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Despite ‘True Love Waits,’ some teens fail, Ross says

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–Despite the positive impact of the widely publicized teenage sexual abstinence campaign “True Love Waits,” even those teenagers who have signed pledge cards can and do fail sexually, Richard Ross says.
Ross, whose youth group at Tulip Grove Baptist Church in Hermitage, Tenn., began the movement in 1993, told youth leaders at the National Conference for Church Leadership that not all who make the pledge keep it.
The commitment is shaping the behavior of thousands of teenagers, Ross said, and the vast majority who have signed pledges are living very different lives from some of their peers.
“We really do have lots of people reaching marriage who have successfully kept their commitments,” he said. “One recent wedding included the exchange of the couple’s True Love Waits rings. And at another wedding, a flower arrangement at the reception featured the couple’s signed pledge cards.”
But national statistics on teenage pregnancies and abortions, though improved for the first time in 20 years, indicate 1.1 million teenage girls get pregnant each year, Ross said.
“If it were not for the fact that pregnant girls tend to drop out of church or quietly have abortions, we would see pregnant girls in our youth groups often.”
And among teens who have had sex, he continued, one out of four carry some kind of sexually transmitted disease. Some who have diseases are not aware that they carry them.
“As a result, some girls will never be able to have children, some girls will experience unusual pain every month and some guys will never father children. For those who have such a disease, the chances of contracting AIDS goes way up,” he said. “It is just roulette.”
Ross said True Love Waits was never presented as a virginity campaign because “we want young people who have made serious mistakes in their lives to be welcome to pledge abstinence ‘from this day forward until my marriage.’ We want to accept young people who have found God’s forgiveness.”
He said youth ministers who discover that youth in their church have engaged in sexual activity should take several steps in counseling them.
“First, lead teenagers to clarify their salvation. Without that knowledge, how else do you know how to proceed in the conversation? In the pain and grief of failure, they may realize they never committed their heart and life to Jesus Christ,” he said.
Next, help them acknowledge the reality of their sin, he suggested.
“We don’t need to beat them up, because they are already suffering emotionally, but be sure they understand what they have done is breaking God’s law. They may be sorry they have been caught or that you know or that their parents know. But they need to accept responsibility, not to make them feel worse but so they can experience forgiveness when they admit to sin,” Ross said.
Third, he suggested, talk with them about finding God’s forgiveness and then lead them to think of others of whom they should ask forgiveness. These probably will include parents, their partner and friends who may know what has happened.
“Bring up the issue of a pregnancy test,” Ross said, “as well as the possibility of a test for sexually transmitted diseases.
“Raise the issue of their future relationship with their partner. Ask if they can realistically continue to spend time with that person and not do those things that have happened in the past.”
And finally, guide the teenager to make a new promise of purity to God.
“Be Jesus in their lives,” Ross told youth ministers. “Jesus was as clear-cut as he could be about morality. As he dealt with people who had failed sexually, always his goal was restoration.
“God still has a plan for the lives of teenagers who mess up. If we can help them find his forgiveness and healing, we can get them back on track to find his will for their lives.”
The National Conference for Church Leadership, July 4-11, at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center was sponsored by the Baptist Sunday School Board’s church leadership services division.

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  • Charles Willis