What Youth Group Was Like Before Purity Culture

by | Apr 26, 2021 | Theology of Marriage and Sex, Uncategorized | 27 comments

How Youth Group Has Changed Since the 1980s
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I remember a conversation with my husband around 1992 about how the church was totally on the right track!

We had dealt with some weird televangelism scandals and they were largely behind us. Women’s gifts were being used. A lot of the things that culture made fun of Christians for was really a caricature, and no longer applicable. We were going in a good direction. Things were healthy. We were excited.

If you had told me then that my children would one day hear messages in their youth group that my mother hadn’t even heard, I wouldn’t have believed you.

One of the benefits of being a little older (I’m Generation X; 50 years old) is that you can look back and see how things have changed.

We tend to believe that history has always moved in one direction–growing more and more liberal, opening up more and more, towards more and more freedom for people. At the same time, we often assume that personal morals are worse with each successive generation.

Both of those things are demonstrably false, especially in the church.

And so, for the benefit of my millennial and generation Z readers, and for the nostalgic opportunity for my older ones, I’d like to take you through my youth group days.

What Generation X experienced in youth group

I was 16-years-old, in one of the back pews of church at a youth conference, flanked on either side by boys I was interested in. I hadn’t really settled on which one to crush on yet, but they were both possibilities.

The topic that day was on marriage, and the importance of choosing a good mate. But he went on a tangent about sex, and then I heard this sentence, “God created a body part for women whose purpose is only pleasure.” He talked about the clitoris. I wanted to crawl under my pew and hide.

I don’t remember much more about that talk, but I do remember that: the speaker wanted us to know that sex was meant to be something special; that it was supposed to feel good for women; and that we shouldn’t cheapen it by having sex outside of marriage.

As far as I can remember, that’s the only real message I ever really got about premarital sex.

That’s not to say we didn’t talk about or didn’t think it was wrong; we were always obsessing about “how far is too far” and when should you stop in a make out situation. But that just wasn’t the focus of our youth group conferences or talks.

Mostly we talked about two things: Personal evangelism and living 100% sold out for Jesus

On the youth group wall in my church was a map of the 10/40 window–that part of the world between the 10th and 40th latitude that was the most unreached. It covered China and the Middle East and Indonesia and all those countries that still had to hear about Jesus. There were prayer calendars for the unreached people groups. We kept track of what Bible translations were being completed and in what languages.

We often role played “how to talk about your faith without being super creepy.” We read books like Becky Pippert’s Out of the Salt Shaker and into The World, about how to make evangelism natural. “How to share your faith” was the most popular workshop topic at any convention or conference I went to. And, of course, apologetics fit in with that, too. Everybody had a dog eared copy of Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

Sheila teenager at youth group

Serving ice cream at a church social.

Remember that, in the 1980s, teenage alcohol use and pregnancy rate were worse than they are today

Every generation thinks they had pressure that their parents never went through, and for today’s generation, that’s true when it comes to social media (which upended everything). But in terms of the actual rates of bad-stuff-parents-don’t-want-kids-to-do, it was worse when I was a teenager by most measures.

And yet we just didn’t talk about it that much at youth conferences. Instead, we focused on what life looked like if you were sold out for Jesus. We talked about money. We talked about career plans and missionary plans. We certainly talked about marriage, but it was more in the context of “be careful who you marry, because that choice will largely dictate how effective you can be for Jesus over your lifetime.”

I remember in youth group going through the book of Mark for Bible study one year. Another year we did the parables, I believe. We didn’t study books or themes; we actually studied scripture.

You know what I don’t remember? Modesty rules.

I attended summer camps as a teen (for the life of me I don’t know why; I never liked camps. I think I must have just been going for the boys). I even worked at a summer camp one summer. Maybe they had dress codes for the girls; I honestly don’t know. If they did, they didn’t register, and we certainly didn’t talk about them much.

Me with a friend the year I counselled at camp

The only time I do remember modesty rules was when I went on a Teen Missions International missions trip in 1986. That was not a good experience; it was my first foray into fundamentalism and legalism, and it was jarring and actually quite traumatic. It took me a long time to recover spiritually after that. But they had strict modesty codes for the girls. I assumed, though, that that was because we were traveling internationally, and so it made sense to me.

We were consumed with making a difference and making Jesus #1 in our lives.

Not everyone was of course–but that’s what the Christian culture was all about, including teenage culture. When we talked about dating, it was in the context of: “if you date him, will Jesus still be #1 in your life?”, or “are you allowing your boyfriend to come before Jesus in your life?” It wasn’t about rules as much as it was about keeping Jesus as the main thing. (I do think the message went overboard here; I was so worried I loved Keith too much when we were about to get married, or that I loved my children too much when they came. Jesus is big enough to have you love lots.)

I remember feeling as a teen that many of the conferences I went to were treating me like an adult Christian. The message was that we could change the world. We could make good decisions. We could put ourselves in strategic places so that we could do something important with our lives.

We were definitely not consumed with relationship advice.

That didn’t mean that we didn’t have relationships–we sure did! I dated two different guys in my youth group in my early teens, and then spent about 2 1/2 years single until I got to university. But those single years weren’t by choice!

Nobody thought you were bad if you dated–though we were all worried if someone seemed like they had “gone too far” and was having sex. But dating was normal and natural, and kids would hold hands as we chatted about the gospel of Mark and talked about how to be sold out for Jesus.

Keith Sheila Dating

Keith and I when we started dating.

I am not saying that everything was perfect in the 1980s.

Not by a long shot. We were way too concerned with End Times, and I think perhaps the “being 100% sold out for Jesus” was partially because a large segment of the population was convinced Jesus was coming back tomorrow. The Soviet Union was falling apart; there was upheaval everywhere. We had book upon book being published analyzing headlines and comparing them to the book of Revelation (I’m so glad that’s largely stopped).

There was definitely a tendency to judge who was and who wasn’t sold out by what music they listened to or whether they went to school dances.

By the time my kids became teenagers, I hadn’t realized how much had changed.

I assumed the main messages would still be to be 100% sold out for Jesus, and personal evangelism and knowing your Bible. But somehow it had morphed in those 25 years, and things had become really weird with purity culture.

In our survey of 20,000 women last year, we wanted to measure just how much the purity culture message had changed how couples behaved before marriage. So one of our questions was, “did you kiss before the wedding?” Over 99% of women over the age of 60 had kissed their first husband (or their only husband) before marriage. But of women under 40, that number goes down to 93.2%. Now, that’s still an astronomically high number, and is really quite interesting. Despite the millions of copies of I Kissed Dating Good-bye, despite all the purity culture balls and the Duggars and everything else, we’re still kissing in huge numbers. Yet even so, our grandmothers dated more and kissed more than many millennial and generation Z women! That’s something important to keep in mind. Purity culture was something new; our grandmothers wouldn’t have recognized it. It wasn’t the way things were always done.

The Great Sex Rescue

Now Available!

What if you’re NOT the problem with your sex life?

What if the things that you’ve been taught have messed things up–and what if there’s a way to escape these messages?

Welcome to the Great Sex Rescue.

We haven’t run a lot of generational data yet; that’s on our list of projects to do as we’re looking at writing articles for peer reviewed journals.

But I do wonder if my generation had an easier time adjusting to marriage than younger generations did. I do wonder what the effect has been of becoming hyper-conservative and legalistic when it comes to dating and marriage. I’d still like to find out.

One of the reasons that I wanted to do this series on sex throughout the ages was to show people that what we think of as “natural” or “the way things are” is not necessarily true. Different cultures see things in different ways. I just finished reading The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr this weekend, and she was talking about how in medieval times women were seen as the ones with the higher sex drives often, and women were the seductresses. My how things change!

But the fact that our culture changes should give us some hope. That means that if they’ve changed in the past, they can change again. That means that if things aren’t great for you in your marriage, it doesn’t need to stay that way, because this stuff isn’t fixed in time. This isn’t just biological. This is largely determined by how we think and how we act. Change those two things, and sex can change, too.

So a word about the image for this post:

This wasn’t actually youth group–it was second year university. But I couldn’t find a good picture of a group of us in the 1980s that somebody in my past wouldn’t have objected to! 

I think Keith must have been taking this picture, because normally he would have been part of this group and he’s the only one missing! 

And interesting story: the woman to the left–Amanda Wiersma Benckhuysen. We lived together as housemates for two years, and then largely lost track of each other. But she’s an author now, too, writing about women in the church! She’s a professor at Calvin College, and her book The Gospel According to Eve was published last year. So it’s amazing that we’re doing such similar work now!

How Youth Group has Changed Since Generation X

If you’re Generation X, what do you remember about youth group messaging? Were your experiences like mine? If you’re a different generation, how have you seen things change? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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There's a thread that runs through the toxic teachings we've measured: Intimacy is a pipe dream. Now that we've done surveys with over 29,000 women, we can take a step back and look at the toxic teachings we've measured as a whole--the ones given to adult women about...


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  1. Hannah H

    Gen Z here – this is so fascinating to read! My parents were at the tail end of the Baby Boomer generation and never told me much about being raised in the church, mostly because they left their faith during college and didn’t come back to it until several years into marriage.
    I didn’t go to youth group in high school (for a number of reasons that mainly had to do with my parents not allowing me to go) but I still got a lot of messages about needing to guard my heart and remain pure. Up until recently, I wore a purity ring that my parents gave to me when I was 13. I didn’t go to a “purity ball” but they did sit me down and talk to me about how I needed to pledge to remain “pure” until marriage. I stopped wearing the ring because of all the negative associations I had with it. It’s so interesting to see what youth groups and Christian youth culture used to be like! In some sense I’m glad I never went to youth group or Christian summer camps – I’m sure I would have had a lot more religious trauma if I had, which is a sad reflection on the church.

  2. Bethany#2

    I think that you would probably like Bellevue! It’s considered a mega church, but one that doesn’t get caught up on celebrity pastors or the show. They actively always doing outreaches and mission work. And for childcare, they do everything they can conceive of, to ensure every child’s safety. I would love to someday get their women’s ministry to host you. I just don’t know how to get the suggestion in.
    My main point being though, they rarely ever teach directly about dating. Instead focus on the christian life and ministry, specific to the students age. 4th-college students.

    • warren

      Out of curiosity, are you referring to Bellevue Baptist in Cordova TN? I was in the youth group there in the 90’s. That is where I first heard about courtship and the whole purity movement. It was a huge deal! I actually attended 2 events they held. At the first one they hosted the author of Choosing God’s Best. It was a smaller gathering, but interesting event. The larger event was hosting Joshua Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I didn’t attend youth group very often, but I do remember there being a big push with a purity pledge (or something of that nature).

  3. Kay

    I was just about to mention The Making of Biblical Womanhood! Good work. Ha.

  4. Elissa

    So I am mid 20s and was raised at the height of the purity culture movement (though my parents mostly did a great job separating the good from the bad). It seems to me that most of the parents who were raising their kids in purity culture WERE the Gen Xers you are talking about who had so much better of a youth group experience. So what would make them react so strongly against it? I know in many cases you could argue that it was the church and youth group workers who were feeding this message to kids, not the parents. However, the friend group I grew up in was so conservative most of the kids weren’t allowed to go to youth group – or attended family integrated churches that didn’t have youth groups at all. They were getting this message directly from their Gen X parents, who were hearing it from popular homeschool speakers and teachers, most of whom were also Gen X (or older). So I guess I am wondering what would make that generation think purity culture was a good way to raise their kids, especially if the message they got from the church growing up was a good or healthy as you say.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Now THAT is an excellent question. I’ve been pondering that a lot. If you look at the bestsellers that we analyzed for The Great Sex Rescue, the majority were written by white men who were Boomers or even the generation that came before, and most are aged 68-90 (or have passed away). There are a few who are younger (but often young Boomers), and not a lot of Gen X in the mix actually.
      I know in the U.S. a lot had to do with the conservative resurgence of the SBC at the same time as Christian radio was becoming more common, creating a huge evangelical culture that didn’t exist before. Where before it had been mostly just denominational or regional, it became “evangelical”, across denomination lines, and suddenly everyone was reading the same books and listening to the same radio programs and watching the same TV programs. And all of that seem to start to converge in the mid 80s and then really hit power around the mid to late 90s when purity culture began–and the conservative takeover the SBC was done.
      It really would be interesting to try to map it all out, but what amazes me when I look at our marriage bestsellers is how many are written by white men in their 70s.

      • Amy

        I was in college in the late 90s when I Kissed Dating Goodbye came out. Elisabeth Elliot wrote the preface for that book and I remember reading both it and Elliot’s Passion and Purity, which clearly influenced IKDG. It does make me wonder how the culture of Elisabeth Elliot’s 1950s young adulthood as written in P&P ended up influencing the purity culture of the late 90s and early 2000s.

      • Dorthea

        It would be interesting to map! I’ve wondered about the influence of older generations on the younger generations and why they would push for purity culture when they’re the ones who kissed so much more before marriage?!?! Was the kissing that bad 😉

      • Phil

        You know what I was thinking? Now I really only have 2 “surveys” to go by – but bottom line is Grace and I are Gen Xers and my background with regard to the message I got at Youth is tainted by one man who molested me and my wife’s story from her church is no message at all. So while we totally support the undoing the underlying messages that seems to have come from bad teachings from within the church we just really don’t identify with purity culture or I kissed dating goodbye etc etc. So I was thinking about how my Mom and many Boomers are and while I can’t sight anything specific at the moment there is a general knowledge of the fact that Boomers are carpet sweepers. What does this mean? Well, if it has anything to do with making them look bad or is uncomfortable or they just don’t understand it THEY SWEEP IT UNDER THE CARPET. My Mom is a HUGE carpet sweeper. That is what she knows. Of course over time she has changed a bit but hey – how many stories of Janie got pregnant and was “disowned” or you were made to believe Janies babies was her Moms etc etc have I heard about Boomers and that generation. Bad stuff happened but they kept up the charade. My Uncle was epileptic and seizured quite often. They told everyone he fell off his bike and thats why he was the way he was. The family never talked about. That has always been a “culture” thing that I have come to know about Boomers. So it is my thought that Genxers grew up with no message or not much of a message or under the carpet messages so they clung to they message that was put in front of them – BECAUSE FINALLY SOMEONE WAS TALKING ABOUT IT! What do I know?…just thoughts…makes sense to me anyway. lol.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          That is interesting! I wonder how much of sweeping it under the carpet was at part a PTSD thing? Like, so many men returning from war and not being able to properly talk about it, and so important things just didn’t get talked about. I wonder how that affected an entire culture?

    • Jessie

      This is very interesting! I, too, am asking myself where things went “wrong” if this is how youth groups were in our parents generation? But, I feel like that in A LOT of stuff in our society… Something went greatly askew in the parents who raised us. And, now we have millenials… Mothers who are striving to be better and do better (a lot of times to a fault), massive amounts of mental health issues, massive amounts of sexual issues, and a society that is just really really waaaayyy more permissive than it was 30 years ago. I know this comment doesn’t relate much to the article, but it would be very interesting to see what the mindset shift was and where/when it happened in both the Christian and non-Christian circles of the Gen-X population.

      • Chris

        This comment is in response to Phil. I think Phil nailed it. Purity culture was all about fear of pregnancy. Why? Because the perceived shame of a pregnant teenage daughter was so strong that the parents were afraid they would give in to the temptation of an abortion to avoid the shame and judgment from others in the church. Yup. That’s it. It’s as simple as that. It was a byproduct of the pro life movement. It was a way of avoiding abortion, because if your daughter showed up pregnant, you would be lying if you said you wouldn’t have considered it. Now I am pro life, but pregnancy is not the end of the world, but i think in a lot of these hardcore evangelical churches the appearances matter too much not to consider it as an option. In short, the parents didn’t trust themselves.

      • Lea

        ” It was a byproduct of the pro life movement. ”
        I think this is quite likely. The prolife movement was really pushing when i was a kid in teh 80s, but the purity culture didn’t pop around until late 90’s when i had aged out of it.
        But Josh Harris’s book seems to have come from his older (possibly not Gen X?) pastors direction imo. There was a movement being pushed possibly still from boomers, but that doesn’t answer why some genx bought into it for their kids.
        I think alot of church issues come from this culture war/political stuff.

  5. Jane Eyre

    I grew up during the collision of purity culture and a secular expectation of sex after about a month of dating. The purity culture, from an outsider perspective, only undermined women who wanted to wait by making it seem really weird. Who wants to wait for marriage? People who go to purity balls. If you aren’t one of those weirdos going to purity balls, why aren’t you having sex like a normal twenty something?

  6. Elizabeth

    Thank you, this is really interesting and has made me think and wonder if the 10 year age gap between my husband and I influenced our thoughts on kissing before marriage purely because the teaching had changed slightly. One of the biggest strains on our engagement and early marriage was the fact that he was terrified of “awakening love too soon” and therefore didn’t want to kiss on the lips until our wedding day. But I really struggled with the lack of affection he showed for me physically because he was afraid of getting carried away. Though I think the social changes and teaching changes are probably different in the UK (that would be another interesting research channel…) as he was brought up by parents very much from a stiff-upper-lip generation and my cultural background was different. There was a lot of purity culture teaching around when I was a teenager but from what I have read, a lot less extreme than in the US. A lot of food for thought. Thankfully, eventually, I brought my husband out of his shell a bit but it was really hard work.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think the Canada/UK/Australia/New Zealand/Caribbean vs. US would be so interesting. And, of course, there are other countries, but I’m thinking primarily of English speaking ones. It would be interesting to see how much was U.S. evangelical influence and how much was their own culture. I know I’ve had some talks with the company in Finland that translated The Good Girl’s Guide and they had their own purity culture, so really interesting.

  7. Kacey

    I moved around a fair bit and attended a few youth groups briefly, but the one I attended longest was from 2010-2011. The youth leader and his wife were in their 50s–wonderful people my husband and I are still close to today. I’d say it was a healthy youth group where we generally learned about the Bible. I know some people who dated in youth group, and it wasn’t a big deal. I remember watching a video from a female Christian speaker about making good choices when it came to sex, and the leader talking about it once, but it certainly wasn’t the emphasis or the majority of what we talked about.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Interesting! Sounds a lot like my youth group. I wonder if it’s because they were older? Hmmmmm

  8. Laura

    Yes!! The thing about women being seen as having higher sex drives is SO true for MOST of western history! If you read Paradise Lost, the reason the Serpent goes for Eve and not Adam is because Eve is lazing around in an arbor in the garden thinking sensual thoughts about Adam while Adam is dutifully working. It would have been obvious to every contemporary reader that Eve was weaker in self control and more prone to lust than Adam, because in their minds, all women were weaker in self control and more prone to lust than men! It was just taken as a fact. Every time someone says something about “well it’s just how men are” I think “you clearly haven’t done much reading.”

  9. EOF

    I feel like I went to youth group in between Gen X and Purity Culture. For the most part, the focus I remember was on witnessing and service projects. We had a lot of fun, and yes, I recall end times videos. I’ll never forget one movie where a girl and her friend were on escalators, the girl going up (to Heaven) and her friend going down (guess where to.) The friend wanted to know why the girl never shared the gospel with her.
    I do remember reading Elisabeth Elliot’s book in high school and being in discussions about not having sex, but the where to stop line was pretty blurry. I never felt that stopping make-out sessions was my responsibility. In fact, it was usually my BF who put on the brakes. Promise rings were popular, but I don’t recall purity rings.
    I can also relate to having a dress code on a mission trip, and being told not to make eye contact with men/guys while in the country because if we did, that sent the message that we wanted to hook up. For some reason, avoiding eye contact really messed me up for a long time. I’d never had problems making eye contact with people before that, but it was a real struggle afterward. And it wasn’t like I avoided all men during the trip. There were some really nice local guys our age working with us on the service project, and I was able to make eye contact with them and even joke around.
    Then in college, I started going to a more conservative church. Being alone with the opposite sex was a hard NO. Kissing a boyfriend was questionable, even though you couldn’t be alone with him. Definitely only group dating. I saw more of the purity culture, but chalked the changes up to it being a more conservative church, not realizing there was a cultural shift in Christianity at large.

  10. Cynthia

    I think this trend to becoming stricter exists in other religions too. I’m Jewish, and saw a huge gap emerge between what Orthodox Jewish kids were being taught was acceptable vs. non-Orthodox.
    I’m 49 and saw a lot of the shift. A lot of it was being branded as keeping or returning to tradition, and the standard line was that non-Orthodox were leaving the tradition and becoming secular. What I started to find, though, was people pushing rules and attitudes that were stricter than things that I had learned. I also did a bit of research into family history, and when I mentioned some things I found, there were some younger women on Orthodox Jewish websites that didn’t really believe me! For example, we had a family reunion and there was a whole article written about how my grandfather’s farm, where a lot of Jewish family came to stay during the summer, had a building used as a synagogue, kosher food and a dance hall that my dad ran. Well, these women’s heads basically exploded, because they had been taught that mixed dancing was completely forbidden and couldn’t quite understand how the dance hall existed or who would have given special permission for it. I had to explain that there was no special permission because it simply didn’t occur to anyone at the time that it was a problem.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      HA! Yeah, I can see people having a hard time believing that! I know–when I listen to stories of how people dated in the 1950s, and how it was normal to go out on a Friday night and then a Saturday night with a different person, and this wasn’t a big deal. And we just don’t even believe it today!

    • Em

      That’s really interesting, and echoes my thoughts. My grandparents were born in the 1920s and my parents were born in the 1950s; the generation gaps in my family are a bit unusually long, and I was born in the late 1980s. My mom in particular was trusted completely to behave well when dating–lectures about it were few; it was assumed, and she never broke that trust. She had an enviably adventurous young adulthood without coming to harm or “going too far”. But I think many of her generation were unable to hold to the traditional standard, given the emergence of youth culture, drugs, etc. When this generation raised their children, they applied new rules in an effort to keep their children from the behaviours they had come to regret. All this was done in the setting of, as Sheila says, a new evangelical subculture whose message was becoming more homogeneous, as well as the beginnings of “helicopter parenting”, with its excessive supervision and rules.

  11. Maggie

    I graduated in 92, and my youth group was pretty similar. Boys and girls hung out together, and I had tons of guy friends in high school and in college. We did have some basic clothing rules…no short-shorts, no bikinis, no tshirts with bad language/drugs/alcohol/secular bands on them…I think that was it. We went to a camp with way stricter rules on dress…and got the cringey talks about causing men/boys to lust by what we wore…given by MEN…and then older men checked to make sure our shorts came to our knees everyday. And our whole youth group would complain on the way home, with our youth leader agreeing with us. We did days at the beach, the lake, and pool parties as a youth group. I mean, we did have plenty of adult supervision, but we just played and swam and had fun. When we did teen activities…we were allowed to sit by and interact with guys just fine. If you sat by the adults, they’d laugh about who was flirting with whom. Our yearly beach trip was soooo hands off with adult supervision. It was only 10-12th graders, and we had adults in our rooms at night, but we had free time with little to no supervision for most of the weekend! Even the yr after some kids snuck out, we had appropriate supervision, but still had freedom to go and do on our own. We were treated like adults…not like we were out to release our hormones constantly.
    I was married by the time Josh Harris’ book came out. My brother told me about it, being as he was a youth leader. He seemed conflicted by alot of it. He and I had some conversations about it. He’s one to feel guilty about alot of stuff, so he was worried that maybe he shouldn’t have dated girls so much…I didn’t agree so much with the book. And my adult brother kept dating, so I guess he didn’t really follow the book! 😂 Idk if he ended up using it in his youth group or not?

    • Maggie

      Until I was 9, I went to a church that was full of religious abuse, and the Christian school there fed two religious abusive colleges: Bob Jones University and Pensacola Christian College. And I remember a group coming from one of those colleges, and the speaker talking about how he waited till his wedding to kiss his wife…and all us teens were horrified, lol! And most of our parents told us THEY hadn’t waited to kiss till their weddings, either! 😂
      I’m not so sure HOW I ended up with a fairly healthy view of sexuality, as my parents’ entire contribution to sex was giving me a book by James Dobson…but I was curious and read a TON, and tried to balance Christianity and sex drive and what not.
      My biggest irritation is alllllllllllllll the views that females don’t have sex drives. Omg, that’s the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard! Girls in public school, girls at Christian camps, girls at Bible colleges, and women who are married…we talk about and enjoy and discuss and joke about sex A WHOLE LOT, for it to “not be something we want”! And seeing as current p*rn watching numbers are higher in females vs males…it’s time for that little lie to end. Like was mentioned above…God made women with a clitoris, and sexual feeling is its only function!!!
      I’d also love that stupid little lie to end that only men are visual creatures. Lol, I got told that that’s why the guys could strip their shirts and wear shorter than knee length shorts while playing soccer…at a camp with crazy stupid strict rules for female’s dress codes. (One that required all knee length anything while the females played any/all sports, but apparently guys “needed” to wear umbros to play soccer.). I laughed loudly and asked if it was true that ONLY guys like to look…why was the soccer field surrounded by teen girls?! I said, I’m sure NONE OF THEM enjoy seeing a guy’s bare chest, nor his sexy muscular legs! Of course, us girls would NEVER find a man’s body attractive… lol, that game got shut down quick…😂🤣😂
      Anyways, I’m glad to have escaped that weird stuff…and that now there are other resources for my kids. I sent them both the 18 things to tell me teen/boy posts you did. Told them it was required reading, lol! My son groaned and asked if he had to…and I said the alternative was ME reading it ALOUD to him, and then expanding on it….😂😂

  12. Will

    Thanks for this article. The youth group i attended in the late 90s/mid 00s in the UK was very influenced by US purity culture- in fact, sadly most of what I remember from it was endless sessions on sex and lust, and constant discouragement to talking to or associating with members of the opposite sex. As a pastor’s son and a keen Christian I took it on board very seriously. With hindsight, I think it has sadly left deep scars, meaning I continue to struggle with shame around sex and healthy physical desire for my wife. My wife came to faith at a later stage and doesn’t seem to have had the same experience as I did.
    Although I’m sure the teaching was given with the best motives, looking back I think it was misguided. It stigmatised good natural desires and didn’t frame sex within a proper biblical context. it was also very legalistic- I think it fell into the same trap as the Colossian Christians and their “harsh treatment of the body”, which ultimate can’t restrain “sensual indulgence” (Colossians 2v23). Rather, we should have been encouraged to pursue Christ wholeheartedly (as it sounds as though you were). When our joy is in him, then we will want to please him in every way, including in our relationships.

  13. Brandie

    I went to two totally different youth groups as a teen in the late 80s/early 90s.
    First church was a first generation Dutch immigrant church. Teens and parents worked together on the dairy farm and in the home as a team. Most kids wanted to follow their parents’ heritage and there was no need to harp on purity because the kids generally respected and obeyed. Everyone knew sex was a cool benefit of marriage. What else was there to say? Youth group was more about passing down our Reformed heritage and being a witness.
    My next church in the early 90s was fixated on end times. We all believed Jesus was coming very soon and most of us acclimated to the idea that none of us would experience sex. I do remember being told “It is good for a man to not touch a woman” and Paul’s words were understood literally. No holding hands!
    With that said, there was a smaller group who began sleeping with their boyfriends because Jesus would come back and there wouldn’t be a consequence. There were three pregnancies in my youth group and it wasn’t a big group. It wasn’t like an accidental pregnancy would ruin much. Jesus would be back before the baby was born or even showing. We actually thought we knew which month He was coming.
    The important thing for most of is was “Am I really saved?”


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