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Leaders: True Love Waits undergirds abstinence pledges

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A teenager’s environment is a key factor in determining whether he or she will stay true to a pledge to abstain from sexual intercourse until marriage, a co-founder of a worldwide abstinence ministry said.

“Everything in our culture is geared toward the sexual failure of our teenagers,” said Jimmy Hester, co-founder of True Love Waits and director of youth publishing at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. True Love Waits is a LifeWay ministry.

Hester’s comments came in the wake of a study released March 9 of survey data from 12,000 teenagers ages 12 to 18 who were re-surveyed six years later. Eighty-eight percent of those who had signed a pledge of abstinence indicated they engaged in sexual intercourse before they were married.

The study was conducted by faculty members at Yale and Columbia universities and financed in part by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“True Love Waits was a ministry developed to focus on a specific group of teenagers who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and are motivated to adopt His way of thinking and living,” Hester noted.

“But we also understand that teenagers can’t maintain that commitment to abstinence on their own. They need encouragement by parents and other adults, peers and the church to know they’ve made the right choice. They need a community of people who can counter the sexual bombardment they get through advertising and trendy television shows targeted at them that glamorize adolescent sex. We believe True Love Waits helps foster a supportive environment.”

LifeWay launched True Love Waits 10 years ago, and it has led to more than 200 similar programs. Since 1993, more than 2.4 million young people have signed TLW commitment cards. Weeks of study and discussion precede the public signing ceremony. True Love Waits has proven effective in both the United States and in AIDS-riddled countries such as Uganda, South Africa, Guyana and Kenya where more than 30 True Love Waits clubs have cropped up to support teens in their abstinence decisions.

The focus of True Love Waits has always been a commitment to biblical purity, not a method of combating sexually transmitted diseases, Hester said.

He noted that a byproduct of its effectiveness, however, is that the HIV/AIDS rate of incidence in Uganda has dropped from 30 percent of the population to 5 percent since True Love Waits was introduced Uganda a decade ago. The program has been endorsed by the Ugandan government and First Lady Janet Museveni as a primary strategy for combating that nation’s crisis.
For more True Love Waits information, visit www.lifeway.com/tlw.