No! I don't believe the church should be sexually educating children. That job belongs to parents. However, even though most parents believe that they should be talking to their children about sex, they simply do not know how to go about it. Why? In most cases, their parents did not talk to them about it either. So where does this irresponsible cycle of sexual silence stop?
I believe the church has a moral obligation to stop it by training parents to be the primary sex educators of their children. Historically, the church is responsible for imposing much, if not most, of the shame and embarrassment attached to our sexuality that makes it so difficult for us to talk about it. So it is time that we own this regrettable fact, and take the initiative in helping parents teach their children how to be good and responsible stewards of their sexuality.
Except for the reactive prophetic role of warning youth and adults against the evils of sexual sins, the church is doing very little in a proactive way to help parents bring sex education into the home—where it belongs. In generations past, sexual ignorance may have encouraged sexual innocence, but today no thinking pastor or parent believes this.
After all, the age of the onset of puberty is falling and marriage is being delayed five years or more than in previous generations. So, a young person must manage his or her sexuality for 15 to 20 years before marriage provides them with a biblical context in which they can safely and morally celebrate it. I believe the church's reluctance to get involved with the sex education of our youth may be a major reason why so many of them drop out of church between the ages of 12 and 20.
Unfortunately, many parents are too busy and distracted to see just how sexually dangerous our world is for children. Even though they read stories in the paper about the abduction of children or see TV programs about sexual predators, they find it easier to believe that nothing like this will ever happen to their children.
Parents are aware of the moral deterioration in our society, but they want to believe that their children will somehow escape it. Nevertheless, almost weekly there is some TV program informing us about the seductive skills of sexual predators who lie in wait to prey upon our children. The church must awaken parents to deal with these sexual realities of the 21st century and train them to be the primary sex educators of their children.
Society reveals the high costs our children and youth are paying for our negligence in reminding them that sex is sacred and our negligence in providing them with biblical and practical ways of dealing with their sexual urges before marriage. As a church leader, I believe you are as uncomfortable with these facts as I am—but we both know how tragically true they are.
The parents in your church realize that the responsibility for sexually educating their children belongs to them. But most of them don't have the foggiest idea about how they should approach the task. They don't know when they should start, what they should say or how they should say it.
This is why I believe one of the most valuable ministries you can have for the children and youth of your church is to provide their parents with a class where they can be trained by competent committed Christians to be the primary sex educators of their children from a biblical point of view. I wish my parents had found this kind of help in their church and you probably wish your parents had, too.
This can be difficult if you, as a leader or parent, are not comfortable with your own sexuality. However, you can take some satisfaction in giving your children a healthier view of their sexuality than you were given by your parents, and you can let helping your children inspire you to apply the same disciplines you are teaching them.
Having pastored for 26 years, no one knows better than me how touchy it is for the church to deal with the subject of sexuality. You may have to take some heat from people in your church who have their heads in the sand and don't think the church should be involved in sex education.
However, hundreds of those whose pain from poor sexual judgments drove them to my office could have been spared their misery had their churches been more forthright in providing them with this kind of plain-spoken, practical help.
Nevertheless, the stakes are too high for us to sit idly by and complicate the lives of another generation by abdicating this vital role of sexually educating our children to public school teachers, peers and pornographers.
I'm sure these are not the people you want to be the primary sex educators of your church's children. But right now that is what is happening! How can a caring church stand by and watch these secular sources take over the sacred task of sexually educating our children?
After all, God is the One who created us male and female. He chose to make us sexual beings. He ordained marriage between a man and a woman, and He designed sexual orgasm to hold a husband and wife together in a growing bond of pleasure strong enough to keep them together for life. This bond is intended to be durable enough to give birth to children, and enable couples to stand up to the challenge of parenting and launching children into a future of their own. These are not things your children will be taught about sex in public schools.
Although much of the world is attempting to secularize the subject, sex is sacred! Therefore, sex education should not be left up to the public schools. Even though some schools do a better job than others, no public school can legally provide the moral context this sacred subject deserves. However, it sounds hollow for those of us in the church to criticize the job the public schools are doing when most of us are not doing anything to address this need for our children.
I know there are some good self-help books out there, but today's parents need more than self-help books. They need a safe and sacred place where they can share their common concerns about the sexual future of their children, a place that will help them find the answers to questions they know their children are going to ask once they open up the subject with them.
To whom are our children raising these questions now? Some are directing their questions to public school sex-education instructors. Probably most of their questions are directed to their peers in awkward giggling moments when they are alone.
However, many of our children are raising their questions in chat rooms or looking for the answers they seek on pornographic sites on the Internet.
If you believe, as I do, in the sacredness of sexuality, then it must be as upsetting for you as it is for me to see the world trying to secularize it and turn it into another form of adult entertainment. What can we do about it?
We can limit ourselves to reactive measures such as crying out against the evils of pornography and the secularization of sex. Or, we can also become proactive and offer parents an elective in the adult curriculum of our Christian education programs where they can be taught by godly, qualified instructors how to become the primary sex educators of their children from a biblical point of view.
Who will teach this class? From those you know to have a deep commitment to Christ choose a doctor, a nurse, a coach or a physical education teacher—anyone who has the educational background to accurately explain sexual physiology to parents. Know the instructor you select well enough to have confidence in the depth of their spiritual commitment and feel the subject is safe in their hands. Then trust them with it.
If the class is elective those who might find it offensive do not need to attend. However, why should a few people who do not want to attend the class be able to deny others the benefit they are bound to receive from it?
Parents cannot make sexual decisions for their children, but they can be sure that those decisions are not made out of sexual and biblical ignorance. Wise parents will open a dialogue with their children about sex as soon as their children can talk. Through the years, they will accurately and adequately inform their children about this vital part of life and help them see the wisdom of using biblical guidelines for navigating their way through the stormy seas of adolescent sexuality.
Some pastors fear that such an open approach to sex education in the church will meet with intense criticism on the part of a few people. This may be true, but I promise you that once you launch the project most parents of the church will come to your defense and strongly support your initiative. They are desperate. They are aware of the eroticism of our culture, and they know they have neither the information nor the understanding they need to help their children.
As a pastor I know when you do something like this your neck is on the line. It is true that the class may be controversial, but the children of your church are at sexual risk every day in our highly eroticized society. We can take a little heat for them and their parents … can't we?
Richard Dobbins, Ph.D., is a professional psychologist and the founder of Emerge Counseling Center in Akron, Ohio, and Dr. Richard D. Dobbins Inc. He is the author of the new book Teaching Your Children the Truth About Sex (Siloam).
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