I’ve been on staff with Harvest USA for over ten years, and almost all of the adults I’ve spoken with have said that their parents didn’t talk to them about sex. Yet many of these same adults say that they try to keep sex and sexuality on the table for discussion all the time with their kids.

What is the best way to do this with teens? In earlier posts, we talked about the grammar stage with children 8 and under and about the logic stage with tweens. For teens, the key component is rhetoric, and that means dialogue — building on what they already know. We will only exasperate our teens if we try to give them basic, informational “birds and bees” lectures.

Dialogue and Persuasion

The rhetoric stage of mental development is when a teen, who is a young adult in the making, becomes able to make arguments to persuade others of their convictions on how life works and what they want to get out of life. In their tweens, ages 9 to 12, most kids can tell you what their parents believe. Teens, however, can tell you what they believe and can offer reasons why they differ with their parents about style, economics, ethics, politics, religion, and, of course, sexuality.

Can you remember being lectured by your parents when you were a teenager? Lecture, in the form of concise, kind-hearted, logical and biblical teaching, is needed in the tween years. In the teen years though, we have to engage our teens in dialogue and discussion. This is most effective when we parents do so calmly, respectfully, reasonably, and without yelling or pinching their heads off.

Prepare and Practice

Some teens love to press our buttons to make us mad. Other teens avoid any and all substantive conversation with their parents. A great way to fruitfully dialogue with your teen is to prepare: read, think, and practice ahead of time.

Especially when we’re tired and driving in traffic with our kids, none of us want to get ambushed by our teen asking the question, “What could be wrong with two gay people who love each other?” So, a word to the wise: prepare by figuring out the biblical truth to the sexual issues and topics your kids face, and practice by dialoguing with your believing spouse or a trusted mentor at church about those topics. Our blogs and Harvest USA mini books are great resources for preparation.

Springboard Off the Media

The media offers us powerful insight into understanding what the world is teaching our kids and what they are likely beginning to believe about sex and sexuality. These sexual ideas, values, and narratives from TV, movies, music, and news are often unbiblical. But, nonetheless, they offer us an inroad to converse with our teenagers about the implications of Christ on sex and sexuality.

AXIS.org offers free weekly updates, and Walt Meuller’s CPYU.org and our own StudentOutreach.org offer monthly updates on the latest tidbits and trends within youth culture. These email updates allow you to both know what’s going on in pop-culture and provide a springboard to converse with your teens.

The big point here is not to simply point out all the wrong and sinful stuff going on in their culture. The point here is to engage your teens in conversation and ask questions that let them reveal what they have come to believe about God, other people, and their own selves. Then you will know better how to pray for their hearts, desires, and beliefs.

It would be great if we could simply correct their fallen beliefs and desires by dialoguing with them. But for persuasion to be deep and fruitful, the Holy Spirit must be the One who does the persuading. Sure, our part is to be winsome, authentic, and share the love and truths of Christ. We sow gospel seeds and pray fervently because only God makes them grow.

Wisely and Kindly Investigating Their Reality

Dialoguing with teens is about getting them to think about their opinions and convictions. And asking good questions that leave them thinking is helpful. Here are some questions for wisely and kindly (your manner and tone are important) investigating their reality.

When your teen says he believes something about sex that is unbiblical, here are a few questions that can help you get at his heart and help him to consider otherwise:

  1. Could you clarify what they mean by that? (Perhaps you are misunderstanding them or perhaps they don’t really know. This is loving dialogue, not a hostile lawyer’s cross-examination.)
  2. Would you explain the reasons for your view? (This question is asking them to unpack their reasoning for why their opinion seems true.)
  3. Where did you get your information? (This drills deeper to ascertain what facts, truths, or authorities uphold their reasoning.)
  4. Do you see any legitimate alternatives to this view? (This invites them to consider the consequences to their position if they got their reasoning or facts wrong.)

A natural question flowing out of the fourth question is, “How does this square with the gospel?” It gets to ultimate matters — the big picture, since Jesus Christ is relevant to every issue.

Wrap all this in prayer, asking that God would graciously use your questions to turn your teen’s heart toward the grace, worth, and glory of the Lord.

Dan Wilson
About The Author
Dan is excited to lead the STUDENT OUTREACH because of its unique mission to the emerging generation of the Church in today’s cultural climate! Before moving to the national office in Philadelphia, Dan served for nine years with Harvest USA’s Chattanooga regional office. He is also an ordained minister in the PCA and has served as a youth minister, education minister, pastor with para-church ministries, and taught New Testament at Bryan College (TN). Dan, a Tennessee native, has a B.A. in History from the University of Memphis, a M.Div. and a Ph.D. in New Testament and Greek from Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary (TN). Dan is married to Heather, his lovely wife, and they have four children. He loves Kingdom theology and is a huge U2 fan.