‘Sex’ and ‘Church’
A close friend had an insight a few years ago that I had a hard time disagreeing with.
“Most youth in a church family have a sexual secret.”
And we never talk about it. Church, or at home.
When I was in high school in the late ’90’s, sexualization came in the form of Hollywood celebrities. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera had challenged us boys, while boy bands drove our female counterparts crazy.
The first encounter with sex talk I had was at the age of 14 in a high school classroom setting. Abstinence was not presented as an option of birth control, but every other method was. I’ll never forget the nurse/presenter/whoever the lady the school board sent was demonstrating through silhouettes on the overhead projectors, then proceeding to demonstrate the effectiveness of foam products by spraying the substance on a piece of transparency and turning it upside down over top of our heads to show its strength.
To further the point, most cultures are not very open about personal lives. Depending on the parents (and not necessarily by culture), most just don’t know or aren’t equipped to talk to their children about the matter.
Today, the Spears’ and Aguilera’s of the late ’90’s is considered tame compared to the female celebrities of today. Boy bands of the ’90’s would seemingly be better role models than those whose lyrics speak horribly of women.
However, I would argue that the sexualization of celebrities are much less influential today. The challenge for Youth today and for churches to help lead not into temptation to is the sexualization of one another.
In the last ten years of Youth ministry, I have seen the dialogue among Youth shift from discussing the fashion trends of A-list celebrities to what their older friends are wearing as seen on Facebook, or from the obviously-negative lifestyles of, say, Charlie Sheen, to how stoked they are to becoming of legal age in a few years and get liquored and sexed up because the night club pictures their older relatives and friends post on Facebook look hot. This influence is not only in their computers, but instantly on their smartphones and tablets. Here’s an example of what our Youth deal with today:
If you’re thinking that you’ve never heard that language in your church, there lies the struggle. Youth are getting exposed to sex from one another outside of your church, and if your church has wonderful, well-behaved Youth, then it’s generally hush hush when ‘two or more gather’ in the name of your church (and not in His Name).
The beauty of the Gospel is not that Jesus brought His message to the wonderful, well-behaved Youth. Instead, Jesus brought it to the crowds and people that none of the Pharisees wanted to touch.
That means, if you don’t deal with sex with Youth in the context of your church family, you’ll never hear about their struggles in the midst of the sexualization of one another today until they choose to leave your church family or fall into consequences that, at worst, have strayed them from their faith.
Sex, in the context outside of God’s desires, has more negative powers than any other sin.
Every sin a person can commit is outside the body. On the contrary, the person who is sexually immoral sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18 NIV)
Therefore, staying hush hush about sex in the life of the church family means that the effectiveness of supporting one another will be drowned by the powerful influence from the sexualization of one another. It’s a recipe for losing our Youth.
By no means have I been perfect in my ministry in regards to ‘Sex’ and ‘Church’. We never forget and cease praying for those we lose because we seemingly haven’t done enough to equip those Youth who have strayed away. Know that, however, nothing is more powerful than prayer. Prayer equips, heals, and maintains relationship with the Lord better than anything we can equip our Youth with. In addition, let me throw a few suggestions and thoughts on incorporating discussions on sex and the importance of purity in the life of your Youth ministry.
- As a pastor or youth leader, are you having success in the conqueror of sexual purity in your own life? Do you have a mentor and/or the support of your peers that you can address victories and struggles with? You’ll need to ask your Youth to have the same, and it’s vital that you demonstrate by example (if you do not have one or find that you cannot claim to be having success, take courage and address this part of your relationship with God now - the sin of sexual immorality is so powerful that no one should attempt to address it without a prayer army behind him/her).
- Understand your personal circumstances. A single individual like myself can help relate with the struggles of purity that Youth encounters better than a married couple, while a married couple can demonstrate better why ‘True Love Waits’ better than a single individual.
- You’re human, so speak like one! This is not to say you should slang your language when having discussion on sex, but Youth need to hear how you deal with sexual temptation through scripture and not fancy biblical words most of us in seminary need a dictionary to help define.
- Have faith in the Holy Spirit. Don’t be concerned about the Youth learning something wrong in the midst of the discussions. All Youth know what’s right and wrong in God’s eyes, whether they’re ‘churched’ or not. Our goal is to equip them for the battle with the truths behind the rights and wrongs. Do not hesitate to seek help from someone outside of your church if discussion on sex is foreign to you in relation to your congregation (that is, if you’ve never dealt with sexual purity with your congregation and you’ve been there for a while). Know that there is already a distance/barrier between you as a leadership figure and your congregation of Youth. A good mixture of small-group discussions (without you around) and a large group discussion is beneficial to help bring dialogue and bridge distance.
- Keep talking about it. We always tend to theme these discussions around, say, Valentine’s Day. Sadly, temptations hit our Youth long before February 14th of each year and continue to hit them long after February 14th.
- Address issues immediately. If you sense issues in the life of your Youth, whether sexual immorality or not, do not hesitate to pull him/her aside for a Matthew 18 chat. If you are single like me and dealing with the opposite sex, be sure to only have such conversations in an open area (coffee shops are great for that), and ask during the conversation whether there is someone of their same sex that they’d be comfortable for you to invite to any follow-up chats. If you’re married, it is vital that you bring your spouse along. In all circumstances, stress that God still has unconditional love, and because of His love, you won’t love them any less. God seeks restoration, and so do we.
And one more thing…
- You may find yourself running the risk of offending some members of your church family. Some may not appreciate that you’re bringing up sexual issues and circumstances, while others may express their disappointment at you that you haven’t been perfect in your walk in sexual purity as you share with your Youth about your own personal struggles and victories. Before beginning any True Love Waits type of series in your Youth, openly address the congregation about what is ahead, why we as churches need to help our Youth know that God and His Words are the only sources they need to rely on, and how the rest of the church can help by praying for the Youth. This will also help you equip families with prayer and tools to address their children about sex. When attacks still surface, know that God is in control.