For the past two days, we've talked about how Christians can help their kids navigate the spiritual and sexual minefield they each face. But what happens when these kids aren't kids any more?
Christian parents tend to think, "My kid is a good kid and wouldn't have premarital sex." Wrong, says Laura Sessions Stepp, author of Unhooked. From what she saw, "nice" girls, when they didn't have strong family and church support, were more apt to fall prey to the "hookup culture" all around us. Many of them couldn't say "no" out of a fear of seeming rude or unkind!
Even with kids who take abstinence pledges, as Hanna Rosin wrote in Slate, "Follow-up surveys show that at best, pledges delayed premarital sex by 18 months." Of course, the longer the delay, the fewer the STDs and unwed pregnancies, but "delaying" is a far cry from the message of God's Word and from what we've been trying to teach. We want them not just to be physically healthy, but spiritually and emotionally as well.
Here's one major factor that the Church has ignored, to our kids' peril: the fact that they'll likely be single much longer than we were. As Jennifer Marshall of the Heritage Foundation points out in her new book, Now and Not Yet: Making Sense of Single Life in the Twenty-First Century, "Our culture in general, and the Christian subculture in particular, fosters in young women a desire for marriage and the presumption that marriage will be a part of life sooner rather than later. But reality regularly departs from the script. Almost six out of ten women today are not married by age twenty-five. Three out of ten are not married by age thirty."
We can no longer simply coach preteens and teenagers on abstinence techniques and think it's enough. Young Christians today will reach adulthood, find themselves single for longer than they expected, and face a sudden dearth of teaching and encouragement from the Church that will help them adjust to what Marshall calls "that unexpected place."
With little understanding or support from Christians, and next to none from the culture, it's no wonder teens and young adults struggle—and often start rationalizing disobedience to God. That's why our support can't be a one-time deal, or something that fades as they grow older. We need a new perspective: instead of teaching our kids, "You'll just need to practice this discipline for a few years," we need to instill in them habits of a long road of obedience, in this and all other aspects of life. We need to provide real guidance and mentoring for our own kids and for singles in the churches around us.
I would recommend sharing copies of Marshall's book, Now and Not Yet, a study of several Christian singles of various ages who are learning about discipline and contentment where God has placed them. And by the way, this discipline of a long road of obedience is a valuable lesson not just for singles, but for all of us.
From BreakPoint®, June 19, 2007, Copyright 2007, Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with the permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or distributed without the express written permission of Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint®" and "Prison Fellowship Ministries®" are registered trademarks of Prison Fellowship Ministries