We have just wrapped up a three week series in the student ministry on what it looks like for us to pursue righteousness in our hyper-sexualized culture. Over the past three weeks we’ve talked about–
- How God is set apart, and how He has set us apart through Christ (Romans 12:1-2)
- Walking as children of the light and letting the Spirit expose the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:1-14)
- Gave space for students to ask questions and dialogue in a safe, Biblically-backed environment with leaders
You could feel the awkwardness and discomfort that some felt, but we have seen so much fruit gleaned from the past three weeks already that it’s been way worth any momentary awkwardness. There is so much value in us helping students have a gospel-shaped understanding of sexuality. We asked our friend Neil McClendon to share some helpful ways to navigate sexuality with your teenager. Here are his thoughts–
There is probably not a more awkward and yet necessary topic to talk to our kids about than sexuality. By that term I am referring to theirs, ours and the cultural take on all of it. My two daughters are bombarded with messages from all media outlets that tell them what they have to do in order to be wanted, desired, popular and get a guy as if getting a guy is what will complete them. Not only that but they are also told if they disagree with someone or, God forbid, tell them that their lifestyle is sin then they are narrow minded, homophobic haters of humanity. Early on I realized that I didn’t have enough patience or time to deal with the steady stream of nonsense that is pumped out on a daily basis so instead my wife and I opted for teaching our girls about sexuality from a biblical perspective.
We began where the Bible begins by helping them understand not only what God did but what it means for us that He did it that way. For instance, when the Bible says “male and female he created them” God is establishing a truth that is not to be violated. Man is created to be with a woman and woman is created to be with a man. Only in a heterosexual relationship can we fulfill the cultural mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” which means that all other sexual relationships are sin. If you balk at or apologize that the Bible is clear on this then you have forfeited your kids’ greatest source of truth. After all, if God is creator and could have made anything he wanted for Adam then why didn’t He make another man? This is why the Bible refers to any relationship besides a heterosexual one as unnatural.
We have to continually return to the Gospel in order to raise children of conviction and consequence.
We have been careful to not simply tell our girls what to believe, but to engage them in thought provoking dialogue that requires them to think, speak and defend their position. So when our seventeen year old came home and announced that her high school was the first in the country to have a transgendered homecoming king/queen, it was an engaging dinner conversation. I simply asked, “So how does the Gospel speak to this, Madison?” Her response was spot on and full of theological truth as well as compassion. However, compassion does not mean compromise. As G.K. Chesterton said, “Tolerance is the virtue of a person without convictions.” We have to continually return to the Gospel in order to raise children of conviction and consequence.
Kids today are so esteemed that early on they begin thinking of themselves as god which explains their sexual choices. Yes, that sounds shocking, but stay with me. Being “Creator” means they are the masters of their own sexuality and, if born a girl and yet they “identify” as a boy, then that is their right. This only affirms outwardly what they have been thinking inwardly–“I am in charge”–and in such a worldview God is not needed.
We should all ask ourselves, “Is God still necessary for my kid?”
We should all ask ourselves, “Is God still necessary for my kid?” Yes, that sounds like an odd question but I continue to see students who “outgrow” God, church and youth group, but they never seem to outgrow baseball, cheerleading, band or (insert your kids’ favorite extra-curricular activity here). For that kid, God was socialization but never transformation. God was used but never really enjoyed. Another question parents should ask ourselves is, “Does my kid still enjoy God?” How do our kids seem to consistently outgrow the only Story big enough to live in? Could it be that they live with adults who have? That is not an accusation, but it is an invitation to think digestively around that question.
Another question parents should ask ourselves is, “Does my kid still enjoy God?”
Second, my wife and I have worked hard to have a satisfying marriage that we continue to enjoy physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our girls have picked up on this and their friends say something about it whenever they are in our home. It sounds something like this, “Your parents really seem to like each other.” While that feels good to hear, it also makes me sad because that girl is telling me something about her parents’ marriage. Just look at our culture and how they are delaying marriage until later. The holy covenant that is designed to reflect God’s covenant with His bride, the Church, is now referred to as “a piece of paper.” Much of this stems from the fact that kids see their parents’ marriage as a sexless, conflict-ridden duty that neither mom nor dad seem to enjoy. Now go back and read that last sentence again because that is how most kids think of their parents’ marriage. This sends kids the message that marriage is a drudgery so I better have my fun now before I settle down. We talk a lot in the church about waiting for marriage, but when students see two joyless people simply tolerating each other apart from the joy of the Gospel they are not drawn to what they see.
When they don’t have understanding, students tend to experiment and this is not an area we want our kids experimenting in. Work hard to shape how your kids think about their sexuality and use the Gospel to do so.
Third, we taught our girls that they were sexual beings with sexual desires and this was a part of God’s design for them as women who were made in His image. That means we had “the talk” with them when they were both around seven or eight and left the door open for any questions they may have in the future. They did and we’ve had great discussions about it. We have also taught our girls that God has given them a context to act on those desires in a way that satisfies them and glorifies God, it’s called marriage. Scripture tells us, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it’s time,” and we have used this principle to frame how our girls think about dating, boyfriends and marriage. Our oldest is a freshman at Baylor and has never had a boyfriend. Now before you assume why, let me tell you that she is a beautiful, godly, spirited leader who guys are intimidated by as well as drawn to. However, because she was taught that a man has to compete for the privilege of your heart, she thinks differently about guys and they think differently about her. When they don’t have understanding, students tend to experiment and this is not an area we want our kids experimenting in. Work hard to shape how your kids think about their sexuality and use the Gospel to do so.
Finally, being intentional with our students when it comes to their sexuality is not easy, but in the end it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness. The necessary conversations are in you. Forgive yourself where you need to and engage your kids because you want to.