For Youth Workers Post

Sexual Struggles

Will Penner

“In the Habit” session for use with devozine meditations for August 18–24, 2014.


“When I began my first job as a youth minister, I inherited a job description that included, among other things, this task: ‘Coordinates an annual sexuality study for both junior and senior high youth.’ Confirmation was the only other specific study listed—and kids generally only go through that process once. So a sexuality study was a big deal. The curriculum they’d been using was antiquated and stale; so as a young, single youth minister, I was left to come up with just the right plan and just the right curriculum for an incredibly sensitive topic. I was way out of my depth.

“Since then, I’ve taught sexuality units scores of times and it’s still an incredibly sensitive topic. I’m convinced, though, that it’s one of the most needed topics to cover in the church today. Most parents don’t talk much about sex, and most schools don’t cover it; so if we don’t talk about it in church, we’re relegating learning to TV shows, online forums, locker rooms, and public school buses—and as someone currently immersed in the public school scene, I think that’s an incredibly scary proposition!” —Will


Will PennerWill Penner has been in ministry with young people for two decades in Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches, in public and private schools, and as a popular speaker at youth retreats, camps, and conferences. He has served as the editor of the leading professional journals of youth ministry and has authored or edited numerous books and youth ministry curricula. Most important, he is the husband of Christine Penner, Children’s Minister at First United Methodist Church in Dickson, Tennessee, and the father of five children ranging in age from two to nineteen.



  • is an organization devoted to helping people overcome sexual addition, especially online pornography. They have terrific resources for students and adults, including ministry professionals.


Begin by distributing pens and copies of the “Porn and Sex Stats Worksheet.” Ask people to fill in the blanks by guessing the percentages, dollar amounts, and number of people involved in the activities listed. The worksheet is not meant to be a test, so they should rely on their gut-reactions to complete it. When everyone is finished, go over the actual figures from the “Porn and Sex Stats Answer Guide,” pausing periodically to discuss numbers that are lower or higher than group members had guessed.

Conclude this activity by discussing these questions:
       What do these statistics say about how we objectify other people? (You may need to explain that to objectify, in this context, means to treat others as objects used to gratify our own desires.)
       If we think only in terms of what is normal, we are likely missing the mark in how we understand God’s desires for our sexuality. Do you judge your sexuality by the world’s standards of normal or by God’s standards? What’s the difference?


Scripture: Genesis 1:27, 2 Samuel 11:1–15

In the midst of creating the world and everything in it, God made only one creature in God’s image: the human being. Read aloud Genesis 1:27. God could have chosen to create people as just another animal, but God chose to include the divine image in each of us.
       How does thinking of other people as created in God’s image change the way you think about viewing pornographic images?
       How does thinking of yourself as created in God’s image change what you do with your own body?

Distribute Bibles, and invite each person to read silently the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11:1–15. Than ask the group to list the chain of events in the story, pinpointing each small cause and effect along the way. Prompt them as necessary to outline the following:

  • David accidentally noticed Bathsheba naked. Instead of turning away, he continued to gaze at her, which caused his lust to grow.
  • As his lust grew, he decided to flirt a bit, seeing if she was already in a relationship with someone else; and she was.
  • Because he had the power to do so, he had sex with her even though she was married to Uriah the Hittite.
  • After they had sex, she got pregnant.
  • Because David didn’t want to be part of a political sex scandal, he tried to cover it up by bringing Uriah back from the war so that he could have sex with his wife and think the child was his.
  • When Uriah refused to sleep with his wife while the war was still going on, David tried getting Uriah drunk so that he would lose his inhibitions and have sex with his wife.
  • When nothing else worked, David ordered his soldiers to abandon Uriah in battle so that he would be killed.

Make sure these three concepts arise in this discussion:

  1. David didn’t make one large mistake but many small mistakes. At several points along the journey, he could have made better decisions that would’ve mitigated the damages. How often do we try to justify our actions by saying that “everybody does it” or simply because we are ashamed to take responsibility for what we have done?
  2. David is described in scripture as a man after God’s heart (1 Samuel 13:14), yet he made some terrible mistakes. This should remind us that sexual sin is incredibly easy to fall into, even for godly people. We must always remain vigilant against the temptation of sexual sin.
  3. Ultimately, David repents for his sin and bears responsibility (2 Samuel 11:27b–12:13a). When we fall, we should do the same rather than escalating problems by adding more bad choices to the previous ones.


Invite the group to pray. Explain that the prayer will include times of silence during which the youth can pray for specific people and/or personal situations that come to mind. Then read aloud the follow prayer, pausing after each sentence for a moment of silent prayer:

“Merciful Lord, much of our world is marked by sexual sin.
We forget how much you love us, and we try to replace your love
       with sexual imagery, activity, and idolatry.
Please relieve those who are addicted to sexual activity.
Relieve those who are addicted to pornography.
Redirect those who waste their time, bodies, and mental energy
       in pursuit of sinful sexual pleasure.
Change the heart of those who profit from the objectification of others.
Remove our own temptations to treat others
       as anything other than your precious children, created in your image.
Beloved Creator, as we continue to fall short of your desires for us,
       thank you for recreating us again and again, fashioning us into your image.
In Jesus’ blessed name, we pray. Amen.”


  • A good way to make a lasting impact on young people is to host a single meeting or (preferably) a multi-session study on sexuality for parents and youth together. Consider using the “Porn and Sex Stats Worksheet” and “Answer Guide” to foster discussion at this gathering or to encourage parents to talk about sex with their kids at home.

—from devozine In the Habit (July/August 2014). Copyright © 2014 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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