Friday, June 10, 2016

Going Beyond "Consent": Teaching Our Boys to Be Godly Men

I saw the "Consent: It's as Simple as Tea" video  about a year ago, and at the time, I thought it was clever and informative.  This video has resurfaced and has shown itself plentiful on my Facebook feed for several days after the verdict and sentencing in the Stanford rape case.

I re-watched this video twice, and I admit that something was really, really bothering me.  Usually, the video was posted with an encouragement to “show your teenage boy” or “this is good for teaching our sons about consent.” 

Then it dawned on me.  It’s not the video so much as the admonition that we need to use this video to teach our sons about consent.  As the mother of two teenaged boys, I find this to be misguided.  Frankly, if your teen needs to be shown this video in order to know what “consent” is, then you, as a parent, have a LOT of work to do.  Seriously.  Knowing the definition of consent is not the issue.  There are many, many thoughts and decisions and attitudes that contribute to a young man who does not know (or care about) what “consent” means. 

Many sincerely believe this video to be very helpful for young people who find themselves in sexual situations and are unsure about what to do.  If it works and prevents rape, I am thankful for this video.  However, if you are a Christian parent, like me, I think this video is woefully lacking in what we need to be teaching our sons.

Here are some of what I believe to be more important teaching points for our teenaged sons. 

1.  Teach Them How to Have Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ
First and foremost, our teens – both boys and girls – need to have a personal, real relationship with Jesus Christ.  Pray for our children, teach them God’s word, show them the Way.  Then, the Holy Spirit will be counselor and guide for our children. 

* “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”   2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)

* “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:2 (ESV)

* “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 (ESV)

2.  Teach Your Teens about Sex
Talk to your children about sex BEFORE they become teenagers.  In today’s culture, you cannot be lax in this.  Talk to your children about how we were created to be sexual beings but that God has a plan for sex – a good plan.  Acknowledge sexual feelings.  Don’t shame your boys.  Sex was created by God. It is not a bad thing, but sex should happen within the confines of marriage. 

Patiently teach them what is appropriate behavior towards girls.  Help them think through their thoughts.  Guide and teach and train and discipline when needed. 

3.  Teach Your Boys How to Treat Women, Their Wives, and Everyone Else
Philippians 2:3-10 (ESV) states “ Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Ephesians 5:25-29 (ESV) says, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.”

If a young man seeks, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to live out these two passages of Scripture, he will not need to watch videos about tea to help him understand “consent.” 

4.  Teach Them to Use Their Strength for Good
When our boys are little, we say it 100 times a week – “No hitting.”  However, God made our boys physical.  Boys need to know that if they see someone hurting a girl, it is 100% ok to hit or tackle or kick.  There is a time and a place for physical violence, and no one is mad that two Swedes on bikes chased and tackled the man who was assaulting a young unconscious woman.  

On the other hand, a young man should never use his strength to hurt, scare, bully, or intimidate a girl simply because he can.   

5.  Teach Your Boys to Keep Their Hearts Pure
We cannot ignore pornography and the effects it has had and will have on the hearts and minds of our young boys as they mature into young men.   Women are degraded, and rape is glorified.  Certain music genres glorify violence against women.  Movies make violence against women seem normal and even “romantic.”  Again, keep the lines of communication open.  Talk to your boys.  Put safeguards in place – no phones in the bedroom after 10:00, for example.  Say “no” to certain movies, books, television shows, video games, and music choices. 

In my opinion, a young man who has to wonder about consent is not living a Christ-centered life – he’s living a selfish, self-centered, uncaring, entitled life.  He’s somewhere he shouldn’t be, doing something he should not be doing.  Does this happen?  Yes.  However, as a believer, we should be raising our children to be radically different from those in the world who are not sure what “consent” means.  With God’s help, we need to strive to raise children who look to the interest of others, who empty themselves, who humbly serve others instead of taking from them.  A man who is truly seeking to become more Christ-like will not see an unconscious or sleeping woman and decide to take advantage of her simply to satisfy a physical urge, and he will not force a woman to do something when she changes her mind.  A true Christ-follower does not need to watch videos about tea because, to him, women are his sisters, created by God, and are to be treasured, protected, and esteemed.

Let’s go beyond teaching our boys about "consent."  

Let's teach our boys to be Godly men.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Attention Moms and Dads! Your Teens Need You!

This morning, as I was folding laundry, I sat pondering what someone asked me last night.

“So, is your son as quiet at home as he is here?”

My youngest is playing a small role in a play in our community, and he’s been labelled as quiet.  Wait, what?  Quiet?

That boy hasn’t been quiet a day in his life.  He’s funny, hyper, crazy, loud, and talkative.

At play practice, others see him as quiet.  Quiet.

Time turned back, and I thought about my oldest.  At about the same age, he told me once, with real fear in his words, that he had stage-fright.  I remember thinking, “WHAT!?  You’ve never ever one time been afraid in front of a group of people.”  But for a time, he was, but he’s not anymore.  Now he’s a tour guide at a local cave, and he speaks in front of strangers all day, several times a day.  He’s a born leader.  When he was 5 years old, he could have the entire playground filled with children previously unknown to him playing some game he’d made up.  “Do you want to play with us?” he’d ask perfect strangers.  Yet, for a time, he had stage fright.  It came out of nowhere, and one day it slipped away quietly, and I realized it was gone.

Thinking about my oldest, that’s when it hit me.  These are the days in a young person’s life when he suddenly realizes that others see him.  That what he does is right there in front of the world for everyone to see and judge.  Boys and girls alike suddenly become visible, vulnerable, self-conscious, exposed, scared, worried.

What is it about puberty and hormones that does this?

I have no idea, but what I do know is that these are the days when teenagers becoming young men and women push so hard against their parents, but they need us so very much.  They need us to say, “YES!  You ARE who you once were.  You are funny and bright and capable.”  They want to know that they are loved and cherished even when they push.  They crave acceptance and hugs and encouragement.  Not fake praise, but genuine words of affirmation. 

You CAN do it. 

I believe in you. 

I am on your side.

Tell them what they are good at.  Tell them you love them.  Tell them you are proud when they show compassion, kindness, generosity, and self-control.  Set boundaries.  Push gently.  Encourage.  Exhort.  Praise.  Lift them up.

Then, in time,  prayerfully and with God’s grace, your son or daughter will step confidently out into the world and embrace the gifts that God has blessed him or her with and just be… amazing.

They need you mom and dad.  Your teens need you.

Friday, March 25, 2016

How to Help Your Kids Love the Church

A friend of mine shared a disheartening story with me – a young boy walked into his small group and asked, “What are we going to do today?”  When his leader told him, he replied, “That’s boring,” and proceeded to pout and look … well, bored, during the entire lesson and activity.   Not long ago, a mother told me that her teen child no longer wanted to come to church because it was not interesting, and he didn’t like it. 

Most of us have heard alarming statistics about how our young people are leaving the church and about how our children feel entitled.  So how do we, as parents, help our children learn to love the church?

Why are we here?

First of all, we need to decide why WE are going to church.  Do we go to church out of duty?  Do we go to church to keep our kids out of trouble – to give them something to do – an outlet?  Do we hope that good behavior will rub off on our kids if we go to church?  Do we go to start our week off on a positive note?  Do we go to church to see our friends – or to get adult time away from the kids?  Do we go to church because that’s just the right thing to do? 

Why do we go to church?  I believe we should go to church for two reasons. 

1.  We go to church to worship. 

What is worship?  In the book, Parenting in the Pew, Robbie Castleman says, 

     “Worship is the exercise of our souls in blessing God.  In the Psalms we read or sing, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul!’  However, our chief concern is usually ‘Bless my soul, O Lord!’
     Encountering the Lord.  Meeting Jesus.  Hearing his voice.  Knowing God.  These expectations of worship are met in hearts that are intent on his blessing.”

Simply put, we don’t go to church service for us.  It’s not about me.  It’s not about you.  It’s about God.   

However, there’s more to Church than Sunday morning worship service.

2.  We go to church to participate in the life of THE church.

What is THE church?

According to my resident PhD, Dr. Mullin (a.k.a. my husband, Miles), “The church has two meanings in the Scripture.  The first meaning references a gathered group of baptized believers covenanted together in order to worship the Lord, administer the ordinances, disciple its members, and bear testimony to Christ.  This is the predominant meaning found in the New Testament.  The second meaning refers to the universal Church which is made up of all believers throughout all ages and all times.  The New Testament depicts membership in the universal church as secured by faith in Jesus Christ and membership in a local church as normal for all believers”

Part of going to church is BEING THE church – a gathered group of believers who come together for encouragement, discipleship, and service.  Given that we go to church to worship and to participate in being the body of believers called the church, what are some ways to teach our children to love the church?

1.  Know why you are there.
Are you coming for the kids programs, the awesome music, or the entertaining pastor, or are you coming to worship the Lord?  Are you there because you want to make business connections or so you can grow in your relationship with the God of the universe?  As the parent, you need to check your own heart and make sure you are in church for the right reasons.

2.  Ask the right questions
A few years ago, I realized that I was asking my kids a toxic question.   When I picked them up from a church activity, I would ask, “Did you have fun?”  THIS is NOT why we go to church. (See above).  Asking such a dumb question was just reinforcing exactly what I didn’t want them to believe – that church is about having fun.  I realized I needed to ask the right questions.  Here are just some of the questions that I try to ask now.

What was your Bible study about tonight?
Did you learn anything new this morning?
Were there any visitors in your class?
Did you meet anyone new?
What was your favorite part of worship today?
What was your favorite song?
Did anything about the sermon stand out to you?
Are there any prayer requests we should pray about as a family?

3.  Watch your words
Think about how you talk about your church to others.  If you describe your church as being a great place because they’re so many fun things to do, children will get a wrong idea about church and its function.  If you get in the car and complain about the pastor going too long or the music being sort of “blah today” in front of your kids, you will send them a very clear message.  Be careful about how you talk about your church to your family and to your friends. 

4.  Serve
First of all, set an example by serving and then encourage your children to serve.  All children can serve in some way.  Be on the lookout for ways your child can serve. 

My youngest told me once that he didn’t particularly like a certain ministry we were doing.  So I said, “Oh dear.  I hate for you to not to LIKE something.  Let’s just quit.”  “OK, pray and ask God what other ministry you should be involved in then.” 

The Bible says that all believers in a body have a role to play.  I personally believe this also applies to children who have accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord.   Romans 12:4-6 says “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith.”

Young children can make shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, visit shut-ins, or choose items for a food pantry.  Older children can help set up tables and chairs, clean pews, and participate in outreach ministries.  Teenagers can do practically anything an adult can do – mission trips, music ministry, nursery work, etc. 

When my oldest was four years old, we “adopted” a shut-in named Miss Ruby.  Miss Ruby had never married and was 93 years old.  She loved it when we would visit, and his cute little boy face brightened her day.  That is serving.

5.  Pray
Pray for your church, your pastor, your outreaches, your missionaries, and your church family members.  Pray with your children about your church often so they learn by example that the church is dear to us and should be lifted up to our Father.

There is no guarantee that your children will grow up and “stay in church,” but we as parents can help our children have a proper view of church and its function by first understanding it ourselves and then by asking the right questions, watching what we say about the church, serving in our church, and praying for our church.