This blog post is brought to us by Rev. Shelley Donaldson at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago, IL. We asked her to give us her thoughts as she was preparing to lead a Sexuality and Spirituality program for her youth program.
When starting out in youth ministry, few of us were probably conscious of the fact that at some point, we’d have to talk about sex. I’m not talking about giving them the “birds and the bees” talk, no. I’m talking about helping young people navigate and understand that their sexuality and spirituality are inextricably linked. (You may need to say that last part aloud again just to let it sink in.)
Our bodies are given to us, created by God. We are to care for them. In the first letter to the Corinthians the writer says, “. . . don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you? Don’t you know that you have the Holy Spirit from God, and you don’t belong to yourselves?” (1 Cor. 6:19, CEB) What we do with our bodies and how we use them are important. And that includes what we do with or without our bodies when it comes to sexual intimacy.
Here’s what I have found to be the most difficult part about doing this: I was taught (and I am sure most of you were too) that talking about sex is taboo. That you never talk about God and your sex life in the same sentence. I was taught that abstinence is the only way, end of story, let’s never speak of it. Ever.
But for those of us working in youth ministry, we know it’s much more complicated than that. Sex and sexuality permeate our media and our culture. It’s everywhere and our young people are talking about it. Why not help them navigate the conversation from a faith-based perspective?
That's what my colleagues and I are hoping to do as we prepare to lead a program that intends to help them make connections between their spiritual selves, their sexual selves, and our sexually-charged culture. We'll be using the Our Whole Lives and Sexuality of Our Faith curriculum from the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalists. If you have never heard about it, I highly recommend it. It’s a positive curriculum that focuses on awareness, education, communication, and being confident in the person that God made you to be when it comes to our bodies and what we do with them. It requires a training that can at times make you squeamish, but once you’ve gone through it, you decide how much and what parts of it you focus on with your faith community.
How many times have you watched YouTube or listened to music or read a young adult novel just to keep up with your young people and what they are consuming? So, why are we not doing the same when it comes to sex and sexuality?
Let's challenge ourselves to be vigilant in paying attention to the role of sexuality in the world in which our young people lie and bold in our conversations with our young people as we help them navigate it!