February Resource Review: Responding to Common Questions about Sex Ed

This is the second part of our blog series focused on comprehensive sexuality education. You can read our introductory post here. Over the course of 2017 we’ll also discuss topics like reproductive justice, health care, and advocacy- so stay tuned!

Thinking of starting a sex ed program in your church or faith community? Are you seeing a need for this information among your congregation, but you aren’t sure how to talk about it with parents, youth leaders, or other decision-makers? The goal of this post is to give you key talking points to support your conversations with parents and other congregants about the role of your community in providing comprehensive sexuality education. We explore four common questions surrounding sexuality education, including some prevalent misconceptions,  and how you can respond to them with understanding and compassion.

Sex Ed Frequently Asked Questions

Question #1: I’m not comfortable with our youth engaging in sexual activity before marriage. Shouldn’t we just teach them about abstinence?

Multiple studies have found that abstinence-only education programs have no bearing on when a young person decides to engage in sexual activity. These programs are not only ineffective; they are often harmful to the health and well-being of young people. By definition abstinence-only education exclusively focuses on the benefits of completely abstaining from any and all sexual activity prior to marriage. No attention is paid to contraception or preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  It’s not surprising that these programs correlate with high rates of teen pregnancy and STIs like chlamydia. Comprehensive sex ed programs include conversations about abstinence. They acknowledge and emphasize that abstinence is the only 100% effective method for preventing pregnancy and STIs, and they also ensure that young people have all the information they need to make healthy decisions if they do decide to become sexually active.

Question #2: If we teach young people about contraception, aren’t we condoning premarital sex?

When young people have all of the information they need to make responsible decisions about their sexuality, including how to avoid pregnancy and STIs, they are more likely to delay sexual activity. One study of forty-eight comprehensive sexuality education programs identified several behavioral changes that resulted from participation in these programs, including:

  • Delayed initiation of sex
  • Reduction in number of sexual partners
  • Increased condom and/or contraceptive use

Question #3: We only have young children at our church. Why do we need to worry about sex education?

As we explored in last month’s post, comprehensive sexuality education is about more than sex. Our sexuality includes our anatomy, identity, and values, among other areas. Maintaining a healthy sexuality is a lifelong process of learning and growing. That’s why the curricula for programs like Our Whole Lives begin with children as young as kindergarten-age and span all the way to adulthood. And in today’s world, even young children face complicated issues like sexualized images in the media, bullying, and inappropriate or harmful use of technology. A good comprehensive sex education program teaches skills for dealing with all of these challenges and more.    

Question #4: Are you sure church is an appropriate place to talk about sex? Shouldn’t young people be getting this information in health class at school?

Faith settings offer a unique opportunity to minister to the physical and mental, as well as spiritual, health of young people. Holding honest and open discussions about sexuality can provide a sacred space for them to discern how their faith will inform their values about their bodies and their relationships. By providing a nonjudgmental space for dialogue, you will establish more trust and better communication with the young people in your community. Our hope is that youth will turn to responsible, caring adults with their questions and concerns rather than rely on their peers or potentially inaccurate information on the  internet.

Not sure how to get started on offering comprehensive sexuality education in your community?

Faith in Women is here to help!

We are pleased to announce that Dr. Claire Kimberly has joined our staff to work specifically on sexuality education in faith communities. Dr. Kimberly teaches human sexuality classes in college settings and studies a variety of sexual health topics. She graduated from Samford University with a degree in communication studies and from the University of Kentucky with a master’s and doctorate in family science. She has a certificate in family life education (CFLE) and in applied statistics. Having grown up in a Methodist church, Dr. Kimberly is excited about the assistance she can give to Faith in Women and the community.

You can reach us by sending us an email through our contact page


January Resource Review: Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Welcome to the Faith in Women Resource Review! This monthly blog series will feature some of our favorite tools and resources, and we’re kicking things off with an introduction to our 2017 work on comprehensive sexuality education.


Why is Faith in Women focusing on comprehensive sexuality education (often referred to simply as “sex ed”)?

Young people in Mississippi are struggling to live full and healthy lives. Our rates of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like chlamydia and gonorrhea are the second highest in the nation. With health outcomes like these, it’s easy to understand why Mississippi parents overwhelmingly support age-appropriate sexuality education being taught in the classroom. In spite of the great need and desire for comprehensive sexuality education, our public schools are not required to offer it, and many students fall through the cracks.

As we work to ensure every young person has access to quality sexuality education, we know that faith leaders have a critical role to play. Religious communities are uniquely positioned to minister to the full range of needs that young people have, including their need for accurate, science-based information about their sexual and reproductive health. Training for comprehensive sexuality education is one of the most frequent requests we receive from faith leaders, and we are making strides to ensure that these trainings are available and accessible to our network.

What do you mean by comprehensive sexuality education?

Sex is about more than biology, and sexual health is about more than preventing disease and ill-timed pregnancy. As people of faith we know that our health is connected with our physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. Our personal well-being is vital to forming healthy relationships with one another.

As opposed to an abstinence-only curriculum, which narrowly focuses on refraining from sex outside of a marriage relationship, a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum includes a broad range of evidence-based information about:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Families and healthy relationships
  • Personal safety and boundary-setting
  • Pregnancy and birth
  • STIs, including HIV
  • Contraceptives and pregnancy options
  • Sexual orientation and identity
  • Media literacy

To learn more about the standards for a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum, please visit the Future of Sex Education website.

How can I get involved with providing comprehensive sexuality education in my community?

Faith in Women is in the early stages of planning a number of trainings in 2017 based on the Foundations Core Skills Training for Sex Ed. If you are interested in speaking with us about planning one of these trainings, please contact us. We will also be sharing additional opportunities for learning more about sexuality education over the next few months, so stay tuned.

To learn more about what you can do to ensure all young people Mississippi have access to comprehensive sexuality education, we recommend that you visit our partner Teen Health Mississippi, which advocates for policies regarding sexual health and provides training and programs for those who want to better serve young people.

When the young people you serve have access to the comprehensive, medically-accurate sexuality education they deserve, they will make healthy and responsible decisions regarding their sexuality, their bodies, and their relationships with one another.