by Arik Stewart, Youth Pastor
In our three years leading youth ministry, Bryan, Nano and I have grown in our understanding of how to encourage our young men to pursue God in all areas of life. But one area we never approached, at least not with everyone at once, was sexual purity. Our delay came from a desire to build relationships and establish trust before having group teaching and discussions. But honestly, much of our hesitance in the past was due to the fact that this is a difficult topic to teach and facilitate discussions on. Individual conversations have happened in one-on-one discipling relationships but, as our group has grown and our young men have grown up, we’ve felt more urgency to begin having our conversations with the entire group. Preparing for them allowed Nano, Bryan and me to discuss our beliefs together, ensuring continuity with one another and with the church. Beyond that, I was able to have conversations with almost every young man’s parents to hear their priorities and their cautionings for the talks. After weeks of preparation, we had compiled content from numerous sources and had planned a camping trip.
And so we went! We took many of our young men to Mt Evans. After summiting, we went back to Echo Lake near the mountain’s base to set up camp. Then we went for another hike to smash potatoes with a baseball bat before coming back to prepare dinner. As we began eating, we started our first discussion with Proverbs 27:17: “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Dissecting the passage, we concluded that, just as iron sharpening iron causes tension and friction, so does vulnerability. Yet, both lead to sharpening: the sharpening of a weapon and the sharpening of a young man. I explained to the group that starting conversations and being honest with people I trust has been hugely beneficial for me personally. It’s allowed me to recognize that I am not alone, that I am forgiven and that there is hope for the future. After Bryan, Nano and I shared stories and gave teaching, we had an opportunity for the young men to confess sin out loud and there was unanimous willingness to be vulnerable. It was meant to help them realize that they are not alone in their struggles. After less formal conversations late into the night, we slept in a massive tent and emerged the next morning to make breakfast. As we ate, we had our second conversation entitled, “You Are Forgiven.” One of the highlights of this time of teaching was the idea that we seek righteousness not because it saves us but because God wants to transform us. We prayed together, asking God to rid us of all shame and to use our guilt only temporarily so that we are drawn back to Him. Though we planned to have all four discussions on the camping trip, each discussion was so full that we ran out of time.
We had the third and fourth discussions at youth group. Our third conversation was entitled, “Purity Paves the Way to Intimacy.” We identified that intimacy with God is the highest motivation we have for purity. There are many other motivations that help us in our fight, but intimacy with God should always be our foremost goal.
In our last conversation, we talked about practical steps for how a young man can keep his way pure. Psalm 119:9: “how can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.” We included Proverbs 13:20: “walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” We encouraged accountability and the habit of protecting both their eyes and their mind. Ultimately we prayed together, asking God for strength to do so. Throughout these talks, I was thoroughly impressed by the maturity and vulnerability of our young men. Bryan, Nano and I are blessed to be in community with them, to teach them and to learn from them. We intend to do so all the more in the days ahead.