In the last two months, it has seemed like everywhere I’ve turned students have been bringing up the topic of sex. This is not the conversation I expected to have at the end of the school year as we look to summer, graduations, camps, trips and vacations. While it has involved a variety of subtopics including the changing body, sexting, pornography and pregnancy, the root of it all comes back to a strange view on what sex is and isn’t and what it has to do with a relationship with Jesus.
We might joke about how much teens think about sex, but the truth is, it literally is on their mind most days at some point of the day. What I have found interesting as of late is that many of these conversations I am having involve students who are my “good church kids” and the ones trying to follow Jesus that everyone wants in youth group.
Here’s what I am learning about students and the topic of sex:
Doing the Right Thing No Longer Applies
Many times the “good kids,” the ones who show up at youth group and answer all the questions we ask, are compartmentalizing their faith. There was a time when the Christian teens stayed away from the bedroom out of fear of being seen as a “bad kid.” Now students confuse morality with the words of Christ. It isn’t because they don’t “care” about Jesus. Following all of the ideas he outlined doesn’t always make sense to them because society’s morals don’t necessarily align with the teaching of Jesus any longer.
Society Says, “Go For It.”
Every turn teens take there seems to be the underlying message that having sex is a usual part of life, married or not. Most songs on the radio, popular television shows, and movies have some form of plot line or lyric involving two people meeting, going out, making out, and ending up in bed together. It’s casual, passionate, and fun. Society has embraced this as what you do, and they promote it multiple times a day. It’s culturally acceptable to look at porn on your phone, without hiding, and then share what you saw. Later you can send a naked picture of yourself to someone you think is cute. On the other hand, in the church context we discuss the topic mostly in a reactionary mode or in the guise of a few lessons or discussions maybe twice a year. Whose message do you think is louder?
Christians Don’t Know How To Talk About Sex
We can talk about purity until we are blue in the face. We can tell students to “wait until you get married.” Yet, this topic is so much more complex than this idea. Too often in today’s world of divorce and cohabiting parents who have never married, students don’t understand why the end game of marriage really matters to Jesus at all. They don’t grasp truly why it should matter to them. We don’t know how to have conversations that the feelings going on in their bodies when someone turns their heads for the first time are actually a regular part of growing up. Then we don’t often enough follow up with a conversation on how to navigate this. It’s such a big topic; truthfully it’s easier to avoid it, ignore it, or pretend it’s not something important than to really talk about it.
The truth is that this topic has never ceased to make me blush when a student asks about it even though I am married, live with teens and have been in ministry for over two decades. There have been some pretty vulnerable ideas put in front of me and I have stammered, stuttered and choked. However, I have seen that students are wrestling with what following Jesus looks like in an every day way, and they need to be pointed to the truth. It’s a complex and multi-layered topic. Yet, the world is sharing it’s ideology with them daily, whether we are intentional or not. I am realizing maybe a talk just isn’t the answer.
What are your thoughts?