Jesus, Don’t Let Me Die Before I’ve Had Sex

This isn’t a post about teen sex statistics (like this one).

But it is a post wondering what we do and don’t communicate to kids about sex.

Because what we say and don’t say, what we do and don’t do, all matters in the way they shape young people’s perceptions of sexuality. Kids are developing their own narratives about sex, with or without (and unfortunately mostly without) help from adults.

I don’t think many would disagree with me that teenagers and emerging adults are confused about sex.

They receive hundreds of mixed messages about sex every day through various media. They don’t know how to reconcile the messages of culture with the messages of the church and the messages of their families. Far too often, the message of the church is reduced to “just don’t do it.” And the message from families is often reduced to “it’s a good thing you’re talking about that at church.”  This is part of the reason Kara co-authored the Good Sex curriculum with Jim Hancock, and why we’ve shared from it a parent meeting guide as well as two talks to parents and students about opening the doors to honest conversations about sex.

Some of my friends shared recently that they’re working on a documentary with the same title as this post. It emerged from the filmmaker’s own experiences as a Christian teenager wrestling with sexuality and faith.  As it turns out, that prayer, “Jesus, don’t let me die before I’ve had sex!” wasn’t just part of this 13-year-old’s lonely sojourn. Later as an adult he started asking others about their experiences, and he began to uncover all kinds of similar stories, along with stories from those whose questions varied but were no less intense.

The documentary hasn’t been made yet; they are currently raising funding to complete the project.  But what I’ve been encouraged by already is the desire to raise the conversation in the church about sexuality by telling the stories of others who are willing to share candidly their own very personal experiences. Most of those stories are rooted in adolescence, and specifically in evangelical youth ministry.

Regardless of what you think about a documentary like this, or these particular filmmakers’ approach, this is an important conversation for youth ministry and for ministry to parents.  The extent to which we are willing to have open, honest discussions about sexuality with young people will profoundly shape their own ability to develop healthy perspectives on sex.

What’s the narrative you are casting to kids about sex?