“We have the Youth Minister talk about that!”
That’s the frequent response I get when I ask how a church/staff is addressing the issues of sex and sexuality among church members. That’s to be expected. But, in the 2010′s, it is also very, very inadequate.
Most youth ministries start at 6th or 7th grade. That means the ages of the youngest members of a youth group are typically between 11 and 13, respectively.
Unfortunately, children younger than what we normally consider “youth” are at risk of exposure to pornography and even experimenting with sex. If not experimenting, themselves, they are definitely at risk for having desires and attitudes fueled and “programmed” by our sexualized society!
Think I’m kidding?
- “Some researchers have stated that the average age of exposure to pornography is down to eight.” (“When Children View Pornography” ,Focus on the Family. LINK)
- “By age 12, 12 percent of students had already engaged in vaginal sex, 7.9 percent in oral sex, 6.5 percent in anal sex and 4 percent in all three types of intercourse.“ (“Middle school youth as young as 12 engaging in risky sexual activity”, University of Texas at Houston. LINK ) (This is information is not here to offend. It is scientific fact.)
- Major studies on sexual health and behavior by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now define “YOUTH” at the 10-14 age group. (“Sexual and Reproductive Health of Persons Aged 10–24 Years — United States, 2002–2007“, U.S. Centers for Disease Control MMWR. LINK)
Waiting until children are under the YOUTH MINISTER’S care is too late to start talking about God’s design for sexuality and how to remain pure while waiting until marriage. Too many children are either already exposed to/involved with pornography or are already experimenting sexually.
In all practicality, however, children in these younger age groups should not be included in “youth groups” just because of this development.
Clearly, the Church needs to respond to these threatening changes in our Society.
Based upon the reports cited above it is clear we need to shift our strategies and tactics for sexual purity. We need to become more preventative at earlier ages. If we wait until children are “youth” we have allowed Satan to get there first allowing his lies and deceits to take root before God’s Word.
That is unacceptable!
Lets look at the implications of just those three items, above:
- Pornography has “traditionally” been viewed as a teen/adult issue. With the average exposure now as low as eight we have to consider the impact on our elementary school children in terms of:
- Exposure to violent or deviant sexual acts (porn involving simulated/actual rape, coercive sex, & deviant/violent sex is freely available within 1-3 clicks of a Google search.)
- Premature “education” on sexual matters may lead to earlier experimentation.
- The increased threat to younger children online as there may be fewer safeguards in family computers/TVs. This may result in earlier exposure and/or addictions.
- When I saw the UT-Houston report I was shocked, and that does not happen easily. Essentially, 1-out-of-8 twelve year olds (~12%) have had “regular” sexual intercourse. That is the AVERAGE.
True, some demographics may be higher while others are lower, but the Church crosses ALL demographic groups! Add to this the data related to 12-year-olds having oral/anal sex, and you have 1-out-6 (~15%) being sexually active! This, justifiably, is disturbing to contemplate and it should frighten us!
Some may say that this is all abuse, but I doubt that, seriously. For sure, there is child abuse out there, but our children ARE “experimenting”. Let’s face it, many of us were thrilled to hold hands at age 12, and now children have knowledge of sex acts that many of us didn’t know were practiced until we were much older. Not only do they have knowledge, by many may have viewed/read about such acts online or on TV. And, if 1-in-8 of our 12-year-olds are sexually active and experimenting, can we safely assume that none of our children are experimenting at younger ages?
- The answer to that last question, based on the 3rd bullet at the top, is “NO.” Sexual activity, abuse, and diseases are now such a statistical fact in children under 13 that a major government study had to define “YOUTH” as 10-14.
It seems that we need to begin our efforts to equip children much earlier. There needs to be a shift from a focus where sex is only discussed in Youth Ministry to one that includes both Children’s Ministry and the long neglected Parents’ Ministry.
Children’s Ministers, traditionally, have not addressed such “mature” topics and probably did not cover these topics in Seminary, either. So, I would like to propose a framework for developing and implementing purity instruction that is preventative/preparative (before the is exposed to pornography or becomes sexually active) and not corrective (when it is too late). Hopefully, this will begin some needed discussions.
Don’t worry, though. I’m not talking about having explicit conversations w/ younger children at Church. That is most inappropriate. Instead, we must address the fact that the threat of sexual sin has entered the Elementary & Intermediate School age groups and then act accordingly.
Within the overall equipping of the members of the Church, the Children’s Minister can have an impact by:
- Informing parents of those in their charge of the reality of today’s “sexualized society”.
- Creating a climate within their ministry that emphasizes the purity and uniqueness of marriage.
- Training teachers and leaders to incorporate “mentions” of what is right and wrong in Bible stories. (See my other post on GOD’S SAFE ZONE.)
- Most importantly, by working with the Youth Minister to equip parents so that they, themselves, have a strong Biblical understanding of sexuality and are equipped with methods and techniques to bring up sexually pure children. This needs to address everything from the Internet to TV to music to fashion. This is the most important “battlefield” we have in this struggle. In the past many conscientious parents have had to “fend for themselves” when addressing such serious subjects with children and youth. We need to ensure that our parents are well-discipled in both Biblical foundations and practical methods so they can be as effective as possible in teaching children at home.
Before such efforts can take place, however, they must be strongly supported by the Senior Pastor and lay leadership of the Church (deacons/elders/etc.). Then, a coordinated effort must be made across ministry, calendar, and and budgetary lines to equip both the Church staff and laity. Smaller Churches might find it useful to combine efforts with those of other local church staffs.
This “cross-ministry” effort may even generate a new ministry in medium to large churches: PARENT’S MINISTRY! This would be a dedicated, separate ministry that crosses all child age boundaries and prepares & equips parents to effectively, and Biblically, raise godly children in the 21st Century. As a parent of four children (17-28) I could have used such discipleship on a few occasions. (And that’s a whole ‘nother post!)
The problem of early sexual exposure/experimentation is a huge one for the Church. The wounds that people suffer from sexual sins, be they via pornography or non-marital sexual activities, are devastating and leave huge scars in people’s lives.
Too often we have not talked about sex, and we especially have not talked about it within the context of children and youth. But, sexual sin is one of the most destructive and long-lasting in a person’s life, and one of our Enemy’s most effective weapons.
The lack of Biblical teaching on sex and sexuality has resulted in our people, our children, becoming crippled by the Enemy. Such wounds are life-changing and have life-long impact:
- STDs may now be “forever”, andor fatal.
- Pregnancy can derail plans and lives.
- Sinful attitudes learned today impact future attitudes toward dating and marriage…and divorce.
- Sexual violence, viewed early, creates monsters as what is viewed is absorbed and acted out.
- Pornography addiction is life-long, and is acquired easily and early.
There is a better, more difficult way…
- It is far better to be a little uncomfortable, now, and learn to fight on this new battlefield.
- It is far better to prepare our families to Biblically stand against the tide of sexual sin in our culture.
- It is far better to equip parents and children to RESIST temptation than it is to help them deal with the consequences of sin.
The benefits to the Kingdom are not limited to the prevention of sin, but also to the development of sound Biblical attitudes towards marriage and sexuality that will bless Christians throughout their lives! And, in strengthening the Church against these sins we will be a light in a dark world which will draw those sinking in sin to the Cross.
There is much to discuss, and to do.
As Paul said, our job is:
…to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.
Ephesians 4:12b NASB
Face it. On the sexual battlefield, we are playing “catch up”!!!!
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