Saturday, August 25, 2007

Talking about sex in church

Last week's reader poll asked what you all thought about sex education in church. I asked: What role should the church take in sex education? The results are really not surprising. Most everyone said that the church should play a major role in sex education. 25% of you said that the church should help parents educate their own children. And the overwhelming majority (65%) said that the church should teach sex education in addition to parental and other sex education programs.

So here are some ideas for how to go about teaching sex education in the church:

Empowering parents for at-home sex education

Parents have stories to tell: Parents are the primary role model in the life of teenagers. It's important that they don't just rely on others to teach their own children. They have learned lessons in life about sex that would be valuable lessons to their own kids.

Have a workshop: It's also important for the church to help parents out here, since some people might need some help knowing how to go about it. Consider having a yearly workshop for parents. In the workshop share accurate and up-to-date information to parents about statistics on teenage sexual activity, as well as what resources are available for them.

Rely on experience: Also consider having some parents who have talked to their own kids about sex share with other parents what it was like, perhaps what questions their kids might ask, and to give support (just to reassure them that they can do it). You can do this in the workshop or in other ways, like hanging a flyer up on a bulletin board in the church that says, "Need help talking to your kids about sex? Call ______________."

Teaching sex education in the church

A community of voices: Kids also need to hear about sex from other caring adults besides their parents. This is about raising kids as a community. Sometimes kids will listen to other people when they won't listen to their parents. And even if they do, it's a good idea to reinforce good values.

Offer an annual sex ed course: Consider having a yearly course for kids in the church reaching a certain age (the age should be pre-determined by the teacher and the parents together). Prior to the course, meet with the parents to discuss the materials their kids will be taught so there's no surprises. (I've even heard of another church here in Tulsa having the parents attend simultaneously, only in a separate room, and being taught the same material--this is a neat idea).

Cover all the bases: Consider having a doctor or nurse, someone who is professionally educated in medicine, discuss the physical/biological aspects of sexuality. A pastor should discuss the spiritual elements of sexuality. And it's always a good idea to present a good example. Have a married couple of good character and a long-lasting relationship to present discussion of what sexuality in marriage is like. It's also important to talk about rape (including date rape). Having a police officer or social worker who can share information about avoiding and dealing with these situations would be good. Make sure teenagers know what to do if it happens to them or someone they know. And sometimes testimonials are a good way to communicate. If your group of parents agree consider this approach: If there's someone you know who has had a damaging experience, and if they're comfortable sharing their story invite them to speak. Remember the key here in not to scare but to educate. Teaching about God's love and grace in these situations is also important.

These are just a few of many possible ways to go about sex education in your congregation. But don't neglect it. Some parents won't ever get around to it if they feel like they're going it alone. School and community based programs tend to overlook the spiritual aspect of sexuality. And a certain kind of sex education happens in the media whether we want it to or not.

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