God designed sexuality to be an important part of what it means to be human. Because of this it is an important part of discipleship. However, it is imperative that any time sexual subjects are engaged that it be done in an appropriate manner. Please be sure to be aware of and to follow closely the guidelines of your church in this area. With that said, below are some key developmental considerations for different ages that may help you in understanding the boys to whom you will be ministering and their needs at those stages in the area of sexuality. We reference “dad” often below because we believe that it is a boy’s father who ought to be taking “point” in discussions about sexuality. Follow the guidelines of your church in this area as you seek to take the principles below and to apply them in your Brigade ministry.
TADPOLES (AGES 4-5)
Children at this age may be fascinated with play that’s clearly sexual in nature. You, as a dad, may find them playing doctor. Sometimes, they invent peeping games in which they show off “interesting” parts of their anatomy. This kind of play is an expression of curiosity more than anything else. The fact that this is common and in some senses “normal” should not prevent you from addressing sexuality, especially with regards to curiosity about their bodies, in an age appropriate way. This is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate that our bodies are good and that certain parts of our bodies are designed to be treated with special care. The parts of our bodies that are covered by our underwear are not shameful but they are special. That means that we shouldn’t be showing them to others or letting others show their private areas to us. It’s also a good opportunity to talk about speaking to a parent or other safe adult if anyone, even those in positions of authority or trust, seek to touch our bodies in any way that makes us feel uncomfortable.
TREE CLIMBERS (AGES 6-7)
Children this age have an increased awareness of sexual differences between boys and girls. You, as a dad, should be the one giving them the basic information. This will help them develop healthy attitudes toward sex and they won’t feel as inclined to hide their interest from you. They’ll also be less apprehensive and embarrassed about what they don’t know. This is particularly important as boys near puberty. If there has not been a healthy culture of discussion about our bodies and sexuality before puberty begins, the many changes that take place at that time often create embarrassment that prevents important conversations from taking place.
STOCKADE (AGES 8-11)
This is the age for friend groups of the same sex. Boys will probably refuse to play with girls . Usually they’ll want to be part of a group of boys. Their interest in sex may appear to wane, but there’s a latent curiosity.
Some boys in your group may come from families where there isn’t open communication or where improper attitudes toward sex have been fostered. If a boy is unable to talk to his parents, be prepared to answer his questions about puberty and sexual relationships, especially when he reaches age 10 or 11. Again, be sure to follow your churches policies in this regard. You must seek to protect the boy from any kind of inappropriateness in your discussion and you should also seek to protect yourself as well. If issues of sexuality or a boys body are brought up we believe it is a good idea to communicate this to other men in leadership positions within your Brigade unit or church. Bringing these discussions to the attention of others can help you guide your conversations, keep them appropriate and healthy, and can protect all who are involved. Also, do your best to involve a boy’s father in these discussions. An important part of our ministry is helping to support not supplant a boy’s father.
Modesty will be important to boys at this age. They’ll be reluctant to be seen naked by their friends. This will become apparent at camp or campouts. Support this desire and don’t make fun of them. Be aware of potential body image issues as well. Affirm boys in their physical differences and help them to see that God really has designed them well and that they can be secure in that design.
BATTALION (AGES 12-14)
Junior-high boys have a strong interest in sex. They’re becoming sexually alive, which profoundly effects their emotions and relationships. They may be self-conscious about the growth of their sexual organs and wonder if they’re normal. Boys may experience vivid sexual fantasies and then feel guilty about them. Masturbation may increase. Be prepared to talk about this to any boys who come to you for advice. A Christian young man has the same fantasies and sexual feelings that a non-Christian has. He cannot deny his feelings, but he needs to know what is right behavior.
In the search for sexual identity, teenagers often confuse love and sex. From the media and school, boys are bombarded with a distorted image of sexuality . The biblical guidelines are clear, but TV and movies constantly distort, challenge and ridicule what God intended for men and women. Be prepared to teach these guidelines to your Battalion boys.
This is a vital time to show a boy the beauty and power of the gospel. Struggles with sexual sin are often a cause of feeling shame. This feeling of shame often over-shadows the peace that Jesus provides in The Gospel. Guilt should not be used as a way of seeking to manipulate boys into right behavior. Rather, as boys begin to experience struggle with sexual sin point them back to the freeing message of the gospel that as we trust in Christ we can know that God’s wrath against our sin has been turned away and that we can have a sure hope that over time we will see a continued victory over our sin, even sexual sin.
BATTALION (AGES 15-18)
Boys at this age have nearly completed the physical changes they were going through from ages 12 to 14. However, some boys develop slowly. They may wonder if they’ll ever grow up. They’ll be very apprehensive about their slow development, and at camp or on campouts boys will have a tendency to joke about or ridicule slowly developing peers. Any joking about it will be taken as an insult. As a leader, you can offer sympathetic encouragement to be patient. You can also set a tone where this sort of joking is not tolerated. You can also affirm young men as you see them taking on the physical attributes of becoming a man.
Boys this age are increasingly interested in girls. They may feel more secure in handling themselves around them. They’ll probably want to begin dating, and as a leader, you can offer some guidelines for them. Their parents may already have rules regarding dating. You should seek to understand these parental guidelines as you seek to help a young man think through some issues on their own, such as how to treat a girl with respect, and dating alone versus building non-intimate relationships in groups.
Premarital sex is common at this age, and boys may be ridiculed if they haven’t participated in promiscuous sex. Boys may have high standards on how to treat girls, but their temptations aren’t any less intense than anyone else’s. Make yourself available to boys who want to talk or need encouragement in this area.
You can find more information like this in our Building Men book. Take a look here.