Three More Questions: Sex Ed and Sunday School

August 16, 2010

Last week, I announced a new writing project I’m working on, and I solicited responses from you to three questions about life, faith, and church.

The responses were phenomenal.  Just what I was looking for.  You did not let me down. 

I even got a couple of emails and Facebook chats from people who were disappointed that the questions didn’t apply to them!  Sorry about that.  But I have about a dozen questions stacked up, and we’ll do this today and probably a couple times more in the coming weeks, so hopefully at least one question will apply to you.  If you missed the first three questions, you can take a look at them here.

Since you did so well, I’ll pose another three questions to you.  Answer one or all of them if you wish, as honestly as you feel comfortable with.

Here we go:

Question 1:  How much sex education did you recieve from school, your parents, or your church?  Where did most of the information come from?  Did your church or parents make an argument for abstinence, besides the risk of pregnancy and STDs, that was compelling enough to at least seriously attempt to keep your virginity?  (You don’t have to answer if you were successful…unless you want to.)
Question 2:  If you went to Sunday school or youth group, what made those leaders qualified for their jobs, if anything?  Were they educated, trained, lay leaders, young, old, youthful personalities, or mature and wise?  Were they more or less qualified to work with children than your schoolteachers?  How much of the Bible did you learn from Sunday school or youth group?
Question 3:  Do you think Christians are defensive or hostile toward opposing points of view?  If so, why do you think this is?

30 responses to Three More Questions: Sex Ed and Sunday School

  1. 1. I went to a public school so received standard public school sex ed classes- birth control, sexually transmitted diseases and other such topics. I used to read teen magazines so probably picked up a bit of knowledge there. All I remember getting from my Christian parents was an old book about relationships/puberty/ect which was from the 60’s or 70’s. May as well have been from a totally different culture because it was addressing such different situations. I remember getting an abstinence message or two at youth group as an older teen, but don’t recall hearing anything at church/youth group as a younger teen.

    No one really taught me that much about romantic relationships or sexuality from a Christian perspective at all. I remember going to a Christian bookstore and buying relationship books when I was 15 because I was so confused about it all but no one had really told me anything. I do believe God saved me from myself as a teen in the area of relationships and sexuality because my lack of knowledge could have had some disastrous consequences.

  2. This will be long, so I apologize in advance.

    1. My mom left out a book about sex where I would find it at some point (probably when I was 10 or so). But it was Christian and it never really explained how sex WORKED. I figured how stuff PROBABLY went, but it didn’t just SAY it, which was pretty frustrating. Later in high school, when I casually mentioned oral sex to my mom because a couple of my friends were doing that, her response was just plain horror, so no real guidance there. I went to a Christian private school through 8th grade and other than the “how to deal with your period” discussion one time, I don’t remember any sex talk (other than “don’t do it”). Went to public HS and had the standard sex ed class in 10th grade, which was sooo late. I learned most of what I knew from a book by Dr. Ruth that I bought, trying to figure it all out. And no, I never heard a very compelling argument against having sex — I was far more scared of pregnancy than of being sinful.

    2. For the most part, I can’t think of anything that made most of my Sunday School/youth group leaders qualified. A few were teachers in their real life, but I’m quite sure there wasn’t any training or anything. That said, my youth group leaders were great. There were 3 of them — a married woman (not her husband, just her), a single man, and a pastor. Sharon was creative and funny and nice. Kevin was also creative and sensitive and cared about us DEEPLY. And Schneids was a National Guard member and lead most of the Bible stuff. They had great chemistry with each other and they worked really hard to make our time memorable and important.

    3. Not all Christians, and maybe “hostile” is too strong a word, but Christians definitely tend to isolate themselves. I recently watched a great documentary (Lord Save Us From Your Followers — available on Netflix streaming for anyone interested) and in it Merchant set up a “Culture War” game and it was incredibly telling. The Christian conservatives did a TERRIBLE job at thinking outside of the box. (You can go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gagAzkY060I&feature=related — the clip starts at about 2:39) I think the biggest reason for the disconnect is that when eternity seems to hang in the balance, you don’t want to have your views changed. Everyone has something invested in their views and wants to feel at least a little bit superior for being right, not just Christians, but Christian ideology has eternal consequences, so we’re less likely to want to challenge that.

  3. I think in 5th grade they told us the functional information of sex, like the penis and vagina, and had a diagram of both. My mom never talked to me about sex at all. Church youth group had the purity theme and waiting until marriage. But one thing that trumped all the cliches I’ve ever heard in the 4 years of youth group was when my youth pastor said, “Guys, marriage isn’t about sex.” For some reason that really stuck with me. Because sex to some guys was the pinnacle of life and when my youth pastor said that it put sex into perspective for me.

    I think what made my Sunday School teachers and youth group leaders more qualified was they saw me grow up and were always teaching and setting an example. So, they knew my personality, they knew what made me tick, how to get me to listen, etc. Plus I think it was a two way street, I saw them interact with their children and wives, so in a sense, they were real human beings to me, as opposed to the teacher in school who I didn’t know anything personal about. So seeing the youth leaders and teachers at church be real people, helped me open up. The more I opened up, the more they could be honest in their teaching. And it just continued in that circle, which was good. Actually I learned a lot of the bible on my own time. This is going to sound weird and unbelievable, but I grew up with a single mom and she had to work 3 jobs, so some nights when she worked, she’d keep me in her car and I had to copy the bible. You do that for 3 years, there’s no way it doesn’t get ingrained in your head. What she did was wrong and social services would have her in a heart beat. But I kind of feel like Joseph in a sense.

    I definitely think Christians are defensive toward opposing worldviews and points of view. I don’t know when it happens in the life of a Christian but we somehow learn that we need to evangelize to everyone, even if they say they’re a Christian. We want people to be just like our denomination or just like the people who go to our church. We just feel the need to correct people. I’m slowly learning that I don’t have all the answers and the least I can do is listen to someone before I whip out Romans road. I think another reason why we oppose different points of view is because of the bible. Like, we sometimes think the bible contains all of God’s sovereignty and mystery, so anything not talked about in the bible must not be true.

    nicodemusatnite.blogspot.com

  4. Question 1: How much sex education did you receive from school? 10th grade we had a class, mostly about birth control. We got a mimeographed diagram that was nothing like what I saw in Playboy.

    Your parents? Nothing

    Your church? One sort of embarrassing class on puberty about 7th grade. When they started to talk about the “M” word, I hid my head trying not to think about it.

    Where did most of the information come from? Not a clue.

    Did your church or parents make an argument for abstinence, besides the risk of pregnancy and STDs, that was compelling enough to at least seriously attempt to keep your virginity? LOL, not even close.

    Question 2: If you went to Sunday school or youth group, what made those leaders qualified for their jobs, if anything?
    Were they educated, trained, lay leaders, young, old, youthful personalities, or mature and wise?
    One was my mother with 6 degrees, 3 from Yale. The others were volunteers from the church.

    Were they more or less qualified to work with children than your schoolteachers? About the same. And we did crafts.

    How much of the Bible did you learn from Sunday school or youth group? A few Bible stories – and that the tide went out in the Red Sea drowning the Egyptians when it came back in. Seemed silly to me then, and still does now.

    Question 3: Do you think Christians are defensive or hostile toward opposing points of view? Some certainly can be.

    If so, why do you think this is? And it’s for different reasons. Some is related to culture, education, denominations, lack of real Bible knowledge, and sheer stupidity. My friends that sincerely seek God, are passionate about His Kingdom, and love others, they don’t cause division.

    That’s not 3 questions. It will be difficult to recommend you as a math teacher. 😉

    • Oh David, they were three “clusters” of questions. Sometimes it’s hard to ask a question with just one question…if that makes sense :)

      • I was thinking about answering them with questions. I thought maybe you were nervous talking about sex.

        You always make sense to me Matt, one reason I read the blog. I could put that in writing for your wife if needed. 😉

  5. “Do you think Christians are defensive or hostile toward opposing points of view? If so, why do you think this is?”

    Yes and no. Yes because they may not be sure why they believe what they believe. They have never had the pleasure of sitting through Christ and the Bible at a Bible college or reading something like Evidence That Demands A Verdict. They don’t want opposing views because they don’t know how to defend their own view.

    No because of the opposite of what I just said.

  6. Question 1: Tragically, I learned about sex while being abused for years by my dad and grandfather. I admit that to show that I had some REALLY messed up ideas about sex. So when it came time to teach my own daughters, I hadn’t a clue.

    I ended up taking each of them out for a girls weekend and making it a ritual. But when it came to actually talking about sex, I fumbled and floundered until each kid was so embarrassed, she begged me not to say anymore. I’d love to hear a discussion on how to properly do this.

    Church told us nothing. In 1975, school separated the sexes during 5th grade and showed each group a gender specific filmstrip about puberty. Fast forward 30 years and my 10 year old is expected to attend a co-ed class with a team from Planned Parenthood that shows kids how to put a condom on a banana and discusses homosexuality, oral sex and HIV. I was the only parent who pulled my kids out, took the class outline and went through all the topics with them privately. They were glad to be pulled. They said their friends were mortified to be forced to sit with the boys in their class and view graphic photos of venereal disease. How much info is too much? How young is too young? The school argues that this is the only sex ed some kids will get. But shouldn’t it be parsed out in stages? Do they really need to know about oral sex at age 10?

    Question 2:Church was too small to have a youth group.

    Question 3: Do you think Christians are defensive or hostile toward opposing points of view? Many are. Could be a misinterpretation of our call to be ready to defend the faith. Maybe they believe that means arguing and shouting down the opposing arguments.

    Always interesting and thought provoking, your posts.

  7. 1) Well, I don’t really remember a “sex talk” from my parents, but I had a little brother born when I was 9 and a little sister born when I was 11 and my mom didn’t really pull punches that I remember about where babies come from. When I was engaged, my mom gave me the book “The Art of Marriage” by Tim and Beverly LaHaye. It was actually _really_ good.

    I was publicly-schooled and remember my first sex-ed class in 5th grade – mostly about puberty. My mom selectively removed me from sex-ed in middle school, I think the year they talked specifically about the sex acts (it wasn’t a big deal to learn about the parts or to carry around a sack of flour for a week). In high school, health class was only one semester and in our class (taught by “coach” so-and-so) consisted of a couple of dittos on the last day of class. Zero discussion. Just name the parts. Girls got the boy parts, boys got girl parts.

    True Love Waits started up when I was in high school and I got myself a ring. Because I like to think of myself as a woman of my word, that ring saved me on numerous occasions throughout the years. Knowing that I could neither wear it afterward nor face up to the questions if it wasn’t there, I managed by the grace of God to wait (at least on intercourse) until I was married at 29.

    When I taught youth during my mid-20s (in the midst of my angst-y single years), I tried to help them understand what had never been taught to me – that it’s not about where “the line” is (what is and isn’t ok) – it’s about honoring God and your future husband/wife. Prov. 31 says that “she will do him good and not evil _all_ the days of her life” – that means even the days _before_ she meets him. And Ephesians says that “husbands should love their wives like Christ loved the church and gave up His life for her.” Christ spent _all_ of His life preparing for the act of giving Himself up for us. Also important, imo, is to teach what their true identity is in Christ – lose the shame and guilt, recognize their true worth and worthiness, and keep the focus on God, not ourselves.

    2) My dad was my youth minister. He’s got a BS in Industrial Engineering and a BS/MS in church music. So no youth training other than OTJ. Other than him, we pretty much “just” had lay-leaders. When I was a youth worker, we’d go to “trainings” occasionally, but nothing systematic or regular. I suppose that some of them are/were teachers in “real life,” so they’ve got training. I learned Bible stories in SS, but also at home.

    3) I think that many Christians are defensive of their faith because they don’t understand why we believe what we believe, why it’s important, and/or how we got to where we are. Having no basis for their beliefs, the typical fall back is personal attacks and or general defensiveness. We’ve raised a generation without “Discipleship Training.” Praise the Lord for “What’s in the Bible?” (Phil Vischer’s latest venture) and other things that are attempting to fill that gap!

  8. Question 1:
    I went to public school. We learned in 5th grade about body changes, 6th grade about pregnancy (which included mechanics thanks to a graphic question asked by one of the boys. Otherwise they tried to avoid how the sperm got from one body to the other…), 7th grade STDs, and 8th grade review. It was a good plan, because at home, all I was told by my dear Momma was “Don’t do it until the wedding night because otherwise he won’t respect you and want to marry you…”. I went to CCD, which as I explained before, is Catholic for Sunday School. Here it was stressed that God wants this gift to be use exclusively in marriage and that to honor Him, we must use our sexuality only as gift to a spouse, and not just for pleasure. Too graphic? Sorry, I’ll move on in a minute. I think that the combined perspectives influenced me to wait until I was married. I’m not sure I would have been consistently compelled by only one of those perspectives as a youth.
    Question 2
    I was in CCD so many years ago, it was still taught by nuns and Catholic School teachers as part of their teaching contract. Now CCD is taught mainly by volunteers who attend ongoing training.
    Question 3
    We are human. Sometimes we are hostile, sometimes too compromising. We don’t fit any one mold as to our personality types, or even our moods.

  9. Question 2:
    Sunday School:Lay People led by a staff person. Often we have older kids start serving with younger kids.(At least 5th grade, kids must be 4 grade years younger) I find that they are often some of the best leaders. That is how I started, I haven’t stopped since. Most of the leaders just have hands on experience.
    Jr/Senior High: Church Staff had mostly undergrad degrees with many pursuing seminary while working. Personally, leaders both old and younger had an impact on me. It just depends on the attitude of the student. Some of the smartest people I know where on my high school staff.

  10. Question 1: How much sex education did you recieve from school, your parents, or your church?
    I don’t recall. I don’t remember ever talking about it.

    Where did most of the information come from?
    Friends… which, in the early years, led to much confusion on my end. We also had a few books that included reproduction and such in the topics they covered.

    Did your church or parents make an argument for abstinence, besides the risk of pregnancy and STDs, that was compelling enough to at least seriously attempt to keep your virginity?
    It was something we weren’t supposed to do. It had a particular place where it should be done, and that place was not outside of marriage. The concept–which applies to a great many things–made sense to me. Pregnancy and STDs were obvious. The real reasons to avoid it were the social/interpersonal (not to mention God’s displeasure) complications and issues that would arise from such a thing.

    Question 2: If you went to Sunday school or youth group, what made those leaders qualified for their jobs, if anything?
    They were available and willing to help.

    Were they educated, trained, lay leaders, young, old, youthful personalities, or mature and wise?
    Aside from the youth pastor–whom I assume had some training–everyone else was a lay leader. I got to help out with kids younger than me, so no real education or training was required [smile].

    Were they more or less qualified to work with children than your schoolteachers?
    …no clue. I was homeschooled and we rocked. My youth group also rocked.

    How much of the Bible did you learn from Sunday school or youth group?
    I learned much more in Awana. But somehow I learned a ton… somewhere.

    Question 3: Do you think Christians are defensive or hostile toward opposing points of view? If so, why do you think this is?
    It depends on the person and the point of view and the way that point of view is presented. But… sure, I’ll bite: Yes, Christians are often defensive and hostile toward opposing views because:
    i. They see the other view as a direct confrontation to their view of holiness and God and thus the idea is evil.
    ii. They have been taught that such-and-such is wrong and their side is right. What little actual information presented to prove this is severely lacking and mostly consists of straw-man arguments and teaching us to laugh at the foolishness of the other side. Coming in contact with solid ideas that don’t appear to be all that stupid is frustrating.
    iii. We like black & white and Absolute Truth. The fact that there’s ambiguity and uncertainty is troubling. …another issue based on our assumptions about God and how He works.

    There’s probably more, but I’m going to stop rambling there.

    ~Luke

  11. Sigh.

    1. My parents told me “boys & girls are different” when i was nine. That was the extent of any sex education they provided. My mother was pregnant with my youngest sister & as we had only girls in the family & i never saw my father unclothed, that was about all i knew. My parents never taught me about boundaries either, or how to say no when someone wanted something from me. Nothing about the right to say no. In fact, they nearly taught me the opposite. In general, i believed that if someone asked me for something, a piece of paper or my sweater or my time or for me to help with a project, i was not suppose to ever say no. Since they never taught me about sex at all, i didn’t know that it would be any different.

    For my sisters my mother gave them a Dr. Dobson book to read.

    I did some babysitting when i was 14 on, so i did see, eventually, what “boy parts” looked like.

    What is bizarre about all this is when i was 17, my parents sat me down & told me my mother had been raped by a family member when she was 13 (because i was taking my sisters to visit some family & they wanted to be sure i knew to stay away from this person). Strange that they would tell me this but never tell me what rape actually entailed.

    School told us about menstruation when i was 10, 5th grade. I was suppose to have gotten a permission slip from my mother (with the offer she could come sit in on the class), but i never gave it to her. I remember one of the girls being really angry because the boys were told about girls, but the girls were given no boy info.

    When i was in 8th grade, sex education was suppose to start as part of P.E. However, one of the girls belonged to a very strict religious family & the parents raised such a fuss that the teachers were told they could not say one word about anything of a sexual content. (Why didn’t the parents simply pull the child out of the class?) I remember the teacher being very, very angry about this. At the beginning of the health class she informed us of the chapter she would be skipping because of the restrictions. She said that if we wanted we could read the chapter, but if we had any questions we were NOT to come to her because she was not allowed to answer them.

    Church didn’t cover much of this, either. Except during a spring retreat when i was about 12 or 13. Our youth pastor separated the girls & the boys. I don’t know what the boys talked about, but we were told about modesty & abstinence (although i don’t think they used that word) & purity. He talked some on temptations & “It is good for a man not to touch a woman,” with the emphasis that a boy won’t say no so it is up to the girl to be responsible for “no.” He was not specific about the mechanics of sex, but he did say, more than once, “Sex is not accidental. Sex happens on purpose.” I was shocked, because there was somewhat the vague idea in my innocent mind that sex might just . . . happen.

    With this background, (& some abuse but non-sexual) i was very angry by the time i was 19 & was promiscuous for a while.

    2. The youth pastor i had between ages 10 & 13 was trained at an unaccredited Bible college. He was much loved by the youth group & everyone was sad when he left. He was quite young, about 23 i think, when he first came. He had a wife & 3 young children. They eventually had 2 or 3 more. When he left no one would tell us why, but it turned out that while not having an affair, he wanted to leave his wife & family & marry a widow in the church. That didn’t happen, but he did leave this church. Qualified? I doubt i could say. The person who followed him was not trained in any way, i think, just a young husband/father in the church who took over for a while. Then, the next youth pastor (unmarried but rather young) was trained some, but i don’t remember the exact training. What is interesting is that he did eventually marry the widow with whom the first youth pastor had been involved (she had 4 kids). She was about 8 years older than he.

    3. Yes. We just watched a news report yesterday of a Christian school in Corona who has fired 4 teachers & 7 other employees for not believing exactly as the school. The school had been in existence for many years, but it had recently been bought by Crossroads church & at mid-year these folks were informed that their contracts would not be renewed unless they were baptized by immersion & their beliefs fell in line with the Crossroads doctrine. Most of the people were Catholic, but a couple of teachers were Lutheran or Episcopal as well. One of the teachers had been at that school for 22 years.

    “The employees had reportedly signed a ‘statement of faith’ which summarized Crossroads’ beliefs and saw nothing with which they disagreed, but authorities at the school believed that these employees ‘weren’t living out’ the statement, in part because they have not received the proper baptism . . . ”

    I have a hard time seeing this as anything but judgmentalism. I think it is sad that we all have to believe exactly the same thing in order to believe that we belong to God. I may not believe exactly as other Christians, or even be very comfortable with their beliefs, but it makes me sad to see this divisiveness, because i just don’t believe that this is what God wants from his Church.

    I don’t know why. Except it has been part of church history for many years. The crusades were intended to force the “infidels” to become Christians or to be killed. The inquisition had similar goals. Many churches seem to do the same thing now, but at a different scale. My husband & i were just “sacrificed” from a church because of differences in belief. Had we been smarter & paid attention to red flags, the problems would have become obvious at a much earlier date.

    I LIKE IT when folks agree with me. But discussions are more dull. I still accept folks even when they disagree with me, unless they are rude about it. Then i tend to ignore them.
    ________________

    Your questions seem to require long answers.

  12. 1. I was a homeschooled kid until 11th grade so I missed the whole sex ed thing. :) Most of my information about sex came from my parents and tv. The church was the informant on abstinence and I went with what the church said, because, well, to be honest, it was the “cool” thing to be abstinent. Anyone who hasn’t gone to youth group won’t understand but that’s what happened.

    2. I’ve had six youth pastors so far and most of them have gone to bible college. My first youth pastor was actually a lawyer and volunteered every sunday to teach us jr highers. I think he made me think more than any other youth pastor I had. One of my more recent teachers was a 22 year old guy who was kicked out of bible college and volunteered as our youth pastor. Surprisingly he was definitely the best youth pastor we had at my old church. He truly loved the kids and taught us to act out our faith. To tell you the truth, I wish all of my youth pastors had taught more about the Bible – the culture underneath it, the context, using the Jesus hermeneutic to read scripture, etc. I think that would have helped me get interested in the bible early on in life.

    3. Unfortunately, as a generalization, Christians are VERY defensive when there are opposing views. I’ve been asking the question why for awhile, and I haven’t come up with any clear answers. I can only guess that its because we believe we have the God-ordained answers and ours is the only way to look at things. The thing we often forget is we’re imperfect humans and so no human can have the perfect answers. Sad isn’t it, that Christians – who should be unified by love and energized by love – have so many denominations divided by our imperfect views of scripture?

  13. 1) I am 51 so I’ve been out of school for a while (as well as youth group). We had limited sex ed in school with the bulk of the info coming from parents. That information was limited as well. I think it was very difficult for people to discuss sex openly with kids. As I got older, it was easier for mom and dad to discuss, maybe because none of us were shy and would bring up the subject. I grew up before the impact of most of today’s STD’s so we weren’t “scared” away from sex.

    2) Most of my Sunday School teachers and youth group leaders were not trained to teach the substance needed to be taught from an early age. Believe it or not, I learned a lot of my Bible from those Bible Story books you could read in the dentist’s office. Mom and Dad bought the whole set and I think I read all 12 at least 4 times.

    3) I do think Christians tend to come off as defensive or hostile because some think they are right and the other opinions don’t matter at all! It may very well be that they are right, but if you cannot listen to an opposing view and articulate your response in a loving manner, you lose. No one who disagrees with you wants to listen to a judgemental reply. They will have a more open heart if you listen to their point of view and give your response kindly. I have a sister with whom I disagree 95% of the time. I still listen and respectfully disagree when her opinion is different than mine. I think Christians could make more headway on pivotal issues by listening and responding kindly rather than by responding in a holier-than-thou attitude

  14. Question 1:
    School: Taught a lot of the medical aspects of sex. (Basic growth and development in middle school. In high school (10th grade was our “sex ed year”) they showed us gross pictures of genitals infected with STDs (students had the option of not viewing the pictures, however.) They did make a big deal (in my opinion) about how high schoolers may not really know what it means to say “I love you” and how such phrases can be easily tossed around in order to get sex. We had a fantastic nurse come in and talk, so our less than intelligent PE teachers didn’t have to talk about stuff they had no business teaching about.

    My parents: My mom gave me a Christian-themed book about the miracle of life and all that when I hit puberty. My mom also once famously asked me (when I was 15 and had never even kissed a boy) if I knew that oral sex was still sex. I found this prospect disgusting and informed her that boys were dirty and immature. She didn’t really ask me about sex etc. as I got older, but she was probably content in my excitement about the purity ring I bought when I was 14 and my fascination with Joshua Harris’ books (LOL Joshua Harris…)

    church: at least twice a semester we had a youth group night about sex, and I thought they did a great job. I really owe most of my dedication to saving myself until marriage to my youth group leaders and our girls Bible study. They did a wonderful job explaining the spiritual, personal, and relational consequences involved in sex or sexual activity outside of marriage. What always inspired me most were the real-life young couples they had come talk to us about their relationships, and even their mistakes and how they recovered from them. Kudos, St. Ann’s Lifteen! There were also always girls/guys sex sessions on all of our retreats and the national conferences we attended, which were usually wonderful as well. The one thing they never touched on was homosexuality. I’m not sure any youth minister knows how to talk to a big group of kids about that. We had several guys of the 200 people I saw go through the program come out as gay in college, and at least one was openly gay all his life.

    Question 2:
    I belonged the the Catholic organization known as Lifeteen. It’s a very well-structured Catholic youth ministry program. There is usually one full-time (paid) youth minister (male or female) and one full or part time (paid) assistant. The CORE team, a group of adults of all ages (at least two or three years out of high school and some as old as their 50s), are volunteers who help lead small groups and connect with kids. It’s truly a wonderful program. There are Lifeteen training conferences every year that ministers, pastors, and CORE can attend to get “certified” in youth ministry if they want. My youth minister was an extremely gifted young woman (early twenties) who was an English major in college. She eventually became certified and now trains other ministers around the world. The CORE team are also lay people, but can attend “CORE University,” a weekend retreat held all over the country (also facilitated by Lifeteen,) to better educate them on theology and ministry. Many churches request that the paid youth ministers be trained formally in theology in some way (there are colleges that give degrees in Catholic youth ministry), but honestly it often just depends on the individual pastors and how great the job candidates are.

    All Lifeteen churches adhere to a basic yearly Lifeteen curriculum to make sure what’s being taught is theologically sound and relevant and to make the youth ministers’ jobs easier. The people who write the curriculum ARE formally trained in ministry and theology.

    We learned a lot of theology and Biblical teaching through Lifeteen. However, Catholics aren’t known for being pumped about memorizing scripture like, say, your average Baptist. We did have Bible studies though. In short, I learned a TON from Lifeteen in high school. I may not be super Catholic anymore, but it truly made a (good) lasting impression.

    Question 3:
    Such a subjective question. I would say yes, often we are. However, I think we are sometimes antagonized in ways that make us hostile. Not that that’s an excuse…but it’s true. I may not often engage in verbal fights with people, but I can be internally hostile towards a group or person. I think we let fear get a grip of us more than we should. Fear=hostility. No fear (rather, love and faith)=no anger and hostility.

  15. Question 1.1: I was home-schooled, and the sex ed. was seriously lacking from our curriculum. Along with the little bits that were in my school books, my mom told me limited information in a very awkward way. She usually ended up comparing it to a similar occurrence in animals. Due to those comparisons, I had some very wacky ideas about sex, and very little actual information. Ironically, I could have told you the parts of an animal’s reproductive tract when I was about eight… I just didn’t realize that people have the same parts. My church/youth group/SS talked a lot about sex, but it was always only making the case for abstinence.

    Question 1.2: That said, I was pretty much on my own for any kind of practical sex ed. When I was young and didn’t have as many resources, I scrounged as much as I could from encyclopedias, when I found that asking my mom anything about sex was pretty useless. As I got older, I had more access to books from the library… and my sister’s textbooks from nursing school, which I snuck out of her room. And, of course, the wonderfully informative Internet 😀

    Question 1.3: Abstinence was/is an unspoken expectation from my parents. It was an oft repeated lesson in SS/church/youth group. It’s the norm, in my church. There are a lot of people who quickly get married to the first person they date, some of them don’t date anyone until their 20s or 30s. (If they aren’t engaged within six months, they usually break up. If someone dates more than one or two people, they’re talked about, and kind of regarded as a slut.)

    Abstinence as a means of preventing STDs/pregnancy was never brought up, since those were always regarded as consequences of sin, and sex outside of marriage is strictly viewed as sin.

    Along with that culture in church, I also listened to conservative radio programs (Focus on the Family, and Life on the Edge… I actually listened on my own accord), which reinforced the church’s views. I’ve since started questioning these views – along with other things I grew up accepting – but I’ve still kept my virginity. (I’m in my early 20s.)

    Question 2.1: My SS teachers were just volunteers from within the church. One summer, my Jr/Sr High class had an intern teaching it; he was a church member who was attending seminary, I think. Most of them had been church members for quite a while, so I guess that qualified them? Their ages/personalities varied quite a bit. For youth group, it was the same, although the pastor was also involved in that. Since I was home-schooled, the qualifications were about the same.

    Question 2.2: I learned a lot of the Bible in SS, and a lot in church. Not as much in youth group… and, actually, quite a bit on my own.

    Question 3: Yes, but I don’t think it’s limited to Christians. There are several reasons… but I think it’s mostly because people who are very committed to core values don’t want someone disrespecting those beliefs. Also, there are so many things about Christianity that require a lot of faith. I don’t need others adding doubt to my own.

    Sorry.. my answers got a little lengthy *blush*

  16. Oh The memories…
    I was not raised in a Christian home , so my reply might not count, but mom cried tears of joy when I got my period.She was all ” You’re a woman now!” She is such a weirdo.

    Then the same woman that would not let me have a Poison cassette or listen to Prince , told me to go get on the pill and get as much as I could before I settled down.What a let down that little nugget of wisdom turned out to be.

    My father never talked to me about sex but would give me money to go out to the bars when I was 18 and told me that if i got too drunk and the room was spinning to throw my leg over the bed and onto the floor. It would ( and does ) stop the room from spinning. Mr Cleaver he is not.

    With this kind of upbringing , it’s amazing to me that I didn’t end up on the pole.

  17. Question 1: My sex education was from a book my parents gave me and school, fifth through eigth grade. I didn’t attend church long enough at any point in time to get any sex education classes. My mom talked to me about abstaining from sex before marriage but didn’t give me any pointers for how to avoid temptation in that area. My dad had the best short term pitch: “Get pregnant out of wedlock and you will not be welcome in our house.” For a very long while, no guy seemed worth that kind of trouble.
    Question 2: Never attended youth group.
    Question 3: I think humans, Christian and otherwise, are hostile and defensive against opposing points of view. This is based on reading the comments section of news articles which quickly devolve into name calling and other insults. I guess the art of debate has been lost. What DO they teach children at school these days?

  18. 1) i remember talking about sex a “little bit” in youth group back in the day but virtually ALL of my sex ed came in health class in school. i doubt they still call it health class but that’s what we referred to it back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. our discussions in youth group centered mostly around the concepts of purity and abstinence but health class actually told me about the actual birds and the bees. i followed the abstinence route as long as possible but i sure didn’t want to. i was a raging hormone for too many years but the chains of guilt and fear kept me from messing around too much. thankfully i didn’t mess up my life too badly … except emotionally and maybe theologically as i fought my pubescent demons. as an adult now i find it very curious that my parents didn’t say boo about the birds and the bees. i’d sure want to do it differently than that.

    2) Sunday school and youth leaders were almost always lay leaders, just caring adults who were part of the church. i value them very much to this day. there was also some occasion where we had a “youth pastor” around but i seldom have seen much difference between a trained pastor and a caring youth leader. i think to this day that if a youth pastor is working with youth as a stepping stone to be the head dude in a church then he’s wasting his time.

    3) few like the idea that their paradigm might be wrong. we are a militant bunch too … which i think is pretty much diametrically opposed to whatever position Jesus would be taking.

  19. 1.Let’s see sex ed consisted of getting the whole body part fill in the blank lesson in 5th grade. I remember my teacher got mad b/c of course we all giggled like the kids were were. Then in 8th grade we had sex ed again and had to watch the video on personal hygiene stuff to. I’ll never forget my science teacher pulling the girls aside to tell us that tampons are EVIL. Then in 10th grade in high school I got to watch the miracle of life.
    I remember my parents helping me study for my body parts test in 5th grade and in later years being told I don’t want to end up like so and so. Needless to say that was a deterrent to a degree……

    2. I don’t remember much regarding youth group except being told to wait to have sex. I think I learned more in public school.

    3. I think Christians are defensive about their faith b/c they haven’t been exposed other beliefs as much as others might have been.

  20. Question 1: How much sex education did you recieve from school, your parents, or your church? Where did most of the information come from? Did your church or parents make an argument for abstinence, besides the risk of pregnancy and STDs, that was compelling enough to at least seriously attempt to keep your virginity? (You don’t have to answer if you were successful…unless you want to.)

    Parents: I received very little sex education from my parents. My dad continually beat into my head that sex was reserved for marriage, that it is special and that my virginity is a gift I can only give once and should save for my future husband. Basically, to have premarital sex it will ruins one’s life. What is interesting to note though, is that he never really defined for me what that is, where is the line drawn and at what point does something become wrong? Basically I grew up thinking that making out and wrestling around, et cetera is pretty much free game, but sex is reserved for marriage– I have no idea where I got that definition.

    Church: Sex was a taboo subject in the Baptist church I grew up in. I was told that I was to dress appropriately but I never thoroughly understood the reasoning behind why certain types of dress are inappropriate except that, “It looks like the world” and “Guys won‘t respect you” (but they sure paid a lot more attention to me, which my juvenile mind made what my parents and church were telling me seem like nonsense.)

    School: My 8th grade science class had a day where we talked about sex and were shown slides of cross-sections diagrams of male and female reproductive systems. There were a lot of questions asked and the teacher was very patient and professional to answer them. The whole situation made me very uncomfortable though.

    Ultimately, I am glad my dad was so staunch that premarital sex would ruin my life, that was enough to compel me to make a commitment with myself that I would not do that. I do wish that someone, maybe my mom or another female mentor, would have sat me down to explain
    1.why it is important to dress appropriately (because men’s minds work differently than ours, and that I could become a stumbling block to someone trying to keep his mind pure)
    2. That a situation of inappropriate physical intimacy starts long before the subject of sex comes up, that while I could probably be affectionate and kissy with someone and it not be sexual, guys minds are going somewhere else by that point.
    3. You can lose a lot of innocence and purity without ever actually having sex, and remaining mentally pure is as important as remaining physically pure. I was never taught this, so while I will be able to someday offer my virginity as a gift to someone, it’ll be on a “well, I‘m still technically a virgin” level.

    Question 2: If you went to Sunday school or youth group, what made those leaders qualified for their jobs, if anything? Were they educated, trained, lay leaders, young, old, youthful personalities, or mature and wise? Were they more or less qualified to work with children than your schoolteachers? How much of the Bible did you learn from Sunday school or youth group?

    Sunday school was always taught by elderly ladies who could read the lifeway quarterly books to us and get us to fill in the blanks and answer the questions. That leaves a lot to be desired.

    Youth group was led for a while by my uncle, and then later by my dad, both of which were in seminary training to be pastors but were not called specifically to youth ministry.

    Question 3: Do you think Christians are defensive or hostile toward opposing points of view? If so, why do you think this is?

    Yes, because they aren’t secure in their point of view and are either not able or secure (or perhaps have not been taught) to support their views with Scripture/reasoning/et cetera. Such a person sees being challenged as threatening. I don’t think this is limited to Christians necessarily, but I do think Christians are guilty of this unnecessarily.

  21. 1.) I attended a small Methodist school, where the only time sex was mentioned was to remind us that it would give us diseases and make our penises rot off.

    My parents pretty much avoided it, with the exception of my dad taking me outside to shoot baskets while talking to me about masturbation. Wasn’t awkward at all…

    2.) As far as sunday school teachers went, I don’t know that they had any training or qualifications. They were pretty much the ones who felt bad turning down the Sunday School coordinator when he was begging for teachers.

    Regarding youth ministers, most of the ones that I was in touch with went through some kind of seconday program for ministry. As a current youth pastor, I know that I went through a 4 yr program in theology/ministry that covered a broad range of biblical and administrative topics.

    Having said that, I’m not sure I would call myself more qualified to teach kids than a teacher. I honestly think that they have put in much more work and preparation into getting qualified to teach in a classroom setting.

    I learned quite a bit in sunday school and youth group- of course I was learning my church’s interpretation of the Bible, which I struggled to view objectively for a while…

    3.) Absolutely yes. I actually just wrote a long blog post about how fear dominates our political and religious conversations. If someone thinks differently, we don’t defend out perspective as much as we attack theirs. If you’re interested you can read it here.
    http://theamericanjesus.wordpress.com/2010/08/18/fear/

  22. I found #3 to be especially interesting…
    I would say many times unintentionally and unfortunately, yes. Most people have a “whatever” attitude towards religion, but it’s not hard to find those that are diametrically opposed to Christianity or religion in general. And it’s when a Christian strikes up a conversation with someone like that where it may turn ugly. And many times, the heated discussion/debate/argument is over a trivial thing. For example, I would argue that Creationism vs. Evolution is a rather trivial issue in the grand scheme of things. If someone won’t accept that God exists, there’s no way you can argue them into believing God created the world. Of course, no one can be argued into believing anyway, but who hasn’t tried?

    I wonder what the percentages are, but I would say a fair amount of Christians grew up in a Christian home or came to faith at a young age. As tends to happen in that environment, it becomes a Christian bubble of sorts through Christian schools, church, small groups, radio, etc. I’m not saying it’s bad, but it can have a side effect of producing ignorance of other faiths and opposing views to Christianity. And say when it’s time for college and stepping out of that bubble, a deep, religious or philosophical question that attacks the very foundation of Christianity might bring a defensive/hostile response simply out of ignorance or fear. That’s not to say there aren’t good Christian universities or programs like Summit Ministries that focus on stuff like this. And I’m also not trying to make a blanket statement, but as I lived in the bubble, I have some first-hand experience.

    Of course, on the other hand, you have those that always respond out of love and demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit and that’s what people are drawn to. But you didn’t ask about that! Well, hopefully that’s coherent enough.

  23. Question 1: How much sex education did you recieve from school, your parents, or your church? Where did most of the information come from? Did your church or parents make an argument for abstinence, besides the risk of pregnancy and STDs, that was compelling enough to at least seriously attempt to keep your virginity? (You don’t have to answer if you were successful…unless you want to.)

    School – very little, class or two of biology learning about reproduction was it. Parents – none. Church – none. I would say most of the information came from mates and the internet. Church or parents didn’t, but my own morals have.

    Question 2: If you went to Sunday school or youth group, what made those leaders qualified for their jobs, if anything? Were they educated, trained, lay leaders, young, old, youthful personalities, or mature and wise? Were they more or less qualified to work with children than your schoolteachers? How much of the Bible did you learn from Sunday school or youth group?

    In sunday school the teachers were all just volunteers from the church, without wanting to sound bad and stereotype too much the majority of them were middle aged females. Very few of them were in any way qualified for the job. In sunday school you learnt the same parts of the Bible you do in every sunday school, noah, jonah, all the wee stories.

    Youth fellowship group for those too old for sunday school are mainly all volunteers although much younger and with more male leaders (I’m one myself now.) Learn much more about the deeper parts of the Bible and discussion rather than just the wee stories. Many of the leaders of this are better trained than the sunday school teachers and being younger often have a better idea relating to the young people than old teachers do.

    Question 3: Do you think Christians are defensive or hostile toward opposing points of view? If so, why do you think this is?

    It really depends on the person and their upbringing and views. Personally I feel I’m more than happy to have a civil debate with those with a different point of view. But I know many christians who are very defensive of their own beliefs and hostile towards other people and belittle them for their own faith or beliefs. However I don’t think this is something which is purely down to christians, it can be seen in all people with a strong belief or faith in something depending on their upbringing and their personality.

  24. 1. School 0% (unless you include ‘playground education’ i.e. the stuff you learn from your friends) We had to get parental permission to be involved in those classes and my folks preferred to do the instruction themselves, that way they knew we were getting the Christian view not the secular view.
    Parents 98%, My Mom is not type type to shy away from the traditional ‘difficult questions’. So we knew all about where babies came from almost as far back as I can remember. Dad tried to have “the chat” with me when I was about 10 or 11, but it was very uncomfortable for him, so I let him off (I knew everything from what Mom anyway :) ), we spent the rest of the talk chatting about peer pressure in general.
    Church 2% But that was all “Don’t have sex, cause we say so” kind of thing.

    I don’t think anyone really made an argument for abstinence, it was just kind of accepted that you save yourself for marriage. So I did.

    2. Did not have a youth group, us older kids (teenagers) just had to sit with our parents. So no real commentary on leaders etc.

    3. In general defensive and hostile. Except for the people who contribute here and at some other blogs I read. I think it comes down to insecurity. Christians believe some strange (by today’s standards) things, but I am not sure why we feel the need to defend our beliefs in negative ways, unless we have difficulty believing them ourselves.

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