Guest Post by Eric Hawkinson
We recently wrapped up our annual 3-week Sex/Relationship series and I wanted to write about some of the wins, losses, and 3 things you can do when talking with your students about Sex.
This year, our theme for the series was centered around these 3 questions: What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? What is my identity?
- We asked students what questions they had about sex and relationships and gave them the chance to ask those anonymously leading up to the series. We took one night in the series and answered those questions. Of course, we had some goofy ones come in. One of my favorites was, “How does Chewbacca, well, you know…?” But then we got this one: “I love my girlfriend and know she’s the one for me. She just told me she’s not a virgin. I am. What do I do?” Giving them the chance to ask questions was a huge win. Here were some of the responses we got from that night of the Q&A: 1. “Thanks for actually reading what I sent in.” 2. “I didn’t like your answer to my question because it means I have to change the way I’m living.” 3. “Thank you for answering my question by asking another question. I didn’t want to hear a yes or no. I just wanted to know that I was actually heard.” 4. “Just so you know, the question about respect was mine. I was not #askingforafriend.”
- I normally stick to 10-12 minutes for my talks but one of them went to about 25 minutes. Because of that, the students didn’t have as much time as they needed in their small groups for debrief and discussion. This is the most important thing for them. They need the chance to talk about what they heard. The more time they can do that, the more they are able to grow. When they don’t get that chance, nobody wins. The shorter the talk, the better. Don’t think it isn’t “deep enough” when it’s short. We just need to be better at saying more by saying less.
When all was said in done, these were the 3 biggest things we learned and 3 things you can do as you talk about Sex/Relationships with your students.
There is so much in the world that is fake. Whether that’s a “staged” selfie or a fake politician, students of this generation smell fake a mile away. The best thing you and your team can do when talking about sex is be real. Don’t try to be someone else as you talk about this topic. The temptation I ran into when I was preparing my talks was to try and be someone else when I was communicating. There are so many great things we can learn from other communicators but the thing is, our students don’t need to hear from “those” communicators. They need to hear from you. When you are not true to yourself, they will sense that and you will lose any credibility and opportunity for conversation with them. So, don’t be fake or flashy. Be real and true to who you are.
When it comes to our culture and the “political correctness” that’s all over the media, there’s no one that’s really shooting it straight. When you’re talking about sex, relationships, identity, and faith, you’ve got to be direct. Something that I noticed over the course of the 3 weeks was how the students started to lean in to the messages just a bit more each week because they realized we were direct. One student told us, “Thanks for shooting it to us straight. Sometimes I have no idea what anyone is talking about. Whether that’s my dad, teachers, or my coach, I’m usually confused because everyone isn’t direct in what they’re talking about.” It’s so important that we are direct in what we’re saying and what we’re talking about. Students want that. Students need that. The worst thing we can do is leave them guessing on what we’re talking about.
Another way of saying this is, SPEAK TRUTH. (I wanted to use that as the header title but it doesn’t have the word BE in front of it and I didn’t want to break the flow.) I was anxious and overwhelmed with this series and its theme more than ever before until one of our HS guys small group leaders, and my best friend, reminded me of this truth: “For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to who we are accountable.” Hebrews 4:12-13. Something we need to remember when talking to students about anything, but especially sex, is that the word of God is alive. Because of that, the pressure is off you. I went into this series afraid of what the students were going to think about what was said from the stage and in their small groups. This scripture reminded me that our job as leaders is to show students, simply by living life with them, what living a life for God looks like. When we show students the difference God’s word has made in our lives and that it isn’t this book of do’s and don’ts but letters and stories of people that followed God and strayed away and how God redeemed them and loved them enough to keep drawing them to himself and show them a better way to live, that’s what will draw students in and compel them to lean in to whatever it is you’re talking about.
So, BE REAL. BE DIRECT. BE HONEST (or SPEAK TRUTH. I know some of you like that phrase better anyways.)