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Beyond the Birds and Bees

Children's Ministry Magazine

The new face of sexuality includes talk about homosexuality, transgender issues, and blatant sexuality in the media. Here's how to help preteens navigate these tough issues today.

There's ample reason many parents avoid the "birds and bees" conversation with their kids -- it's uncomfortable and even embarrassing. But for today's preteens, sexuality is front and center in their lives, from media that's saturated with sex to their personal experiences that raise all kinds of questions. Issues that wouldn't have made their way into hushed conversation a couple generations ago are now all over the headlines -- and cropping up in children's ministries. Topics such as children dealing with transgender issues, confusion about sexual preference, homosexual parents, and more, are commonplace. So what do you do when one of these beyond-the-birds-and-bees conversations lands in your ministry? How do you handle it when one of your preteens is struggling with a complex sexual issue?

Children's Ministry Magazine takes on the tough topics to give you expert advice you can use with kids as you walk alongside families dealing with today's sexuality issues.

The Conversation About Sex
You overhear several kids in your preteen class talking about sex. You're shocked by their subject matter and their sophistication about it, but even more shocked to hear the latitude by which they're defining sexual activity. Kids are openly talking about oral sex, who did what with whom, what constitutes real sex, and so on. What do you do?

Advice for the Teacher: Don't walk away or pretend you don't hear, advise the experts. Enter the conversation, even if you don't feel equipped to get into a discussion about sex with preteens. It's important to let kids know you hear them and understand what they're talking about.

"Take the group aside," says Sue Bryan, co-senior children's pastor for The Rock Church and World Outreach Center in San Bernardino, California, "and graciously discuss things. Remind them of Philippians 4:6-8 about how our conversation should be as Christians. Is it pure? Does it build up others? Then discuss the difference between how a Christian is to feel about sex before marriage versus how the world views these things."

If This Happens in Your Ministry: "When kids are developmentally ready for this information, they will look for it," says Kurt Goble, children's minister at First Christian Church of Huntington Beach, "and they will find it. We have to partner with parents to make sure that the family and the church are viewed as the adolescent's source for this information. Eight years ago we started a class for fourth- through sixth-graders on Entering Adolescence. Three simultaneous six-week classes transpired: one for boys, one for girls, and one for parents. One main goal was to open the lines of communication between kids and their parents regarding sex."

The Homosexual Parent
*Ted, 12, and Sarah's, 10, parents are getting a divorce. Ellen and Nick have been married for 15 years and are a high-profile couple in the community, with Nick serving as the school superintendent. Nick announced during the summer that he was divorcing Ellen because he'd fallen in love with another man and couldn't "live a lie" any longer. The children are lost -- and they're in your ministry. What do you do?

Advice for the Teacher: "There are many issues these kids face that are greater than homosexuality," says Goble. "They're dealing with abandonment, infidelity, financial impact, the destruction of their family unit, and probably questioning God. Love these kids through the process of dealing with these issues first. Obviously, homosexuality is the most prominent hot topic in our minds, but kids who've had their family rocked this way have greater immediate needs than explanations and discussions regarding their father's moral downfall and subsequent lifestyle."

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