Sex. Is there any topic more scary for adults to talk about with students? Whether you’re a parent, full-time youth worker, pastor, or volunteer, sex is a topic that turns faces red and makes adults shift uncomfortably in their seats. Have you ever noticed how awkwardly people even say the word? We whisper it. We look down, avoiding eye contact. When you think of it, isn’t this an odd way to treat God’s wonderful vehicle for creating life?
Sexuality is a major part of adolescent development. Adolescence is a time where God’s perfect and amazing design process is flooding guys and girls with hormones, feelings, and emotions that they can’t begin to understand. As leaders of ministries that exist primarily to connect with adolescents, we don’t have the luxury of shying away from this difficult and awkward subject. Sex is important. Sex is wonderful. Sex is a beautiful part of God’s plan for mankind. The problem is, God’s plan for sex and society’s plan for sex rarely line up. When those whom God has called to lead, shepherd, and mentor students (i.e. parents and the Church) are silent on the subject of sex, the world’s plan wins out. We cannot afford to be silent anymore. Let’s talk about sex. A lot. Early and often. With joy and with peace. With faith and with love.
In case you haven’t caught on, I’m using the “s” word a lot. We need to get comfortable with it. But before we go any further I want to acknowledge that there is a lot of fear surrounding this topic. Let’s get that out there and reflect on that for a moment. Why is the topic of sex scary? Why is it not talked about? Perhaps the biggest question is, why are Christians even operating out of fear to begin with?
Let’s take a moment and reflect on the words of Paul.
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).
What if we approached this subject of sex with a spirit of power (not abuse of power, mind you), love, and self-control? What would that look like? What if, instead of hoping that not talking about sex will make our students “non-sexual beings,” we actually boldly approached this subject with love and self-control? Scary? Yes. Powerful? You bet.
So…let’s dive in, shall we? Answer me this: what happens when Christians instead of the Holy Spirit take the lead on the subject of sex? Lies and misinformation become the operational norm. There are many myths, misunderstandings, and outright lies that are considered to be “facts” by Christians and non-Christians alike. Let’s unpack and confront some of those myths.
Many parents and leaders are getting their information about adolescent sexuality from Dateline, Oprah, and Dr. Phil—or from pastors who are getting their information from Dateline, Oprah, and Dr. Phil. Let me give you a couple example of the myths the above-mentioned sources have been guilty of spreading.
Adolescent boys have a sexual thought every 4-6 seconds.
Have you every heard that one? I remember hearing it all the time when I was an adolescent boy. It made me feel abnormal for not having that many sexual thoughts and like a pervert every time that I did have one. Interestingly enough, when you do the math, that means an adolescent boy is having in the ballpark of 13,500 sexual thoughts before bedtime. Really?! How on earth can any of these guys function? If this is true there is NO WAY they could possibly do things like hit a curveball, get an “A” in algebra, or avoid walking into walls every 4-6 seconds. That is an absolutely ridiculous and absurd myth that is refuted by common sense and actual science.
Oral sex is an epidemic that is sweeping American middle schools and high schools in ways we have never seen.
We’ve probably all heard about this. It is every parent’s worst nightmare (well, other than their daughter getting pregnant…). The problem is, the hysteria surrounding this “epidemic” of casual sex parties and peer pressure is, well, hysteria. Numerous studies conducted and printed in actual scientific and academic journals are showing that, though there is an upward trend in adolescents engaging in oral sex, it is a marginal trend statistically speaking…not an epidemic (a word actually used by Dr. Phil). This “epidemic” mindset comes from, you guessed it, a spirit of fear and sensationalism designed to increase viewership. Though engagement in oral sex is certainly an issue, I think we could afford to dial back the fear and hopelessness.
The fears and misinformation surrounding adolescent sexuality has led to two dangerous mentalities: “Let’s just bury our heads in the sand and hope it passes” or “Let’s be militant, angry, blame-everyone-else Christians.” Both are equally damaging. I believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle. As student ministry leaders we need to educate ourselves on the realities of the American adolescent landscape so that we can better support the parents and mentor the students in our ministries.
I realize that there will be differing opinions. My opinions are based on my research and experience in youth ministry. I encourage you to check everything I write against the Bible and the Holy Spirit. Let us engage in healthy, God-honoring discussion about sex so that we can speak life and truth into the lives of the adolescents he has entrusted us with. Let us remember that we serve a big God with more power than American media, adolescent peer pressure, or internet pornography. This means that no matter how bad it may look, we do not need to operate with a spirit of fear. Our God is greater. Our God is stronger.