Sex, the Church, and Miss California: Mixed Messages from the Church?

meatcutsI just read a fascinating article about Christians and sex from the Associated Press (of all places!) —

The agonizing message to a young Christian couple in love: Sex can wait, but so can marriage.

‘It’s unreasonable to say, ‘Don’t do anything … and wait until you have degrees and you’re in your 30s to get married,’ ‘ said Margie Zumbrun, who did wait for sex, and married Stephen fresh out of Purdue University. ‘I think that’s just inviting people to have sex and feel like they’re bad people for doing it.’

Against that backdrop, a number of evangelicals are promoting marrying earlier, nudging young adults toward the altar even as many of their peers and parents are holding them back.

Couples like the Zumbruns are caught between two powerful forces — evangelical Christianity’s abstinence culture, with its chastity balls and virginity pledges, and societal forces pushing average marriage ages deeper into the 20s.

God tells couples to remain celibate until marriage. Parents say you can’t marry until they’re out of school and have jobs. Society says that early marriages are more likely to fail — delay marriage until you’ve found yourself and Mr./Miss Right — for sure. And Mother Nature says, “If you wait too long to have children, you’re going to have fertility problems — and may never conceive children.” What’s a couple in love to do?

I have this crazy idea. I think the problem is entirely resolved once we realize that our children are growing up far too slowly. Where is it written that children should get to play and be leeches on society until they’re 22 or older? Why do we expect a 17-year old to have the emotional maturity of a 13-year old of 50 years ago? Why do we so insist on extending the adolescence of our children? And what price are we paying for this?

According to USA Today,

Recent findings published by the American Sociological Association and based on U.S. Census data show a sharp decline in the percentage of young adults who have finished school, left home, gotten married, had a child and reached financial independence, considered typical standards of adulthood. In 2000, 46% of women and 31% of men had reached those markers by age 30, vs. 77% of women and 65% of men at the same age in 1960. …

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a developmental psychologist who has studied this age group since 1992, explores the mind-set of young people in a new book, Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road From the Late Teens Through the Twenties.

“They’re not as mature because they’re not required to be,” he says. “It’s really the society and culture as a whole.”

By blindly yielding to this crazy culture, we are creating all sorts of problems. Fertility problems for the couples, difficulties in staying chaste, the creation of a hooking up culture on campuses, and young people who struggle to find a place in church. In fact, if you study the singles ministries of many of the larger churches, you’ll find they look a lot like teen ministries.

I don’t have a complete solution, but here are some conversation starters —

* Your kid needs to have a job, at least during college. The last thing you need to do is send your kid off to Europe during the summer (unless it’s to do mission work). He’ll learn far more and grow up much faster working at the local hamburger stand. I’d make an exception for honest-to-God mission work, because it’s good for the Kingdom and good for your daughter — and real work.

* Don’t let your kid pile up a load of college debt. Go to the in-state college or junior college (with a good campus ministry) even if she gets admitted to Princeton. Studies show that the SAT score is a far better predictor of future success than the name brand of the degree. My church’s preschool has had teachers apply with degrees from Vanderbilt in early childhood education — for an $8 an hour job! Try to pay back $200,000 in debt on that! (Yes, colleges take unfair advantage of us and our children, selling degrees for prices that can never be recouped on the job market.)

* No unmarketable degrees! Don’t let your kid spend your money to major in something that won’t produce a marketable skill.

* Four years to graduate college is plenty. Your child can pick up AP or IB credit in high school to make it easier (or faster). Except for a handful of degree programs, 4 years is fine. If the college doesn’t offer the right courses at the right time, transfer.

The goal here isn’t to suck all the fun out of life for your students. I finished college in 3 years with no AP credits, just by going to summer school and taking heavy loads. And I had loads of fun in college. (And I worked during the breaks at Woolco and as a church janitor.) It was college, not summer camp.

The goal is to produce grown ups: mature Christians who can anchor the congregations of the future. And they can’t give generously to church or to missions or to benevolence if they have huge debts they can’t pay back. (And the debt will make them miserable.) And they can’t be the leaders the church needs if they think like teenagers.

But there’s more to growing up than learning to work and going to college. If you send your kinds to a private high school, evaluate the “Christian” schools in terms of mission, not SAT scores and athletic scholarships. The goal of a Christian school has to be to prepare students for mission — otherwise, it’s a just a secular school with devos.

Our church’s teen programs should teach more substantial material, including apologetics (Christian evidences), a basic understanding of narrative hermeneutics, that is, the story of the Bible — leading to an understanding of mission. In other words, by the time our children leave high school, they should have a strong faith, a solid understanding of God’s work in the world, and the mission he’s given us.

And this is not just to prepare them for college and adulthood — it’s to prepare them for high school. High school is filled with countless temptations and agendas contrary to God’s agenda. Feel-good, self-improvement lessons are fine, but lessons separated from the overall narrative of scripture are just another set of lessons taught by adults to kids who are taught lessons every day from lots of sources — and which rarely change their lives.

The way to help our children separate true truth from what they hear at school is to explain the big picture — so they can see history as God’s pursuit of his children to rescue us and include us in his mission to rescue others. Do not underestimate the power of story.

You see, we should be training our children to be ministers and missionaries — whether they work in the secular job market or go into overseas missions or work for a church. They should know from the time they are in diapers that God is pursuing them to enter his mission to a lost and suffering world. They can do this as vocational ministry or through fulltime ministry — but it’s about the mission. It’s not merely learning certain moral precepts to honor on penalty of hellfire. It’s a way of seeing the world and our place in it.

And this kind of teaching and thinking will, I think, help solve the problem of extended adolescence — and do wonders for the Kingdom.

<a href=”/files/2009/07/meatcuts.jpg”><img class=”alignleft size-full wp-image-5800″ title=”meatcuts” src=”/files/2009/07/meatcuts.jpg” alt=”meatcuts” width=”96″ height=”108″ /></a>

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in Sex, the Church & Miss California, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Sex, the Church, and Miss California: Mixed Messages from the Church?

  1. mark says:

    You are so on target with this…..This truly is the underlying issues of why are churches are losing in the cultural wars over our families and communities. Dysfunctional families and churches should be abnormal not a growing trend.

    Is it possible to renew a "national standard" of conduct and reasonable lifestyle within the church? Can we say a bartender or casino worker might be a outside the boundaries of Christian lifestyle.

    Even more what about dating ,marriage, and career and church ,why is there such a disconnect from life choices and Christian morality?

    Lots to think about


  2. Joe Hegyi III says:

    You're right on target, Jay. And each generation keeps pushing the maturity back a few years further. I never thought I'd live to see a time when men and women in their mid-20s were still living at home. By choice. And the parents are okay with it.

  3. Donald says:

    So true. Kids are bombarded with sexuality at a much earlier age, yet maturing socially/behaviorally much slower. Socially and behaviorally they're not adept to making a life long commitment, but sexually they're all ready to go for it. Poses a huge problem.

  4. Do you think affluence has anything to do with this problem? Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the wealthy and know several that have been monetarily blessed and produced great God honoring children. My point is, in my own experiences I have been a member of a church that was primarily made up of middle-middle class and lower socioeconomic families and the children were more mission oriented and sound in their faith. The church I currently attend is on the other end of the economic scale and it appears to me that the youth are more fun centered and Christ’s mission is for a different time in life (when they “grow up”). I know this is a great generalization on a limited number of people, but it does appear to me to be the determining factor.

    The children of the great depression were very faith oriented and worked hard. It led to the Greatest Generation of people that sacrificed of themselves and many great church leaders came from this generation. Personally, I was the son of a preacher in a time where preachers usually had to have second jobs to meet the bills. My father accepted the fact that I may never enter pulpit ministry, but that did not stop him from instilling in me responsibility, strong work ethic and a life lived as an example that is a ministry of its own. My generation (30 somethings) is one of the few generations that are better off financially than our parent’s generation at the same age. We always heard “I want you to have a better life than I had” and so some of us worked hard for it and some of us charged hard for it (we see the current economic situation as a result) and now under the same premise give to our children (maybe too much).

    Your first solution idea is right on target. I know those more experienced than I ? have me beat but when I was ten years old I had my first paying job. Every summer, while I was in junior high and high school, I had two weeks to find a job after that I had to live with the one my father found for me. (He strongly felt that a job during the school year would distract me too much – it would have). I went to a home town college and stayed at home with my parents (under their roof under their rules) and was required to carry a full load and a job until I got married at 21 (for some reason they wouldn’t let me and my wife live at home with them). I am glad my father made me get a job. Not only did it teach me responsibility but having to go look for a job taught me how to land a job. The reports on the news for the last several days have been about college grads coming out of school and not having jobs – maybe because they don’t know how to find one on their own (just a thought). Now I am not the poster child for this solution because in my late twenties I had a responsibility laps but am now back on track thanks to the Army and remembering the foundation that my parents laid.

    I have been impressed with the number of kids I have run into this past year that are entering the AIM (Adventures In Missions) program at Sunset School of Preaching.

    Steve Valentine

  5. Gary Cummings says:

    I think this is one of the most important topics you have introduced. The baby-boomers have produced a bunch of vegetative couch potatoes, who expect to be supported well into their 20,s, 30's, and 40's. Many of the young men are worthless, unable to work and demand their right to a free car, free gas, free insurance, free room and board, and a free tv and video games. I have seen this a lot over the years.

    A study needs to be done of more traditional Mennonite society, and tweak it a little to meet our modern day.
    The more strict Mennonites or Amish-Mennonites only school through the 8th grade, and then they work on the farm or other family jobs. They tend to marry young and have a lot of kids. Everybody works. They retain 80% of their youth as members into adulthood for life.

    I am not saying that the exact model is for us, but it can be investigated. Maybe send those to Jr college into nursing or techincal fields, that only take a couple of years, and then they start at $40,000 a year.

    I got a BA in Bible, basically a worthless degree. I enjoyed the knowledge I acquired, and some of the Bible study tools a received. After that I went on to get a secular MS degree, and 2 religious Master degrees. Then I went back to jr. college and became a nurse. My starting pay was quite good, and generally I made 50 to 60 K a yearfor the past 22 years. If I had known this when I was younger, I would have gone into nursing sooner. I was 40 when I got my first nursing license. I was a preacher, Navy Corpsman,and lab tech prior to that.

    Anyway, the generation us baby-0boomers have produced for the church is lazy and feels owed everything for nothing (I am speaking with a broad brush here- I know there are many exceptions.

    By the way my wife and I have no kids, and I do not feel our contribution to the church has been been deficient because of that. We led the youth in most of the churches we served together. Faith was the youth minister at a small Mennonite Church where I was a team minister.

    Your article about having babies for Jesus was great. I can't find it right now, but I took great exception to part of what you said. Believe me we tried to have kids, even with fertility treatments, then my wife had major surgery which almost took her life and our chance to have kids were gone. We wanted at least 6 kids when we got married. Nobody has to tell me it is ok not to have kids or that we have to buckle uo and do more. A lot of the parents of the children in the youth we served were generally absent.l The kids were left on there own, and picked up the pieces.
    Anyway, that is my rant for today and my complaint against you. Please do not blame us for not having kids or tell us we are different or less for not having kids.
    Thanks, Gary

  6. Jay Guin says:


    I wrote regarding having babies for Jesus,

    Now, many couples try to have children and fail. And others are poor candidates for parentage because of genetic issues and such. Sometimes there are some very good reasons not to have children. …

    Well, Driscoll has it right. We need to fill our churches with kids — and train our young couples on parenting and marriage and finances. And encourage sacraments in the bedroom. And for those who can’t have children, well, it’s no sin, but they need to roll up their sleeves and be heavily involved in ministry some other way. It’s all worship, you know.

    So I think we are in agreement. It sounds like you did exactly as I'd recommend. /2009/08/11/sex-the-church-

Comments are closed.