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.

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7 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Sex

  1. You're right that "the sex talk" is no bueno. The way we have parented (one teen and one tween right now, two younger than that) is to have lots of sex talks. We make sexuality part of our goal to help our kids be mature in all areas of life. Of course, my wife helps women have babies so that brings with it a certain acceptance and discussion of sexuality. 🙂

  2. I think the decision to not talk to your children about sex would be irresponsible. Scripture calls parents to “train up your child in the way he should go” (Prov 22:6) in order that when they are old, they won’t depart from it. To not talk to your kids about this important of a topic would be contrary to this calling.
    If I had a son and a house near the highway, I would warn my son about the highway, maybe even build a fence. A parent can not intentionally let their child enter into our hypersexualized culture without the correct information about what is available and how it compares to God’s inerrant word while not be acting contrary to this passage.
    Sexual sin is of a different breed of sin because it affects us in so many compounding ways. If we choose to “deal with the situations when they come up” as you say in your final paragraph that will propagate even more of the problem represented by your picture.
    Not only does this present the problem of children not having any information about the biblical confines (and blessings) of sex, but it gives parents an out to avoid having a difficult conversation. Many parents already avoid this type of conversation because by our nature we are cowards (just as Adam and Eve were when God asked them of their sin and they blamed it on someone/thing else). We need no more cowards, all of those spots are filled. Parents must get used to having hard conversations with their children because they love them and want to see them grow into Godly men and women.
    The basis of avoiding this conversation that the conversation “was awkward, uncomfortable and did not lead to any future talks” has many problems. First, the premise that a conversation is awkward is not a reason to avoid such conversation (I don’t think this is your premise, but think it needs to be stated). For example, I would venture to say that many Godly couples had awkward yet very productive (and needed) conversations prior to marriage. The ‘sexual history’ conversations with one you want to spend the rest of your life with can be significantly awkward, but are very helpful in the managing of the emotions and expectations of the relationship. Most will say that it was awkward, yet absolutely necessary.
    Second, the fact that the conversation did not lead to any future talks is not the problem with the topic, it is the problem with the presenter. These conversations should be continued so that the children continue to garner a more and more biblical understanding of sex (as John seems to reference above).
    Thirdly, the immediate and localized outcome of the talk isn’t necessarily the primary objective. What is communicated should be that the parent loves the child enough to have hard conversations and have prioritized their Godliness (and God’s instruction in Prov. 22:6) above their own relational and social convenience. For a child to see that their parent loves them that way goes much further than abandoning ship.

    The problem is most often the presenter, not the material presented. We have a biblical responsibility to fight for the purity and holiness of our children in order that the gospel may be proclaimed and seen in their lives.

    • Blake,

      First of all I miss you. It’s been way too long. I hope you are doing well.

      I agree that a decision to avoid a conversation about sex would be irresponsible. My point in writing this blog was not that the topic be changed or that we avoid the topic all together but that we find a better way to present it, and present it more often. I don’t think that the awkward sit down and lets discuss the birds and the bees approach works. I believe that conversations about sex, sexuality, boundaries, dating etc… should happen very often. And they should NOT happen in a “lets sit down and be serious while your mom and I talk at you” type of environment. Sex has become a serious, shame filled, dangerous, ominous topic among Christians and it doesn’t have to be that way. We can talk about sex and explain the importance of good decision making without sitting down and lecturing our kids. And church leads can do it without stupid shameful analogies like the rose analogy that Chandler speaks about in this video. Thanks for the comment.

  3. I loved this Drew. The message of that video (a friend re-told it to me) actually radically changed my life a couple years ago. The gospel in its truest form revolutionizes the soul like that.

    • Ya, I remember seeing the video for the first time and I was just blown away. The article from relevant magazine is really interesting too. All of the purity talks that I’ve sat through over the years and the dating books that I spent hours reading, all really gave me the message that I would be worthless, if I ever failed. Every time I slipped up even a little bit, I felt like garbage and it didn’t help that books and purity talks were reinforcing that message. The truth of the gospel is that Christ enters our life and trades us our old crappy dandelion for a brand new fresh rose. (warning: big theology word coming up) The imputation of Christ’s righteousness for our sinfulness absolutely blows we away ever time I think about it. Chandler was just the first guy to link sexual purity with imputation for me. Really freeing to know that God died for my sexual history, for my slip ups with lust, etc. etc. etc.

  4. I agree with the fact that the approach needs to change. Though I don’t have an answer to the problem I will say that I remember all the purity conventions and the books and listening to my youth pastor say that no one would want me if I was not pure. I also remember what it felt like when I made the mistake of sleeping with my high school girlfriend. I felt like all of the things they said, (that i was a destroyed rose, or a piece of tape that has been used and doesn’t have any stick left.) came back and hit me like a baseball bat of useless emotion. Regret, pain, the feeling of worthlessness.
    Now I’m over it because I realize that I’m not useless. It isn’t the end of the world that I’m not a virgin any more and I’m not going to hell because of my mistake. This isn’t to detract from the consequences of what happened but before I understood that life could go on I had months of suicidal thoughts because i believed that i no longer had worth.
    This is something that I never want any one else to go through and because of that I agree that the entire approach has to be changed, and fast.

    • Thanks for the honesty bro. Seriously. I know you are not alone in the feelings of shame and regret. Unfortunately the evangelical approach to sex and dating is often more destructive and helpful. Like you said, there are consequences for past sins, but suicidal shame is not one of them. Suicidal shame and self loathing are both consequences of bad theology.

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