The Birds and the Bees: A Basic Field Guide For Parents

For many of us in the church there is something that we don’t talk about. We parents often refuse to talk to our children about it—meanwhile surrounding culture has no problem offering an alternative education on the subject. The messages are everywhere: magazines, billboards, movies, songs on the radio and in our children’s textbooks. If you have not yet guessed it, surprise, I’m talking about sex.

So why do so many churches, Christians, and parents remain silent on this topic? I have been thankful to see parents in our congregation talking about and thinking through some of these issues as public schools introduce increasingly vulgar perspectives on the subject at younger and younger ages, yet we often refrain from teaching our kids about it. I’m not talking about our toddlers and young children, but our kids who really should know these things.

And I get it: it is awkward to talk about. As many Christians do, we believe in the sacredness of sex; it is to be enjoyed in a monogamous relationship between one man and one woman, and to reveal intimate secrets from that intimate relationship would be a violation of trust between husband and wife. In order to be sure we don’t break that sacred trust, all too often parents do not talk about this with their kids, or even with each other. Yes, we are not to awaken love before its time, but as someone who was taught about sex at home by my parents, I can tell you from experience that those conversations did not “awaken love”, but rather prepared me for the gravity of those decisions that many of my peers walked into without any thought of their consequences.

I believe it is important to address these things and teach our children, but many of us are left wondering where to start or how to have that conversation. What I am attempting to do is provide you with a few things to think about as you begin this conversation. This is not a comprehensive, “everything you need to know” sort of list, but I do hope it can provide you with some insights and a little direction a you navigate a delicate and sensitive topic.

1. You as a parent should use your voice and influence.

Parents have the God-given position of raising their children to be responsible and independent adults. Since we were created as sexual creatures, in order to be responsible in the area of sexuality, our kids will need instruction, just like in all other areas of life. Why leave such an important and sensitive area of life for our kids to learn about from places that we already know we disagree with?

You as a parent are the most appropriate person for your kids to learn this stuff from. Make no mistake about that.

2. Stop believing that sex is inherently bad

Have you ever thought about who had the idea for sex in the first place? Who ever thought this thing up? Who created sex? The answer is simple: God did.

That’s right: God created sex.

God created us as sexual beings, and it is part of His plan for us as human being. Like every good thing that God created, however, it can be twisted for evil purposes. Eating can be turned into gluttony. Tools meant to build can be used as weapons. Between our own evil inclinations and the devil himself, every good and perfect gift from God has been abused and manipulated to accomplish evil purposes. The same is true for sex.

God created sex for a holy and righteous purpose. We and our children need to understand this.

3. We should teach our children about God’s design for sexual intimacy.

This is a combination of the first two points put into action. God created sex to be a good thing, and our children should know its proper place in life. They need to know about the dangers of promiscuous living, both for their bodies (pregnancy, STD’s, etc), and also for their hearts and souls. Teach them about the biblical boundaries for sex, and God’s design for it. 

4. It is healthy for our kids to know how their bodies work.

In high school, my biology teacher was a Christian, and as he taught the unit on sexual reproduction, he got so excited while teaching us all about the miracle of life. Though he conducted himself perfectly befitting of a public school teacher employed by a secular government, I could tell that he had a sense of awe with how our bodies were designed. As we studied cell division and the transfer of genetic material, those of us who were Christians were amazed at the intricate and magnificent way God designed us and it brought us to a place of worship. 

Additionally, there were far too many stories from the community where I grew up where girls thought they had never had sex because they didn’t know what it was. They then ended up getting pregnant while still thinking they were a virgin. I wonder if they would have made the same decision had they known the basic facts of biology. 

You do not need a biology degree to teach your kids about this stuff. If you are a parent, you will have journeyed through a pregnancy where you learn plenty of information to teach to your children in this regard.

5. Knowing some basic biology can save lives.

Most of us in the Christian community express that we are unashamedly pro-life. That is, we believe that life begins at the point of conception, and we do not believe in abortion, but value the sacred nature of all life, even at the smallest stage of development. 

When our children grow up and get married, many of them use some form of birth control or another. Some of the most popular that are suggested by doctors allow conception to occur, but will not allow implantation. If we truly believe that life begins at conception, and that “a person’s a person, no matter how small” (Horton Hears a Who), then it will be very important for us to know which forms of birth control do what, and which ones to avoid. I have often wondered how many babies are unknowingly aborted by a form of “birth control” by mothers who are adamantly pro-life, all because of a lack of knowledge. One great resource that we have appreciated is a book called Birth Control For Christians

6. We should teach our children that sex is deeply spiritual.

Our choices in the realm of sexuality will have an impact in our spiritual lives. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, it says, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.”

We often use think about this passage when it comes to healthy eating and exercise. But did you know that the context of this passage is about sex? Here it is with the verses that come right before it

“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:15-20).

What we do with our bodies can honour or dishonour God. Dishonouring God is a deeply spiritual issue—as is honouring Him. We feel it very important to teach our children how to honour the Lord in many areas of life, and we should also teach them how to honour God with their bodies sexually. 

Sex is not just a harmless activity, nor is it a trivial one. It is sacred. We should also teach our children that sex in its proper place does honour the Lord, and outside its proper place dishonours Him.

7. Purity is for more than singles.

Purity and chastity are virtues to pursue for your entire life, even after you get married. I have even caught myself using the phrase “stay pure until you are married.” What I don’t like about that phrase is that it implies that after marriage it is okay to be impure. Within marriage, sex is a perfectly pure thing. Pornography, lust, and adultery are all impure for both singles and married folks. Purity is more than just not having sex until you are married. It is a disposition, a posture, and a virtue. It is something to pursue in all stages of life, whether or not you are married or single. Recognizing this helps to get rid of the stigma that all sex is “evil”. Sex, in its proper place, is a beautiful thing.

8. Uncover the lie of “Happily Ever After”

We teach our children that they will grow up, fall in love, and live happily ever after. We tell them that our greatest goal in life is for them to be happy. We teach them in word and in action that we have to pursue careers and make choices to serve themselves, without teaching them to pursue goals that could serve others. 

As so many before me have said, “marriage is not there to make you happy, it exists to make you holy.”

Not happy, holy.

It refines us. It can lead us closer to God. It can shape us into people who are better for being married, instead of only happier. Like anything worthwhile, it requires hard work and perseverance. Even in one’s sex life, it requires work. It will not always be as euphoric as we dream of, but it can become that if we are willing to work at it. But that will require each party to be willing to serve the other, not only themselves.

9. Sex is not about you: End the Selfishness 

This is strongly related to the last point, but I thought it deserves separate attention. Just about all sexual sin can be traced back to selfish notions of sexuality. Husbands trade in the mutual pleasure of sex for the solo pleasure of porn. Women repeatedly reject their husbands sexually when they don’t become like the men in the romance novels—who are not real people to begin with. Both men and women have affairs thinking that “God just wants me to be happy”. Children are abused and taken advantage of because evil-willed adults want to satisfy their own twisted desires. We are to serve one another. In our marriage beds we should not seek to be served sexually by our spouse, but rather to serve them. We need to view sex as a means of serving our spouse, not merely as a way of being served. And like so many areas in life, it is in serving that we are served, and in giving that we receive. This is also very true in sex. 

Remember, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.”

10. Don’t be afraid to learn together with them

None of us have all the answers, and your kids might ask you some very difficult questions that you do not know the answers to. Don’t be afraid to have those conversations anyway—and yes, I said conversations, plural, as in more than one, multiple. It is good for it to be an ongoing conversation, and be willing to say “I don’t know, but why don’t we find out together?”

There are plenty of resources available for Christians parents on this topic. One resource that I have heard great things from (though I have no personal experience with) is Passport 2 Purity (You can check out their website by clicking here). 

This is not exactly a comprehensive list of things to talk to your kids about, but I hope that it might provide you with a starting point in beginning these conversations. Our children will be much more willing to talk to us about this topic if we are willing to talk to them about it too (funny how that works, eh?). 

UPDATE: We have now made use of Passport 2 Purity, and just want to double down on the recommendation that you make use of that program.

New Life Christian Fellowship is a community of believers who seek to Reach Up in worship of God, to Reach Over to one another and to Reach Out to the world around us.