A friend recently pointed me to a blog post by a couple working in youth ministry. The topic was something entirely different, but in the post, the authors said, “I would have much rather talked to [kids] about sex or drugs or something, because those are pretty concrete topics. We’d stand up and say, ‘Don’t do it.’ End of talk.”*
As you can imagine, I cringed.
What the authors talked about in the rest of their post was helpful and on point, but they completely missed the boat on sexuality. And I would hate for that to be the only lesson my child received from youth ministry leaders at my church.
“Don’t do it” is not enough.
Since when was “don’t do it” enough in any context? When you tell your toddler not to touch the stove, you explain that it is hot and can hurt her little hand. When you tell your elementary child to look both ways before crossing the street, you explain that traffic could be coming and he must wait until it is safe to walk across. When you tell your middle schooler to do her homework, you explain that she will need this information and good grades to continue on the path to success. When you tell your high schooler to mow the neighbor’s lawn, you explain that Mrs. Smith is too old to push the mower herself and that God wants us to help others.
Whatever we tell our kids — whether yours or ones you teach — we give reasons for why they should do X and not do Y. Of course, we tailor those reasons to their age and maturity, but we say something nonetheless.
And there is no “end of talk.” Teaching children and teenagers what constitutes sexual purity and how to maintain it is not a one-and-done proposition. It’s like teaching them manners. Has any parent ever told their child to use “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome” once and been heeded?
You have to be willing to step up and have conversations (plural) with your children. And youth workers must be willing to discuss this topic as well, not simply with a “Don’t do it” message, but an explanation of why.
A plaque with Deuteronomy 10:12-13 hangs on a wall at my house:
“And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?”
And as James MacDonald has said, when God gives commands, he isn’t just saying “Don’t.” There are reasons. Our loving Father is saying, “Don’t hurt yourself.”
Oftentimes, we hear the usual warnings about pregnancy and STDs, but there are deeper reasons why God wants us to wait until marriage for physical intimacy. In a recent guest post at Sheila Gregoire’s To Love, Honor and Vacuum site, the blogger said it beautifully:
I want my children to understand how important purity is because it affects more than the just the now. It is far bigger than whether or not they get pregnant or catch an STD; it affects their hearts, minds, and souls.
This woman had a terrible sexual past from which to recover and understood the pain and scars that came from that experience. I attest as well that the consequences of my premarital choices regarding sexuality were not so much external as internal — deep wounds in my heart, mind, and soul.
God has healed me, but it was not without challenge and change. I’d love for every teenager to avoid that hardship. We have to stay open to discussing sexuality with our children and our church youth.
There are also reasons why teens want to have sex, and not because they have thrown out God altogether. Many of them haven’t. They just need information, guidance, and explanations about God’s design for sex.
What messages did you receive from adults about sex when you were growing up? What have you told your own children about sex? Is sex a topic easily discussed in your family or church youth group?
*By the way, I’m not sharing the link to the article because that’s not the point. This couple’s main topic was well-handled, and I wish them blessings in their youth work.