Purity Culture. . . What Do You Think? . . .

When you’ve been in the world of youth ministry as long as I have, it’s easy to look into the rearview mirror and notice that there are several things you’d do the same way all over again, and then there are those ministry efforts that you’d probably do a bit differently. . . perhaps QUITE a bit differently. That’s certainly the case for me. And to be clear, whichever of these two categories my evaluative hindsight would drop all those ministry efforts into, I can tell you that the one common thread among them all was good intentions.

For those of us who were meeting regularly back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s with a group of kids we dearly loved, we most likely spent time praying that they would be spared from all the growing fallout from the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Our kids were coming of age in a culture that sent strong sexual messages. They were being encouraged to embrace a sexual ethic where you could do whatever, wherever, however, whenever, and with whomever. 

We wanted to see our kids live counter-culturally when it came to their sexuality. We desired to see them embrace God’s order and design for their sexuality. So, we talked, taught, and talked some more. We made use of a host of youth ministry resources that were being churned out to help us points kids in the right sexual direction. There were books, movies, music, magazines, seminars, conferences, and all kinds of special events which we had our fingertips as youth ministry “ammo” we could use to steer kids in the right direction. It all became collectively known as “The Purity Movement.” I would emphasize again that our push for sexual purity was rooted in good intentions. We utilized these resources, again, all with a deep, deep desire to love and lead these precious young image-bearers into God’s order and design for sex and sexuality.

A few decades have passed since then. And when we look back in the rearview mirror, we have the benefit of evaluating our purity message “input” back then with the “output” of long-term results that we see now. Here at CPYU, our online Sexual Integrity Initiative uses “Initiative” rather than “Purity” for reasons that are described in this helpful handout for parents. And that’s what we discussed on this latest episode of our Youth Culture Matters podcast. Our guest was Rachel Joy Welcher, author of Taking Back Purity Culture: Rediscovering Faithful Christian Sexuality. Rachel looks at the good things that have come out of those early efforts, while helping us see how doing things differently moving forward will only help our kids live out God’s glorious design to His glory! If you want to revisit your own youth group experiences with purity culture. . . and learn how to effectively lead today’s kids into God’s order and design, you can listen here. . .

2 thoughts on “Purity Culture. . . What Do You Think? . . .

  1. Hey Walt hope you and Lisa are well.
    I listened to the podcast with Welcher. Agree with most all of it.
    It seemed at a couple of points that she was blaming folks like they did it on purpose. I may have just listened wrong.
    Also, I am wondering if she talked to Richard Ross (True Love Waits)?
    blessings to you.

    1. Thanks for the comment Dudley. I thought the same as I was reading through her book but in fairness, she looks back and sees that all these efforts were very well intentioned. Nothing duplicitous about them. Even as I have looked back on my own efforts in the 80’s on these matters (we’re both old enough for that!) I realize that knowing what I know now, I would continue to promote a biblical sexual ethic in ways that would more clearly point to bringing glory to God as the purpose. I think I was doing that back then. . . but the critique 30 some years later based on the outcomes of those efforts indicates that I could have done a much better job. Does that make sense?

      I don’t know if she’s talked to Richard or not. I kept thinking about Richard’s love for Christ and kids as I read the book. Like all of us, we truly engaged in these efforts because we valued truth and loved kids.

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