July 28, 1999

Parents key to teen abstinence
___By Ken Camp
___Texas Baptist Communications
___SAN ANTONIO--Even apart from biblical commands to remain sexually pure, the risks of unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and emotional scars should be compelling reasons for teens to abstain from premarital sex, according to the program director of a non-profit educational organization that promotes sexual abstinence.
___"Abstinence means freedom from the problems associated with teen pregnancy and STDs, freedom to aim for success in life," Eric Tooley told youth ministers at a seminar on teen pregnancy held in conjunction with the Texas Baptist Youth Evangelism Conference.
___Every day in the United States, 2,739 teenage girls get pregnant and 8,219 teens contract a sexually transmitted disease, noted Tooley, a former youth minister who now works with Aim for Success. Every year, one in four sexually active teens gets an STD, and chlamydia is now four times more widespread than chicken pox, he added.
___Youth ministers can help to encourage sexual abstinence before marriage by urging teens to delay dating, enforcing boundaries and being responsible adults, Tolley suggested.
___"Don't say to youth, 'I just want to be your friend.' Teen-agers have friends. They need adults who act like adults," he said.
___When a teenage girl faces a crisis pregnancy, a youth minister should not try to solve her problems, push her toward a solution or encourage her to make any hasty decisions, Tooley said. Instead, he offered three suggestions:
___ Love her unconditionally.
___ Encourage her to go to her parents. "Go with her if you need to, but get the parents involved as quickly as possible."
___ Direct her to a crisis pregnancy center, pregnancy resource center or similar program offering abortion alternatives.
___For teens who have not become sexually active, Tooley said youth ministers can share some good news. Both independent research by government agencies and surveys by Aim For Success reveal that the majority of teens have not had sex.
___"That's not the message most teenagers get," he said. "They think everybody's doing it except them."

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