Whether you are a Christian leader or not, I think it is hard to deny that our culture is overly saturated with sex. Not only do we see it in the media, movies, and music, it has infiltrated most areas of our life. So, how do we, as youth workers, help parents walk through this and have the right conversations at home?
It all starts with the right mindset. For years, youth ministry has been seen as, at the least, a glorified babysitting job or, at most, a program parents sent their teenagers to be discipled because the parent was not doing it at home. While many families and churches still feel this way, I have seen a shift in thinking over the past several years. This shift has resulted in a full partnership between the church and family.
If you do not have that mindset, stop right here and reevaluate your ministry. Make sure you want to partner with parents to help them be the spiritual champions for their kids. Everything I say from this point on has that in mind. You are not the one who will save and disciple every teenager in your community. God has designed the family to take care of that. We are simply there to help them and to come alongside teens who do not have Christ-following parents. If you already think this way, though, feel free to keep reading.
I do not think it is ever too early for parents to start preparing. I don’t even have kids yet, but my wife and I are constantly reading, attending workshops, and talking to other parents. Similarly, I often tell parents to start the conversation in the home as early as you can. Of course, you don’t want to go into detail about sex with a three year-old, but you can make sure you talk as openly about their body as appropriate for their age. That way, when they get to third or fourth grade, you can enter into more serious discussions without it being as awkward as it would be if you had never talked about it before.
I also make sure to have at least one lesson or series on sex and/or dating with our students each school year. Some of our parents of younger students are a bit apprehensive, but I tell them ahead of time what we are covering and make all my notes available ahead of time. In the end, it is important that students are hearing about this stuff from their parents first, but if it has to be someone else, I would prefer it be the church instead of their peers or teachers. Whatever they hear first will determine how they hear everything after it. So, parents need to be proactive in talking at home, and youth workers need to discuss it and provide resources for parents.
Of course, you are going to have some parents who jump on this right away while others are naive and anxious. Here is where the partnership comes into play. As a church, we need to walk with parents through this difficult time, and it is sometimes incredibly difficult and overwhelming. That is why most parents avoid it — they are overwhelmed and do not know where to start. If youth workers, though, came alongside them and provided some help, it can make their job much easier.
Here are six resources we have used to help parents. Some are classes or events that we offer. Others are books we encourage parents to read on their own or with their student. There are also a couple software and hardware resources.
- Class for Parents of Soon-to-Be Teenagers — Like I said earlier, parents are often naive about their kids. Many of them want to hold onto their childhood as long as possible, but in the process, they do not help their children with their upcoming transition. A great place to start is offering a regular class for parents to learn all about what their pre-teen is going to soon face. During the class, you can give them some pointers on having an age-appropriate conversation now, before puberty starts. One of the best resources I have found to teach this class is from Legacy Milestones. Specifically, check out milestones three (preparing for adolescence) and four (purity for life).
- Worth It Conference — Home Improvement Ministries is a local organization that offers several events for families. One of them is called Worth It, and it is designed for both students and parents. The idea is based off the “Silver Ring Thing” from years past, but they have modernized it and bring in several professional athletes and other celebrities to talk to the students. They talk about their own struggles and how God has helped them. Meanwhile, parents are learning how to take the conversation home. Be sure to look around your area for an event like this. It’s incredibly simple, because they do the majority of the work. We just show up.
- Connect to Orange’s Phase Project — Orange has been a huge promoter for church and home partnership for years, but their recent project on phases is outstanding. Similar to Legacy Milestones, it offers parents tools and resources along the way through each phase of life, from birth to high school senior. Make sure parents are regularly reading their blog, but also be sure to check out their resources on each phase. Right now, they only have their first two books written, but more are on the way for the rest of the phases, so stay tuned to their website! I anticipate their books for late elementary years and middle school will be especially helpful in preparing parents, but the ones for high school will also be great for continuing the conversation.
- Every Young Man’s/Woman’s Battle — While these books are now a few years old (2009), the principles are still the same. We need to help young people and their parents stay pure as they battle sexual temptation. Like I said earlier, it is all around us, which means it is all around our students too. These books help teenagers put together a practical plan for remaining pure and pursuing Jesus instead of their own desires for sex, pornography, etc. They also have books for parents called Preparing Your Son and Preparing Your Daughter.
- Triple-X Church — One of my favorite websites to suggest on pornography is XXXChurch.com. They have existed for over ten years as one of the leading organizations in the fight against pornography. They do some great things, like going to porn conventions and praying for the actors, but they also provide excellent resources for teens, parents, and other adults. They even have a software called X3Watch, which is all about accountability. This is particularly good for people who are struggling but have the desire to put it behind them.
- Circle — One thing that often holds parents back from putting appropriate boundaries in place is ignorance. Installing software or other services that monitor online usage is overwhelming for many parents. A couple years ago, a Circle Media created a product to make all that easier. Eventually, even Disney started backing them. The Circle pairs with your home wifi and puts complete control into parents’ hands. They can create unique profiles for everyone in the home, and they can restrict websites, enforce time limits, turn off the internet, and get insights on usage. This is particularly helpful for parents of younger kids. For older ones, it is still helpful, but it should not take the place of conversations and helping them learn to put up their own boundaries.
The big thing to note is that there is no perfect way to do this. You just need to do it. Partnering with parents in this will be incredibly beneficial to your ministry. It will also help your regular “sex-talk” at youth group to go much better when the students have already heard it from their parents. You will just be reinforcing what many of them have heard at home.
As you prepare to help them, though, here are a few other resources that are very helpful:
- What’s the Big Deal?: Why God Cares About Sex (God’s Design for Sex) by Stan and Brenna Jones
- The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality by Luke Gilkerson
- The Bare Facts: 39 Questions Parents Hope You Never Ask about Sex by Josh McDowell
- Straight Talk with Your Kids about Sex by Josh and Dottie McDowell
- More than Just The Talk: Becoming Your Kids’ Go-To Person about Sex by Jonathan McKee
Do you have another resource you have used to equip parents? Please share it in the comments!