By General Board of Discipleship (GBOD)
As youth wrestle with what it means to be Christian and a sexual being, a new resource from Young People's Ministries (YPM) will attempt to open the door for sixth, seventh and eighth graders for serious conversation, decisions and commitments on the topics.
"SEX: A Christian Perspective on our Bodies, Decisions, and Relationships" is the first of a series of resources being developed by YPM, a division of the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD), to provide youth opportunities for safe, open conversation, while helping them explore Biblical principles and learn about faithful decision-making.
"We hope this resource allows local churches to have the opportunity to help their young people begin to talk about what it means for God's good gift of sexuality to be dealt with in a real way," said Michael Ratliff, Associate General Secretary at GBOD and head of the YPM division. "A lot of times we say we're going to talk about sex in the church, and then we basically point to a passage of scripture somewhere and say the Bible says not to do that until you get married. And that's kind of it."
The new resource series can help young people think about the basics of what it means to be a Christian in terms of living out their sexuality, Ratliff said.
"It also provides a structure that allows young people to build relationships with adults in the church that hopefully will translate beyond this experience," he said.
Rather than a structured curriculum, Ratliff said the resource is more of a "cookbook" that helps churches design experiences that fit who they are as congregations.
"This is a leader resource. There are reproducible handouts that are available to be used in sessions with the young people, but the resource is for leaders," Ratliff said. "Throughout the resource, the leaders are urged to take into account their own church's theology and understanding of scripture."
Written by Pastor Jeremy W. Steele of Mobile, Alabama, "SEX: A Christian Perspective on our Bodies, Decisions, and Relationships," is available online through the Upper Room Bookstore (http://bit.ly/1m60pwB). It is designed for younger teens, and resources for older teens and young adults will follow.
"The church's Connectional Table has just spent a good bit of time talking about sexuality," Ratliff said. "The fact that the church is intentionally looking at what it is that we believe in relation to God's gift of sexuality means that this is a perfect time for this resource to be available to churches."
The first resource of the series was intentionally aimed at early adolescents, who are at the time in their lives when they typically begin to make their own decisions about sexuality, Ratliff said. A high school version will be available soon.
"In addition, there will be some online training opportunities for this resource that begin in the fall," he said. "By being a part of the training, leaders will gain access to a website that will have additional resources, including additional modules that churches can use and other resources that will be helpful for them in tailoring this resource to their situation."
GBOD's mission is to support annual conference and local church leaders for their task of equipping world-changing disciples. An agency of The United Methodist Church, GBOD is located at 1908 Grand Ave. in Nashville, Tenn. Visit www.gbod.org for more information or call the Communications Office at 877.899.2780, Ext. 1726.