By Natalie Romero
The Azure Hills and Redlands churches joined forces to present a program for teens called Swipe Right: God, Love, and Dating. It was designed to help high schoolers approach relationships and sexuality from a healthy place.
In a world where media and dating apps are prevalent, teens are inundated with various peer and social pressures.
“We thought it was time an event like this was done to share God’s perspective,” said Nick Snell, youth pastor at Azure Hills church.
On Friday, Sept. 27, the young women gathered at Azure Hills for their part of the programming with Jessie Lopez, young adult pastor at Azure Hills church. The young men met at the Redlands church on Sabbath the 28th.
“We did this to increase the sense of safety for participants,” explained Snell of the decision to carry out the meetings separately. “We wanted them to be able to hear and share without feeling embarrassed in front of the opposite sex.”
“Most of the time when a kid comes to my office under stress, it has something to do with a relationship,” added Chris Stanley, youth pastor at Redlands church. “So we wanted them to speak openly and honestly.”
Various presenters visited both groups to discuss everything from marriage and a healthy self-image in God to more taboo topics, such as pornography.
“You don’t want to create shame or public embarrassment, but these topics do need to be addressed,” said Stanley. The youth pastors were aided by Julie Estrella, family and sex therapist, as well as pastors, various chaplains, and a married couple.
It quickly became evident that the attendees in both groups wanted conversations like these to take place more often.
“They can handle it,” said Snell. “They need to decide what they think about such matters, rather than defaulting to what is common in culture.”
Event organizers all agreed that it was successful and said they hoped it would be repeated next year.
“It tapped into a real need,” Stanley asserted. “At the end of the weekend, there was a real acknowledgement that they’re going to help each other be wiser, treat the opposite sex better, and care for their relationships. They want to hold each other to a higher standard.”