Purpling: when girls (pink) and boys (blue) are together, we call that purpling.

Most likely you’ve heard this term at camp or on some overnight when leaders are trying to keep their curious and flirtatious students from sneaking into each other’s cabins. Depending on the flavor of your church, keeping the girls with the girls and the boys with the boys could be a top priority. I’ve heard many of my students talk about “dark blue” and “hot pink” as additional labels that we leaders must look out for, but that is another post!
I’m not promoting that youth workers throw gas on the fire when it comes to teenage hormones, but has the No Purpling carried over into all aspects of our ministries?
Many small groups, bible studies, sports teams and classrooms have made little room for healthy dialogue and interaction between the genders.  Where is there space for the 17-year-old boy to learn from other godly women? What is a 15-year-old girl missing when most of her spiritual dialogue comes from only women?
In my experience, I have talked to countless church-going teenagers who have been sexually active with their boyfriend or girlfriend, yet they would not consider having conversation of any depth to be of value. Do our educational models hinder or help healthy dialogue between the genders?

Research: While I have not seen any research based on single-sexed Christian education, there are plenty of studies and commentaries in public education. In an NBC Nightly News, Professor Kathy Piechura-Couture of Stetson University , reported that over the four years of the pilot study, 55% of boys in the coed classrooms scored proficient on the FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test), compared with 85% of boys in the all-boys classes. Same class size. Same curriculum. Same demographics.

Does this research translate to spiritual formation or are we talking apples and oranges?

I believe absorbing information for a test and learning to dialogue in healthy community with the opposite gender are two different animals. Do you?

A thought or three.
1. Coed Discussions on Sexuality: When we teach or have programs on sexuality and relationships, don’t just send the boys to one room and the girls to another. I have really enjoyed seeing the guys and girls respond to each other when I have read anonymous questions they have written concerning sexuality. I have a hunch that most girls don’t discuss sex with their dads, so I see value in the church offering this type of dialogue.
2. Ladies AND Gents: For the churches who don’t allow women in leadership, how can our young men learn from other Christian women? What does that look like? Do you see it as necessary? In our programs and at camps, I see great value in making sure that both women and men are in front of the students. Currently we have our small groups segregated by gender and as I write this post I am convinced that we could use more coed environments for discipleship. I don’t believe mission trips and camps are enough exposure to growing spiritually with both genders, although they are a good start.
3. Single Parents: I continue to meet more and more students who come from single parent homes. How many times have you heard the single mom plead for other adults to take a spiritual interest in her child? The church is wired and set up to play this important role in the lives of kids who don’t have a mom or dad present in their lives and we offer a richer expression of the gospel when both genders participate.

I’ll continue to hunt down those boys at camp who are slipping over to the girls cabins and I will now begin to invite them to sit at the girls tables more and more in our youth ministry.