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A couple of weeks ago I turned to find my 6th grade daughter with her fingers in her ears as I answered the question of one of my students in our small group. We were having a night, well actually a series, on “the talk.” It had turned into an eight week series, on “Marriage, Dating and Sex.” This particular night there were a lot of questions about all things “sex.” My daughter was responding by hiding. I, however, was not phased by her reaction as there was a part of me that wanted to handle the conversation the same way.

Let’s face it. We can’t all be Craig Gross, founder of XXXchurch.com and author of several Simply titles on the topic of sex. For some of us, this topic is entirely uncomfortable. Even if you think you have a handle on it, chances are there is going to be something at some point that makes you squirm. No, not about what the Bible says, that part it relatively easy to navigate. We want our students to have “God’s best,” and that’s why we know we need to discuss it. Yet, when the questions come it can be down right scary. (Believe me, I have had some really truly “special” topics come my way.) Sometimes I think they ask just to see if they can shock us. Other times they really want to ask someone they trust.

It’s not a question of, “Do we have the sex talk?” It’s more. When it all goes awkward, what do we do?

Communicate With Parents:

Before you head into these waters of this particular topic, make sure parents know the dates you will be talking “sex” especially. On the one hand, some may decide they don’t want their child as a part of the topic and that is their choice. Make sure you let them know that you are not going to replace them in any way. This is an additional place to have these conversations. After the difficult conversations, let them know an example of some things that you talked about. Avoid reporting things like, “Your child asked this.”  Instead, say something like, “These were some of the questions that were asked, and this is how we responded.” I can only imagine my 6th grader coming home to tell me she spent an hour with her fingers in her ears. I wouldn’t know what to think.

Don’t Be Afraid To Blush:

I tell students when we start on the topic of sex that I won’t know all the answers. I will blush, and I might stammer a little. I have been married 16 years and sometimes this still makes me blush. I let them know that giggles are alright. We laugh when we don’t know what else to say. We aren’t going to get out of control, and we aren’t going to ask things that are totally outlandish just to see if that will make me squirm. I will attempt to answer anything, but it has to be a “real” pondering.

What Have YOU Done?

Inevitably our students want to know OUR story. It is really up to you, in what you want to tell them. I do think what they are looking for is, “Have you ever struggled with your body wanting something it can’t have right now?”  If you have a “sorted” past, they will want ALL the details. DON’T. It’s not the point. I highly recommend in these situations using the phrase, “There are some decisions I wish I had made differently.”

Don’t Forget Marriage:

Our society today does a miserable job of showing God’s picture for marriage. In television, movies, magazines, music and just about everywhere else, sex is an action of only the body. Marriage in our society seems broken. Many of our students are growing up with bad or even NO representatives of what a marriage grounded in Christ looks like. In answering these questions, don’t ever forget to start with God’s best plan in mind. It’s not about purity- then dating and finally marriage. Marriage was the plan from the Garden. Help them see that.

I once had a student say to me, “I could never talk to my parents about this stuff so I have to go to my friends.” When I suggested maybe his friends were not always the best source for information, he balked then followed with, “I guess sometimes I do need to hear from another adult.” Our students sometimes need us to be a voice they trust no matter if we blush…just not with our fingers in our ears.

How do you navigate these “blush worthy” conversations?

Leneita / @leneitafix

Sexual Abuse and Faith

 —  March 21, 2014 — 1 Comment

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 10.36.16 AMLast night I had the pleasure of being a part of an event called, Loveology.  It’s actually the title of a new book that my friend John Mark Comer wrote.  I just sat on a Q&A panel for the event, but I endorsed the book and did so, not just because JM is my friend, but because I really believe in the book. It’s a critical message for our time, to be sure.

Anyway, there were 2,800 people packed into this theater for the night event. Phil Wickham led worship and John Mark taught a couple messages before we had the panel. People texted in questions and we responded. It went great. We laughed a lot, joked with each other…and then I cried some.

I didn’t expect to cry. There was just a question that came up that really got me. A person texted in a question about being sexually abused as a child and was asking for direction on how to break down the walls that has been built between her and God. Unfortunately, I don’t remember her exact wording of the question.

I know it was a woman, because she emailed me this morning. I apparently addressed the question with enough grace and understanding to allow her to feel safe doing so. For that I am very grateful.

She feels like she is not deserving of God’s love. She struggles with doubt that she will experience redemption in this area. She wonders if she will feel whole enough to give herself to a husband the way she desires. In other words, she is wrestling with her identity in very real and, unfortunately, painful ways.

It’s amazing how much how we use our bodies, or how they are abused, affects our mind, theology and overall health. The truth is we are human beings who are intricately designed with a complex mixture of body, soul, emotion…

I guess, to save space here, I would say the following four things to you if you struggle with shame because of your past sexual experiences (whether or not you were a willing participant):

  1. Even though it can get very confusing at times, it’s important to remember that God’s definition of you is in no way affected by your sin or someone else’s sin against you if you are in Christ.  I cannot emphasize that enough.  Sin always causes our view of God to be tweaked (Genesis 3:6-8 is a good example) and we must fight for an accurate view of God.
  2. It is rarely easy and it is rarely in our desired timing, but God does, in fact, redeem brokenness. There is limited hope apart from Jesus, but in Him we have much hope to cling to.
  3. Cling to the Church, don’t run from it.  God’s grace is expressed best through His followers (or at least it should be).  Find someone to reveal your brokenness to.
  4. If you have shared with someone and have not been responded to the way you feel necessary, don’t allow that to negatively affect your view of God or His people. People are people and there can be a huge variety of reasons why the person you opened up to didn’t respond in a manner you would deem appropriate. There is still hope and that hope is best experienced among God’s people.

- Chuck



Sex When No One Is Watching

 —  November 13, 2013 — 1 Comment

times square

It all started with a recent visit to Times Square in NYC with my family. We didn’t notice the billboards until the sun went down and the light’s went on. There she was, several stories high towering over us, a naked woman barely covering her chest and selling men’s underwear of course.

Last weekend I was traveling for a speaking engagement. Turning on the television, the first “station” was one of those where you can, “Pay for the latest movie in the comfort of your room.”  Absent-mindedly, I left it there for a second.  That’s when an attractive woman, dressed pretty modestly began to speak. Her words caught me off guard. She said, “For just a small fee you can watch adult entertainment. No spyware. No malware. You can pay in a way that no one has to know.”  In other words,  “Go ahead an watch porn. No one is paying attention.”

This sexually charged culture is in our face all of the time. Media portrays sex as something to be used, discarded and played with. There is no talk of intimacy, or the soul’s involvement in this “physical act.”.  A ChristianNet Poll, Focus on the Family Poll, and research conducted by Christian Counseling today discovered these stats for THE CHURCH:

  • 5 out of every 10 men in the church are struggling with some issue concerning pornography
  • 34% of churchgoing women said they have intentionally visited porn websites online.
  • 54% of pastors admitted to viewing Internet porn in the last year and 30% admitted viewing within the past month.
  • 50% of all Christian men are addicted to pornography.
  • 20% of all Christian women are addicted to pornography.
  • 60% of women admit to having significant struggles with lust.
  • 47% of families said pornography is a problem in their home.
  • 42% of surveyed adults indicated that their partner’s use of pornography made them feel insecure.
  • 41% of surveyed adults admitted they felt less attractive due to their partner’s pornography use.
  • 30% of surveyed adults said their partner’s use of pornography made them feel more like a sexual object.

It’s not just a set of statistics. I know people in full-time, paid ministry whose lives and marriages have been destroyed by porn. We have been told that we must be “perfect” so we close our hotel rooms, and turn on the television.

How do we deal?  If this is what is going on with adults then what do we say to youth?

  • It starts with an honest assessment of our own heart, mind and soul.  We need to be totally aware of the danger of falling into a sexual trap, at any moment.  What are we doing to protect our hearts, eyes and mind against the world that tells us, “If it feels good in the moment, go for it.”

 

  • The discussion in youth group goes FAR beyond purity.  It is talking about the way Satan is always seeking “who he will devour, “ and he will use whatever he can to accomplish this goal-  media, people, insecurity, everything. We have to be supporting the family.

 

  • We need to keep exposing the lies.  I was previewing a CW show about princesses for my teen daughter, because I had heard some things. Sure enough, the first 20 minutes included both a graphic sex and a masturbation scene. Yep, it took place in the 1800’s, and yep, my husband and I felt like we had just watched porn. Just because tradition or the culture says it’s alright, doesn’t make it God’s plan.

It’s time we all remembered that God wants more for us than this excuse for “Sex” that the world portrays. He wants us to be in wonder of the miracle he calls, “Becoming one flesh,” and the promises attached to that.

What are you doing to actively combat this sexually charged world? 

Leneita

@leneitafix

Scouting for Alternatives

 —  September 12, 2013 — 17 Comments

Boy Scouts of AmericaYou probably have an opinion about this.

According to NBC News, a new Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts of America has started in response to BSA voting to drop its ban on gay youth earlier this year. The new organization – Trail Life USA – has the support of more than 1,200 former Scout officials, parents and youth from 44 states who attended a two-day national leadership convention for it.

The article quotes different fathers who are trying to voice their position on participating in the new group. One of them is John Stemberger, a former Eagle Scout, father of two scouts and Orlando Attorney:

“I want to have a prominent faith component that will be weaved in every fiber of the program… but at the same time, we are not going to become religious and churchy. This is not another church program. This is going to be a masculine outdoor program to raise young men… I want to be clear: We are not an anti-BSA organization. In fact, we are not an anti-anything or anyone organization.”

So… the story did make the news. Why is that?

I wonder if it’s possible for us to have a professional discussion here about this issue. Not a mean-spirited one where we jump into debate mode, but some observations and theorizing about how this might affect youth ministry.

For example:

  • Is a youth group allowed to create its own policies on expressions of sexuality? Can you ask a barely dressed teenager to not come into your setting or two heterosexual teens who are all over each other physically to leave anymore than you can discourage two gay students from holding hands?

    Keep in mind, I’m not asking if you should… I’m asking if you think you’re allowed to.

  • Has culture really turned the right for personal pleasure into a moral issue? If so, how in the world do you impart a higher value of listening to God on such matters?

Maybe you have some thoughts on that, or perhaps even some questions of your own.

Let’s see if we can keep this respectable and God-honoring. Remember, the eternities of students are on the line.



A follow-up to last week’s guys eHarmony video for the guys is this week’s over the top dating profile for the ladies. Died laughing!

JG

5_things_guyswantgirlstoknow

Weekend Teaching Series: Crazytown (week 2 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: 5 Things Guys Wish Girls Knew
Service Length:71 minutes

Understandable Message: This week was another huge hit with students – we covered 5 things from guys that they wanted girls to know. I mashed up some very insightful conversations with guy students, my personal experiences and what the Bible says into a fun talk on relationships and sex. It was super fun to talk frankly with the students and push them into really thinking about the choices they are making and the consequences of a life outside of God’s path. Excited to make this into a resource for others to use in the future as well, too!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment:We had a great weekend planned – we played a hilarious new screen game called Taylor Swift Lyric or Lamentations that was one of the most clever games we’ve ever played. We also had a fun dating video spoof and lots of student involvement. Great energy on a tough weekend (prom at one of our key high schools) and met several students for the first time, too!

Music Playlist: Heart Attack (Demi Lovato cover), Hosanna, Divine and Holy

Favorite Moment: I’m really proud of Travis, he is our new weekend guy and is doing a GREAT job planning the program and keeping things on track. What a great series this has been – 1 more week to go!

Up next: Crazytown (series finale, week 3 of 3)



razy_town_set

Weekend Teaching Series: Crazytown (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: 5 Things Girls Wish Guys Knew
Service Length: 70 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend I went after the guys! Had so much fun talking to girls and some college-age women to get some of their perspective and then mash it up with my personal experiences and use God’s Word for the authority of truth. It was SUCH a fun weekend, I was so happy with the student’s response and I was extremely direct, too! We talked through all sorts of practical stuff and hit on some big topics too like objectifying women, boundaries, and more. One of my favorite HSMs of all time!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had a hilarious summer camp promo video and a near-perfect game show about celebrity couples. It was incredible and Travis did a great job hosting it. I love it when a game plays out like a skit/standup as well as something the contestants and crowd could participate in. Really strong program.

Music Playlist: When I Was Your Man (Bruno Mars cover), Christ in Me, Take It All

Favorite Moment I loved this weekend in HSM! Excited to turn it into a resource in the future that other youth workers can use in their ministry, too. We tried something new with the stage design, too – notice in the picture above is half physical and half digital? The guys spray-painted gator board so we could light it from behind and then Parker made a digital “extension” of the buildings on the screen with a starry night that moved, complete with shooting stars. Simple, but striking. Perfect atmosphere for the talk!

Up next: Crazytown (week 2 of 3)

Today’s Deal of the Day from Simply Youth Ministry is the Volunteer’s Back Pocket Guide to Sex by Craig Gross. Until midnight tonight it is just $2.99 – and a great resource to get in the hands of your team as they talk about God’s plan for their sex life.

Teenagers live in a sex-saturated world. And for many of them, sex has become a purely physical act, fully divorced from spirituality, love, and commitment. Sex, pornography, and “hooking up” are all met with the same response: “It’s no big deal.”

Too many of our students don’t know where to turn to learn about sex, leaving many feeling confused, fearful, and alone. Teenagers who struggle with sexual addiction or unhealthy patterns don’t know how to find freedom and healing from the choices they’ve made, and they’re afraid the church will label them as perverts if they’re open and honest about their deepest struggles.

But amidst these sobering realities, there is good news: Youth workers are on the front lines of the battle to shape, challenge, and encourage teenagers toward sexual wholeness and purity. The Volunteer’s Back Pocket Guide to Sex will help you as you aid students in navigating a path that honestly addresses all the challenges they might face, while honoring God along the way.

Authors Craig Gross—founder of XXXchurch.com—and Cris Clapp Logan—an Internet safety expert, artist, and writer—don’t sugarcoat the realities, and they don’t hold back in bluntly, honestly tackling the toughest topics, including pornography, sexuality, masturbation, and purity. Using God’s truth as the foundation for the conversation, they’ll equip you with practical information and powerful strategies to help you become a volunteer youth worker who helps teenagers live wisely and walk in freedom!

JG