This blog is in response to a question I got from a youth leader at the church my family and I have been going to.
His question was:
“How do I best deal with/ handle/ address/ coach / lead youth leaders and young adults through their addiction to porn?
And how do I do the same for those who have had pre-marital sex?”
Read below to see what I had to say. If you have kids or know kids or just want to help kids this would apply:
I think the best thing that has worked in youth ministry for me and now with my own kids is the more you talk about things, the better. If you have leaders around that understand the temptations today and what kids are going through, even better.
I grew up in a church where the youth pastor sent a note home in February to parents letting them know he was going to address the topic of sex. I also grew up with James Dobson Focus on the family tape cassettes. They had a tape series on “preparing for adolescence,” which my mom wore out by playing them on the way to school, so she didn’t have to talk to me about it. I feel like she tried, and so did my pastor, but what proved most effective was my youth pastor meeting with me weekly, one on one. We talked openly and honestly about sex topics and temptations.
Let’s back up because we need to start with kids before they are in junior high and high school and get parents to not repeat the patterns of their parents. Like it or not, by default, we will do what our parents did when it comes to our kids. Since most parents today grew up with parents who lived at a time where they could never talk about sex and these issues, my fellow parents know not talking is not the answer. But it is all we know, so we just avoid it like our parents did. The problem with that is our kids are living in a way more advanced sexually driven culture. This requires us to do something different and have these talks.
I took the approach that I want to talk to my kids about sex before anyone else did and to do that I had to start early. My wife and I agreed that 7 years old for both of our kids would be a good age. I believe that kids will talk to their parents about things their parents talk to them about and kids will also do the opposite. They won’t talk to their parents about things their parents don’t talk to them about. We didn’t have just one conversation about sex and porn, but several and ongoing. As new questions and conversations arise, we talk.
Nolan and I were at a Lany concert in Hollywood right next to “Boy’s Town” and heard the term “sausage fest” as we walked past one of the clubs. There were a lot of men around, and Nolan asked what the term “sausage party” meant. Because we talk openly, he wasn’t and never has been afraid to ask a question about anything, and especially not about sexual things. I strongly believe if parents are on board from the beginning, it makes your job way easier. Parents don’t want to deal with things until there is a problem, so most likely your youth leaders are going to know what’s going on with these kids way before their parents. This means you may not get understanding and support from all parents.
I wrote a book called Touchy Subjects and I think is great for parents with kids ages 5-15 years old. It gives parents some practical things to do. If someone doesn’t want to read, I did a talk for parents that we give out to churches to play at parents nights. Anyone can watch it HERE.
A new Barna study said that kids view not recycling as a bigger problem them looking at porn. This is the first generation that looks at porn with not remorse and out of boredom. Most of the 40-year men I deal with look at porn to fill a void in their life because of trauma or something that is broken. They view looking at porn with a huge sense of shame and guilt. Our website XXXchurch speaks to them in their language. A 12-year old that see’s nothing wrong with porn or pre-marital sex is a lot harder to reach and a lot more numb.
My kids have friends that are atheist, vegan, and so on.
I have told them that their friends don’t know yet what they believe really and why. Nolan just shot a youtube video about how to dress like a middle school girl. He and his friends talk about how all the girls wear the same outfit. Adidas Superstars shoes, boyfriend jeans, bomber jackets and crop tops. When we went to Foot Locker to shoot the video, a middle school girl was trying on Superstars high tops. The lady at foot locker told the girl, “These just came out; these high tops will be the next thing.” The girl looked upset and told her mom that no one at school has the high tops. She ended up getting the low tops.
That incident at Adidas and some of Nolan’s friends remind me how much of followers kids are. That’s one thing I loved about youth ministry to middle and high school kids. How easy it was for kids to be swayed and influenced by myself and other upstanding leaders. Your leaders have more influence on these kids than they know. By being casual during small groups, talking from a stage on Sundays – these 20 something leaders really speak truth and honesty to these kids. If they would talk about how things are hard and temptations are all around us; the kids would listen.
Both my kids have small group leaders, and Nolan thinks Joseph, his leader, is the coolest (especially because Joseph loves the band 21 Pilots). Because he looks up to him, I know the things that Joseph says and speaks into Nolan are going to matter. If Joseph talks about dating and not having sex with his girlfriend or not looking at porn, that would be cool for Nolan to hear. For a youth leader to hold the same values as their parents suddenly could become cool. I feel the more you can push your leaders to speak life and talk about real stuff with the kids one on one, the better.
As far as the kid who is having sex or who is open and honest about looking at porn. Once again, the honesty of this generation is refreshing, but hard as well. It’s hard because they don’t carry much shame. The good side of their candid honesty is that they tend to be more open and less secretive on some of these issues, which means it is easier for you and your leaders to engage with them. They want to know why not to have sex with their girlfriend and why not to look at porn – not just “don’t do that.”
Last year I heard my mom was a virgin when she got married to my dad. I asked my mom why she had never shared that with my sister or I until now. My kids know I was a virgin and my wife wasn’t. My wife’s personal story of pain is better than a recited Bible verse or opinion of mine as to why my kids should not have sex. My wife can talk out of experience, and I can talk about my experience and hope our kids see the value in that.
One thing I have learned to ask about with sex and porn is, “Why are you doing that? How do you feel when you do these things? Is this possibly medicine they are using to medicate or cover up a bigger issue?”
Sometimes we blame porn, when we see that porn wasn’t the problem, it was the escape. So, combining personal stories as to why staying away from sexual things is a good idea and asking the question of why will be very beneficial.
Believe it or not, this was sent on text message and with a whole lot more spelling errors. Hope it encourages you with the kids in your life.
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