In the past few decades teen pregnancy rates have skyrocketed. Similarly, the age at which people get married has spiked as well. In 1960, the average age for men to get married was 22.8, for women it was 20.3. In 2007, the average ages had increased to 27.5 and 25.6, respectively. These rates shouldn't seem alarming, however. People are getting married later because of careers. And, in many cases, marriage is delayed because of cohabitation (which is totally another post for another time). And in most cases, couples are sexually involved before their wedding. Over 90% of couples partake in sexual intercourse before their wedding night.
So, how do Christians fit into these trends? Well, they're keeping up pretty well. About 80% of church-going, single, conservative Protestants have pre-marital sex.
Yes. You heard me. 80%! That's insane. Obviously the church's "True Love Waits" campaign is working... errr NOT.
For many teenagers and young adults 27.5 years old seems old. Way to old to wait for sex. And, honestly, most Christian teenagers are constantly beat over the head that they shouldn't have sex, instilling fear and anxiety around something beautiful God created, but never told Biblically why they should wait. If you're a teenager/young adult reading this and this describes you, go ahead, grab some Gatorade, get comfy, and read Song of Solomon. You'll need the electrolytes because it is steamy. The first time I read the book all the way through (which unfortunately was this year) I was so relieved. People in the Bible did want to have sex!! They did passionately love each other. Hallelujah! But their love was still pure. Praise the Lord! Song of Solomon might be a little more practical and applicable than your senior pastor who's in his early 60's talking about sex. Just sayin'.
So, besides reading Song of Solomon, how should Christians respond to these alarming statistics? I personally think our parents have the most power in this situation (our as in single Christians who are in their late teens/early twenties). I'd be willing to bed that most of "our" parents got married in their early 20's. My mom wasn't even done with school when she married my dad (say it isn't so!!). I know many couples who have been married for well over a decade and got married when they were 19 or 20 and still in college. However, ALL of those individuals I've talked to about marriage have adamantly demanded that I wait until after college, even years after college, to get married. I use the word demanded because in their minds, its not a choice.
Why did they get married early and have successful marriages? Why was it so different for the previous generation? Oh, wait. Was it that different back then? I don't think so. I realize now, in 2011, a college degree doesn't mean all that much. If you want to get a good job and have security, you basically have no other option but to go through years of graduate and/or doctoral programs. I totally get that because I'm totally in that boat (even though that seems totally unfortunate at times). However, going to school for a few extra years doesn't change your desire to be united with another godly individual and mesh lives and service. Entering into a graduate program doesn't magically turn off your sex drive or make you more fertile later in life.
Couples who got married early in life should not hinder or condemn young couples who are looking at marriage, but encourage and support them. According to an article in the USA Today, people who get married in their early to mid-20's have happier marriages and are more satisfied with their marriage than people who get married in their late 20's and early 30's. By showing young people that marriage is a formative institution rather than an institution to enter into once you're fully formed, young Christians can shake off the burden of marrying once their lives are straight and struggling with intense lust and sexual sin in the mean time.
If you're at all interested in this topic, which I've barely scratched the surface of here, I highly recommend reading this article on Christianity Today. It's Biblical and extremely insightful.
*By the way, I'm not advocating for teenage marriage, especially when it is induced by teen pregnancy.**Also, I'm totally not saying that I'm planning on getting married next week or even next year. Just serving some food for thought.