How to Choose a Curriculum on Sex (2)
Choosing a good student ministry curriculum on sexuality is tricky business, simply because moralism is the most popular way of teaching students about sexuality. It sounds like this: “Just run away like Joseph! Pop your wrist with a rubber band to keep the bad thoughts away. Be holy in your sexuality because it’s good to be holy! Bounce those eyes.”
But simple morality never saved anyone.
The curriculum that we ought to use, however, needs to speak as the Scriptures do. The Scriptures primarily motivate believers to godliness through the saving and gracious work of God in behalf of sinners and the resultant identity they have in Jesus. This is an example of the imperative/indicative framework from the last post.
What are some other things we need to be aware of when choosing a curriculum?
Beware of Need Theology
A disturbing strand of “need” theology, imported largely from pop psychology, has leaked into mainstream Christian literature. “Need” theology is couched in language like, “Let’s discover how to fulfill and meet our sexual needs in a good, godly way.” The culture loudly proclaims that a life without sex is no life at all. The issue is this: the Bible rarely speaks this way. And when it does speak of needs, those needs do not include sexual things.
Take, for instance, Matthew 6:25-33. Jesus tells us not to be anxious about our lives: what we will drink or eat, our bodies, or our clothing (6:25, 31). He then says, “For the Gentiles seek after these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (v. 32). Here, needs are related to physical life.
But that’s not the whole picture: humans possess a life that is more than physical. Our lives are spiritual as well. Therefore, because we are all naturally spiritually dead (Ephesians 1:1-3) we also need the gifts of God to bring us alive spiritually (Ephesians 2:1-10).
But sexual needs do not exist in Scripture! Sex is not like food or clothing. Contrary to the culture, we can actually live without it. Psychology can be extremely beneficial, but we need to filter pop psychology through a Biblical lens, keeping the good and Scriptural while discarding the harmful. Biblically, some perceived “needs” are better repented of than fulfilled. After all, seeing ourselves as need machines tends to reduce people to objects, rather than people to be loved and served.
Look for Bible Language
The Bible is overwhelmingly unified in how it speaks about sexual matters; it does so in terms of sin, repentance, faith, and union with Christ. Post-fall, our sexuality is naturally broken. If sin, repentance, and faith are not mentioned repeatedly in a curriculum, that’s a problem.
But we can also use our sexuality for the glory of God! Only through Jesus, however, can this happen. So, curricula need to speak about how students are united to Christ, about how, through the empowering of the Spirit and their dependence upon Jesus and His work in them, they can actually follow Him.
Notice the flow of Colossians 3:1-3: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
If students are believers, they have died to sin in Christ and have been raised with Him in newness of life. In light of this drastic break with their old life, students are to fix their eyes on heavenly things every day. It’s the imperative/indicative again!
Beware of the “Practical”
In studies for youth on sexuality, it is commonplace to emphasize the “practical” over the theological. There seems to be a stream of thought out there which perceives theological truths as irrelevant to sexual issues. This is a false dichotomy masquerading as wisdom.
We can never divorce the “practical” from the theological because the “practical” is always packed with theology, good or bad. In fact, “practical” suggestions tend to be nothing more than rehashed moralism. Only good, “practical” suggestions grounded in rich, theological truths avoid moralism.
Look for the [Distinctly] Christian
Here’s the bottom line: if a Muslim or Buddhist could walk through the curriculum and accept it wholesale, then something is wrong. I was reviewing a “Christian” small group study the other day, and in its entire four sessions of teaching, Jesus was mentioned one time. That’s a serious problem. It seems that many studies for youth fear that theology is just too abstract, so they will rely heavily on “practical” suggestions.
Talking about Christ and His work, the “theological”, only remains abstract when it isn’t connected to the details of students’ lives. But to jettison the theological, thinking that in doing so we are being helpful, is to actually give students an un-Christian way of life, a life divorced from the truths which can sustain them day in and day out.
We should be picky about our curriculum because we should be picky about what we’re feeding and teaching our students. Happy hunting for that great curriculum! Here’s one we enjoy: True Love Project: How the Gospel Defines Your Purity. Check it out here!