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Yesterday’s post was about the issue of pornography in the life of a preteen.  It is a growing issue that churches need to be addressing with parents to better equip them for that battle.  The post generated some requests for resources and strategies, so I’m going to do my best.   I know that there are lots of helpful articles and sites out there, so I encourage you to search.  My advice is simple, but I feel like it is effective.

1. Make it Public
A huge step towards protection for families is to move all computers to the family room.  Usage of computers behind closed doors is always dangerous, for adults and kids.  By moving usage to a more visible place, you will be able to monitor the how much time your kids spend on the Internet and the sites they are visiting.  This goes for mobile devices as well.  Parents don’t think of these devices, but they are becoming the primary source of pornographic material for kids.  Get together as a family and set some rules for the time and place of computer use. 

2. Set Boundaries
It is important that you monitor the use of computers, but that’s still not enough.  Things still happen.  When and if they do, don’t you want to know about it?  Set up some protection by installing Internet software on your computers.  It’s pretty amazing how far some of these programs have come over the years.  They will now block inappropriate movie clips, inappropriate Youtube videos, websites, and Internet searches.  Some great resources for this are X3 Watch Pro, Safe Eyes, or Covenant Eyes.  There are some free versions of these programs, but the few dollars a month are worth the extra protection, which includes mobile devices. It is also advisable to block known “problem sites” in your internet options.  By adding such sites to a blocked list, you can ensure that no user will access the site content.

If you’re a Mac user, there is also a way to set a “white list” in your Internet settings.  If you assign your child a user account, then you can make a list of websites that they are allowed to visit, and only those sites will be accessible.  I’m sure that there is a similar feature in Windows.

3. Communicate
With all the protection and boundaries set, it’s still imperative that you communicate.  Keep an open line of communication with your child.  Bring up the issue of pornography and ask if they have experienced any of the images.  It may be necessary to get further help if they have already been exposed to inappropriate material.  Make sure that the communication between you and your child is constant.  There is no such thing as over-communicating.  Keep talking to your child and assuring them that they can talk to you if they have received pornographic material on their computer or phone.

Another great resource for preteens are the books, Parenting Today’s Adolescent and So You’re about to be a Teenager by Dennis and Barbara Rainey.

We hosted a parent meeting this past Sunday for all our 5th grade parents and we talked about what was in store for their child in 6th grade.  We discussed the various units and lessons that we will cover, and then it happened.  I said “Pornography.”  Just the mention of the word puts everyone on high alert.  I don’t think parents were shocked as much as they were desperate for some assistance in how to address the issue with their preteen. 

Here are the cold hard facts…

The fourth most-searched word on the Internet for kids ages 7 and under in 2009 was “porn.”
For all kids up to age 18, sex was No. 4, porn No. 5.

A recent survey found that 30% of girls ages 9 to 15 years old had sent or received sexual messages or photos of themselves.

1 of every 3 that reported to receive “sext” messages said that they accidentally received the message that was intended for someone else.

(Data from OnlineFamily.Norton.com and research from AK Tweens)

These stats mean that many preteens are falling prey to pornography, intentionally and even unintentionally.  As the church, we need to be thinking through a strategy for equipping parents to have a conversation with their children.  I am reminded of the damage and consequences that came from just one look in the life of King David.  His eyes caught Bathsheba naked, and his mind could not escape the image.  The result was a downward spiral of sinful decisions.  The danger is real, the stats are real, and we need a strategy.

I feel like the best way to address the topic is on the family level.  Therefore, we have chosen to equip the parents with resources to carry-out a discussion with their child that points to God’s call to pure actions and thoughts. 

What’s your strategy for equipping parents to deal with the danger of pornography?

I’d love to share some of the info that we’ve given to parents to help that conversation.  We also give information for protection services that will help them to create boundaries on their computers and mobile devices.  If interested in that material, you can contact me via comment, twitter, or email.

 

My wife and I attended a family wedding last weekend at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, AR.  After the wedding, we toured the Presidential Library with family and friends.  There were some interesting exhibits from the Clinton administration, but what I found most interesting where the daily logs of the President’s activity.  For each year of office, there are 12 binders worth of 365 itineraries.  As I looked through the logs, it became clear to me that I do not want to be President.  The days were mostly 18-20 hours long, and personal time was virtually non-existent.  No wonder they all get grey hair!

As one who works in ministry, I got to thinking about my own lack of relaxation and personal time.  I love my job.  I love my church.  And I love my co-workers.  But even in doing what I love, I reach points when I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted.  This exhaustion steals my motivation, which greatly hinders my availability to be used by God.  In those times, I need to step out and get re-energized.  Some of the wisest advice given to me regarding ministry was to always incorporate a time of personal renewal, a time of family vacation, and a time of spiritual retreat.  These three times are essential to staying in the game for the long haul.

Here are some interesting stats on ministry: 

  •  90% of pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week and most ministers do not exercise nor take regularly scheduled vacations
  • 66% of church members expect a minister and his/her family to live by a higher moral standard than they do
  •  80% of ministry families believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families and 94% report feeling pressures of being in the pastor’s family.
  •  70% of ministers report not having a close friend to confide in.   

There are seasons when we just need rest.  These statistics show how Satan plots against us.  Without a time of renewal with God, we will fall into the traps set for us.  God has set an example of rest throughout Scripture.  He desires for us to have a time of rest in Him. It’s a hard discipline to take time off and get away.  I struggle with it, as I’m sure you do as well.  I love reading and listening to Carey Nieuwhof.  I especially like what he said on this subject,

“I get terrified by the idea of a real Sabbath – a day where I produce nothing…absolutely nothing and simply let God be enough for me.  I’ve had very few days in my life where I completely did nothing…produced nothing, got distracted by nothing (no sports, no movies, no biking, no reading) and just let me be in the presence of God.  Wonder what that would be like?”

I am taking next week off for family vacation, but the time away is already getting crowded out by other things.  It’s going to be hard to “shut it down” for a whole week, but I think doing so will be a rewarding experience for my family and me.

Do you have a plan for rest?

How are you held accountable to take that time of rest in the Lord?

 

 

 

I jumped into blogging about preteen ministry and my role as preteen pastor, but I really wanted to share how God gripped my heart for this age group.

I love ministry.  I understood God’s call ever since the age of 16, and I realize that he was preparing me even long before that.  God led me through a series of events that made it clear my role would be in children’s ministry.  I did my best to serve Him in that role for 8 years, and then something happened.

I began to feel a passion being fueled by God.  As Bill Hybels calls it, I had a “Holy Discontent.”  Hybels, in his book titled Holy Discontent, describes it as the one thing in the world that when you see, hear, feel, or even come close to.  It is that one thing that you can’t stand to leave alone, and every part of you burns to make a change.  I knew that I was feeling something, but just could not label it.  I discovered that the thing for me was how churches minister to preteens.  And I learned it in a very unique moment.

While serving in a children’s pastor role that had responsibilities for birth through 5th Grade, I had a defining experience.  One Sunday, two 5th grade boys approached me and asked to have a meeting.  I had no idea what it was for, but I was definitely game.  So Elliott, Wyatt, and I scheduled a meeting for that week at the lunch buffet of Pizza Hut.

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I talked with one of their parents about the meeting, and I learned where the conversation had started.  On the way home from church a few Sundays prior, the boys had made several comments about how church wasn’t exciting.  They enjoyed their small groups, they enjoyed what they were learning, and they enjoyed the worship time.  But their comments centered on the idea that there should be something more.  The parent did an amazing job of listening and continuing the conversation.  She prompted to bring their ideas to me and see what we could do.

So, back to the lunch buffet at Pizza Hut.  It was amazing to sit across the booth from two 5th grade boys and listen to them lay out a ministry strategy.  They talked about their interest in serving.  They talked about how they were ready and willing to put into practice all that they knew and were learning.  They didn’t want to just sit back and listen.  They wanted to do!  They had ideas to form teams that would serve in various capacities.  They had ideas for how to do sign-ups, how to do training, and how to show appreciation to those that serve. 

I’ve sat across the table from some amazing men of God that serve in very successful ministries.  I’ve read books and attended conferences with some of the most successful business and ministry leaders of our time.  But, I’ve never been as impressed as I was when I spoke with Wyatt and Elliott.  They took what God was laying on their hearts and made a strategy for action.  They went through all the steps to make sure that we took that action.

Through that conversation we created the “Work Crew.”  These 5th graders served every Sunday in different roles around to church.  They served as greeters and gave tours to new families.  They served on the tech team for our elementary worship time.  They assisted small group leaders or the storyteller during our large group teaching.  It was amazing to watch the group grow together by serving the body of Christ.

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This was an amazing win for our church.  It was also a defining moment for me.  I had realized where God was leading me.  He was leading me to make change for the way churches equip and unleash kids ages 9 to 12. 

That is really how God led me to preteen ministry.  He stirred my heart in a meeting with Wyatt and Elliott at the lunch buffet of Pizza Hut.

 

What is your “Holy Discontent”?

What is the one thing that you burn to see changed in your lifetime?

What has God called you to?  How did He call you?