Church and Abstinence

November 29, 1999

Can the church influence teen sexual behavior? Religious faith is very important in teaching young people abstinence. A USA Today poll found that (other than whether a child has two parents) the factor that most influences whether a child grows up well is whether his or her parents have religious faith. This factor ranked above school quality, whether drugs are available, peer influence, and family income.

Church youth groups also challenge kids to resist sexual temptation. Anyone who walked on the Washington Mall a few years ago saw the acres of "True Love Waits" cards signed by over 200,000 teenagers pledging to refrain from sex until marriage. The latest research on teen sexual behavior shows that the number of high schoolers who have had sexual intercourse at least once has declined significantly in recent years. And data from a number of different studies shows a definite downward trend in both teen sexual experience and teen birth rates.

Churches and crisis pregnancy centers also provide speakers and counselors who address the issue of abstinence. Other groups (with names like Aim for Success, Postponing Sexual Involvement, and Children Having Children) are helping young women keep from being another social statistic. One abstinence-only program for girls run by Elayne Bennett in Washington, DC has seen only one of four hundred girls become pregnant when twenty to 70 pregnancies are common for this age-group in the District of Columbia.

Yes, the church can have a positive influence on teenagers and their sexual behavior. Teenagers want to hear an abstinence message and often we let them down by not setting the standard. What we need to do is set the standard and then implement programs that reinforce that standard.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.