Bells have started ringing once again in the hallways of America’s schools. By now kids have worn out their new back-to-school clothes and the sniffles are starting to invade the hallways of our homes. And with the start of the school year we are starting to get back into the swing of things here at Project Six19. Something we will talk about a lot this year is how to engage in the conversations on sexual integrity as both parents and as youth workers. Here are five things to consider as you engage this subject with your son, daughter, or student.
First, it’s not about saying NO. Often we think that when we talk about abstinence, sexual purity, or as we say it, sexual integrity, we are training our youth to speak in the negative. However, I think we miss something important when all we do is teach our youth to say, ‘no’.
This generation desires to know what they stand for, not against. If we don’t do a good job pointing out all the reasons for waiting, then someone else (our culture for instance) will point all the reasons not to wait. This is not only important semantically but also logically. Often times the church culture we surround ourselves in can be more about sin management. However, as a Christian, choosing to wait should not be a primary decision, but secondary one as a Christian. It should come out of our desire to say YES to following Christ which means saying YES to scripture which leads to a particular way of living.
Second, be clear with your values. Sometimes we think we’ve clearly spoken what we believe only to find we haven’t. Or, and this is common, we just expect our kids to know what we believe. Well, yes, that last statement could be true if we learned through some sort of osmosis or vulcan mind mold. But as of this writing I am not aware of anything like that. So words and living our life in a way that reflects these values is our best way of communicating these truths.
Live out LOVE. This is a phrase we’ve been kicking around the office this summer. Sometimes our expectations go un-communicated. However, if I’ve never spoken my expectations then how can I ask for those things to happen? Often our biggest disappointments come from unmet expectations. Therefore, be sure to share yours with your son, daughter, or student. Then make sure your life also reflects the expectations that you are holding others to.
Third, we are not the sum of our past choices. This is important for both parents and teens to understand. Parents need to be careful not to lay down the law based on their own hurt or pain. Understanding past mistakes, knowing you are forgiven, and clearly being able to articulate why you believe your choice was a mistake is one thing. Teaching or sharing a value that you believe only because of your own pain, hurt, or shame is another. When we discuss a subject as sensitive and as important as when and where we choose to have sex, we need to be aware of how it is shared. Most times our past experiences influence this discussion.
I also share this because we might have students that have already made a different decision. Or even worse, that decision was stolen from them. We need to make sure that when we are sharing our values we also let our sons, daughters, and students know there is nothing they can do to separate them from the grace and forgiveness found through Jesus Christ.
Fourth, we are also not the sum of our future choices. Shame is one thing but pride is another. Shame communicates that I am a mistake. Pride communicates that I am without mistakes. Both are detrimental to our emotional and spiritual health. Even though our students might be making a choice to wait does not make them better or even more ‘pure’ than the next person. They are simply making a choice that is best for their sexual health. And yes, they are honoring God with their bodies which is an incredible testimony to the culture we live in. But let’s be sure we recognize this does not make us better than anyone else.
Finally, where we find our identity is where we will find our choices. In his letter to the Philippians Paul writes, ‘Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.’ (Philippians 1:27) When our identity is cemented in something or someone our choice will pour out from that one source and others will notice. When we are speaking to our sons, daughters, and students, Jesus Christ should to be the one place, one choice, one relationship we need to be pointing. Identity can be found in so many things in our culture but none are as powerful as the transforming power of Christ.