Each year, we have a crazy gift exchange where everyone brings a gift that costs $10 or less. You get a gift at random, can steal other people’s gifts – it’s called different things, but we just call it our Advent Crazy Party, and then talk about how we are waiting for Jesus.
This year, one of the gifts was a box of condoms and two shot glasses. So we ended up talking about sex and drugs (I consider alcohol a drug).
It was my best youth group meeting of the year. I always cover the topics of sex and drugs in youth group each year and it’s always the best discussion we have. Normally, I send out a letter to parents a couple of weeks ahead of time before I do it, but this year when those gifts came out, we started the discussion right away. [I told the person who got the gifts that their parents would get a call. One parent was upset, the other wasn’t, but they talked through it.]
Kids just don’t get enough time to talk about sex and drugs in any meaningful way, to ask honest questions, to discuss it with each other without being judged by their friends about “oh, you must be doing it.” What better place to talk about this than youth group when you are safe and in your comfort zone?
I’ve been doing this for a long time so I’m comfortable having these discussions. But if you’re not, invite speakers to begin with, and as you become more comfortable you can do them yourself.
I offer a puberty class every couple of years. I usually bring in someone from Planned Parenthood to help with that conversation. People need that, they need a safe place to talk about it and just to explore so they can have an open conversation at home. I also offer a class for the parents where most of the time they say, “Oh my God! How am I going to deal with this?” while their kids are off in the other room asking lots of questions.
Normally when I have these meetings, what I do is have a bunch of index cards and pens, and a basket in the middle of the room. I tell the youth to write any questions they want and put them in the basket. I let them know that I may not answer all of them. Some of them I will definitely answer; some I will maybe answer if there’s time; and some I will answer with them individually, if that seems most appropriate (and please be aware of safe boundaries if you are going to answer one-on-one). Then I leave the room for 15 minutes and tell them I’ll be back. (Actually, make that “we’ll be back;” I always have two adults and it’s better to have both male and female adults present.)
A couple of things: first of all, my own sex life is off limits. I never discuss it, and if people ask, I don’t answer.
Secondly, I’m honest about what I don’t know. I use Google a lot. In this last discussion, the kids asked me about something and I said, “I’ve never heard about that drug!” I Googled it and it turns out it doesn’t even exist; they were just testing me to make sure I was telling the truth. Always tell the truth. Also, youth themselves are a resource. You don’t need to have all the answers. You can open it up and ask “Does anybody have any info on that?” Sometimes you’ll learn a lot from the kids.
Third, although the first word is “abstinence, abstinence, abstinence,” I also have to deal with reality, reality, reality. For this youth group, my topic was risk. I tell them, don’t do more than one risk at a time, and that gift of condoms and shot glasses suggested two risks at once. I keep it God-oriented, but I also keep it real.
Really, for me personally, bringing it back to God was really easy to do: our body is a gift, our life is a gift, our families are gifts, even though they frustrate us, and how do we treat those around us and ourselves with respect.
Kids are incredibly hungry for this sort of discussion and information. You can start with a short DVD or YouTube clip as a discussion point. The movie “Saved” is a great place to start. Just be sure to address this topic! This is important information and it’s what they talk about in day to day life. What better place to do that than church?