April 26, 2014

How to Teach Purity: 10 Tips for Youth Leaders

Teaching purity to teens can be a daunting task. Oft-times, you may feel "put on the spot" or unable to handle questions that come your way. Let's be honest: this can be a touchy topic for many - both leaders and listeners alike. Below are ten basic tips to help youth leaders teach biblical purity in a way that will (hopefully) keep your palms dry and your heart from beating out of your chest.

1) Have an "open door" policy with parents. I realize that some of your youth's parents may never darken the door of the church. But when dealing with matters as heavy as God's view on sex, it helps to let parents know that you are open to talking with them about the topic as well. Many parents want to be the ones to teach their children about sex, so it is good to collaborate with them (if possible) to share what you will and will not be covering. Also, we cannot neglect the fact that the members of our youth groups spend countless more hours per week with their parents than they do with us. So we are unlikely to see changes in them if their parents aren't on-board with (or at least aware of) the subject at-hand.


2) Live out purity in all your actions. It is possible that you will be the most consistent model of the Christlike lifestyle that your youth will see. Be all in. If you are a single youth leader, model purity in your dating relationships. If you are wed, model marital faithfulness and fulfillment. Strive to live an "above reproach" lifestyle. Philippians 2:15 challenges us to be "blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation," and Ephesians 5:3 admonishes that "among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality." This means that you may have to inconvenience yourself in order to uphold your own reputation regarding purity. For example, taking a separate car to an event to avoid the appearance of evil that could come from riding alone in a car with a man or woman that is not your spouse, etc. This may sound extreme...but your youth are watching you so closely right now. If you take steps to model purity for them today, many more of them will follow your lead tomorrow.

3) Become comfortable speaking to youth about so-called "hot topics" pertaining to sex and relationships. These areas include (but are not limited to) healthy friendships, courtship vs dating, social media pitfalls, God's call to sexual abstinence, the effects of pornography and masturbation, forgiveness of sexual sin, healing from sexual abuse, setting physical and emotional boundaries, fleeing temptation, and above all - loving Christ wholly and fully.

4) Practice your "game face." When your youth ask you pointed questions regarding said "hot topics" or confess their sexual sins to you, looking for your advice - don't be a deer in the headlights. Your teens need to know they can come to you and not receive looks of shock and bewilderment in response to their questions/problems.

5) Be okay with saying, "Let me check on that." If you are in a leadership role with youth, you are not required to know all the answers, all the time. It is okay to put someone "on hold" and ensure that you will study up and get back to them later. And if you feel a question points to a topic that is truly "too hot to handle" alone, feel free to encourage the youth and their parents to have that conversation - or to involve another leader/minister for accountability when you do get back with them.

6) Seek to remove the "sex is dirty" mentality. Sex is a beautiful gift that God created for unification and procreation within the confines of marriage. Champion this beauty in the eyes of your teens. They shouldn't leave youth group meetings thinking that "sex is bad" but rather that "sex is good, and it promotes a holy union...so I want to save it for marriage." Additionally, if some of your teens have been sexually abused, they may feel that they are dirty. Teach them about the difference between the willful sins of their perpetrators and the undue guilt that may have been placed on the youth. Brush up on your mandatory reporting laws, and know when you can keep confidentiality and when you have to report abuse to authorities. Also, be willing to help them find good counseling if needed. If you are dealing with youth who have already pursued sexual experiences of their own and have sinned in this area, point them to the cross. Teach them about the vastness of God's forgiveness, and encourage them to choose purity from this moment on. 

7) Pray earnestly. Remember: as the Greek philipsopher Parmenides said, "Nothing comes from nothing" (ex nihilo nihil fit). If we are not genuinely, earnestly praying over our teaching, it could possibly be ineffective. Likewise, if we are not praying diligently for our youth to be pure, we are doing them a disservice. God works through prayer...and He allows us to be a part of His perfect processes when we join Him in this manner. Don't miss out on this important step! Join with the Lord in prayer, and rejoice as He works through you. Please don't make Him detour around you (working in spite of you) to get His job done.

8) Instill a reverence for future marriages/mates. God stands outside of time. This means He is all-knowing, all-seeing, and has a view of our entire earthly lives, beginning to end. He knows what the future holds for our youth, including their future husbands and wives. Instill a reverence and a spirit of expectancy for this in your teens. They need to know that what they do now will affect (for good or bad) their future marriages. Proverbs 31:12 states that the excellent wife  "does [her husband] good, and not harm, all the days of her life." The word all refers to the days prior to marriage as well as post. Help your youth understand that they can do either good or harm to their future marriages by how pure or impure they decide to live today.

9) Point them to the Bible. Testimonies are great, but they are not Scripture. No matter what God allowed in your life's quest toward purity, your experience is not the Holy Word of God. You can certainly illustrate points with your own experiences (which can often be very influential), but never leave it there. Always fix your eyes and the eyes of your youth on biblical truths regarding purity.

10) Just breathe. You are not the first person to address sexual purity with teens, and you will not be the last. Even though this topic is a huge one to tackle - everything does not ride on you. Young people have their own personal responsibility to take what you've taught them and apply it to their lives. Study the Word, pray up, and teach godly purity to the best of your ability. Rest in the fact that you are not the Holy Spirit. Allow Him to take the reigns and bring the conviction. He can do a much more thorough job with this than any of us can, anyway!

Blessings on all of you as you strive to teach and mentor young people in this area! 


One of my greatest passions is teaching young people about pursuing purity. If you would like to invite me to speak at your youth event, please click here to learn more.

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