I've been thinking about this post for a while, but it's hard (even for me) to put it out where you will read it. I think my two-month struggle to write this exemplifies the reticence in our culture to discuss the following issue... but that also means that it's crucial that we do discuss it.
There I said it. Discuss.
Maybe it's not that easy, but that's a place to start. The youth director at the church where I work recently put out a request for parents to talk to her about sex. She was hoping to begin a conversation with parents, so that we (as a church) could create opportunities to discuss sex with our children and youth. The youth director received no responses, no replies, no rants, no raves, nothing.
The thing is, we almost universally acknowledge the bombardment of sexual imagery that we experience and we know that our children experience. However, sexual imagery is not the same as sexual information. Information is not the same as encouragement. Many people seem to think that by talking with our teens about sex, we're advocating that they have sex. Yet we talk with our kids about all kinds of things we don't want them to do: drugs, dangerous driving, procrastination, racist actions, murder.
Youth are curious about sex. For the most part, we don't want our children learning about faith from their (public) school, why would we want them to learn about sex or sexual values there? Have you talked to a 10th grader about what they think they learned in Civics? Why would we think they would, then, have accurate information about sex?
Conversations about morals and values and sexual behavior are just that... conversations. They are not one-time deposits of information. Appropriate sexual behavior is about reciprocal and respectful, committed relationships. If we aren't demonstrating those in a non-sexual way (as parents, teachers and faith families), how do we expect children to reflect that behavior as they grow in other relationships.
The time has come for open, honest and church-based discussions about relationships, sex and maturation. If a teen experiences positive church support in one of the most awkward conversations and stages of life... how much more likely will that make him or her to turn the church in other times of need?
God's grace is good for our souls and for our bodies. Let's have real, honest conversations about those bodies and celebrate what God has made good and how we can be responsible stewards. The first step is opening our mouths in conversation with one another.