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Reason #4 – Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic and judgmental.

May 24th 2013 No comments yet  

Six Reasons Research suggests that despite more conservative attitudes toward sexuality, young Christians today are as sexually active as their non-Christian counterparts. Sexuality is more readily available and publically portrayed at a time when young people are waiting longer and longer to marry. One-sixth of young Christians (17 percent) said they “have made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.”

A youngin’s perspective:

This is what you call unfortunate circumstances for my generation. I feel teens and singles today have far more to deal with in this arena than past believers. Not only is it culturally acceptable to show explicit content in movies and television, on average we often have to remain pure in anticipation of marriage for years longer than our predecessors because of factors like an increased focus on careers, among other things. In 1950, the average age of first marriage was 22.8 for men and 20.3 for women. Move things along to 2012 and the ages shoot up to 28.6 for men and 26.6 for women.[1]

Does an extended waiting period for marriage make life more difficult for modern young singles? It depends on the individual, but given the increased cultural pressure we face on a daily basis, it is torture for those who already struggle with sexual temptation, men especially. Not to say that marriage is an instant fix for sexual sin, as it still exists in the form of lust and adultery after you say, “I do”.

I think Barna hits the nail on the head with this point.

“One of the significant tensions for many young believers is how to live up to the church’s expectations of chastity and sexual purity in this culture, especially as the age of first marriage is now commonly delayed to the late twenties.”

“Expectations” is the key word in that excerpt and it’s a word I hated growing up. When I would get in trouble for something seemingly minor, my go-to line was “I’m so much better behaved than 95 percent of the kids at school!” My parents would shoot back “We have higher expectations for you.”

It often felt impossible to reach their standards, and I suspect kids and young adults who are told holding hands or kissing is a sin feel the same way. Are they headed in the wrong direction? Possibly. But in their mind, MTV isn’t calling them to be on Teen Mom 4 so they’re not doing anything exceedingly terrible. They’re not fully immersed in the world’s standards so dipping their toes in is still acceptable in their mind. Unfortunately for them, the church does not share their views and conflict inevitably follows.

The pressure only intensifies in college and beyond as they leave the relative shelter of the church and are flung into a free-for-all of rampant immorality. For those who don’t give in, their “suffering” can be downright infuriating when they stay on the straight and narrow with seemingly no end in sight, leading to one of this generation’s favorite phrases, “It’s not fair!” And no, it’s really not.

So take an already volatile state morally frustrated young Christians find themselves in, mix in a church that comes across as judgmental, and it’s easy to see how many youngsters just throw up their hands and leave, especially those trying to recover from past mistakes and hear condemnation coming from pulpits and youth pastors. The sheer guilt alone is enough to drive a person out.

So how should both sides approach this rather delicate subject?

For the frustrated youth who feel like their circumstances are unfair: tough, they are (Good gracious, I sound like my parents. That’s terrifying.) Play the hand you’re dealt the best way you know how. We as youngsters cannot fall into the trap of accepting a lower standard than what we are called to. It’s going to be difficult; it will seem hopeless at times. But God will bless you for staying true. If you have already sinned in this area, don’t let it snowball because you think you’re a lost cause.

For churches, it’s easy to fall into a habit of prevention-by-condemnation or scare tactics, but that only adds to frustration and guilt among young people. Churches must realize that young folks who have sinned in this area are more hurt and guilt-ridden than even they realize. That’s one reason I’ve stayed at Stonebriar so long, the prevailing theme of grace throughout the church.  As I’ve said before, don’t take a powdered-sugar approach to sin, but a little understanding in this area goes a long way with your young people. With a healthy helping of tough love mixed in because, hey, we’re young, we need it.

[1] Estimated Median Age at First Marriage, by Sex: 1890 to 2012, U.S. Census Bureau. (http://marriage.about.com/od/statistics/a/medianage.htm)


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