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We recently conducted a survey with 6th grade students to find out their thoughts on the subject of sex. The survey was not intrusive, but appropriately crafted to get their honest responses. The survey results were intriguing to say the least, but one point really stood out.

A question on the survey asked preteens to note the source for the knowledge they had about sex. Overwhelmingly, the majority selected with “Media” or “Peers/Siblings.”  Based on their answers, 70%-80% of what they knew about sex came from one of those two sources. The other 20%-30% came from “school.” Only a few responses noted “Parents” as a source for their information about sex.

While this was shocking, it was not the end of their responses. A later question on the survey asked, “Who would you prefer to talk with about sex?” This question was not multiple-choice, so preteens had to write in their response. 96% of the surveys responded with either “Mom” or “Dad.”

According to this survey taken by our students, preteens are learning about sex from what the see on television and Internet. That is being supplemented by the conversations they have with their peers.

The influence of these outside sources has left preteens with questions and a desire for answers. The truth is: preteens prefer to discuss the topic of sex with their parents. Many parents would not believe this response, even if they read the surveys! Preteens recognize the wisdom and experience of their parents, and they are willing to listen.

Preteens are learning about sex. If parents are the ones owning that conversation, who is? If you are a parent or leader of preteens, how are you talking to preteens about sex?

Stay tuned this week for some tips on talking with preteens about sex.

If you’ve never shared Christmas with a 16 month old, I highly recommend it. It was a special time at our house as we got to discuss God’s gift of Jesus (or “she-suz” as our daughter says). The lights, the presents, and visits with family were all so much fun, but my favorite moment was one small present.

The present was a small 5×7 photo frame that held a blessing for our daughter. The blessing is an affirmation of worth and calling. The blessing is to help our daughter recognize her purpose in God’s story, and to request His presence in her life. It simply reads:

You are a blessing from God. He created you in a wonderful way for a wonderful purpose, and He has great plans for you.

May the Lord show you His grace and peace each day, and may you shine His light to the world in everything you do.

We wrote this blessing and placed in the frame so that it could be a part of our every day routine. Each night as we prepare for bed, we hold the frame in the lap of our daughter and read these words to her. It has become a part of the routine that she expects and reminds us to do.

When she opened the gift, she tossed it to the side in favor of some toys and crayons, and I know she doesn’t fully understand what we’re saying to her as we read the words. However, I know that the daily reading of this blessing will help her to understand her value to God and help us all to rely more on Him for her upbringing.

If you are a parent, especially of a preteen, I encourage you to find a way to bless your child. In a period where they are seeking value and purpose, a blessing can help them to focus on how to engage the purpose that God has created them to fulfill.

If you’re interested in learning more about writing a blessing or being a part of a new movement related to a child’s blessing, check out Blessing Your Child by Dr. Trent & Focus on the Family.

D6 Conference: Day 1

September 23, 2011 — Leave a comment

D6

Thursday was actually conference “day 1” at D6 and it opened with a session that included Doug Fields and David Platt—talk about a wake up call!  The rest of the day was FULL of absolutely amazing speakers like Dannah Gresh, Emmerson Eggerichs, Tim Kimmel, John McGee, and probably some others that I missed. But the first two really caught my heart and had me thinking the rest of the day.

Doug Fields’ message challenged us in our frustration and exhaustion of ministry to renew our love for Jesus Christ.  At the end of the day, this is what matters most and ultimately what will fuel our ministry efforts.  Doug challenged us to be leaders who…

  • Can authentically say, “Follow me, as I follow Jesus”—Is Jesus the most famous person in your church? In your ministry?
  • Value a collective vision—Humbly accept that we are better together than we are alone.
  • Are acutely aware of the “twisters” [issues, forces, conflicts] impacting families—Are we adding to the “twisters” that families face? Are we making suggestions from the pulpit that we’re not living out at home?

Next, David Platt spoke from the premise of his book Radical.  He posed the question, “How do we pour the Gospel into the next generation in a way that makes Christ’s glory known in all the world and in all generations?”  David spoke from Luke 9 on the three conversations Jesus had with those that wanted to follow him. He drew these challenging exhortations to parents from this passage of Scripture:

  • Teach children to treasure the person of Christ more than the possessions of this world
  • Tell children that God’s Kingdom is infinitely more important than their family
  • Train children to love the Lord enough to gladly leave their home behind

His talk boiled down to one statement on our purpose as parents.  The goal, as Platt describes it, is:

For our kids to love a Great God in a way that would lead them to abandon the things of this world, their family, and their home in order to follow Him!

This was challenging for me as a pastor, but even more so as a parent.  That’s not to say that I’m doing everything right as a pastor—far from it.  It just means that I’m not nearly the man, husband, or father that God has called me to be. I think I already knew that, but God has really pressed me over the last 24 hours and made me process that fact fully.

After much thought and evaluation, my take-away that I want to share with every other preteen ministry leader is this:

My legacy is not my ministry.  My legacy is my home.

God has called me into ministry, but I have a superseding call to be a man, husband, and father that follows hard after Christ. I know that I forsake my family to do ministry related tasks.  I change or cancel family plans all the time because of a ministry conflict, but I hardly ever put my family obligation before the ministry. This has to change…this will change.

 

Ps. The night was capped off with an acoustic session with Steven Curtis Chapman that was unbelievable.  He told the story of losing his daughter, Maria. The family went through so much pain and struggle, yet you can see them living in the midst of God’s sufficient grace. Everyone saw God’s grace and sovereignty in a new way as he sang, “You give and take away…my heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed be Your name.”

Wednesday morning, I rose from a deep, deep, deep sleep at 3:30 AM to head to the airport and head to Dallas for D6 Conference. While I would’ve loved to sleep just a little longer, the pre-conference labs were worth the sacrifice.  Here is a little bit about the labs that I attended and the take-aways that I’m processing:

Pre-Con Lab #1 with Dr. Richard Ross
Dr. Ross is an outstanding speaker and mentor on all things Student Ministry.  But what really spoke to me this morning in his session was how he spoke from his heart.  He didn’t share statistics or projections.  He simply shared a prayer that he prayed for his son that morning.  He shared how even those his son was in college, Dr. Ross still sought out moments to make a heart connection with his son.  He spoke on this heart connection and how it is the primary “pipe” for how a parent passes on their spiritual maturity to their son or daughter. Without a heart connection, we are unable to pass along spiritual material to our child.  These heart connections are strengthened by 1) Proper Handling of Discipline, 2) Encouraging Words, and 3) Focused Time & Fixed Attention.

How does this relate to preteens?
Dr. Ross pointed out that the disconnect of this heart connection was a common issue between parents and teenagers.  He mentioned that parents often do not struggle to make heart connections with their younger child.  So, when does the disconnect happen?  I couldn’t help but think of the potential for a disconnect during the preteen years.  I spent much of the day thinking about our Preteen Retreat and how that must be an opportunity for parents and preteens to bond and communicate so that their heart connection will withstand the next 8 to 10 years.

 

Pre-Con Lab #2 with Mark Matlock
I love hearing Mark speak on student ministry.  He has a way of relaying mounds of information in a manageable format. The session was all about developing real world parents.  Mark quoted research that showed on all questions pertaining to spiritual development, parents were the top-rated influence. There is no greater influence than that of mom and dad. So, how do we equip parents to capitalize on that influence? Mark spent some explaining what it meant to raise ambassadors for Christ.  This means that the home is the embassy where those ambassadors are raised, encouraged, and unleashed. Mark shared about living within God’s bigger story and the 3 responses that parents can take to this life: Isolation from the World, Agreement with the World, or Transformation of the World. We pray that families choose the latter.  This is truly living inside God’s bigger story.

What does this mean for preteens?
I’m really trying to process what it means for families of preteens to embrace living in God’s bigger story.  What am I calling families to rise up and be a part of that is bigger than them? How are we empowering parents and/or preteens to practice their faith? Are we teaching parents to simply correct behaviors or are we teaching them to instill a worldview that includes God’s bigger story?

Looking forward to the main session tomorrow.  Go to d6conference.com to listen to session live.