Husband. Dad to 5. Student Ministry Pastor. Follower of Jesus. Yatta yatta.

SEXUALITY AND THE TEENS THAT I WORK WITH

uncovered title redEvery year we dedicate a series of messages to the subject of dating, love, sex, relationships, marriage and stuff like that.  We change up the “theme” and write new material and include new voices every year.   Currently, we’re a few weeks into our series called “Uncovered” and on the first Sunday of the series, we passed around “anonymous surveys” about sexual opinions and experiences.

We asked our students to list NO names, only check a box indicating their gender.  In addition, we specifically asked them not to lie or make crap up because it would not help us and we’d rather they didn’t fill it out if they couldn’t be honest.  Then we then had them fill out the survey, fold it in half, and then give it back.

Here’s the exact list of 11 Questions.  The first 10 are Y/N and the last one was multiple choice:

  1. Have you ever viewed porn videos, websites or pictures?
  2. Have you been part to an explicitly sexual conversation w/friends?
  3. Has a parental figure ever discussed the issues of sexuality w/you?
  4. Have you had an intimate kiss?
  5. Do you feel it is alright to “make out” with someone outside a boyfriend/girlfriend situation?
  6. Do you feel it is alright to “make out” with someone if you are in a boyfriend/girlfriend situation?
  7. Do you feel it is alright to explore one another’s bodies “above the belt” within a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship?
  8. Do you feel it is alright to be in a sexual relationship with “someone you love” outside of marriage?
  9. Have you had sexual intercourse?
  10. Have you been involved in sexual activites “below the belt” but not to the point of actual intercourse?
  11. I feel same-sex sexually active relationships are: God’s plan for some __  A sin____   Not sure___  Great if monogamous ___

Today I tallied the results.  We had a total of 44 high school women and 39 high school guys fill out the survey (so 83 total) on one Sunday morning in Encounter on April 27, 2014.   You can download the results here if you want. 

As I tallied this stuff up, I discovered some things you’d expect and some you probably wouldn’t.  But here’s the stuff that wrenched my gut and keeps me up at night.  Don’t forget, this is ONE survey of ONE high school youth group on ONE Sunday morning.   Students who came to church at 9 or 11am on a single weekend.  That’s limiting your audience by a lot and “ruining” all statistics for “the big picture” of teens in our culture.  But it’s enough to give me a reality check in my own ministry.

If you attend JCC, here you go.  If you don’t, you might do this in your own youth group. Here’s my reminders:

PORN IS TAINTING EVERYONE’S VIEW OF SEXUALITY:  This is no news flash.  But statistically speaking, 79 % of the men compared to 36% of my women admitted to seeing it.  I constantly talk with guys who have computers in their room, cell phones with no limitations, and access to porn with great ease.  LONG gone are the days when you have to hunt for it.  It’s teaching women they are a sexual commodity and reminding men that they are visually stimulated and should enjoy that.  It is creating false expectations, decreasing men’s ability to have healthy social relationships with women, and telling lies about what sex could or even should be about.

EVERYTHING IS RELATIVE TO TEENS TODAY- ESPECIALLY SEXUALITY:  The survey is all over the map.  One person will say that sex outside of marriage is wrong, but it’s ok to be sexually active below the belt as long as intercourse is not involved.  85% of them will make out with someone they’re dating and almost 1/2 of those women will also let that guy explore their breasts.   At least 25% of them will sleep with you if they think they’re “in love”.  They are all over the map on same sex attraction and tons of them are just plain confused.   Really, there’s no rhyme nor reason to these decisions.  It’s not like you can find a trend in these surveys or interview a student and get a logical formula for these decisions.   Many of the students I work with are arbitrarily picking values based on culture, upbringing, desires, and whatever feels right at the time.

MY GIRLS ARE TWICE AS SEXUALLY ACTIVE AS MY GUYS.   Yup.  You read that correctly.  30% of my girls have had sex with a guy and 41% of them have done just about all but had intercourse.  Compare that to only 15% and 23% of my guys respectively.  What does this mean?  I don’t know what it means in your context but I I’ll bet you my right arm in my context it’s tied to three things.

1. PORN IS ENOUGH FOR GUYS.  they’re not sexually active because they’re visually stimulated and porn pseudo fills a need.  It’s a lie.  But it does.  My girls are not visually stimulated. They are not interested in 2 dimensional intimacy and are not fooled by it.  They are hungry for affection and love and will give up a lot to a guy who claims to love her.  She wants a love that is real and many believe they’ve found it at some point.

2. FATHERS ARE ABSENT AND OUR GIRLS FEEL IT.  It’s not on my survey, but it probably should have been.   If you ask the 40% of girls who have been sexually active below the belt, either with or without intercourse, my bet is that a HIGH percentage of them will also tell you they do not get love, affection, or regular time with their earthly father.   It starts at puberty in middle school with girls and everything changes. When they need affection the most, even a present Dad often gets weird about it and subtly stops showing the same level of affection.  Then, by the time she’s 16, Dad is so emotionally distant from her that she’ll go looking in any guy who can fill the role.  She looks for one who is strong, provides for her, tells her she’s pretty, and even buys her meals.  He becomes her provider and when he tells her she’s beautiful, she hasn’t heard it in so long that she’ll give him anything she can- sexually or otherwise to keep his love that she so desperately needs.

3. MANY OF MY WOMEN ARE DATING GUYS WHO ARE DISTANT FROM GOD.  Part of the reason why our guys numbers are so much different is because in our youth ministry, many of the women are dating guys who have no theological center.  They are not active in their faith, don’t attend our youth ministry or any other, and despite invitations from their dates, will still remain distant from God.  Nonetheless, they fall in love with the girls and they make excuses for him.  He does all the providing and “nice guy” stuff I listed above, and she justifies her love by seeking to satisfy his sexual desires.  So, in the search for love, 41% of them gotten as naked as you can without “going all the way”.

 

SO WHAT DO I DO?  What do we do?

SAY NO TO SHAME:  you’re not going to guilt teens or shame people into following Jesus.  I really have no interest in correcting some “moral standard” that is outside of God’s grace anyway.   I have cried and prayed over these stats, but I’m not going to beat students up with them.  One of my favorite verses in all the scriptures is the pre-fall truth that Genesis 2:25 records:  Adam and Eve were both naked and they felt no shame.  I think students need a better view of sexuality, not a more shame filled one.  Healthy sexual expression is just that… it is healthy.  I’m going to lead them to fresh water as best I can.

INVITE AND WALK WITH  STUDENTS BACK TO JESUS:   I think it all boils down to, “Do I want to honor God in all I do?”  If the answer is yes, then the rest will follow.  I will continue to invite students to ask themselves “Did I follow Jesus into where I am now?”  If the answer is yes, they it should be good regardless of the subject we’re asking the question about.  If however, the answer is no, then the only question remaining is “Will I follow Jesus out of where I am?”   I’m committed to walking with students in this, regardless of their answers.

SAY THE HARD STUFF:  I will continue to confront both the men and the women in my ministry with the love of God.  I will not sit idly by while this culture destroys the dating and sexual experiences of the teens I work with.  I won’t be the quite observer.  I won’t be the angry yeller.  But I will be the firm reminder, that there is a better way.  I don’t need to be a teen’s best friend.  But I refuse to let the pursuit of wanting to be liked turn my pastoral and even parental voice mute.   Sometimes, I have to ask questions or make observations that make me uncomfortable.

RAISE UP MEN AND WOMEN TO WALK WITH THIS GENERATION:  Calling all the Adults around me. It’s game on.  This generation needs your wisdom and your presence.  It’s time to step up our game.

PARENTING AND PODCASTS

If you’re a parent like me, then finding the time to sit and listen to a podcast or audio teaching while you do nothing is not happening.  However, the background noise for the 15 minute drive to work or the 1/2 hour run you go on might be up for grabs.  For me, those are the slots that I’m trying to fill with some intentional learning.

So, in honor of lending your ear toward a few GREAT investments in your time as a parent- even if it’s just in the background of other activities…   Here’s 6 podcasts episodes I recently listened to that I think would be worth your time.

0e2372319_1376941814_logomarinersWHAT KIDS NEED FROM CARING ADULTS.  My friend Doug Fields recently did a 3 part series on the weekends both at Saddleback and at Mariners in southern CA by this title.  In these talks, Doug shares lots of stories, some really practical ideas, and gives you a ton of food for thought on parenting intentionally.  Each message is about 45 minutes long, but so worth it.  If you’re married, I’d encourage you to listen either with your spouse or to have your spouse listen after you do and then share your thoughts as you go along.  Lots to talk and think about here.  If you want to read about some more of Doug’s thoughts on this, you should pick up his short book “What Matter’s Most“.  I loved this read and it gave me so much permission to draw lines in defense of my marriage and family by reading it.

Here’s the link to the podcasts from his time at Mariners:

 

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I subscribe to this monthly leadership podcast by Andy Stanley (pastor, author, etc)   I loved the insights he gives about leading with the end game in mind.  Seriously, so so good.  GIVE THIS PODCAST A LISTEN.  You’ll be inspired and challenged.  If you want to read on this subject by Andy Stanley, then pick up his book “Choosing to Cheat“.  It’s a short, but challenging read that shaped my story.

Here’s the link to the podcast:

UnknownTIPS FOR PROTECTING YOUR MARRIAGE AND FAMILY.   This is a 2 part series of radio interviews I did with Jim Burns from Homeword.com and their syndicated radio show that aired this week.  Both were based on the content of my book, As For Me and My Crazy House (which you can grab a copy off right off the sidebar in this blog if you want).  I think you might find them interesting to give a listen to, regardless of if you’ve read the book or not.

Here’s the link to the podcasts:

 

IT’S A MOVIE, WHAT DID YOU EXPECT?

I confess, I’m not really much of a movie man.  

They are expensive (especially if I take all 7 of the Berrytribe like we do every Christmas). It’s mostly a blind gamble as to their quality, which I can’t afford the time or money to risk too often these days.  And, for the most part, they make lousy dates with my wife because you walk out 3 hours later, $30 poorer and not knowing one another any better by the investment.  I’d rather go for a walk and grab a meal together. 

But that said, I do have movies that I love.  Without tainting your opinion of me with those titles, I think their common threads are some combination of these: 

  1. They have a character I want to emulate or be like.
  2. They often are “based” on a true story or a book that I have read
  3. They often have at least some comic relief in the drama of the narrative.

noah-movie-poster

So, when I went to see Noah on opening day last Friday with some friends, I think that without saying it, that’s kinda what I was expecting.  I’ve read the book and even memorized a few lines from Noah’s story.   My favorite is Genesis 6:9.  It reads, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, Noah walked with God.”  I wanted that to be true.

I wanted to walk out of the theatre appreciating some of the creative license on plot twists and concepts that might have been true or were within the realm of possible.  I wanted to laugh a little.  But mostly, I wanted to walk out wanting to be Noah.  I wanted to leave the theatre like you do when you leave a great funeral, wanting to emulate the one in whose name we have gathered.  I know I didn’t walk the Earth with Noah, but I wanted to feel like I wished I could have been in his family or at least have known him.

But on those notes, this movie fell flat.  It left me with a distaste for the character Noah, a silent/ angry/ distant God, and a sense that what I just watched was mythology, not a remake of an ancient truth.

Yet, in spite of that, here’s a few reasons I’d tell you to see it and why I’ll eventually watch it with my own kids so we can wrestle with it:

(warning… might be a movie spoiler or two down here)

IT’S HONEST ABOUT THE UGLINESS OF THIS STORY:  

I was the one who decorated our kid’s nursery with cute little animals walking 2 by 2 into the ark.  We had several toy play sets and all kinds of stuffed animals for kids to remake the scene with as they moved through their toddler years.  I wouldn’t change that…

… but all the Bible stories we tell little kids are age-appropriately edited.  At some point, faith development requires you undo that censorship and pull the covers back on the rest of the story.  The kids Bible you grew up with was missing some verses to say the least.  Think about it:  David and Goliath ends with David decapitating Goliath and then carrying his head around all the way to Jerusalem and then displaying Goliath’s weapons like a treasure in his tent.  Can you imagine the uproar if the U.S. soldiers did that with Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden?  Not exactly what we would even call humane treatment of even your enemy.

When the walls of Jericho come down by the power of God, they devote the city to God and then ALL the inhabitants and ALL their livestock are killed by the Israelites.  After Elijah defeats the prophets of Baal in an epic showdown with fire from heaven, he has his opponents captured and then slaughtered.  Yes, that’s the word the NIV uses to describe it… slaughtered.   That definitely never makes it in the picture pop-up Bible.

The truth is: Noah and his family and some animals live, but everyone else dies.  EVERYONE else dies.  Neither the Bible nor this Movie leave that fact ambiguous.  Much like The Passion of the Christ did not hide the blood on the crucifixion, neither does the Noah story hide the death and destruction the flood caused.  In fact, Noah’s kids even wrestle with it as they hear the screams of the last few survivors as they sit inside the safety of the boat, begging Noah to do something.

You can’t bury this in faith.  If you’re going to follow Jesus or claim that God is loving, you’re going to have to come to terms with this text.  Keep reading…

IT REVEALS HOW EMPTY GODLESS LIVING IS.  

Despite the horrific reality of a world that drowns to death, as the viewer, you actually never feel guilty about those who die because the movie depicts them as horribly evil.  They rape women and abduct children.  They kill animals and eat their meat raw and bloody.  Sin has literally ruined the world.   I kind of saw God’s reason for the flood in a new light.  I almost wanted to rid the world of them myself.  Genesis 6:11-12 says, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. ”  I thought the film did a good job of depicting this reality.

IT CREATIVELY SHED LIGHT ON A FEW THINGS I HADN’T SEEN BEFORE.

For example, when Noah finally lands on dry land, he has survivors guilt and tries to drink his worries away like an alcoholic.   The Biblical Noah story does in fact have Noah naked and drunk near the end of it.  I never quite understood this in the text of the Scriptures and seems to be a backward move from “Noah was a righteous man” who was blameless and walked with God.  The movie made me wonder if in fact Noah was dealing with “survivor’s guilt” on a level that was literally almost unbearable.  I was moved to compassion for his response and reminded how quickly sin creeps back into the human condition, even after given a clean slate to restart.

IT WILL MAKE YOU GO BACK AND RE-READ THE STORY.

If you haven’t read Genesis chapters 6-9 in a while, then this movie will cause you to do that.  It will also present an opportunity for you to do that with your friends.  My guess is that there’s a lot of people who went to this film who even go to church and didn’t know where the line of truth and stretching the truth actually was on this film.  Sure, they weren’t fooled into thinking that Rock People built the Ark, but I would bet that most asked, “Is that in the story? Does the Bible say that? I’m confused, I think I need to go re-read this story again.”

If the movie did that, even a little, in our Biblically illiterate culture, then I guess that’s a success on some level.

I mean really.  I should be walking in thinking, “It’s a Hollywood movie produced by a self-proclaimed atheist with a primary function of making money, what did you expect?”

DO THE ENDS JUSTIFY THE MEANS?

In the most extreme sense, if you sell illegal drugs in CA. and use the money to sponsor hungry kids in poverty around the world, does that make the drug deal right and good?

On a more normal level, does the error on the part of the check-out teller in the store turn your now “free/stolen” goods in your cart into a blessing from God or a flaw in your integrity?

I most recently slammed into this question head long surrounding a TV show that I HATE. Yup… HATE.   I have said before on this blog, I hate both the Bachelor and the Bachelorette TV series.

I hate what they stand for.  I hate the lies they not-so-subtly tell the viewers and the participants about the essence of love, marriage, intimacy, and relationships.  I hate the false hope it gives, the gossip it inspires, and the way it dishonors marriage and turns it into a game show conclusion.

I hate it.

But then I ran across this video…. and now I hate it and have to at least admit… that somehow, God grew a rose in the fertilizer of this show.   Seriously, watch it.  It’s maybe the most inspiring and head scratching 12 minutes I’ve seen in a long time.

 

So…  it begs the question: do the ends justify the means?

 

catherine-sean-lowe-wedding-inline

I mean at least 2 people were trying to honor God, remain sexually abstinent toward each other before marriage , and somehow create a real marriage – performed on national television by Sean’s dad who is a pastor- in the midst of a game show that mocks marriage season after season.

Think about it.  Sean even admits that this is a crazy means to this end.  He says, “It’s unnatural to date 25 women at the same time.  It felt wrong.  A lot of the time it felt wrong.”  But… does this wedding change everything and make it right?

 

Last week, after the most recent season of the Bachelor aired with a new bachelor (Juan Pablo) as the star, I was driving to work when I heard… and I’m not joking… I heard the secular radio show host turn on the joke bit they were doing and begin to rip into this show.  I couldn’t believe it.  I even pulled over my car just to stop and write down what he said on Star 94.1 in San Diego, CA.  In part, he said he didn’t understand what women found so amazing about this show- which he and his fiancé are faithfully following.  As evidence, he said that that last night he watched Juan Pablo dating the final four women, making out and shoving his tongue down their throat, and then he said this…

 “if we changed the name of the show to ‘the pimp daddy’ nothing would be different except women would not get behind the show and think it’s the most amazing romantic thing ever.”

Wow.

So… if you want a really GREAT conversation starter for you and your teen  or friends or whoever about sexuality, love, marriage, and striving to Honor God in all of it… then go ahead and do this. 

1. Go to youtube and watch several clips of the bachelor together.  Here’s one gossip channel’s recap of a recent episode from this season with Juan Pablo.   Ask them if they’d be a contestant on the show and why or why not?

2. Watch this 12 minute I am Second video with Sean Lowe and then don’t give simple answers to the complex questions it wrestles with.  Just wrestle with them.   Play the role of Devil’s advocate and push them to think deeply about this.

3. Watch this video of Jimmy Kimmel giving them the lie detector test to see if they were abstinent.

4. Then wrestle with what causes love, sex, and marriage to be good and if they ends justify the means.

5. The read the story of the woman caught in Adultery in John 8 and see if Jesus agrees.

Or.. just come on by our dating series this may in Encounter HSM and you can join us as we do it on the weekend.

Either way, let’s agree that we won’t settle for teaching people WHAT to think.  Let’s teach them HOW to think… and regardless of where you land, these videos are a perfect opportunity to do just that.  

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT? -the shortfalls of raising “good kids”

Yesterday one of my sons pitched a fit and threw a cup in the sink and yelled at his mom in angst.

Last weekend another one of them kicked a friend out of our house because they were “being mean”.

I recently had a conversation with a parent who was upset that their teen was choosing to ditch “good friends” for troubled ones.

Surely we all know what we want to tell them.  We know how to fix their choices and get them set straight. I get it.  In fact, the truth is, I’m not upset with my kids who didn’t throw cups, showed grace and forgiveness to their friends, and have essentially chosen to make some solid choices.  So it makes sense that the dominant response, especially when we’re dealing with children making bad choices, is to tell them to “change your behavior.”

However, as I met with my cup throwing son in our one-on-one today, our conversation was not about “not throwing cups”.  Yes, we talked about it.  But no, my ultimate goal was not to get him to stop doing it.  I mean if I get my kid to find a different outlet for his anger, that’s great.  But not throwing cups is not what i’m after.  I’m not trying to raise a “good kid”, I’m trying to raise a “Godly one” and they’re not the same thing.

In fact, just last week I met a parent who told me that their kid loves the 5th and 6th grade ministry at our church, but they often can’t make it because they go to the early service and their kid is too tired from sports to go.  I promise you, the reason it’s not a big deal to them is because their kid is “making good choices”.  But if and when the tide ever turns, they’ll be wishing the foundation was deeper than “good kid”.  

On a similar note, I once had a parent tell me their daughter didn’t need to be in our “dating series” in youth group because “she wasn’t allowed to date anyway”.   In other words, she can’t date now so she doesn’t need it.  She’s not making bad choices with a boyfriend so the issue is null and void.  The only problem is, when she eventually is out of the house and chooses to date- regardless of the rules set up for her at home- the real question will be, “Upon what foundation will she make her choices and at what point will ‘because my parents said so’ no longer cut it?”

If our goal is merely “behavior modification”, then good choices is what we’re after.  However, if our goal is raising kids who reflect the Image of their Creator, then good behavior is a response, not an end in and of itself.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m pro good behavior and I’m not happy when I or my kids make bad choices.  However it’s a subtle lie that if someone’s life “looks good” that all is well.  My experience says that, “It is totally possible to be morally right and spiritually dead.”  In fact, Jesus famously said that you can even be used by God to perform miracles, and still not be in connection with God.  If that doesn’t freak you out, I don’t know what will.

If you want to know the bottom line for me, it is this:  More important than making good choices, is knowing why their choice was good in the first place. I want my kids to own why they make the choices they do, more than know what they should be doing.  That is why my one-on-one today was not about what my son should do different, but about why it matters in the first place.  Once we understand that our goal is honoring God, then our behavior can be applied accordingly.

To that end, I want to model a life that asks this question at ever turn: “How can I honor God in that?”   My prayer is my own kids and the students I work with in youth ministry will learn to filter everything they do through that one question.  I’m not trying to raise up “good kids”, I want to raise Godly ones and that is less about the choices they make, and more about their heart that motivates them.

Oh that God might grant me the grace and wisdom to know how to do that.