February 18, 2008

Let's Talk About...Sex?

Pastor Rob Singleton at Southbrook church is hosting a blogging contest. The challenge is here – and this is my story.

As a former youth pastor, I understand the importance of teaching and mentoring teenagers on the importance of God’s view of sex. This obviously is a hot topic among teenagers. After all, it is such a fascinating and intriguing subject! God created it for us to enjoy, but if misused, it can destroy.

Now, keep in mind, I was working as a youth pastor in Las Vegas, NV. That’s right – “Sin City,” What happens in Vegas…well, you know. How do you talk about sex with teenagers in the city where sex is as common as Coca-Cola? The same way you would with teenagers anywhere else in the world. Just be open and honest.

I did a series on sex based on the study “Good Sex” put our by Youth Specialties. I will never forget one of the exercises we did during one of the first lessons. What is one of the first things kids want to know when it comes to physical intimacy? “How far is too far?” That was one of the most common questions I ever got from the youth. The other was “What is the book of Revelation all about?” This lesson would help us deal with the question “How far is too far?”

Before the youth came in, I posted signs around the room with words or phrases – “Holding Hands,” “Hugging,” “Snuggling on the Couch,” “Kiss on the Cheek,” “French Kiss,” “Touching/Fondling,” “Oral Sex,” “Intercourse.” This seemed so risky at the time, but turned out to be a very eye opening and transparent time of honest discussion. First of all, I don’t think anyone in the room had ever had an adult ask them these kinds of questions – without fear of being condemned for what they thought.

What happened next was truly eye-opening for me. We pastors sometimes tend to forget that the people we are working with don’t look at the world the same way we do (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). We sometimes wrongly assume that if someone is in church or small group that they must have things figured out. This is so far from the truth. I asked the youth to pick the place on the scale that they thought was the ‘line in the sand’ when it comes to sex before marriage. Off they went. I think we had one person standing by “Holding Hands” and one person by “Oral Sex.” The rest fell somewhere in between. The first thing I had to do was to take a breath and relax. Of course my first instinct was to chastise anyone that had gone beyond “Snuggling on the Couch” and beg them to change their mind. But I didn’t. I asked each one to defend his or her position. I learned more about some of those teenagers that night than I did in any other interaction with them. But I didn’t leave it there. Later sessions in that series really brought home what the Bible teaches about sex outside of marriage. I listened to them, they listened to me. Some of them took it to heart; some of them had babies as teenagers. Did I fail? I don’t think so. My responsibility is not to make someone do the right thing. That would be impossible. My job is to persuade people, based on Biblical teaching, to do the right thing. The choice is ultimately theirs.

That lesson had an impact on me, and I know it did on most of those there that night.

The main thing to remember is this - when you are talking to young people about sex – whether it’s your own kids, a small group, a Sunday School class – be honest, be transparent, and be willing to listen without reacting negatively. That seems to be a very hard thing for most of us adults (who think we’ve got it all figured out) to do. Before they will listen to us, we have to listen to them.


Phyllis said...

wow, yikes.. great day in the morning...you did better than I would have! =)

I'm sure though that teens really need someone to be non-judgemental enough to listen without reacting. and they need adults to speak uncompromisingly into their lives on this subject.

I'm so glad your Pastor is challenging parents to do so. =)

Great post.

bigdadgib said...

Great job!

I would much rather have talks like this in sunday school then at high school.

Great post.

Josh Via said...

good stuff, Geoffrey. Youth pastoring was definitely one of the toughest ministries I ever did, but it was definitely one of the most rewarding! Thanks for your example, man. blessings.