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