Love. Everyone from ages past and present have written, discussed, and sung about it – David, King Solomon, Shakespeare, C.S Lewis, Marvin Gaye, Taylor Swift – you name it. We love engagements, marriages, and happy endings because they appeal to our inner desire to love and be loved. And yet, with the possibility of love also comes the possibility of heartbreak and questioning.
It’s easy for our students to feel alone or confused about love because they may have been disappointed by it. Maybe their crush didn’t like them back or their parents are divorced. Maybe the concept of God’s love feels foreign to them because the only “love” they have ever seen resulted in broken hearts, betrayal, and loneliness.
Today’s teens are asking important questions about topics that center around love, like gender and sexuality. However, youth pastors and religious leaders are statistically not the people teens consult about these questions. According to our Global Youth Culture report, U.S. teens most often turn to the internet to be their guiding voice on this topic, followed by their friends or peers. Youth pastors, religious leaders, and the Bible fall to the very bottom of the list.
Scripture and the Church are being drowned out by culture in the conversation around love, gender, and sexuality. Culture – via social media and peers – is loud and pervasive, and it is setting the standard for teens on these important topics. How can we step up as leaders in this space to highlight what God has to say and equip parents to answer these important questions?
The realities of today’s teens’ views on love and sexuality were uncovered in our Global Youth Culture U.S report:
1 in 4 teens have reported feeling sexually attracted to someone of the same gender within the past three months.
1 in 10 teens under the age of 16 reported recent sexual activity, with rates sometimes even higher among self-identified Christians.
33% of Christian teens have been sexually active recently.
50% of teens admit to looking at pornography regularly.
1 in 8 teens hold to a scriptural view of sex and marriage.
81% of teens globally say they sometimes or often talk to their parents about issues that really matter to them.
These statistics are realities facing all our students. Do not be quick to brush it off and say, “No way. Not my students. I know them.” Teens are bombarded everyday with these issues, and we need to learn how to create spaces where they can be honest and real about these struggles while equipping them with the truth of God’s Word.
Embrace the Awkward
Many pastors and church leaders avoid talking about the gritty issues regarding love, gender, and sex because they fear they will say the wrong thing. Some parents will avoid the topic simply because they are embarrassed. However, if teens are already learning about these topics from the internet, their friends, television, and music, it is vital for youth leaders and parents to join in the conversation with humility, grace, and courage. Additionally, as youth leaders, it is important to communicate this reality to parents so they understand that their child needs to have these conversations with them.
Embrace the Truth
Love was not created by man, and even when culture tells us what love is or should be, we must stand on what the Bible says and let this truth inform the way we live. One of the most quoted chapters in the Bible is 1 Corinthians 13 because it reminds us what love is and what it is not:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
In love and out of love, we must communicate the truth of what the Bible says on topics surrounding love. We also must remember that the Bible is nothing but a grand love story: the story of God’s sacrificial love to save sinners like you and me.
In the midst of the confusion, the questions, and the seasons of loneliness that our students face, we must remind them of the satisfying, fulfilling, never-ending love of God that will never leave them heartbroken and confused. God’s love can restore and renew our culture’s ideas on love, but we must embrace the realities, the awkwardness, and the truth in order to see this change occur.
- Check out our 4-week small group series “What is Love?” and help your students unpack their assumptions and beliefs about love.
- Read our Global Youth Culture: U.S. report to understand more about the reality of this generation’s views on love and sexuality. You’ll also find conversation guides about the research findings to help guide discussions with teens.
- Ask your students for their honest thoughts on the topics surrounding love, and listen attentively to them.
- Brainstorm how you can begin dialoguing with students’ parents on these tough topics and how your church can equip them with help and answers.
- The Feed Team would love to connect with you as you seek to make changes in your youth ministry. Reach out to us at [email protected] to find out how we can partner with and support you in your ministry.