Youth, Sex, and the Church

Posted: May 03, 2022

20 years ago, when my son was 8 years old, I had the sex talk with him. I told him he would be exposed to pornography, and when that happened to make sure he told me. I explained to him how isolation feeds and breeds lust, and how it’s critical that he not keep it a secret. I also told him there would be no shame if he shared what he was exposed to with me.

Two weeks later, at a sleepover at another house with a bunch of boys, they watched sexually explicit content on the TV. To his credit, my son came home and told me.

My son and those boys attended a Christian school.

All four of my kids attended a Christian school in Colorado. Over the years, they told me stories of how their classmates were viewing porn; some even watched it in class.

A while back, after I spoke at a conference, a woman approached me. Her 13 year old daughter was asking her questions about sex, she had told her daughter she didn’t want to answer them, and wanted to know my opinion. I told her she was making a big mistake because if she didn’t educate her daughter on sex the right way her daughter’s peers would educate them the wrong way.

The reality is that she was already too late. Kids are getting smartphones as early as age 6. On average, the adult men who come to us for help got their first exposure to porn at the age of 8. If your child is 9 years old and you haven’t given them the sex talk, it may already be too late.

In 2015, a scandal at a high school in Canon City, Colorado, blew up when it was discovered that hundreds of kids from the local junior high and high school had been sexting; sending pictures of themselves in the nude to their classmates. A criminal investigation ensued; technically the students could have faced felony child pornography charges. I couldn’t help wondering if these kids’ parents were talking openly about sex and pornography to their kids.

We hear Christian media slogans such as “Safe for the Whole Family,” and “positive and encouraging.” While these are marketing and branding taglines, they reflect the culture that Christian media is selling into.

We don’t want to hear that our seven or eight year old child will be exposed to porn, that our teens could be addicted to it, or that we’ll have to have the sex talk at an early age. Our home are safe zones, right?

A University of New Hampshire study found that 79% of children had their first exposure to porn at home. That same study found that one in four youth had an unwanted exposure to porn in the past year.

* 94% of kids will have seen pornography by the age of 14.
* 70% of Christian youth pastors have had at least one teen come to them for help in dealing with pornography in the past 12 months. One youth minister stated that 90% of the kids who come to him for help… all who are from Christian families… are addicted to porn
* Many teens are sexting—either on the receiving or sending end of sexually explicit images. 62% of teens and young adults have received a sexually explicit image and 41% have sent one (usually from or to their boyfriend, girlfriend, or friend).
*64% of youth pastors confessed to struggling with porn, either currently or in the past.

When you add the surveys showing that 80% of Christian youth are leaving the church by their early twenties, it’s not hard to see why, just from the sexual issues alone. Add the numbers showing that two-thirds of Christian men, including large swaths of pastors, are viewing porn, and we have a moral crisis.

Most modern churches don’t see it that way. If they did there would be an ongoing, full-scale sense of urgency from our pulpits to openly address sexual topics, equip the flocks, and challenge parents to talk to their kids about porn and sex.

Since moving to Arizona in 2020, we’ve continued to visit a growing list of churches in an effort one we could park at. One pastor at one church mentioned porn several times in passing. That was it. It’s no wonder the church has lost its influence on society at such an alarming rate. We don’t do urgent in most of our churches, let alone equip our people on how to be overcomers.

If this doesn’t freak us out, break our hearts, and spark effective action, we’ve lost our way. We’d be better off closing the church doors for a month and getting on our knees to get our hearts aligned to God and His purposes then continuing to watch our young lambs (and adults) get slaughtered. The idea that any of my four kids would fall away from God sparks me to pray for them every day and do what I can to equip them for the battles they’re facing.

We’ve had church out of my home four times this year, the last time was two weeks ago. During our last home church meeting I talked to them about spiritual warfare and fear. Several days before, my 17-year-old had told me “she was over” the last church we’d tried. She wasn’t taking anything away from the messages that would help her in daily life. Even my wife said it seems like churches are ”trying to make people comfortable so they’ll come and stay.”

My friends, we’ve got to face the desperate mess we’re in, hit our knees in fervent prayer, light up the prayer meetings at church, and equip our people, from youth to adults, in sexual issues, spiritual warfare, suicide, and all the battles our people are facing today – and losing. If your church won’t get it done, find another, start a home church, or do a combination of the above. We may be the most Biblically knowledgeable and ill-equipped generation ever. We must discern between knowing the Bible and helping people live it out. Jesus came to set captives free and seek and save the lost, all which come under the imperative to make disciples.

It’s impossible to make disciples if we won’t equip them for the battles they’re facing.