If there’s one thing high school students want to talk about more than end times or whether or not tattoos are allowed, it’s sex. If there’s one topic that will bring out the immaturity in any student, it’s sex. If there’s one topic I get somewhat uncomfortable leading a discussion about, it’s sex. And if we’re honest, if there’s one thing our small group could talk about each week and still need to hear more about, it’s sex.

As any small group leader knows, sex is something you need to talk about, but not necessarily something you feel ready to talk about. So here’s a list of do’s and don’ts from my experience to help you navigate these discussions!

  • DO RECOGNIZE THE AWKWARDNESS. You know how they say if you’re being attacked by a shark, punch it in the nose? Well, punch your high school troublemaker in the nose. Preferably not literally. Address the awkwardness from the start! I usually do something along the lines of, “Okay. So today we’re talking about something awkward. It’s okay to feel awkward, it’s okay to be embarrassed, it’s okay to laugh, but let’s all agree to be adults—to be open and honest. Time to talk about sex.” This gives them the freedom and permission to be uncomfortable while setting the standard for maturity.
  • DON’T HAVE THE TALK AT A COFFEE SHOP. Sometimes, it’s good for small groups to meet at a cool, relaxed, public place. Talking about sex, God’s view of sex, and pitfalls of sexuality are not best suited for Starbucks. Make sure it’s somewhere familiar, safe, and private.
  • DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Coming from a guy’s perspective, I know there are some questions I’m going to be asked. “Is masturbation a sin?” “Are some people really born gay?” “How far is too far?” “But what if she’s really hot?” “Can we ______?” “We’ve _________, should we break up?” Know how to respond to predictable questions, and know verses to back up your answers.
  • DON’T GIVE DETAILED EXAMPLES. Just like anything else, credibility is important. Feel free to share—to some extent—your history on the topic. Use extreme wisdom in choosing which details and events increase your credibility, and which will do more harm than good.
  • DO BRING IT BACK TO THE GOSPEL. Everything comes back to the cross. Make sure when they leave that they know the truth: no matter what they’ve done, the cross has paid for them. And because of the cross, our goal shouldn’t be how far we can go, but how much honor we can bring.
  • DON’T SAY HEAVY PETTING. No one says that anymore. Sounds dumb, but nothing will kill credibility than saying, “Let’s talk about heavy petting.” It’d be like saying, “Hey, did you buy that new Sandy Patty 8-track?” Nothing about it says, “I know the world you live in.” I’m not saying you need to wear skinny jeans, a v-neck, summer scarf, and cool glasses for them to hear truth, but ask your student pastor if you’re concerned some of your terms are…dated.

I could talk for days about do’s and don’ts of “the sex talk” with high schoolers, but those are a few important ones. Based off of your experience, what are some huge tips you’d give?

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