ETR Logo ETR Logo ReCAPP logo

Topics In Brief

All Topics In Brief

Communities of Faith and Teen Pregnancy Prevention

This edition of Topic in Brief includes the following sections:

Introduction

This edition of ReCAPP focuses on the connection between communities of faith and teen pregnancy prevention. We will focus on the ways educators can work with communities of faith to meet the sexuality education needs of youth and their parents.

Definitions

Used here, the phrase "communities of faith" refers to places of worship, organizations, services or groups which bring together and serve people sharing a common religion or faith. The term "clergy" refers to religious officials.

top

An Overview of the Issues

"Religion can play a significant role in promoting the understanding of sexuality as an affirming expression of equality, mutual respect, caring and love," according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) in the Religion, Spirituality, and Sexuality Report, (February/March, 2000).

Undoubtedly, many teenagers look to their religious communities as an important social resource. According to the Search Institute, "Each week, millions of young people participate in religious services and programs… that provide opportunities for growth," (www.search-institute.org/congregations/).

Moreover, religiosity may be a protective factor for teenagers; research suggests some religious youth delay sexual activity. According to Keeping the Faith: The Role of Religion and Faith Communities in Preventing Teen Pregnancy (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2001), "teens who attend services frequently are less likely to have permissive attitudes about sexual intercourse," and those "who are more religious hold more conservative views regarding sex."

Generally speaking, research on the effects of religion on teen sexual behavior is weak. However, the potential for communities of faith to play a role in reducing sexual risk-taking appears promising. "Eighty-three percent of (American) teens say that religion is 'an important part of their life,' . . And 39 percent of teens say that their 'morals, values and/or religious beliefs' are the largest influence on their decisions about whether to have sex." (Faithful Nation: What American Adults and Teens Think About Faith, Morals, Religion and Teen Pregnancy, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2001)

While a recent survey found that 90% of faith congregations offer programs for youth, the potential for collaboration between reproductive health and sexuality educators and faith congregations is far from realized. "Seventy percent of adults and more than 70% of teens said that churches and other houses of worship 'should be doing more to help prevent teen pregnancy.'" (Faithful Nation: What American Adults and Teens Think About Faith, Morals, Religion and Teen Pregnancy, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2001)

Many attribute this lack of collaboration to the philosophical divide between sexuality educators and religious leaders, or a variety of other reasons (e.g. ignorance, not knowing where to start, no policy statement), yet there are many champions in faith-based communities who are strong proponents of sexuality education. According to a 1998 survey conducted by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, 89% of clergy agreed that sexuality needs to be part of the congregation's educational program, and 95% agreed that "individuals can benefit from dialogue within the congregation about sexuality issues." (A Time to Speak: Faith Communities and Sexuality Education, 1998)

Perhaps clergy and others in faith communities are unsure about where to start or who to contact to initiate discussion or development of a policy statement incorporating sexuality education into their communities. In any case, there are sufficient reasons to explore collaboration between sexuality educators and religious leaders.

top

What Educators Can Do

Partnering with communities of faith can be very advantageous for educators. Such a partnership might offer opportunities for educators to interact directly with teens, support the work of clergy and adult volunteers providing youth programs, and help parents talk with their children about sensitive subjects including sexuality and pregnancy prevention. For sexuality educators interested in reaching out to communities of faith, the following tips may prove useful:

  • Identify gatekeepers or individuals from communities of faith who will be inclined to collaborate with you. Use good judgment in selecting congregations to work with by first becoming familiar with their faith and traditions. Ask an acquaintance of that faith, or a member of the clergy, for suggestions on references.

  • Look for interfaith groups, which include clergy representing different faiths, already existing in your community and ask to provide representation from your agency on events or local issues. Be willing to invest time to get to know each other. Invite them to your events and share your resources with them. You will then have established relationships of trust when opportunities arise to provide pregnancy prevention programs for their youth.

  • If there are no interfaith groups in your community, ask religious leaders if you can help them unite to make a difference in preventing teen pregnancy. One of the recommendations in Nine Tips to Help Faith Leaders (from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy) calls for working with several local leaders to coordinate efforts to address teen pregnancy for a wider community impact. One example of this coordination is for faith leaders to collectively decide on a particular week for congregations to address the issues of teen pregnancy.

  • Offer to co-sponsor workshops to parents of communities of faith who may want help in learning how to talk with their children about sensitive subjects, such as teen pregnancy prevention, within the context of their faith.

  • Be aware of points of alignment and disconnect. Know where the "red flags" are and agree to respectfully disagree on those specific areas. Most importantly, find common ground and collectively work from there.

  • Establish a safe learning environment for all. Look for mutually agreed upon mechanisms to identify issues, and develop a good working relationship by creating roles and responsibilities for you and the congregation's representatives with whom you are working.

For more information about partnering with communities of faith, check out the related Educator Skill Partnering with Communities of Faith to Discuss Sexuality.

 

top

More Information/Resources

Organizations and web sites with information for educators working with communities of faith:

  • The Center for Sexuality and Religion
    987 Old Eagle School Rd., Ste 719
    Wayne, PA 19087-1708
    610/995-0341
    www.ctrsr.org

  • United Church Board for Homeland Ministries
    700 Prospect Avenue
    Cleveland, OH 44115
    216/736-3800
    www.ucc.org

  • Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
    25 Beacon Street
    Boston, MA 02108
    617/742-2100
    www.uua.org

  • Catholics for a Free Choice
    1436 U Street, NW, Suite 301
    Washington, DC 20009
    202/986-6093
    www.cath4choice.org/indexengflash.htm

  • Coalition for Religious Sexuality
    Bill Stayton or williamstayton@compuserv.com
    610/971-0700

  • The Park Ridge Center for the Study of Health, Faith, and Ethics
    Project on Religion, Sexuality, and Public Policy
    211 East Ontario Street, Suite 800
    Chicago, IL 60611
    312/266-2222

  • Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
    1025 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 1130
    Washington, DC 20005
    202/628-7700
    www.rcrc.org

  • Religious Consultation on Population, Reproductive Health, and Ethics
    2717 East Hampshire Street
    Milwaukee, WI 53202
    414/962-3166
    www.igc.apc.org/consultation

  • Search Institute
    Thresher Square West
    700 South Third Street
    Minneapolis, MN 55415
    800/888-7828
    www.search-institute.org/congregations

  • Vanderbilt University's Carpenter Program in Religion, Gender, and Sexuality
    206 Divinity School
    Nashville, TN 37240
    615/343-3967
    http://www.vanderbilt.edu/divinity/carpenter.php

  • Interdenominational Theological Institute
    700 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
    Atlanta, GA 30314
    404/614-6362
    www.itc.edu

  • Advocates for Youth
    1025 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 200
    Washington, DC 20005
    202/347-5700
    www.advocatesforyouth.org

  • Comprehensive Health Education Foundation (CHEF)Partnership Project
    22323 Pacific Highway South
    Seattle, WA 98198
    800/323-2433
    www.chef.org/more.htm

  • The Network for Family Life Education
    Rutgers, The State University
    100 Joyce Kilmer Avenue
    Piscataway, NJ 08854-8045
    http://rasputin-cscd.rutgers.edu/nflef.htm

  • Planned Parenthood Federation of America
    810 Seventh Avenue
    New York, NY 10019
    212/541-7800
    www.plannedparenthood.org

  • Sex Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS)
    130 West 42nd Street, Suite 350
    New York, NY 10036
    212/810-9770
    www.siecus.org

  • Common Ground Network for Life and Choice
    Search for Common Ground
    1601 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Suite 200
    Washington, D.C. 20009
    202/265-4300
    www.sfcg.org

  • AIDS National Interfaith Network
    1400 Eye Street, NW, Ste 1220
    Washington, DC 20005
    202/842-0010
    www.thebody.com/anin/aninpage.html

  • Family Life Productions, Inc.
    PO Box 1799
    Gloucester, MA 01931-1799
    800/600-5779
    www.family-health.net

  • The Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing
    www.religiousinstitute.org

top


Suggested books, curricula, resource guides, and articles:

  • Keeping the Faith: The Role of Religion and Faith Communities in Preventing Teen Pregnancy
    by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, Brian L. Wilcox, and Sharon Scales Rostosky
    The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
    September 2001
    www.teenpregnancy.org

    To download a copy of the summary, go to www.teenpregnancy.org/faithsum.pdf

  • Nine Tips to Help Faith Leaders … and Their Communities Address Teen Pregnancy
    The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
    November 1998
    www.teenpregnancy.org

  • Faithful Nation: What American Adults and Teens Think About Faith, Morals, Religion and Teen Pregnancy
    September 2001

    To download a copy of the survey data, contact the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy:
    www.teenpregnancy.org/keeping.pdf

  • Snapshots From the Front Line III: Lessons From Faith-Based Efforts to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
    National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
    www.teenpregnancy.org

  • Sacred Choices … The Right to Contraception and Abortion in Ten World Religions
    by Daniel C. Maguire
    Fortress Press, 2001
    Minneapolis
    www.sacredchoices.org

  • Sacred Places, Civic Purpose: Should Government Help Faith-Based Charity?
    edited by E.J. Dionne, Jr. and Ming Hsu Chen
    Brookings Institute, 2001
    www.brookings.edu

  • The Advocacy Manual for Sexuality Education, Health and Justice … resources for communities of faith
    Edited by Sarah Gibb, 1999
    Unitarian Universalist Association
    www.uua.org

    United Church Board for Homeland Ministries
    www.ucc.org

  • Our Whole Lives (comprehensive sexuality education curriculum)
    Unitarian Universalist Association
    25 Beacon Street
    Boston, MA 02108
    (617) 742-2100
    http://www.uua.org/owl/facts.html

  • A Time to Speak: Faith Communities and Sexuality Education
    by Debra W. Haffner
    Available for $12.95 from Publications Fulfillment
    SIECUS
    120 West 42nd Street, Ste 350
    New York, NY 10036
    (212) 819-9770
    www.siecus.org/media/press/press0001.html

  • Mothers' Voices and Communities of Faith (workshop guide)
    Mothers' Voices
    165 West 46th Street, Suite 107
    New York, NY 10036
    1-888-MVOICES
    www.mvoices.org