I have taught a series like this way too many times to count now. Every time we do so, we try and give fresh eyes and ears to the subject. We consider our current culture, survey the latest music and media trends, ask our students about the pressures they are facing, and look to the Bible to speak to those issues in relevant and truthful ways.
As the series goes on, I'll try and use this blog to update you on what we're teaching and how it is received, but at the outset, let me say a few things you won't be hearing.
WE DON'T DO PURITY PLEDGES. I've done them before. I participated in "True Love Waits" lots of times and had my students sign cards and sent them to some national gathering where they would pepper the great lawn in DC or lift to the roof of some super dome in a long string or something. But while I suppose they helped say something in mass, on a personal level, they just don't work. No one in the heat of some opportunity to explore the sexual intimacies of the human body stops to ponder the commitment card they signed in youth group. Plenty of rings and necklaces and pendants all with good intentions have been worn during plenty of "activities" they did not propose to support. We will give students a chance to covenant their heart to God- to love God and love others with all their being. We'll encourage them to talk that through with friends, family, and mentors and to be open and honest about it. If they do that, their sexuality will follow accordingly; with or without a signed card.
WE DON'T ANSWER THE "HOW FAR IS TOO FAR?" QUESTION. Some prefer the proximity limit thing and say you should "leave room enough for the Holy Spirit" (which evidently means the Holy Spirit is a fat guy who wants to sit between you). I've told students in the past that if a bathing suit covers it, you shouldn't be touchin' it. I heard someone this week say, "If anything is in anything, then you crossed the line". Come on people, now that one is funny!
Regardless of what arbitrary rule or cute quote we throw at this subject, for the past several years, I have simply refused to answer the question out of principle. It comes up all the time. But despite the fact that rules don't motivate, it's also not a question that is rooted in devotion to God. By default, the question is "how far can I go without making God angry?" A better question is "How can I honor God with my sexuality?" One is about pushing curiosity with God in the rear view mirror. The other is about celebrating sexuality in cooperation with the Creator.
WE DON'T CATEGORIZE SEXUAL SINS OR SINGLE OUT THE ISSUE. We love to do this in our society. My guess is you think rape is worse than funding a porn addiction. I'm an American so I do to. My problem is, I don't think God does. I also know that in our society we talk about our "sex life" as a separate entity of it's own. But I don't think that's Biblical either. I don't have a "sex life", I just have a life of which my sexuality is part of it. We will teach students that sexual desires are an intimate and integral part of their life. We also will challenge students to discern which desires should be fed and which ones should be starved to death. We all have both.
WE DON'T TEACH STUDENTS WHAT TO THINK. We teach them HOW to think. As a goal, I have no desire to get students to adhere to my standards or even to Biblical commands regarding sexuality. I'm really not primarily interested in students knowing what the Bible says about sexual behavior. Truth is the average person on the street, even in a largely Biblically illiterate America could get pretty close to telling us what the Bible says we should or should not do sexually. What I don't think they'd even come close to getting is WHY it says that. I believe that knowing WHY is the critical task of adolescence. If we don't help students answer WHY, then the what becomes merely arbitrary rules that have no value... especially when it comes to sexuality. Ironically, I think a failure to understand and own the WHY of sexuality is WHY we see so much disregard for a Biblical concept of sexuality in the first place.