If young adults do not hear about sex and sexuality in the church, they will hear about it somewhere. The worst thing that the church can do is to ignore the topic.
As an undergraduate at a men's college, I am constantly bombarded with the culture's view on sex. Guys see how many times a week they can "score" as though sex were a sport and women the ball being tossed around. Once, a drunken classmate of mine, walking toward his room with a girl he had just met at a party, told me, "Don't worry, bud. You'll get there one day." The implication, of course, was that I would one day have the exciting opportunity to "hook up" with a stranger.
Sadly, in spite of my Christian upbringing, no one ever told me what was wrong with the hook up culture. In fact, sex before marriage was encouraged by much of my Christian family and by the unanimous agreement of my Christian friends, who both mentioned preventing unwanted pregnancies, but never voiced the option of abstinence. What is worse, I never heard about the topic of sex in church. It was not until my involvement with a Christian campus ministry that I heard someone speak against premarital sex using biblical teaching.
This being my experience, I urge the Church, particularly parents raising children in the Church, to speak out on this issue and embrace the God's intention for sex. Parents, do not make your child wait until he is a legal adult to hear about it from someone else. Talking about it may be awkward, but it could save your child from making a huge mistake and dealing with a lifetime of baggage for it.
The reasons that I have found for church leaders and families avoiding "the (biblical) sex talk" are two: (1) condemnation for preaching something different from what they practiced, and (2) awkwardness and uncertainty of where to begin.
The first of the two reasons is remedied by the knowledge that "there is…no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). Preacher Damon Thompson joyously recounts, as a wonderful example of Christ's restoration in man, how a former alcoholic friend of his now lives "to help a drunk." It's for freedom that Christ set you free, so do not put yourself on probation. Your experience could be the perspective someone else needs to hear.
The second reason for avoiding the topic is remedied by looking at what scripture has to say about sex. It is most clear that sexual relations are relegated to the covenant of marriage in Genesis 2:24: "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh" (NIV, emphasis added). Another passage notes "since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband" (1 Corinthians 7:2 NIV, emphasis added). Because people are so apt to have sexual relations, even in the improper context, Paul encourages us to have them instead in the proper context—marriage. (See other verses on this topic: 1 Cor 6:18, 1 Thes 4:3–7, Matt 5:27–28, Eph 5:5, Hebrew 13:4, et. al.)
The Church is often branded as legalistic and puritanical with regards to this topic. I have heard it joked about, in sermons that do discuss the biblical context of sex, that the old church motto on the topic went as follows: "Sex is filthy. Save it for your husband." It is this misrepresentation that leads newlyweds acclimated to church culture to feel guilt for having sex in marriage—yes, in marriage—and leads others to spurn marriage as an institution for the morally lax.
Instead of letting the confusion and misrepresentations continue, the Church needs to stand up and embrace godly sexual relations in their appropriate context, teaching its youth that God designed sex for the covenant of marriage. It needs to educate on the harmful psychological effects of passion without commitment and on the correlation of cohabitation before marriage and increased divorce rate. It needs to prevent another generation of young adults from having their moral questions answered on an online forum.
Church, Parents, stand with me. Let us no longer shy away from the (biblical) sex talk.