Two articles that changed the way I think and minister to teens about sex and relationships.

love, Relationships, women, youth ministry


A little over a year ago, I took my purity ring off. Not because I was swearing off the idea of ever getting married… I just didn’t want it on anymore.

For one, I’m tired of the awkward conversations.  I was tired of people asking me questions about it, because what was I supposed to say?

“I’m waiting until marriage to have sex.” Great, a post-graduate virgin that no one wants to have sex with.

“I’m giving my heart to Jesus until he brings me a man.” Great, yet another young woman “waiting” for a man.

“I’m waiting for God to finish working on a man that will be perfect for me.” Yeah, because I obviously have no work to be done.

So here, a year later, I still have it off. Why?

Waiting assumes that one’s coming…and God may be calling me to singleness. And I mean, I have to be okay with that. Additionally, I have to minister to teen girls and show them that I’m okay with that, because God may be calling any one of them as well. To constantly preach the message to young girls that they need to “wait?” And to celebrate in that waiting? What? Have you every seen a teenager like to wait for anything?

I used to love the song by Superchick called “Average Girl.” The chorus goes “No more dating, I’m just waiting. Like Sleeping Beauty, my prince will come for me, he’ll come for me. No more dating, I’m just waiting. ‘Cause God is writing my love story, my love story.” I used to love that song as a teenager, because I would think “God is preparing someone for me. My prince is going to come. It’s going to happen.”

I feel like teaching our young ladies to “wait” is setting them up for disaster. Have you talked to a young woman about relationships lately?  She will tell you how ticked she is, because she has been waiting like she was told to do, yet no one is coming.  And don’t dare tell her that she needs to trust God more, or that she needs to clean some sin from her life. Because although in some cases that may be true, that’s not true for every case. Some women aren’t supposed to wait…we need to teach that as a reality and not as an alternative lifestyle.


I stocked up on True Love Waits material ever since I signed that pink card and put it on the bulletin board at church at age of 13. I requested a personalized purity ring for my 16th birthday. I even made my own students at church sign that card as well.

So when I started working with at-risk teens, many of whom are teen mothers, and began learning about the way the church has handled their “promiscuity,” “debauchery,” and “fornication” (crazy how they know these words and can’t even read past the 5th grade) I began changing my view of how we teach about sex.

Dr. Kara Powell said at SYMC conference in March 2013: “We have made sexual purity the litmus test for Christianity.” We have taught this to our teens: Once you have sex, it’s over. You’re done. When a teenager comes to us and says they have had sex, we put them at arm’s length and pray for their sweet lost soul.

We teach that if a teenager has sex, they are like a piece of gum that has been chewed. Once chewed, it will never be the same again. We tell them that they’ve given away a piece of their self away that they can never retrieve. We tell them that if they have any sexual contact outside of marriage, they are cheating on their future spouse, and that spouse may not want them if the hear of that person’s sin.

We need to change how we talk about sex:  Not treating it as the unforgivable sin. Sure we talk about a “second virginity” and being a “born-again virgin.” But that doesn’t do anything for the morale; because although we say they are redeemed, we say in the exact same Sunday School lesson that they are that chewed-up piece of gum.

Especially since many of our young ladies may become victims of sexual abuse. Pushing this message actually tells them that they aren’t worthy of ever being loved. That they will never be able to have a marriage with good, Godly sex because a piece of them was given away, whether they wanted it to or not. So why pursue Godliness? Why wait for this perfect man when they aren’t worthy of him? Might as well continue a life of “fornication.”

I have a close friend who believes she is damaged goods: She made a mistake and had sex. And she can’t stop. She, too, was a fan of True Love Waits and advocated it. She had the purity ring, she read “Lady in Waiting.” But she can’t stop. She started because she had low self-esteem, but now she believes she has no value at all, because she gave what was meant for her husband to other men.  I have other friends who have left the church because they were told they were whores; they weren’t told to their faces, but they were taught through the way we teach about sex.

Andy Mineo raps in “You Will” : “You’re never too far to be made new. They said you damaged goods? That ain’t true.”

Dang. How much do women need to hear this?

You are not damaged goods.

I don’t even know how to begin fixing the damage we’ve done, but I’m trying to do one thing: Love my teenagers (and my single girl friends) and show them that they are still worthy of love, and that it’s never too late to be pure in God’s eyes. That I won’t treat you any differently because you messed up, because you got pregnant at 14, or because you were a victim of sexual abuse. You’re not just some piece of gum. You are God’s crowning work of creation.

Apathy is not the Problem

christianity, church, leadership, unchurched, youth ministry

Teenagers do well if they want to.  This is a “fact;” there have been many resources trying to help parents, leaders, and youth workers get their teenagers to be less apathetic.  I’ve read some of these, and agree that apathy is certainly a problem.  So, we spend week after week at the pulpits trying to inspire teenagers to commit to change.  We pour into their lives with discipleship, trying to get them to see that someone cares about them, and therefore they should care too.  Yet at the end of the day, we leaders can feel extremely empty and dry.  I know personally that I can pour out everything that I have into students and often times it dries me up emotionally, physically, spiritually.  I read articles that tell me how to motivate, but I feel like I’m doing my best job!  I’m sure everyone who reads this relates to this frustration.

So what if apathy isn’t the problem?

It’s certainly a problem; I mean, if it’s not our teenagers’ lack of motivation, what is stopping them from growing in faith?  Instead of simply trying to inspire them, what if we looked at what they’re apathetic about and encourage change in action and not in behavior?  The mentality is no longer “Teens do well if they want to,” but “Teens do well if the’re able to.”

This model was first described in the book The Explosive Child by Dr. Ross Greene.  Watch him explain more about this idea in this video.  I attended a training session on this idea this last month, and wanted to share what I learned with the youth ministry community.

Under the mentality of “Teenagers do well if they’re able to,” it’s no longer about if they want to or not.  Some teenagers want to advance the gospel but still can’t because all they’re being told is “do it” but they don’t know how.  Some teenagers want to quit a particular sin, but don’t have the tools to stop.  They want to, but can’t.  If you give them the tools, they’ll be able to.  And for those teenagers who don’t want to, even Martin Luther King couldn’t inspire that teen; but if you teach them the tools, they might change without even wanting to.  It’s like a teenager who doesn’t want to go to school–the underlying problem is they think they are stupid.  If you educate them, they can succeed anyway, even if they never wanted to. Ha! Tricksy!

This changes our roles as youth leaders drastically:  We are no longer a motivator, but an equipper.  Greene says that with the old model, our job greatly narrows what the teenager can do in their life–making them want  to do something and nothing more.  Under this new model, pastoring is not as much about transferring our desire for the gospel, but our knowledge of the gospel.  Pastoring isn’t about motivating teenagers with the best fluff and feel-good stuff you got, but about giving them the tools.  Sure, apathy is a problem.  Yes, we should definitely try to inspire and motivate our students to share the same passion as us.  Of course, there will be some teens that don’t change; this model is not the answer to all of your youth ministry problems.  If you give them the tools and they still aren’t changing, then you shouldn’t feel dry as you may have before; you’ve done your best job as a youth pastor.

What do you guys think about this model?  How do you think this may impact the way that you do ministry? I’d love to hear your thoughts!