Women Need Sexual Sanity Too
By Megan Fowler
Sexual Sanity for Women

For decades, the church has understood the importance of discipling men to live with sexual integrity, but women struggling with sexual temptation or guilt over their pasts received less help in the church. As a result, Christian women often don’t know how to think about faithful Christian living when it comes to their sexuality and thought lives.

That’s why Harvest USA now offers a free, digital small-group curriculum for women, encouraging churches to help women develop a gospel-centered vision of sexuality. In April, Harvest USA released “Sexual Faithfulness: Gospel-Infused Practical Discipleship for Women.” The 10-week small-group study complements Harvest USA’s “Sexual Sanity for Women” and can serve as a standalone small-group study, one-on-one curriculum, or a companion to “Sexual Sanity for Women.”

For years, Christian teaching on sexuality was more reactive than proactive, focusing on curbing errant behaviors rather than addressing wayward hearts. Many Christians who absorbed this teaching came to believe the goal of discipleship was behavior modification or that their sexual sin defined them for life.

“Women and men, girls and boys, heard about God’s design and what’s right and what’s wrong, but they weren’t being led to the Christ of the Word — a living, saving, compassionate, forgiving, cleansing, heart-transforming Savior,” said Ellen Dykas, co-author of “Sexual Faithfulness” and the director of women’s ministry for Harvest USA.

As sexual sin increasingly ensnares Christian women — through promiscuity, pornography, same-sex relationships, or sexual fantasies — they need a full understanding of the gospel to break the cycle of sexual sin, addiction, and shame.

Christian women need a full understanding of the gospel to break the cycle of sexual sin.

According to 2020 statistics from Covenant Eyes, a faith-based internet accountability company, 40 million Americans regularly visit pornography websites. Surveys by Barna Group in 2014 and 2016 found that 76% of women ages 18 to 30 report viewing porn at least once a year. Among the same age group, 21% report viewing porn several times each week.

A recent survey by the National Survey of Family Growth found that 74% of evangelical Protestant women ages 18 to 22 who have never been married have been sexually active.

“The silence of the church regarding the topic of sexuality makes women feel like they’re the only ones struggling, which just isn’t true” said Shalee Lehning, co-author of “Sexual Faithfulness” and a member of Harvest USA’s women’s ministry staff.

“Sexual Faithfulness” builds on Harvest USA’s tree model of understanding the heart and behavior. Just as a tree’s fruit is the product of its roots and systems, the heart powerfully influences human behavior.

“The tree model forms the basis for why we do what we do,” said Dykas. “It’s out of our hearts, with our desires playing a part in that, along with influences out of our control. All of this shapes our beliefs, which eventually play out in the way we live.”

Topics in the study include union with Christ, God’s design for sexuality, relationships with and views of men, how Christ transforms one’s thought life, and the role friendships and church relationships play in our lives.

Co-author Lehning had a personal interest in developing this small-group curriculum. As a young adult and new Christian, she struggled with shame over her past and confusion over what Christian faithfulness meant. A woman in her church invited her to join a small group reading “Sexual Sanity for Women,” Harvest USA’s first curriculum for women. Lehning reluctantly agreed, only to discover that the book offered a gospel-centered answer to her struggles. The small-group setting helped her see she was not alone.

“I realized the gospel speaks into this area too, and I’m not the only Christian dealing with these things,” said Lehning. “The messages I had heard began to dissipate and the truth of God’s Word began to come alive.”

“Sexual Faithfulness” is biblical, but also practical and accessible. The leader’s guide helps leaders gain confidence that they can navigate these sensitive discussions. “Ultimately, women are being discipled to look more like Christ in this area of their lives,” said Dykas.

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