Important conversations are usually pretty awkward.
Whether it’s confronting a family member, or negotiating a salary, or apologizing, it never feels easy. My husband and I frequently joke about when he proposed. Proposals are one of those things that seem super romantic and easy and polished in movies, but in reality, ours looked like him taking a knee and holding out a ring, me starting to cry, and then him swearing that I said I needed a minute (I didn’t) and me waiting for him to actually ask so that I could say yes. That mutual waiting basically meant us staring at each other in silence for like 45 seconds before I got impatient and said: “Well, are you going to ask?” After which he rolled his eyes at me and really did ask.
Very smooth on both of our parts. Not weird at all.
Still an important conversation.
Consider all of this prolegomena to the important (and probably awkward) conversations that will be happening over at the Justin Building this weekend. This weekend is our Youth Sex and Sexuality Retreat. This retreat, this first of its kind, and a pilot program for the material being presented, will take place over two, separate, one-night retreats at the church, Friday night to Saturday will be for our middle school youth, and Saturday night to Sunday will be our high school youth.
The retreat will be led by Rev. Dr. Leigh Meekins, an ordained Methodist minister and national expert on the material. She’s authored and co-authored several books on the topic and on ministry with young people in general.
This program and programming like it has been requested by youth families for years, and we’re excited to be able to bring in someone like Rev. Dr. Meekins to lead it. The landscape that teenagers navigate regarding issues of sex and sexuality is constantly shifting, which leads parents feeling underprepared for guiding their children through it. The rules of the game have radically changed with the advent and proliferation of smartphones, and its easy for parents to feel overwhelmed. There is actually good news, teenage pregnancy is at an all-time low, and teenagers today have less sex, and start having sex later, than any generation in the last 50 years (when they started tracking the data). This has led to multiple funny conversations with older people who are bemoaning along about “kids these days” without the perspective that, statistically speaking, they were worse.
The purposes of this retreat are not just to teach a set of content, but to give teenagers language and tools to make decisions around topics of sexuality, now and as they begin their adult lives, that are informed by their values and faith traditions. We know that this is difficult territory for a lot of people, but we also believe its vitally important to decide that we, as adults, are brave enough to speak words of truth, compassion, empowerment, and love to our youth when it comes to issues of sex and sexuality (no matter how much they, or we, would rather melt into the floor).
We send youth off daily into a landscape that has a lot of claims about who they are and how they are supposed to treat themselves and others, claims about their value, their worth, and their purpose. Claims that encourage them to objectify others, and to accept it as normal when they are treated like objects. That is not our claim. Jesus makes a radically different claim on them and calls them something countercultural, revolutionary, and resilient to all the other claims on them: he calls them beloved, and enough, and worthy.
Sure, we’re going to talk about sex. There will be medical diagrams and people will giggle and shift around uncomfortably. But what we’re really talking about is identity in Christ, recognizing the identity of Christ in others, and seeing faith as a lens by which to engage in all of your conversations in life.
Especially the important, awkward ones.
Director of Youth Ministries