Terry Doerksen (youth and young adults pastor, Westwood, Winnipeg) and Erin Thiessen (resident dean, Trinity Western University, Langley) combined forces with four Winnipeg young adults to have an interactive conversation around the topic of human sexuality. We were given a glimpse of the world through the eyes of college students. The presenters spoke with candour and passion. The workshop goal of embracing conversation with respectful, healthy dialogue far exceeded my expectations.
What are some things this 40-something white, heterosexual pastor learned from these college students in 90 minutes? Let me share just a few thoughts and observations.
Young adults value sex. Read that again. Young adults value sex. The younger generation doesn’t just flippantly participate in sex as is frequently portrayed in our overly sexualized media and culture. Having sex is a BIG decision, not simply a flippant, casual act done on a whim. This encourages me.
The church needs to talk about the topics connected to human sexuality. If we don’t, how will the younger generation be comfortable bringing their questions and struggles to the church? There is fear that stems from the perception that simply experiencing struggles is already sin. Why is it that sexual sins are considered really, really bad? It’s time to talk about sex, to converse, to seek understanding, to listen. Let’s learn the language and ask the questions. And let’s not be afraid of providing solid, foundational, biblical teaching as a part of this conversation.
We must watch our language. I’ll make this personal. I have to stop using charged language in my conversations. No jokes about sexual identity and behaviours are acceptable. I must learn not to react to things that are shared; put simply, I must never act squeamish with a bizarre look on my face when someone trusts me to join their conversation. I must become comfortable with words such as homosexuality, LGBTQ, pornography, same-sex attraction… I must struggle both to love others and to tell the truth. These are not mutually exclusive. I desire to be a safe person with whom to converse.
When asked what the church can do to create a safe space, one of the young adult panelists spoke of the real value of mentors. “We are looking for leadership, for wisdom; to be heard; be present and be available and love me. Listen and be a non-anxious presence in my life.” Or, as someone else said, perhaps we need to be more of an “everyday person” – people who naturally speak of the struggles, realities and victories of life in every corner of life.
And lastly, we were reminded to uphold a high view of both marriage and singleness. I must confess that it is easier to rail against same-sex marriage than to call out those involved in heterosexual sex outside of marriage (whether premarital or extramarital). The biblical case for chastity must also be a part of our conversations.
As I conclude, I realize that listing things I learned is but one step in my journey. What’s next? For me, I desire to be a safe person who is committed to listen. I desire to be compassionate, to ask questions, and continue to learn. I must refrain from quick-fix solutions. I want to love deeply and hold on to truth firmly – and I am glad I don’t have to choose between the two.
—Leonard Klassen serves as an associate pastor at King Road Church in Abbotsford. A part of his role is working with young adults and adult ministry. He can’t help but hope this conversation will continue.