Thursday, January 31, 2008

    POLL RESULTS: Sexuality Education with Teens

    We recently asked you to share your opinions on what topics would be appropriate as part of sexuality education in youth ministry. The results of what you thought was most important to teach, and what you might not want to teach at all, are below:

    Relationships/dating 21%
    Body image and culture 19% Homo/Bisexuality 16%
    Abstinence only 15%
    Masturbation 13%
    Abstinence & safe sex 8%
    Male/Female anatomy 5%
    Demonstration of condoms 3% 

    Last weekend, my youth group held a sexuality retreat and all indications from the youth suggest it was a useful and important event. We covered, to greater or lesser degree, every issue above except the condom demonstration (I leave that to the schools to teach!). Most of our retreat actually focused on the same issues that came out on top in our poll: developing healthy relationships that reflect God's love, issues around body image and the way culture shapes our values about self-worth, and the implications of being made in the image of God. We also spent a good deal of time doing activities designed to help the youth become more comfortable with talking about sexuality issues in a church setting.

    Perhaps the most interesting parts of the event came each time we opened the box in which youth had been encouraged to place anonymous questions. We would read some aloud and invite the adults to share their thoughts. I think the youth were, at first, amazed at the frankness and honesty with which we answered some of their questions (many of which were either on anatomical issues or attempts to learn the truth behind commonly held misconceptions). As adult leaders, we realized that honesty and directness were paramount to developing trust with our group on this issue. It is our hope that we have only begun a discussion that will continue and that the youth will begin to see that there is indeed a connection between their identity as persons of faith and the gift of their sexuality.

    For those interested, one of the primary sources we utilized for the event was the excellent curriculum Our Whole Lives, published jointly by the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Univeralists (and also recommended by our fellow blogger Marie.) If anyone is interested in seeing the outline of our retreat activities, I'd be happy to share it with you.
    -- Brian


    Mary said...

    Brian, We were just trained in the Our Whole Lives curriculum and are facing our toughest challenge: figuring out how to get our kids to commit the time! Could you send me an outline of your retreat schedule? We were thinking of this as an option but couldn't imagine how to squeeze it all in! Thanks, Mary in Big Rapids, MI

    Mtannie said...

    Brian,I'm the UCC person who advocates for Our Whole Lives in the national setting. Thanks for lifting up Our Whole Lives. Am interested, too, in the retreat setting, how did you fit the parent orientation in? Mary, getting families to committ to 27 lessons is a chore. We opened with a day-long retreat with 3 lessons. Because we are doing the adaptation, it will last 12 weeks; however, I can already see that 12 lessons is not enough.

    Brian said...

    Mary, I'd be happy to send you the outline. Just let me know how to contact you. You can reach me at brianskirk at

    Mtannie - thanks for stopping by. We held the parent orientation week's before the event in order to get their input. The retreat was the beginning of the process. We held several Sunday evening sessions after that retreat to continue the conversation. This way it was not a topic we talked about and then moved on but rather became a regular issue that we helped the youth navigate. It's not that we discussed it every week, but came back to it occasionally, which helped to keep the students interested.

    Cindy said...

    I would love to see your outline for your retreat. My email is: