Okay parents this one is for you.
For quite some time now I’ve been frustrated with the stereotypical Christian teachings on sex, dating, abstinence and the like. This will be my first of hopefully several blogs on the topic. The messages that we are sending students, and more importantly the way that we are sending that message just flat isn’t working. A recent article in Relevant magazine by Tyler Charles reports that “80% of young, unmarried Christians have had sex. Two-thirds have been sexually active in the last year. Even though, according to a recent Gallup poll, 76% of evangelicals believe sex outside of marriage is morally wrong.”
The scare campaigns and purity contracts aren’t working, period. In fact the statistics for evangelical Christians who have had premarital sex seem to be rising. So what should we do? Tyler Charles believes that the abstinence message needs a makeover. I’m not 100% sure that a makeover will cure the ills that seem to riddle the churches view of sex and sexuality but it’s a step in the right direction. What Mr. Charles fails to do in his otherwise very enlightened article is to provide a makeover message. He points out the flaws in our current endeavor to keep kids from getting pregnant but doesn’t offer a solution.
Unfortunately, that’s where I find myself. I see some of the same problems that Charles sees and like Charles I don’t have a perfect system or orthodox methodology that we can all use to teach our kids what healthy Christian sexuality looks like. I do however want to highlight some problems with our current methods in order to hopefully lead the way in developing the facelift that our message on sexuality so desperately needs.
The one thing that I can say needs to take place in order for things to change is that we need to talk about sex in our churches more often. For so long it’s been a don’t ask, don’t tell topic that has been quieted in the church. It’s simply not comfortable in a church environment to answer questions about r mutual masturbation or oral sex. It’s not even socially comfortable to type those words in a Christian blog. The only way to change that, is to fight through the awkwardness and just talk about it. Teens desperatly need positive messages about sex and about the changes that they are going through as post pubescent walking hormones in Junior Higher form. The hush-hush attitude needs to stop.
Secondly, the stupid, false, and demeaning analogies need to be mercilessly slaughtered. Remember that students need honest, mature, real answers. They don’t need bad analogies or inappropriate jokes to lighten the mood. And to be honest. Most of the analogies that I have heard, run absolutely contrary to the message of the gospel. Please take the time to watch this short video so that you can see what I’m talking about.
Though I don’t agree with Matt Chandler on everything, he’s spot on here. The message that many Christians receive about sex is actually counter productive. It’s anti-gospel. We need to remember and remind our students that the gospel comes with grace, even for our sexual histories. At the same time we need to balance our message, not with a list of do’s and don’t but with thought provoking questions that help guide students to their own conclusions about sex, sexuality, dating, and physical/emotional boundaries within dating. It’s my opinion that we need to stop giving answers to students and start asking questions. They are smarter than we give them credit for and they will figure it out. But lets come along side them and guide them through the correct questions to ask, and help them explore the implications of their answers.
Here are some ideas of what I would call good questions.
“Okay, so lets say that you decide to have sex with your boy/girl friend. How do you think that will affect your relationship in the short term? How bout long term?”
“What do you think are the pro’s and con’s of setting up emotional, and physical boundaries in a relationship?”
“What are the pro’s and con’s of different physical displays of affection in a relationship. For example pros and cons of holding hands, kissing, becoming exclusive, spending time alone, making out, oral sex, intercourse, etc…”
“What factors come in to play when you are trying to make decisions about who to date, kiss, sleep with etc…”
I could go on but hopefully you get the idea. One thing that, in my opinion you probably shouldn’t do with your kids, is have a sex talk. Now I know this is probably a controversial topic and I may change my mind later but this is where I stand now. I don’t want to tell you how to parent but I would like for you to think through what you do. I know that the decision to have or not have the sex talk will depend on you and your kids but for most teenagers that I’ve talked to “the talk” that they had with their parents, if they had one, was awkward, uncomfortable and did not lead to any future talks.
What you should do, is comfortably deal with situations when they come up. Our culture is very comfortable with sex and the topic will come up, just give it time. Just take the issues as they come. Ask what your kids think about certain scenes in movies, or what they think about their friends who just started dating so-and-so. Be casual, honest, and listen to what you’re kids have to say. As you develop an atmosphere that is open to questions and isn’t judgmental, the chances of your kids coming to you with questions rather than going to Google with their questions will increase dramatically.