1. It is Time: A parent of a teenage girl came to me many years ago in a tizzy about the upcoming sex, dating and relationships talk I was about teach at church. As she was mildly hyperventilating she said ” my 16-year-old daughter isn’t dealing with those things yet!” I responded with my inner eye roll and a small barf in my mouth before I could respond. Looking back on the situation, I believe the mother was saying that she didn’t want her daughter to be dealing with sexuality. The reality is that our young children who see commercials, magazines, look on the internet or ride the school bus are already exposed to sexuality and most likely the type of exposure that you would never choose.
2. How far is too far? Think about the motive behind this question. My translation of this is, “how close to trouble can I stand without really getting in trouble?” When I would ask this question as a teenager, I can assure you that I wasn’t thinking about commitment or the feelings of my girlfriend. I wanted to know what I could get away with. Whatever the temptation, if we stand on the very edge of the cliff, it only takes a small breeze to knock us over.
3. Rob Bell and Sex (not hell)- Regardless of what you think of Rob Bell, his second Nooma video called Flame is very helpful in talking about marriage and sexuality with teenagers. In the video, Bell talks about three types of flames or love found in Scripture. The major point is that the 3 flames of friendship, commitment and erotic love are all needed in marriage. For example, an affair or one night stand is the sexual flame without commitment or friendship. Many Christian marriages are deeply committed, but the fun and the passion has often fallen away. Although it is hard for teenagers to hear, sex is just ONE part of love.
4. The Fireplace Analogy- “When a fire is inside the fireplace, it has the ability to warm the house. When fire gets outside of the fireplace, it can burn the house down.” In surveying all of scripture I see that God was the designer of sex (not Hugh Hefner) and His design was meant for the context of marriage. You might be like me and want to challenge this analogy. I actually mulled over many scenarios of sex outside of marriage from my own experience and non of them warmed the house.
5. The Best Question Ever: Instead of bantering about right and wrong, I think there is a better question. In a piece I wrote called “They are Going To Do It Anyway!”, I close with this paragraph; Just because there were no condoms or kegs in the Bible doesn’t mean that God has left us hanging on these specific issues. We often run off our teenagers by being so black and white on certain issues without asking them to actually think through and own the decision. “The Best Question Ever” is a book by Andy Stanley that centers on one HUGE biblical principle: Wisdom. So the question becomes, “what is wise about having sex as a teenager?” or “is it wise or unwise to have a keg for the senior prom in my basement?” Ephesians 5:15 says be very careful, then, how you live– not as unwise but as wise.
I have actually had a number of students over the years write their answers on a board in my office to “is this wise or unwise” and watching them discover biblical wisdom is one of the perks of my job.
6. Doing the Dirty or the Nasty!- I continue to hear these two terms when students talk about people having sex. As Christians, I feel strongly that we have a duty to reclaim the beauty of sex. If I would let my daughters figure out sexuality on their own, I am certain that they would refer to sex as “doin’ the dirty” as well.
7. Major “No-No’s” of Talking to Teenagers about Sex:
A. If your conversation is a monologue and not a dialogue, you’ve lost ’em.
B. If they say “everyone is doing it” or you say “nobody is doing it”, you both have lied.
C. You are not a sexpert! Sex is something to be explored and learned within marriage, not something to conquer with the mind.
D. Enough with the Scare Tactics! – Herpes and teenage pregnancy are absolute realities of sex outside of God’s original plan, but scaring teenagers about disease and pregnancy cannot be our main approach to talking about sex. I have known several friends who were raised in Christian homes that scared the living daylights out of them in regard to sex. These people have actually had difficulty in having sex the first year of marriage. These friends have been scared for so long about sex that they just couldn’t believe it was good and of God.
Question: What are the consequences of having a “NO, NO, NO…..GO!!!!” approach?
These are just a few conversations that I repeatedly have with teenagers and parents. What would you add?