Finding a balance when teaching at church about sexuality is difficult. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a youth pastor say to me, “I was going to do a purity series, but the parents got upset.”
As a college minister, we talk about sex all the time.
It’s a good thing the parents barely know me because my response would probably be something extremely smart like, “Oh, what other verses or major themes of the Bible would you like me to exclude? If you could just provide me with a list of acceptable scriptures, I’ll be glad to stay within your parameters.”
In all seriousness, skipping over sex as you read the Scripture is, in my opinion, irresponsible.
So how do we navigate the taboo topic?
1. Don’t skip over passages about marriage or with other sexual tones.
My favorite example of this is the book of Hosea. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a youth worship where they talked about Hosea.
Why? Well, because Hosea compares God’s love towards Israel to a man taking a woman into the woods and seducing her.
Of course, we want to skip over that! What we don’t realize when we skip it is that we are reinforcing the culture’s idea that sex is dirty or secret.
We lose the fact that God honors it and celebrates it and cherishes His people to the same level as that of a husband and a wife.
2. Teach gender alongside sex.
It’s easy to give a quick “save sex for marriage” discussion. What would it look like if we were to say to our teenagers, “When we read Scripture, it is clear that being a man includes taking care of women, working hard and serving others for the Gospel? Meanwhile, being a woman includes accepting leadership from worthy men and nurturing relationships to provide opportunities for the Gospel.”
This really is easy to teach in our church. Provide opportunities for guys to serve and ladies to nurture younger believers. When they learn how to interact with one another in a Biblical manner, they build relationships on a foundation other than physical touch.
3. Talk about sex often.
I’m not talking about unnecessary or crude conversation. Don’t tell dirty jokes. Don’t suggest movies with sexual undertones or borderline nudity (looking at you Power Rangers). What I mean is, don’t have “dating night” once a year, but weave theology of gender and sexuality into your teaching throughout the year. Teach all passages in their entirety.
4. Don’t teach rules.
Teenagers have enough rules. Inevitably, the rules will eventually become oppressive or loose. Theology serves as a guiding thread to help make wise decisions. Understand the theology of gender, identity, and sexuality, and teach that.
5. Teach everything in a redemptive tone.
Somebody’s parents are divorced. Somebody is struggling with homosexuality. Somebody is addicted to porn. Somebody is sending nude snapchats as a way to find their worth. Somebody has been sexually abused and is afraid to tell anyone. Somebody is struggling to find their value after they lost their virginity. God still loves them deeply, and like Hosea, He is pursuing them.
Emily Hamilton is the ministry assistant to the church and missions development director at the Etowah Baptist Association and is an active part of leading college and youth ministries at her church.