sermons, activities, small groups, etc. Great ideas!

  20. becominghiseve

    J- what a fantastic article! These are wonderful ideas and I’m going to start praying more regularly that churches incorporate some of these ideas into the body of believers.

  21. Anonymous

    Our church is quite the opposite. The pastor has preach loud and long about the value of sex in marriage. I even quipped to a Bible study buddy that it is ‘a recurring theme with him’. And thank God for it. He has, on multiple occasions, covered many of the topic and readings that you have cited, J. And that’s to a congregation of over ten thousand people. So there are some out there who are not afraid to speak out to their churches about Godly sexuality. And my marriage has benifitted from it, and I’m sure that others have too.

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