Our abstinence presenters use a broomstick in their high school presentations to send a convincing message about sexual risk.
And no, it’s not a disciplinary thing.
A willing student volunteer tries to balance a broomstick on the palm of his hand while fixing his eyes on the bottom of the stick. No matter how hard he may try, the student simply cannot balance the stick. But, when attempting the same exercise with eyes focused on the top of the broomstick, the balancing trick is easy. The kid looks like a circus magician.
And the takeaway for the students is to start out with the end in mind. Avoiding sexual risk means keeping your eyes on your future and your future marriage.
Abstinence presentations like ours, at Women’s Choice Network in Pittsburgh, are geared toward helping kids see the value in saving sex for marriage, in part to avoid sexual risk. But how’s that working out in our schools, churches and families?
Are our abstinence conversations finding the kind of success we’d hope?
One thing we’re finding more and more as we present in local schools is that, sadly, very few teens have even a basic grasp of the meaning of marriage. They simply don’t see the value of marriage, so it’s no surprise to find them searching for answers when it comes to sex.
In fact, very few children we encounter have even attended a wedding. When we ask, “Who has been to a wedding?” very few elementary school children’s hands go up. The occasional "Yes" will then reveal that it was "my mom's" or "my dad's" wedding.
Gone are the days of church-centered weddings, which have been largely replaced by today’s adult-only affairs at pricey venues. The popular wedding website, TheKnot.com, encourages brides to “stand strong” and “limit the guest list,” warning wives-to-be to not even “extend ‘ceremony only’ invitations to children.” Martha Stewart’s wedding etiquette agrees—inviting children is “not appropriate” at most weddings.
Marriage has become increasingly irrelevant to the post-modern millennial generation, and it’s leaving today’s Generation Alpha kids completely adrift in a culture that has deconstructed the very definition of marriage.
As educators, parents and pregnancy center advocates, we must help students look to the top of the broomstick. We must do everything we can to communicate biblical truths that never shift or erode with the tide of opinion. We need our abstinence presentations to cast a robust vision for marriage. We need to show them what’s so important—and beautiful—about marriage.
Several years back, I met with a teenaged couple—the proud parents of adorable twin girls. Both only 18 years old, this couple had been living together for almost two years. A surprise pregnancy changed everything and now they were new parents facing an uncertain future. The proverbial broom stick was on the floor.
“When do you think you might get married?” I asked them. It seemed like a natural step to me. After all, they were living together and had children. I’ll never forget the answer: “Marriage is for the old people at Denny’s,” the new mom responded, “And by the time my babies grow up, those people will all be dead.”
Admittedly, I was a bit shocked at the hopeless response—not to mention, I kind of like Denny’s. She continued to explain, “You grew up with a vision of a white dress, a long aisle, and heart-shaped bathtubs in the Poconos—happily ever after stuff. But I didn’t grow up with that. That’s your vision, not mine.”
Both of these young people, like many of the clients we meet in our work, were raised in single-parent homes. Marriage was merely a worn-out dream of another era seen in black-and-white TV reruns. As a result, they dismissed marriage and were ready to try anything else that might bring intimacy, love and connectedness. They simply did not have a vision for marriage.
As a long-time director of a pregnancy center, my heart has been breaking for the children born to our clients each year—now over 5,600 little ones since I began at my center in 1985. Most have lived out their childhood in a single-parent home.
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Marriage continues to be one of the rarest of our outcomes. Fatherhood programs have had some success in keeping men off the sidelines, while more and more studies confirm what we already know—kids raised in a two-parent home are much more likely to thrive and succeed. We know that marriage makes kids smarter and more confident. We know that marriage makes men and women wealthier, happier and healthier.
Sharing God’s plan for marriage is a life-transforming opportunity. It also creates a natural bridge back into Christian community, where pre-marital counseling is most likely to occur. Marriage takes the focus off of the immediate issues and places our clients’ eyes on the top of the broomstick.
God has something to tell our wonderful teenagers and client families about intimacy, covenant, creativity and unity. At its core, marriage is a message of hope and redemption that can lead women and men to Christ—and thus, into fullness of life.
How equipped are you? Do you have the strategies and resources to present the marriage option? Promoting, modeling, and marketing marriage could make the difference for the next generation, for thousands of young couples each year and for the little ones they carry.