Christianity Today poses this question to three respected authors: What's the best way to encourage people to save sex for the covenant of marriage? Excerpts:
Mark Regnerus, author of Forbidden Fruit: Sex & Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers, says to focus on one's calling:
Human sexual development has not kept up with our preference to have more education, financial security, and life experience before marrying. On the contrary, the time gap between sexual maturity and marriage is the highest it's ever been…
…Unfortunately, most young Christians move into their 20s without realizing that a vocational calling—to marriage or singleness—has already been given to them by a loving Creator. Instead, they imagine marriage as the capstone to the self and a wedding as its commencement, to take place when they wish it to.
What we have as a result is what we deserve: lots of unmarried Christians trying to discern what does and doesn't constitute sex, and attempting to retain some semblance of virginity by keeping non-marital partners to "just a few" as they live out the self-centered promises of emerging adulthood. The church is called out of that nonsense to be a peculiar people. In step with their peaking fertility and sexual interest, Christian young adults need to get about the business of their calling to marriage or singleness—whichever it is.
Richard Ross, cofounder of True Love Waits, advises to make a promise to Jesus:
True Love Waits is not a promise to a program, card, or ring. It is a sincere promise of purity made to the reigning Christ for the glory of the Father by the power of the Spirit.
The promise is kept most tenaciously by teenagers who have moved beyond moralistic therapeutic deism and who adore the King of Kings with awe and intimacy. They know their Lord and Savior said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." Their walk in purity is a way to express deep love for him and to respond to his supremacy.
Donna Freitas, author of Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America's College Campuses, counsels to stop talking about marriage:
Most people understand abstinence as a several-years-long commitment, perhaps even a several-decades-long one for young adults, and present it as such. If you present a student, already overwhelmed by living in hookup culture, with what sounds like another overwhelming framework for having sex (or not having it), you won't get very far, at least not with too many of them. They are already living in one impossible situation—offer them what sounds like another impossible situation, and they are likely to keep treading water where they are. And where they are is hookup culture.
The unpleasant, unfulfilling realities of hookup culture have made abstinence more attractive. But tying a discussion about abstinence to marriage, in my opinion, is a pedagogical mistake. Most students need help in seeing their way out of hookup culture for this coming weekend, never mind being asked to see years beyond graduation to the second half of their 20s, when the average college graduate is likely to marry.
There is so much talk about sexual experimentation during the college years. Choosing abstinence is a kind of sexual experimentation. We just don't often discuss it in such terms. But college students love the idea, and, once they have thought about it for a while, are often eager to experiment with it.
Though not mentioned in this article, a couple of other books related to the topic worth evaluating is Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity (Lauren Winner) and Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World (Josh Harris).