Jun 21, 2018

What to Do When a Child Has Been Exposed to Pornography

A father asked if he and his 10-year-old son could meet with me.

We sat down in a private place and the father became emotional as he said to me, "I wanted to ask for help.  This past week, I walked into my son's room and found him looking at pornography on his iPad.

The son admitted that it was true.  He had been looking at pornography on a regular basis for several months.  Another child at school had told him about some porn sites to check out.

The father and son looked at me with tears in their eyes.  The father aked what they should do? 

If the truth were known, this same story could be told thousands, if not millions of times.  Some children look up pornography, others accidentally stumble upon it through pop up ads or clicking on a link they didn't know about.

Today's kids are facing an onslaught of pornography.  In previous generations, people had to go out of their way to view porn.  But now with tablets, smart phones, smart tv's and other devices, porn is just one click away.  Even with safety measures in place, there is such a tsunami of porn, that most kids will see it at some point.

The average age children are exposed to porn is 8-years-old.  Another study found that 47% of children with email addresses receive porn spam every day.  The largest and fastest growing group of internet porn consumers is youth age 12-17.  By the time they graduate high school, nearly 100% of kids will have viewed some type of porn.

I guarantee you there are families struggling with this in your church and community.  What can you do to help parents put preventative measures in place?  What should you do when parents come to you because their child has viewed porn?  What should you tell parents to do?

Your role in this is to be a resource for the parent and advise them on what to do.  The steps below are for parents.  Let's talk about these steps you can encourage parents to take.

Don't freak out. When you find out your child has been viewing porn, you will feel shock, disappointment, personal guilt, anxiety and grief.  But you want to act, not react.  Stay calm.  If you blow up, it will only make the situation worse.

Ask questions and find out what they saw.
  • Was this the first time you have seen this kind of thing?
  • Have you looked at this with anyone else?
  • How often have you been viewing this? 
  • What exactly did you see?  Was it heterosexual?  Homosexual?  Did they see body parts only?  Sexual acts?  Did it involve sexual violence? 
  • What questions do you have? (they may be too embarrassed to ask)
  • Do you understand why I am taking this so seriously?
Share God's plan for sex and help them gain a healthy, Biblical view of sex.  A discussion about pornography may not have been in your immediate plans, but even accidental exposure to this kind of content demands action.  In todays culture, it is necessary for parents to start having "the talk" earlier in life.  Especially if the child has viewed porn.  Of course, the conversations should be age-appropriate and how much you share should be based on the child's age.

It is our job, as parents, to help our kids gain a healthy, Biblical view of God's design for sex.  We should create an environment where kids will not feel embarrassed to ask questions about sex.  You want them to come to you, as the parent, with their questions, so you can help them find the right answers and establish a Christian world view of God's plan for sex.

Put preventative measures in place.  While there is no full proof plan to keep children from viewing porn, there are safety measures you can put in place.  Safety filters can be placed on devices that help block pornographic pop-ups and websites.  You should also monitor your child's online activity.  

Another practical thing is to have a rule that all online activity must happen in a common room like the living room.  You can establish a rule that no one is allowed on the internet without someone else being in the room with them.  Obviously, this means not allowing internet access in children's bedrooms.

Warn your child about online sexual predators.  One of the biggest ways predators find children to abuse is through the internet.  Use this as an opportunity to reinforce with your child about never communicating with someone they don't know online.

Get professional counseling if needed.  Sometimes this situation can trigger parents struggles as well.  Dad may be looking at porn as well and this conversation triggers him to confess.  Perhaps mom was abused as a child and this brings out painful memories.  Unless you are a licensed, professional counselor, it may be time to point them to a therapist, so they can work on these issues at a professional level.

Your job in this situation is to provide them contacts of liscensed counselors they can connect with.  You should also be a prayer partner with them and bring hope, peace and comfort during the process.

Your turn.  How do you help families who are strugging with pornography?  What safety filters or programs do you recommend?  How do you equip parents to know what to do about pornography? Share your thoughts and insight with everyone in the comment section below.

Jun 20, 2018

3 Ways Nursery Volunteers Can Make a Huge Impact in Babies' Lives

Volunteers who work in the nursery, sometimes wonder if what they do matters.  The people they serve can't recite Bible verses they've taught them.  They can't tell their parents about the Bible story you shared with them.  They can't pray with you.  If you want to make a big difference in the lives of kids and parents, the last place you'd think about serving is the nursery.

In spite of that, many people do choose to serve in the nursery.  The reasons?  They may like babies and enjoy holding them, rocking them and caring for them.  Perhaps, their grandchild is in the nursery and it's a way to spend more time with them.  Or they may be in the nursery simply because that's where they were asked to serve when they signed up as a volunteer.

Ask a nursery volunteer if they believe they are making an impact in the babies' lives and you will get mixed responses.  If the volunteer says they feel like they are just babysitting cute little babies so dad and mom can enjoy the service, then it's probably because no one has shared with them the huge impact they can make in the lives of the babies in the nursery.

Some new research reveals that the nursery is one of the best places to serve if you want to make a difference in other people's lives.

Let's look at 3 reasons volunteers can make a huge impact on babies' lives.

The spoken word.  Babies usually start speaking their first words when they are 12 months old.  But new research shows that they understand a lot more than they say.  The University of Rochester ran tests that reveal that even at 6 months old, babies can recognize words that are spoken.

Volunteers in the nursery should understand that though babies may not be able to communicate back which words they understand, they understand much of what you are saying.

Help nursery volunteers see that the words of love, encouragement and validation they speak to the babies in the nursery, are heard and received.  Nursery volunteers can make a huge impact in babies's lives by...
  • Reading Bible verses to babies.
  • Sharing Bible stories with babies.
  • Speaking words of life and encouragement to babies. 
  • Singing songs to babies.
Make eye contact.  Research shows that when you are holding a baby, making eye contact helps the child sync up with what you are saying.  Looking into a baby's eyes translates into enhanced bonding and learning.
  • When you are quoting a Bible verse to a baby, make sure you look into their eyes as much as possible.  It will deepen the impact it has on the child.
  • Have a goal each weekend that every baby in your nursery will be held by a volunteer who looks into their eyes and tells them that Jesus loves them. 
Nurture the babies in your nursery.  A new study at Washington University in St. Louis says that nurturing babies can have a big impact on their brain growth.  Babies who were nurtured in their early years, ended up having better brain growth. You can nurture babies by...
  • Having a good ratio of volunteers to babies.  Ideally, you want to have 1-on-1 care in the nursery...2 to 1 at the most.  Without a good ratio, volunteers will not have the time and ability to nurture the babies. 
  • Providing training and insight for volunteers about nurturing the babies.
  • Only placing people in the nursery who feel called to be there.  Nursery is one of the volunteer roles you might be tempted to fill with anyone who is breathing.  You might also have a policy that says if you have children in the nursery, then you need to sign up to serve there.  I don't believe that is the best way to impact babies.  Rather,  I believe the best way to staff your nursery is to find people who have a clear calling to invest in people at the most critical time of their life. 
  • Pray Bible verse promises over the babies.  You can put the verses on the wall as a reminder for volunteers to pray the prayer promises over the babies. 
  • Partner with parents.  Invite parents to join you in praying Bible verse promises over their child.  Give them a list of verses they can pray over their baby.  Make parents aware of the impact they can make in their child's life if they will be intentional about nurturing them, reading Gods Word to their baby, having faith conversations with their child and singing Bible songs with their child.
I love the truth found in 2 Timothy 3:15.
"and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."
It's time we see the nursery for what it really is.  A critical time in a person's life that will mold and shape them for life.

If we will do what Timothy's mother and grandmother did for him, we will see more of the babies in our nursery grow up to love and serve Jesus.

Jun 19, 2018

3 People You Should Be Listening to in Ministry

It is important to have people you can ask for advice, learn from and discuss questions with.

Normally, when you think about listening to someone for advice, it's someone older than you.

And that is true.  But if you're only listening to people that are older and wiser than you, you are missing out on some great advice.

I believe we should be listening to 3 people.  Each of these 3 people can offer you advice that the other two cannot.  Let's see who the 3 people are. 

Person 1 - Someone who has been in ministry longer than you have.  This person should be older and wiser and have a proven track record.  An example of this is found in Scripture with Timothy and Paul.  Timothy looked to Paul for advice and insight.

Do you have that person in your life?  If not, look for some older, godly men/women in your church that you can ask to be your Paul.  They have been down the road farther than you and can help you avoid some of the mistakes they made at your age.

Person 2 - Someone who is at the same stage of ministry and life as you.  This person should be about your same age and have ministry experience that is comparative to yours.  They are walking through some of the same things you are.  You can bounce ideas and questions off this person and find out what they are doing in some of the same situations.

Person 3 - Someone who is younger than you in ministry and age.  I guess you could call this reverse mentoring.  It's important to stay up-to-date with current trends, worldviews and generational rhythms.  Your connection with a person who is younger than you can give you a fresh perspective. Ask them to challenge you and question what you're doing and why.

If you can gather these 3 people into your inner circle, you'll be able to make some great, balanced decisions.  You'll have the zeal of youth blended with the wisdom of experience.

These three people could be someone you respect, but don't live near you now.  You could connect with them online, but I believe the best scenario is someone you can look in the eyes, meet for lunch, sit down and talk with in person, etc.

Do you have these 3 people in your life?  If not, this is a great time to bring them in.  Of course, they should be someone you know and trust.  And they should be motivated to help you.  You don't want to have people you have to drag help out of.  They should be enthusiastic about investing in you.

Person 1 (younger in age and ministry) - __________

Person 2 (about the same age and same time serving in ministry) - __________________

Person 3 (older and serving in ministry longer) - _________________

Once you've got your names. Contact them and ask if they would be someone you can look to for advice and insight.

The Bible tells us this in Proverbs 15:22.

"Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success."

When you get your 3 people in place, you'll be set up for success.  

Jun 18, 2018

Tips for Talking to Kids from Mister Rogers

Fred Rogers aka "Mister Rogers" was a children's television actor, producer, musician, puppeteer and ordained Presbyterian minister.

His show "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood" was watched by millions of kids.  At its' peak, 8% of television sets were tuned into his show each week. He became an icon of children's entertainment and education.

Mister Rogers was an expert at talking with kids...
especially with preschoolers.  Nothing was said without purpose.  He carefully honed every word of his shows.

Let look at the strategy Mister Rogers used to talk with kids.

Anticipate the ways children might misinterpret what is being said.  Here's an example.  In one scene,  they go to the hospital to watch a patient get his blood pressure checked.  They were going to say the nurse, who was taking someone's blood pressure, was blowing up the blood-pressure cuff.  Fred had them change the line to "I'm going to puff this up with some air."  He didn't want children to hear "blowing up" and be afraid of the cuff.

Younger children take things literally.  Remember this when your talking with them and avoid using words they will take literally.  Words or phrases like "give your heart to Jesus" and "Jesus is the door" will be taken literally by younger chidren.  If you do use abstract words and concepts, take the time to explain the meaning to the kids.

State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand.  An example - It is dangerous to ride your bike into the street.

Rephrase the words in a positive manner.  An example - "It is good to play where it is safe."

Connect them with authority figures.  First and foremost, this should be their parents or legal guardian.  An example - "Your parents can tell you where it is safe to play and ride your bike."

Add a motivational idea that gives children a reason to follow your words.  Here's an example. "Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them, and listening is an important part of growing."

If you watch an episode of the show, you might say it is laid back and slow compared to today's high-energy, fast-paced kids' shows.

But a look behind the scenes will reveal an incredible commitment to connecting with kids in a way they can understand.  Rogers collaborated with several academic researchers and child psychologists to help the show make great connections with kids.  Rogers would spend hours talking with child-development experts before finalizing shows. 

He wanted every episode to be the result of a careful, academically-informed process.  Connecting his message with children in a way they can have a clear understanding of what he was saying, was a big deal with Fred.

Fred also addressed common childhood fears.  He helped kids overcome fears like going to the hospital, going down the drain in their tub, the first day of school,  parent's divorcing, and being cared for during times of trouble or uncertainty like during a war.

Fred had a way of bringing comfort and hope to children even in the darkest of times and most disturbing events.  During times of war, he was often called upon by the President to bring hope and comfort to children.

He listened to feedback from his audience and made adjustments based on it.  An example - a viewer who was blind called in and said she was worried about the fish being fed when Mr. Rogers didn't specifically say he was feeding them.  He was feeding them during every show, but didn't always announce it verbally.  But after receiving the blind lady's note, he began announcing the feeding every week.

Attention to detail.  Fred's attention went all the way the simple things he did every episode like putting on his sneakers and cardigan sweater which gave him a more fatherly image.  The image he portrayed made children relaxed and trusting.

Here's some takeaways for us based on Mr. Roger's success with children.
  • When working with preschoolers,  try to use concrete words rather than abstract terms.  Think through any words that might confuse children or make it be hard for them to understand the concept you are trying to communicate.
  • Use positive, proactive words and phrases rather than negative ones. 
  • Reinforce to kids the importance of listening to and obeying their parents.  Partnering with parents by sharing with children how important their parents are, is a big deal. 
  • Show or explain the benefits that will come from following what you are teaching.  
  • Talk about fears kids face and how to overcome those fears through Christ.
  • Point kids to the comfort and peace that is found in Christ.
  • Listen to feedback about your teaching.  Better yet, seek it out and ask for it.  Listening to feedback with an open mind will help you become a better communicator for kids. 
  • Pay fantastic attention to detail.  Excellence is the little details done well.
If you've never watched an episode of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, head over to YouTube and find one.  Watching him interact with kids will inspire you and give you more valuable tips on communicating with kids.

Your turn.  Did you watch Mr. Roger's Neighborhood growing up?  Did your kids or grandkids watch his show?  What other ideas and tips did you pick up from him?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.