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Five Tips for Talking to Middle Schoolers about Sex

While it may or may not be your favorite topic to discuss with middle schoolers, we want the church to be the safest place on Earth to talk about anything students are curious about. And that includes the topic of sexuality.

Let’s be real.

The “sex talk” you may or may not have received when you were in middle school is a far cry from the conversations middle schoolers are having about sex these days. We live in a very over-sexualized culture, and that means students are exposed to sexual images and language at a much younger age than ever before.

What hasn’t changed? A middle schooler’s squirrely response to talking about this topic. They may act like they dread it, but attendance is usually at a season high during this kind of series. What does that tell us? Students secretly love the “sex talk” because they desperately want to know more about this topic and how it relates to their lives.

While it may or may not be your favorite topic to discuss with middle schoolers, we want the church to be the safest place on Earth to talk about anything students are curious about. And that includes the topic of sexuality. It’s one of the reasons we talk about this topic every year in Orange’s middle school curriculum.

Let’s face it: Talking to middle schoolers about sex may be one of your most awesome experiences or one of your most awkward. So here’s how you as a communicator can make sure it’s awesome. Use these five tips to help create a space where your students will feel safe enough to open up and be real with themselves and others.

1. Know your students.

Nobody knows your students the way you do. You know what your students can handle and what they aren’t ready for yet. You know what they’re facing in their schools and in their lives. You know better than anyone how to relate this series to current trends your students are actually experiencing. That’s because you know what situations you’re currently leading them through in your ministry. Consider it all! Then, ask yourself what it is they need to hear. I mean, what they really need to hear. Keep in mind that you’re probably not going to say anything they haven’t heard already!

2. Laugh with them.

Middle schoolers are going to laugh at certain times during a series like this. That’s okay! They aren’t being disrespectful; they’re just being middle schoolers. If you can roll with it and laugh with them when it’s needed, it will build trust. And when you’re real with your students, they’ll be real with you in return.

3. Get comfortable with words that feel uncomfortable.

If you’re awkward saying certain words or talking about certain subjects during this talk, your students are going to be awkward right back. If you’re uncomfortable, they’ll feel uncomfortable as well. If you’re rigid, they’ll be rigid too. Students will receive the series in the way you present it, so start getting used to words or phrases that may normally take you out of your comfort zone!

4. Talk about the whole picture.

One of the biggest mistakes parents and ministry leaders make when talking to teenagers about sex is only talking about the physical act of sex. They inadvertently ignore all the stuff that leads up to and goes along with it. But the truth is, this conversation isn’t just about sex itself. It’s about how God created us as sexual beings. There are a lot of ways teenagers can directly and indirectly express their sexuality, like in the way they dress, the pictures they upload, and the texts they send. Those things can be just as important in the overall conversation about sex and sexuality.

5. Normalize. Normalize. Normalize.

Everything in the life of a middle schooler is changing: their bodies, their feelings, their thoughts, their questions, and their desires. Most of them feel like total weirdos for the ways they now think or feel. Middle schoolers need to know they’re not alone. They need to know what they’re feeling or wondering about is totally normal. They need to feel like there isn’t a question they could ask that would be surprising or embarrassing because every adult in the room has gone through it. They’ve already gone through puberty and had to work through these questions in their own lives. Now it’s time to make sure your students feel safe to go through it with the adults in your ministry by their side.

This topic isn’t easy. It’s one reason we think youth ministry curriculum can help churches everywhere start better conversations around sex. Each series is reviewed by experts, counselors, and a community of practitioners. It’s too important to wing it! We know it may be a challenging few weeks for you as you teach a sex series, but we’re confident that this is a message the church needs to tell.

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