How to Choose a Curriculum on Sex – Part 1

When I worked in student ministry, I constantly had questions regarding the best curriculum to use with my students. And, having sifted through many a small group study for The Student Outreach, I thought I would toss out some trends I’ve seen in curricula that desire to teach students about biblical sexuality.

There are numerous studies out there; some are good, and some are not so good. But at the end of this two-post series, I do want to offer you some resources that we have found profitable.

Some of us in youth ministry will even be lone-rangering it and putting together our own curriculum! So, whether you’re looking for a curriculum or about to create your own, let’s navigate some things we should be aware of and things we should look for when teaching our students about sex and sexuality.

Beware of Joseph-izing

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the Joseph/Mrs. Potiphar story rehashed to give students a simple, moral template for avoiding sexual sin. And hope dies within me every time I hear that story treated as such. Running from sexual sin is just not that easy. And running from sin also isn’t enough. It never has been. Furthermore, the Bible is not foremost a giant character study–Be like Joseph! Don’t be adulterer like David! It is primarily a road map to Jesus.

Any curriculum that gives simple answers like, “Run away. Pop your wrist with a rubber band. Just bounce those eyes,” and calls it a day is dangerous. Plain and simple. Running is fine, but if our students aren’t running to Jesus by faith and repentance, they are running right into the arms of another idol and sin, be it sexual or not. In other words, simple morality is never the end game. If you see curriculums whose sole method is to moralize biblical stories, beware and run away (like Joseph)!

I’m not saying that character studies have no place in the Christian life. But character studies divorced from the power of Christ’s person and work for us will render students incapacitated, as students are left without the strength, motivation, and hope to use their sexuality in godly ways.

Look for the Imperative/Indicative Framework

Rather than moralizing, we should look for a curriculum that mirrors the Scriptural model of grounding obedience in the salvation and good news of our God. The giving of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 provides the framework for how the Scriptures primarily talk about the do’s of the Christian life. The commandments themselves are not simply thrown out there for the people to latch onto; they are grounded in the saving work of God: “‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me…” (Exodus 20:2-3).

Our curriculums, then, should primarily ground the “you should do’s” (imperative) in “this is who you are in Christ because of His work for you” (indicative). There are times for secondary motivations such as coming judgment or because not sleeping around will actually yield an STD-free life, but a nuanced curriculum will mirror the primary motivations of Scripture, namely God’s saving work for His people and the resulting identity His people have in Him.

Here are some further Scriptural examples of this model:

For freedom Christ has set us free [indicative]; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery [imperative].
Galatians 5:1

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth [imperative]. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God [indicative].
Colossians 3:2-3

This might seem so elemental, but most curricula I’ve seen for students on sexuality fall into the method of “do this” because it’s good and it’s God’s desire for us, never mentioning the strongest motivation to use our sexuality in God-honoring ways: the truth of Jesus Christ and our union with Him. In finding a sustainable motivation for actually using our sexuality in God-honoring ways, our lives must find in Him the life, encouragement, hope, and strength we need to run from our sin and ultimately run to our God.

Are there times when the Scriptures tell us to copy an example of a saint or even God Himself? Yes! But the major, primary motivations in the Word for pursuing holiness have to do with God’s saving activity and the resulting identity we have in Him.

We’ve started here with moralism because it’s so prevalent, but in the next post, I want to offer some more things to be on the lookout for when choosing or writing a curriculum. Choosing a study that will strengthen and aid our students in the fight to use their sexuality in God-honoring ways is an important task. May God guide us as we seek out such a curriculum!

Cooper Pinson
About The Author
Cooper loves student ministry and served as Junior High Director at Briarwood Presbyterian Church (AL) before coming to study at Westminster Theological Seminary. Having volunteered, interned, and been on staff, he has served in various capacities in youth ministry and has a passion to help students live with sexual integrity and to walk with them as they follow Jesus. Cooper, a Georgia native, graduated from Samford University (AL) with a degree in History and a minor in Religion. He and his wife, Katie, have one, beautiful daughter. He loves sitting on the beach, reading fiction, drinking sweet tea, and watching the Food Network.