3 Books to Have on Your Shelf: Sexuality

1) Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity by Lauren Winner

There are few better starting points for exploring a scriptural understanding of sex and chastity than Lauren Winner’s Real Sex.  Winner is able to write with accessibility and candor in a way that makes her communication clear and engaging.  She begins by considering the Bibilical view of sex as well as the mixed messages we receive from the broader culture about it, and she spends the second half of her book exploring the beauty and necessity of what it means to be chaste – both as individuals and in Christian community. 

Winner is able to strike an amazing balance of theology, anecdotes, research, and cultural exegesis in this piece, and it is one of the first resources to which I often point friends and fellow ministers.

“When it comes to sex, one cannot leave out marriage.  The no to sex outside marriage seems arbitrary and cruel apart from the Creator’s yes to sex within marriage.  Indeed, one can say that in Christianity’s vocabulary the only real sex is the sex that happens in a marriage; the faux sex that goes on outside marriage is not really sex at all.  The physical coming together that happens between two people who are not married is only a distorted imitation of sex, as Walt Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort is only a simulation of real wilderness.  The danger is that when we spend too much time in the simulations, we lose the capacity to distinguish between the ersatz and the real” (p. 38).

2) Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry by Mark Yarhouse

My friend, Wesley Hill (author of another fantastic resource, Washed and Waiting), says it best in his foreword at the beginning of the book: “Mark Yarhouse has written a book that describes, better than almost anything I’ve read, the kinds of questions I was asking when I was a teenager in my church’s youth group – and a book that, in turn, gives youth pastors the necessary tools to engage those questions with delicacy, discernment, faithfulness, and love.

“In the pages that follow you’ll gain insight into how young people try to construct a sexual identity for themselves.  You’ll learn about the ‘scripts’ – explicit and implicit – that your church, and the surrounding culture, are offering sexual minorities in that process.  And you’ll learn much else besides.  Most of all, you’ll receive a glimpse into what it might look like to be a person of safety and refuge for the young people to whom you minister.  

“If we all took to hear the instructions in this book, our churches would be more characterized by the grace and mercy of Christ” (p. 8-9).

This, truly, is a book I would recommend that every youth minister read.  It can be very difficult to know how to navigate conversations about sexuality with our students, and Yarhouse offers an incredible amount of wisdom and some very helpful categories for relating to students, especially in relation (but not limited) to same-sex attraction.

3) Mom, Sex is No Big Deal: Becoming Your Daughter’s Ally in Developing a Healthy Sexual Identity by Sharon Hersh

This book is an excellent resource for mothers who are seeking guidance in relating to their daughters on the topic of sexuality.  Hersh offers helpful questions to engage conversation with daughters, in addition to providing heart-revealing diagnostic questions for the mother herself.  The book is chock-full of stunning statistics regarding teens and sexuality – although it came out in 2006, so most relate to adolescents surveyed in the early 2000’s.  

Even if you are not a mother, Mom, Sex is No Big Deal! is worth your time; the compassionate, grace-centered wisdom of Hersh flows through every page and is likely to bless your relationship with your daughter, your spouse, and maybe even yourself.

“Many well-meaning Christian families create a context of sexual ignorance when they dispense only information and rules.   Your daughter may know the biological facts, and perhaps you’ve told her that she should save herself for marriage.  But what is she saving herself for?  What is the value of sex?” (p. 34)

“…I believe we are often ineffective in talking to teenagers about sex.  We don’t know why sex is important.  There can be many reasons why a married couple isn’t enjoying a healthy sex life, but when a couple concludes that sex is just not that important, they are most likely missing the meaning of sex.  They may need to work on their emotional intercourse or there may be physical challenges, but they still need to know the meaning of sex – that what we do with ourselves, others, and God in a sexual relationship matters” (p. 116).

Liz Edrington serves as the Fellowship Groups and Young Adults Director at North Shore Fellowship in Chattanooga, TN. She received her M.A. in Counseling from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL, and she has worked with students in one form or another since 2002. She is an emeritus member of the Rooted steering committee, and she's the author of a 31-day devotional for teenagers called Anxiety: Finding the Better Story (P&R Publishing, 2023). Pickled things delight her, as does her snuggle beast, Bella the Dog.

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