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Sex at Church: when to speak and when to listen

Sex at Church

when to speak and when to listen

Churches struggle to know what to do with talking about [sexuality].  Pastors struggle to know what to do with [talking about sexuality].  From what I listen to, churches do one of at least three different things. They simply go along with whatever the culture says, thinking that people will come to church if you say things that they want to hear. They circle the wagons and act like if they keep condemning the culture then one day it will change.  They remain silent for fear of offending anyone.  I have yet to see any of these work well.

James Miller, Glenkirk Church (06.09.13)
sermon download HERE: 13MB

Sex brings life.  And yet, it seems to me, that most of our lives within our church communities are spent avoiding the topic altogether.  Human sexuality is complicated, personal, intimate, layered and infused into the rhythm of our lives.  Sex is real and conversations about it can be awkward.

I write and observe life from the perspective of a husband & father who just-so-happens to be called to professional ministry in this season of my life.  At our church’s worship gatherings a few months ago, our congregation heard the story of a friend of mine who had recently attended his gay brother’s wedding.  In his testimony and through the words of Scripture that followed, we were given a picture of what it looks like to stand alongside those who are different than ourselves when others might cast them aside.  And we talked about sexuality.  Because, when we gather as the church, we should talk about real life – even if it feels awkward.

Sex in Church

If you’re a leader in your church community, you need to consider how and when you talk to your congregation about sexuality in large group settings and then you need to move forward with a plan of how your teaching team is going to address the topic over the course of your yearly rhythm.  It might not be enough to simply have a sermon series on sexuality.  There will be new families at your church after each series ends and you can’t assume that everyone has heard everything you’ve said in the past.

When pastors stay silent on topics that impact the lives of their congregation, they are choosing to let the culture around them be the leading voice as they determine where they stand on controversial issues.  In some areas, the church and culture might line up – sermons on littering probably would carry little weight in communities where that’s already a secular priority.  In other areas, a congregation might need some coaching on how to establish a Biblical worldview of a subject and your church desperately needs more than just a reaction to what happened in pop culture the week before – they need you to be willing to have a conversation.

Just because you reposted something on Facebook that someone else wrote doesn’t mean that you can avoid talking about hard topics when your church worships together.

Sex at Home

When the church gathers, it’s important to always think about the next steps that people will be taking as they walk away from your worship services and ministry programs.  If your congregation is going to talk about real life, with sex and sexuality being one of those topics that is discussed, you’ll need to be strategic in equipping at least three groups of people to talk comfortably about sex at home:

Parents, Families & Sex

You should never assume that parents don’t want to talk about important things with their children – but, it’s a safe bet to say that the majority of them are willing to receive a little help when tricky subjects like sexuality need to be discussed.  For families with younger children, it’s a good idea to have books or resources that you can begin pointing parents to before they’re ready – so that, when they’re ready, they might remember that you had suggestions.

Parents who are looking for a podcast to listen to on their morning commute might be willing to listen to these wise words from Dr. Jim Burns, from the Homeword Center for Youth and Families:

Personally, our family has found this book series to be a helpful introduction into talking about sexuality with our kids:

For parents who are already in the midst of rising hormone levels, glossy chap stick and Axe body spray, consider what it might look like for your church to offer a support group, of sorts, for parents of teens to come together and discuss parenting topics over a cup of coffee with their peers.  Sometimes, in those hardest stages of parenting, it’s good to know that you’re not alone in the battle and if a church created a venue like this with a host who can help coach parents through life’s tricky spots, parents might feel equipped enough to navigate hard discussions with their kids.  Because, as many of us know, kids who don’t feel like their parents will listen to them and respond well don’t just skip asking their question – they skip asking their parents and jump right to Google.

Equipping Small Group Leaders

Dropping the topic of sexuality into sermons and large group gatherings is great – if people have a place to process that topic later.  For many congregations, small group settings offer the potential for conversations about topics that a person might be unwilling to talk about in larger settings.  With adult small group leaders, consider what it would look like to send them an article that discusses talking about sex as a church and ask them what their thoughts are.  Then, consider asking them to have that conversation in their small group settings, after they’ve been walked through how to listen well when people ask hard questions and you’ve modeled how they can best respond.

An article to get you started with could be: “How Should We Talk about Sex in Church” (LINK)

Leaders of youth and children’s small groups need to view their role as a secondary (but VERY important) voice in this conversation.  Teaching leaders to first reply to questions with, “What do your parents say/think about that?” or “What have you heard about that?” can help leaders honor parents and families in their answers and elevate the voice of parents in the life of a child.  When sexuality comes up in a teaching series, asking parents and students to submit questions beforehand can help you prepare a team of small group leaders for the discussions that might follow.  And, as with most things, give your small group leaders the authority to not have an answer.  When discussing sexuality, a bad answer is almost always worse than no answer.

Honoring People in Hard Places

Because it is easy for our identity to become wrapped up in our sexuality, it’s important that leaders in the church keep in mind that topics that deal with sexuality and relationships will always hit harder for some people more than it does for others.  However, as Pastor Andy Stanley might put it, that doesn’t give us room to ignore talking about the ideal for the sake of what is real.  When you talk about the ideal, you need to understand that it’s easier for people to walk away feeling judged than loved – so, keep the following thoughts in mind as you work talks about sex and sexuality into the rhythm of your conversations with those that you lead:

  • When you openly judge someone who is in the public spotlight, anyone in your church who identifies with that person’s struggles feels judged by you and, sometimes, does not feel worthy to be loved by God because of your condemnation.
  • When you only talk about sex as something that exists in an ideal state, then those who have struggled through infidelity, those who are in seasons of parenting when stress levels and sleep deprivation make sex infrequent and a source of contention, those who were just served divorce papers or those who have spent years navigating same-sex attraction are made to feel like you’re saying that they are broken beyond repair and sometimes they feel as though they cannot belong to your church family.
  • When talking about sexuality, always have a word for singles.  As the millennial generation continues to put off marriage and the generations before them continue to disregard marriage vows, you will continue to have more unmarried people in your church who need to know that sexual activity is not the only thing God created them for.  Remind them of that truth and, along the way, the rest of your congregation might get the sense that God also created them for greater things.

Anthony Prince is a husband, dad and pastor – in that order.  Since 2007, he has served as the director of children and family ministry at Glenkirk Church, located in the foothills of Los Angeles, California. 

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Posted by on August 29, 2013 in Thoughts

 

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Honor Your Parents: A Commandment

Anthony Prince Family

Honor Your Parents

A Commandment, not simply a “Good Idea”

I spend a lot of my life thinking about parenting and how families can best glorify their Creator with the lives they live.  So, because of that, I was recently asked to speak to our congregation about how the fifth commandment, to honor thy father and mother, should play out in our lives.  Now that the sermon is online (link posted below), I thought I’d recap here with some practical thoughts on honoring parents.

A Commandment

It’s good for us to consider that this command, to honor our parents, is included on the same list as do not murder and do not commit adultery.  As a command, we need to take it seriously.  The command isn’t something that comes with a clause at the end giving us the option to honor our parents at our discretion.  For those of us who seek to raise kids who honor God with their lives, we need to live lives that demonstrate this commandment in the way we honor our own parents and the way that we show honor to the other adults who are in our children’s lives.

On the Same Team

If you’ve heard me teach before, or have read this blog in the past few years, you know that I use the language of “partnership” when talking about the way that our church serves families in our community.  We can teach the next generation to honor their parents by joining their team and using language that shows that we value and appreciate their hard work.  For some ideas on how to best cast vision for partnership with other parents, check out this post:

Casting a Vision for Partnership

http://westcoastcm.com/2012/10/08/casting-a-vision-for-partnership/

Even with it’s Hard

A few people in my closest circles know that the last few months have been a hard season for me (and for my family).  When I had the chance to preach at our church, I shared some of my story – and what it looks like to show honor to our parents, even when they aren’t who we think we need them to be in our lives.

We tried a different approach to this sermon; our senior pastor spent the first half preaching on why we should honor our parents and I spent the last half discussing how it practically plays out in our lives.

Here’s a link to directly download the sermon 
The Spirituality of Family

Here’s a link to our sermons on iTunes
Glenkirk Church Podcast
(look for the sermon titled, “The Spirituality of Family”)

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2013 in Thoughts

 

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CYMLC 2012

Children & Youth Ministry Leadership Conference 2012

I had the honor of taking my 2012 workshop presentations for a test drive today at the 16th annual gathering of children and youth ministry leaders at CYMLC in sunny Murrieta, CA.  As promised to those who attended my sessions, I’ve uploaded my notes here.  If you’d like the slides that go with them, comment below and I’ll pass them your way.

Tapping into Teen Helpers in Children’s Ministry

DOWNLOAD PDF HERE

This workshop examines best practices and next steps for getting teen helpers involved in children’s ministry at your church. From getting your youth pastor in your corner to a how-to guide for getting teens to serve in your ministry, learn how to take your children’s programs to the next level by effectively integrating teen leaders onto your team!

Turning Parents Into Partners: Family Ministry 101

DOWNLOAD PDF HERE

Family ministry is more than just large events and Sunday morning handouts that end up in the church parking lot. In this workshop, we discuss the best ways to create a church environment that encourages parents (and other adults who bring children to church) to partner with your children’s ministry team as you raise up children in the faith together. We also examine the common pit-falls that family ministry models fall into as well as simple ways you can make your ministry more family-friendly.

 I’ll be leading expanded versions of these workshops at Group’s Kidmin Conference this Fall.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Kidmin, Orange, Resources

 

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Reaching a New Generation of Families | redux

Last October, I had the privilege of leading a family ministry conversation at Group Publishing’s Kidmin Conference in Chicago. This next Fall, I’ll have the opportunity to lead a workshop where we will talk about the specifics of turning parents into partners in ministry.
I’m honored to be given the chance to speak on a topic that gets me as excited as this does.
 
 

Reaching a New Generation of Families

Practical Next Steps for Church Leaders

I walked away from some recent ministry conversations with the sense that a lot of people are talking about “Family Ministry” but are having a hard time navigating what their next steps should be.  Today, I thought I’d share three statements to keep in mind as your church moves toward a more effective family ministry model.

The Parent is the Expert

The reality: All too often, those who serve families in the church come across as thinking that they have all of the answers for the hard times of parenting.  However, most parents don’t see the need for your voice in the conversation – they’re the ones doing the parenting… so, obviously, they are the experts.  In a way, they’re right: they have logged more hours with their children than anyone else and they have the potential to be the greatest influencer of their child over the course of their lifetime.

Try this: Talk and act as though you are on the same team as parents. In front of children and their parents, support something that a mom or dad has said.  Follow up those moments by reminding those around you that you’re on the same team as the parents.  A healthy family ministry model is one that recognizes that you are not only serving children – you’re serving the entire family.  If parents see and hear that you believe yourself to be a member of their team, they’re more likely to treat you as a partner instead of just someone who spends time with their child while they go to church.

Families are Busy

The reality: Families are being pulled in more directions today than they were a few decades ago.  The childhood you remember doesn’t exist anymore. When you tell a family that bringing their child to church isn’t going to be enough – that there’s more to passing on the faith than simply showing up twice a month to Sunday School – you run a strong chance of overwhelming them.  Their calendars are already full.  They’ve double booked themselves at least twice in the coming week.  The don’t have time to do extra things and they’re more likely to give up on you than on Little League.

Try this: Cast a vision for younger families about what it will take to pass the faith on to their children. I’m fond of telling parents of toddlers and preschoolers to “Do what matters before it matters so that when it matters you’re already doing it.” In other words, the rhythms you create when your children are young matter – parents need to be intentional about how they’re spending their time.

Families of older children can be comforted to know that they are already doing many of the things that it takes to have spiritual conversation with their child.  Remind them about how they can leverage things they are already doing – sharing meals, bedtime routines, driving in the car & getting ready each morning for the day to come – in order to talk about the things that matter.  Don’t give parents an extra list of things to do – teach them how to add value to the time they are already spending with their children.

Not Everyone Cares

The reality: At best, 20% of the families at your church are fully committed to partnering with you in raising up the next generation (their children included) to love Jesus. 90% might check a box saying that it’s a good thing… but, at least 80% of the families in your church think that it’s the church’s job to teach people about Jesus – their own children included. And, to be honest, I’m probably being generous in saying that 20% of your families are bought in to partnering with you.  But, if I told you the real number, you might just get sad.

Try this: Don’t be upset when families don’t understand their need for partnering with you.  They’re at church – that’s a huge step in the right direction! Work on developing a tiered approach to partnership.  Think of commitment in terms of levels of engagement and work on moving families toward having a full commitment to spending time outside of Sunday teaching their children about Jesus.  If your church is doing its job, you’ll always have new families coming in and you’ll need an approach to getting them on board with partnering with you – start figuring out what those steps are with the parents you already know.  Want to find out what parents are committed to partnering with you? Try “forgetting” to hand out take-home pages this next Sunday and see which parents notice.  Warning: only do this if you’re ready for some hard conversations with parents at your church and with yourself.

Families are more diverse than they’ve ever been. For more reading on Reaching a New Generation of Families, check out this post: https://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/2011/10/13/reaching-a-new-generation-of-families/

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2012 in Kidmin, Orange, Thoughts

 

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Meeting Families Where They Are

 

Meeting Families Where They Are

Family Ministry Connect Group Reflections

I had the privilege this last weekend to have spent some time in Chicago at Group’s Kidmin Conference.  While there, I led something called a “Connect Group” – a multi-day conversation and gathering of ministry practitioners who spend time connecting over a common subject.  The group I facilitated was focusing on Family Ministry – specifically answering the question, how does the church best partner with parents and families in order to pass the faith on to the next generation in relevant and lasting ways?

While spending time together, I noticed a common theme.  Those of us around the table were talking about ministry ideas that we’ve tried in order to reach and equip families – both the ideas that have worked and the ones that have failed – and the ideas that worked almost sounded like a broken record… churches are succeeding when they meet families where they’re at, rather than telling them what would be best for them.

Making the things you’re already doing count

Most of us know the story and the power of the movement behind an organization called TOMS shoes.  Their founder, Blake Mycoskie, decided to leverage an action people were already doing – buying shoes – and use that buying power to help children in need obtain a higher standard of living.  It’s a great example of meeting people where they are and making it count.  I tell high schoolers and young adults all the time – if you want to do the MOST good, your $60 can help out an organization like Compassion tremendously.  However, if you’re already going to drop that kind of money (or more) on a pair of shoes, then why not buy a pair from an organization that will pass on a pair to a child who has never owned shoes?

I say that to say this – from the conversations around our circles, it sounds as though family ministry is most effective when churches find things that families are already celebrating or doing (Halloween Parties, Christmas activities, lunch after church, parenting conversations, celebrating milestones… among others) and lean into those times to equip and resource families and often give them a shared experience alongside other families who are committed to raising up their children well.

Family ministry, it seems, is more than just handing out take-home pages.
Who knew? 😉

I’m looking forward to continuing those conversations throughout this coming year… and we’d love to have your voice in the mix – what has your church done to meet families where they’re at?  Are you connecting with parents on Facebook, spending time at school events and soccer fields to meet families in your community, or something else creative?  Use the comments section to let us know!

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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Train Up Your Children

Train up your children

Holy snap, the verse you know & love doesn’t exist

I love having friends who are brilliant.  In fact, anyone who knows the story behind my wife and I falling in love and getting married knows that it all began because I wanted to marry someone smarter than I am (and… it helped that she is smokin’ hot).

So, I was sitting down for dinner with one of our brilliant friends the other night when she dropped a bomb on my world.  It went something like this:

Laura: Hey, you know that verse about training up your child in the way he should go?

Me: Yup.

Laura: That’s not in the Bible.

Me: *confused silence*

Seriously – it was like a bomb went off in the room.  When I asked her, in a stumbled and broken sentence, what in the world she meant, she went on to explain that the verse is a bit confusing in the original language and that the KJV translators sort of guessed at what the verse said.  And… most every translation afterward has made the same guess!

The verse is more likely to be a warning about how, if you let your child choose their own path, they’ll continue on that path when they’re an adult.  This makes total sense… but I’m seriously wrestling with how many people have taken this verse as a promise (which is a bit silly because it’s a Proverb, not a Promise) and how to best point them in the right direction.

Rather than go any further, I’m going to link to a post that explains all of this better than I could.  My brilliant friend, Laura Ziesel, wrote a post on the subject here: http://www.lauraziesel.com/2011/10/train-up-child-in-whose-way.html

Not sure you want to click over?   Let me tease you with this:

I hate to be the one to break the news to everyone, but Bible translation has failed miserably in regard to Proverbs 22:6 and we have all been duped. 
Okay, now hold on. I hear you groaning already: “Oh great, she’s going to tell us what the Hebrew really says, as if the Hebrew is clear. Pulease.” I get it. I really do. If Scripture were clear, many scholars and pastors would be out of work.
So, I’m not going to pretend as if the Hebrew is clear here because it’s not. But I (via my awesome professor and a little independent verification) can tell you what Proverbs 22:6 doesn’t say. Ready?
Laura blogs over at www.lauraziesel.com – a great way to break the news to the parents in your ministry is to post a link to her article on Facebook… just a suggestion.
 
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Posted by on October 4, 2011 in Kidmin, Thoughts

 

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End of the Year Celebrations: Parent Resources

As our mid-week programs are wrapping up at our church, I thought I’d share an idea that we put into practice last year and are still in the process of refining.

A few years ago, as we handed out awards and recognition for our students at the end of the school year, I began wrestling with how empty our awards ceremony felt.  There we were, with a ton of our committed parents in the room, handing out ribbons, certificates and trophies and then sending families on their merry way for the summer months.

So, last year, I decided to turn part of the night into a vision casting session for parents.  First, we show this video:

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/18984255]

this video is courtesy of Orange and 252 Basics which we use as our Sunday Morning Strategy at our church

Then, with moms in the room getting all teary-eyed because they think of their baby leaving the house in a few short years, we give them a vision for making the next years of parenting count.  We explain that our church desires to come alongside them and partner with them to raise their children to become fully devoted followers of Jesus.  With the term “partnership” in mind, we then offer them resources that we feel will help them a) catch the vision of partnership with the church and b) equip them to parent more confidently over the next year.

This year, we offered three resources for parents to choose from.
You can read about them here: http://www.glenkirkchurch.org/articles1-170/ParentingResourceList

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So… here’s my question, have you done something like this and, if so, what resources are you putting in the hands of the parents in your community?  If you haven’t… tell me why not.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2011 in Kidmin, Resources, Thoughts

 

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