13 December 2017

TALKING ABOUT THE BIRDS AND THE BEES!

Love for Life tackles the hot topics churches and Christians often neglect!

raLove for Life is a Christian organisation working throughout Northern Ireland and across Ireland to help young people develop a healthy respect for themselves, relationships and sex. They are involved at a strategic and influential level in a number of networks, working alongside other agencies and Health Trusts as they contribute to the Sexual Health Promotion Strategy in Northern Ireland.

Here CEO, Judith Cairns shares why it is so important for the church to engage with the issues surrounding relationships and sex.

The last decade has seen such a decline in values and increasing sexualisation of children in the UK and Ireland. We are living in a society where there is immense pressure on young people to engage in sexual activity at an early age.

This year Love for Life delivered school presentations to 31,085 pupils across the country, and over 276,000 in the last 10 years. These programmes help young people make informed choices as they navigate their way through adolescence and balance the pressure and mixed messages from the media, friends and family.

Love for Life surveys of over 10,000 teenagers found that 22% of 15-yearolds had engaged in sex. One in three young people had their first sexual encounter whilst drunk.

A survey conducted in Ireland shows that 80% of females and 60% of males regretted becoming sexually active at a young age.

What pupils said about the Love for Life programme in their school:

“They didn’t judge – just said the facts and asked you to make your decision.”

“I wasn’t judged for anything I’ve done in the past. It showed me that I shouldn’t feel under pressure to have sex.”

“It showed you that it is your choice and took the pressure off that you get everyday.”

“Thank you for informing me. I really enjoyed it. I’ve learnt a lot and I don’t feel pressurised or insecure anymore.”

“They made me feel more comfortable to wait for marriage.”

In feedback and data gathered from Year 11 & 12 young people in schools:

85% found the Love for life programme helpful.

82% said that what they heard would influence their decisions in the future.

As an organisation we do not set out to be the solution to this issue. We need the support of teachers, parents, youth leaders and churches if we are going to see change in society. Historically the church has had a head-in-the-sand mentality. As Christians we need to deal with this topic, properly. If young people are not getting the answers from us they will go somewhere else. The great silence from the church and from parents could continue to add to the problem.

There is a brilliant opportunity to inform, support and encourage young people. We need to tell our young people, “You are valuable and precious.”

“Parents often say that they struggle around sensitive issues of how to talk to their children about sex and the pressures they face. All the evidence is that where parents do engage and talk, their young people are more likely to make good choices.” Dr Richard Barr, founder of Love for Life.

As parents we may feel overwhelmed, embarrassed or ill equipped. We need to ask: What is the most important message I want my teenager to hear from me? What is the one thing I want my child to remember?

As a parent, I want my children to know that there is nothing they can do that would make me love them any less. I want to keep the communication channels open, creating a safe place for them to share what is happening in their life, without fear of rejection or alienation.

It is vital that there is an even wider ownership of this (not just the youth leader or the parent). This is a massive issue. We need to give Christians the courage and the skills to talk about relationships and to offer the unconditional love and support that young people need, even if they have already made choices that they may regret.

In our programmes, we emphasise that today is a new day. Whatever is in the past, young people can choose to make different choices about how they value themselves and others. This is such an important message within our churches. We have a number of options available for young people and for parents and we are currently writing a resource that will encourage discussions, perhaps in a small group setting.

Among 1172 young people (16-30 year olds) surveyed, 91% Christian, 81% single:

82% agreed or strongly agreed that many young people were having sex due to pressure from their friends and the media.

Less than 53% of those describing themselves as Christians gained advice from the Church; however it is encouraging that 87% agreed that the Bible has something to teach us about relationships and sex.

Young people want to have the conversations; we need to be prepared and ready. If we don’t who will? And what then?

Pornography is an increasingly prominent and negative influence on our young people (and those not so young). In that same survey, 79% of males and 17% of females had accessed internet porn. (This was not affected by marital status or Christian commitment). However in this survey 81% thought pornography was harmful.

In response to this, Love for Life partnering with Urban Saints and The Big House Ireland are planning to host a conference called ‘Porn Scars’ on Fri 17th & Sat 18th May 2013 in Lisburn, Co. Antrim.

The Porn Scars conference is a one-day event (same programme both dates) aimed at church leaders, youth leaders, parents and grand-parents, basically, anybody who cares about the effect that pornography has, and will continue to have on young people today.

The purpose of the conference is to:

• Raise awareness of the issues

• Theologically reflect on appropriate Christian pastoral response

• Point people to tools and support.

• Demonstrate that there is a hope, and envision local leaders and Church members to show this hope to their young people.

We would love to see 100s of people there, who because they care about young people, want to understand the pressure and influences, and are keen to be part of the solution and begin the conversation.

Let’s not be silent! Let’s talk about this with our young people. Don’t let the media do it for us…

Contact Love for Life to find out more.

www.loveforlife.org.uk

6 Banbridge Road

Waringstown, Craigavon

Northern Ireland

BT66 7QA

028 38820555

WORDS Judith Cairns CEO, Love For Life