Talking about sex may be the single most powerful way you can enter into the lives of your children. Why? Because sex education means more than teaching them the facts of human reproduction.

Of all the discussions we have had in our family about sex, probably 95 percent of them have concerned character issues. We've had discussions about God's purposes for sex, the importance of sex and marriage, and why you should wait for marriage before you have sex. We talked about how to avoid situations in which you are tempted, how different types of media shape our thoughts in this area, the types of movies to see and avoid, how to respond when someone challenges your convictions, and many other topics. We have found that the issues surrounding human sexuality, such as self-control and obedience to God, are the foundational character qualities every parent wants to build into his teenager.

Five Steps for Developing and Implementing a Sex Education Plan

Step One: Evaluate your frame of reference

For this topic, it's critical that you think through your own experiences to determine what has influenced you up to this point. How did you learn about sex? How have you been influenced by your parents, by your peers, and by the culture? What mistakes have you made over the years in this area? How much do you know about what the Bible says on this subject? What were the most important events that shaped who they were as young people growing up to become a man or a woman?

It's also important to examine what fears you may have about interacting with your children about sex. I am convinced that fear is one of the primary emotions we feel when it comes to discussing the area of sex with our kids. We do not feel like experts as parents. We're afraid of not knowing the answer to a question, or of giving an answer that is not appropriate for a child's age level. We're afraid of those awkward moments.

But that's okay. You don't need to be a professional. You just need to be a parent. God will give you the power and the courage to tell your children about His perspective of this sacred area of life. It is a great privilege.

Many parents today also fear that their own sexual sins in the past may disqualify them from speaking to their children with authority. This is a fear of every parent who has failed in an area and is attempting to lead the child to do what is right.

Past failures must not prevent us from calling our child to the standard of God's Word. We have all lied, yet we still teach our children to tell the truth. We have all stolen something, but that doesn't stop us from teaching that stealing is wrong. The same should be true for those who have been sexually active outside of marriage in the past. In fact, you should feel a greater urgency to stand up for the truth because you know the consequences of not waiting until marriage.

The only thing that, to us, can disqualify you from being able to talk to a child about sex is if you are currently involved in sexual sin—a present sexual addiction or an adulterous affair. If this is part of your life today and you have not repented of it, your sin is just not going to impact you. Your sin will have an impact on your sons, your grandsons, and your granddaughters. It is going to affect your daughters as they grow into adolescence and on into adulthood and become married. That is why it is very important as we talk about sex education right at the outset that you as a parent as much as possible have your conscience forgiven and cleansed by Jesus Christ.

Step Two: Clarify your convictions

In the next step, we will list some basic scriptural truths to teach your children about sex. Right now we'd like to challenge you to clarify your convictions in one significant area—God's standards of purity and innocence.

If you were asked, "What are you teaching your child about sex and morality?" my guess is that you might say something like, "We are teaching him that he should wait until he is married to begin having sex."

In the process of raising our own teens, however, we have developed a strong conviction that virginity is not a high enough goal. Nor is it the ultimate biblical goal. Unfortunately, studies have found that even our Christian teenagers are engaging in sexual activities reserved for marriage, yet are maintaining a technical virginity.

The Bible presents a number of pointed principles to ensure that our relationships with the opposite sex are appropriate and rewarding. The key words underlying all of them are purity and holiness. Here are two basic passages:

"For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God. . . For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity but in sanctification" (1 Thessalonians. 4:3-5, 7). 

"Now flee from youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2:22).

Abstinence is a part of the answer. It's just not the total answer.  

Step Three: Teach what God says about sex

The best way to combat the world is by teaching the truth of the Scripture. Here are some major points you will want to share with your child:

God created sex. Genesis 1:27 tells us, "And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." The Creator of the universe stamped and embedded His image within us in a way that is somehow mysteriously tied to our sexuality. God designed the parts of their bodies and He blessed the union. When God made them male and female, He said it was "very good" (Genesis. 1:31).

Sex is for procreation in marriage. God created sex so that we can reproduce after our own kind. Genesis 1:28 tells us that God blessed the man and the woman and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.

Sex is for intimacy in marriage. Genesis 4:1 says, "Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived." Adam did not shake Eve's hand. He had sexual relations with his wife, and she conceived because they had intercourse. God intended us to become one flesh to draw us together. It's a wonderful aspect of sex.

Sex is for pleasure in marriage. God approves of appropriate gestures of love, romance, and pleasure within marriage. Look at Proverbs 5:19: "As a loving hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; be exhilarated always with her love." That is not Playboy 5:19; that is Proverbs 5:19. God said it. He also wrote an entire book of the Bible about sexual love in marriage, The Song of Solomon. God is not down on sexual pleasure in marriage.

Sex was created to be enjoyed by a man and a woman in marriage. Today our media bombard us with the idea that God created and blesses other kinds of sex, like that practiced by homosexuals. You will need to share with your child that there is a radical homosexual element in our culture saying, "We're going to be in your face. You're going to see us kissing on television and in movies. We want to become acceptable."

Sex outside of marriage is a sin. God very clearly forbids fornication (1 Corinthians 6:9, Matthew. 15:19). Some believe only a cruel God would give teenagers a strong sex drive but then order them not to act upon it until marriage. But when God forbids something, it is for our own good.

Use the following points to develop a clear, thought-out explanation on how God uses sexual purity for our good. 

  • You feel no guilt, no shame, and no emotional scars when you hold to a standard of sexual holiness
  • You don't hear any accusing voices in your own conscience.
  • You will not be tempted to compare your future spouse with a past lover.
  • You have no risk of sexually transmitted disease.
  • You will not face the possibility of bearing a child out of wedlock.
  • It gives you much needed training in self-control and self-denial.

Step Four: Challenge your children to maintain purity and innocence until they are married

Let's say your thirteen-year-old comes to you and says, "Mom, Dad, how far should I go (sexually) with the opposite sex?" Do you know what your standard would be? For example, what standard on kissing will you present to your child? We have been challenging our children to set a goal of not kissing anyone until the wedding ceremony. Now, that may sound preposterous to you, and that's fine, but if that standard seems too high, answer this question: What line will you challenge your child to draw? If you do not challenge your child with a specific standard, we can promise you that your child will most definitely turn to his peers to develop his own standard.

We believe that the spiritual awakening that is begging to erupt in America may well occur through our youth. Moreover, it may be advanced by a band of parents who say to young people, "We want to lead you to the moral high ground." That high ground is there to be taken if we love our teens and develop relationships with them so that these standards can be implanted in their hearts.

Step Five: Create a home environment that provides love, security, and physical affection for your children

In many cases the teens who become snared in the trap of illicit sex are emotionally needy because of they don't live in a loving, supportive home environment with strong standards and encouraging parents. Your home needs to be an emotional watering hole—an oasis where your children learn about trusting Christ. A place of refreshment for their souls, where they go for love and affection (even when they don't seem to want it from you). If your home life is characterized by fear and legalism, your children may rebel.

As a child grows up and develops physically into a young woman or man, a concern may grow in the parent about how much physical affection should be given if the child is of the opposite sex. The tendency is to think he is grown and doesn't need the affection. Don't stop lavishing your child with physical affection; he needs those hugs and kisses more than ever! A mom hugging her son and a dad hugging his daughter will send the message to both—you are a young man or a young woman who is worthy of attention and affection from someone of the opposite sex.

How many times have you heard young women say that they sought affection from boys because they never received it from their fathers? Don't make that mistake with your child.

As you look to teach and train your children about sexual intimacy, remember God designed sex as part of a married couple's relationship meant to glorify God. As you lovingly invest in training your kids about God's intention for sex, you will help counteract all the sick and sorry messages that the world has to share.