“True love waits for what, dad?”
That was the question my son, who was a third grader at the time, asked after a True Love Waits event.
When my husband, Glen, was the National True Love Waits consultant for Lifeway he often led rallies and conferences as a part of his job. We traveled with him whenever possible.
It should have been no surprise, but my son’s question still caught us off guard.
Christian parents want to help their children to understand sexuality within the parameters of a Christian marriage and to teach their children about abstinence prior to marriage as the best choice.
The difficulty comes in deciding upon the best time to bring up the subject. At what age are children ready and able to understand the concept of sexual purity? How do we best equip parents and the ministers to students to effectively teach the biblical concept of abstinence to our teenagers?
I asked Richard Ross, one of the cofounders of the True Love Waits movement, for any insights that he could offer to better equip Louisiana Baptists to prepare our children and teenagers for success in pursuing a life of that honors God in the area of sexuality.
Ross said, “One shift since the earliest days of the [True Love Waits] campaign is a stronger emphasis on lifetime purity. We say less about ‘wait until your wedding night and more about purity in every season of life.”
In our current culture, children and teenagers are bombarded with ever increasing temptations in the form of internet websites, social media outlets, and easier access to sexually explicit materials of all kinds.
Ross says, “With sex robots, sex through VR headsets, transitioning genders in PE showers, and honor students in jail because of lewd selfies—I cannot really fathom youth leaders who would not plan a Jesus-focused, grace drenched, biblically sound focus on moral purity once a year.”
In the past the church has been reluctant to talk about sexual purity and the implications related to our teenagers, but culture has not left us the option of ignoring the issue and hoping it will go away.
Ross also stated that, “Most churches now have one or more teenagers confused about their gender or about their affections. Church leaders are scrambling to know how that impacts the True Love Waits message.
Without question, most of those confused teenagers will need biblical counseling for some time.
But even during that process, the message to them is the same as to other teenagers: For the glory of the King, do not lust in your mind.
Regardless of the gender you are tempted to think about, the command is the same – keep your mind pure. Similarly, for the glory of the King, do not do anything with anyone’s body sexually outside a biblical marriage. Anyone.”
This is a difficult but much needed message for the church to communicate to teenagers.
What are some of the ways we can help prepare our kids for a lifetime of purity?
First, do not assume that children are too young. Questions can occur at different ages for different children and is a part of the normal process of growing up. Being ready is a factor of development, not necessarily a factor of a child’s chronological age.
Do not overwhelm them with more information than they can easily handle, but if they are asking questions or making comments related to sexual intimacy their questions need to be answered honestly in an age appropriate fashion.
Next, do not be afraid to bring up the subject and do not be shocked by their questions.
If our children or teenagers feel they are wrong or should be ashamed for asking these questions, they may stop asking us and turn to other sources outside the church for answers.
We want to be the source of information for our children, the one to give them the biblical perspective on physical intimacy.
Our goal is to equip our children to become healthy, well-adjusted adults who are pursuing purity in Christ in all areas of life and who view human sexuality as something God created for the context of Christian marriage.
Above all, pray for specific guidance with your children. Children develop at different rates.
Though seeking godly counsel can be helpful, you must seek God’s counsel on how to handle the questions your children have.
We can teach our children about a lifetime of purity. We can teach them that true love is worth the wait.
Along with Jimmy Hester, Richard Ross often is referred to as a co-cofounder of TLW. But according to Ross, both men believe TLW is “God’s idea and they only serve as messengers.”
Richard Ross is professor of student ministry at Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth.
Tylitha Whatley is a professor of Christian Education with Louisiana College. Her column is part of a series of commentaries provided by Louisiana College relating to the Southern Baptist Convention’s calendar of Special Emphasis Sundays. February is True Love Waits emphasis month.