True Love Waits

Teaching and Preaching Abstinence to Teens

Founded in 1993, the True Love Waits program is designed to promote abstinence among high school and college students. It is an international program sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources, though it is lead in a grassroots way by participating youth.

What Does True Love Waits Promote?

Many Christians believe in the idea that we should not have sex until we are married. True Love Waits promotes sexual purity not just in a physical way, but also in a cognitive, spiritual, and behavioral way. The new True Love Waits 3.0 points out significant markers in our lives and uses them to teach us how walk a path of purity. It promotes a practical approach to abstinence rather than just saying "don't have sex before marriage." The program hosts conferences and provides materials to parents, churches, and youth groups around the world. There is also a blog that discusses issues related to True Love Waits.

How Does True Love Waits Work?

The True Love Waits program begins by signing a commitment card to abstain from sex until marriage. It encourages students by using positive peer pressure. The program is primarily youth based and it works to bring the abstinence message to schools and youth groups around the world. The organization provides resources to students to not only take a pledge, but learn how to overcome temptations. It provides resources to parents and leaders to learn how to support and guide teens into living a pure life.

Do Teens Really Participate?

In 1994, over 210,000 cards were displayed in the National Mall in Washington, DC. That number has grown to where over a million students have participated in the True Love Waits program by signing commitment cards. Over 460,000 cards were displayed in Athens, Greece during the 2004 Summer Olympics. Today it is estimated that over 2 million teens have made abstinence pledges around the world.

Support for True Love Waits

There are a number of studies that show abstinence programs can work to reduce the percentage of teens having premarital sex. A 2004 Heritage Foundation study showed that girls who took abstinence pledges were 40 percent less likely to get pregnant before marriage. In Uganda, the program helped reduce the outbreak of HIV/AIDS from 30 percent to 6.7 percent. While abstinence pledges may not completely eliminate premarital sex, studies now show that teens are not necessarily predisposed to having sex at an early age or before they feel ready. A study in the American Journal of Sociology showed that those taking an abstinence pledge were 34 percent less likely to have premarital sex and engaged in sexual intercourse at far older ages.

And the Critics Say…

True Love Waits often gets lumped into most abstience-only programs. The major criticism of these programs is that they do not work in overall sex education programs, because they keep students from learning how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy if they do decide to have sex. Studies have also shown that abstinence pledges do not necessarily prevent premarital sex, as most of those signing the pledges do end up having sex before marriage. However, the same studies have demonstrated that a majority of those signing the pledges do delay the first time they do have sex, allowing them to be more mature and possibly make better choices when they do.

No Matter What

One aspect of True Love Waits that is essential to success is the education of parents and leaders in guiding students. Taking a virginity pledge is not going to be the cure-all for premarital sex or unwanted pregnancies. It may never eliminate either, but it can open up a line of discussion between parents and teens about the impacts of sexual behavior. It can help to open teens eyes to sexual behavior and making better and more mature choices.