RSS

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. 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 29, 2013 in Thoughts

 

Tags: , , ,

Allowing Silence: a call to listen

Allowing Silence

A Call to Listen

We have a tradition in our home that, at dinner, our children get the chance to decide who is going to pray and say a word of thanksgiving for our family, friends, food and other blessings in our lives.  Recently, our three year old daughter has insisted on praying first in order to thank Jesus for dying for our sins.  It’s an adorable reminder that the rest of what we’re thankful for doesn’t mean a whole lot without the cross.  Funny how preschoolers can take such a matter-of-fact approach to the profound.

Tonight, during the week after Memorial Day, I grilled up the last of our hot dogs and sat down to enjoy some good ol’ fashioned American cuisine with our family gathered around the table.  Processed meat: check.  Watermelon: check.  Carrots and ranch dip: double check.

We each prayed tonight; first our daughter prayed parts of the “sinner’s prayer” for what amounts to be close to her 47th time, I followed by thanking God for our family and for our sons’s kindergarten teacher, my wife then thanked God for our meal and asked that God would help me finish the projects I have looming and, last, my son took his turn to pray.

silence.

silence.

more silence.

It was at this point that I broke one of the basic rules of prayers that we teach kids – I opened my eyes to see what was going on.  Well, actually, I only partially opened one eye – you know, because sometimes we act like opening our eyes during prayer makes our wishes not come true (not theologically sound, mind you, but totally how we act sometimes).  I noticed our son, sitting under the table, hands folded, eyes closed and sitting silently.  I closed my eyes, thankful that everything looked to be okay, and went back to respectfully sitting quietly as my son finished praying.

silence.

more silence.

I started to think about all of the things I needed to do after dinner:  The email I didn’t send today.  The email I sent but should have proofread better.  The files I needed to download before Sunday.  The car that needed to get washed.  The hot dog that was rapidly cooling back to its refrigerated state on my plate.

still silence.

“… amen.”

Our son, who just finished kindergarten this week, crawled back onto his seat and took a giant bite of now-only-slightly-warm hot dog.  I had just sat through what felt like one of the longest 5 minute stretches in my life and had to ask why.

“I needed to listen to see if God had anything to say,” he replied.  “He didn’t tonight, so I said ‘amen’.”

silence.

It was at that point that I looked over at my wife.  She smiled at me.  I held back a tear.  God might not have said anything to my son tonight, but I got the message loud and clear.

There are times in my life when I feel like I need to say something.  In general, I’m uncomfortable with the void that silence can create.  In no way would I consider myself wired to be an extrovert.  Quite frankly, people exhaust me sometimes.  But, I get uncomfortable if I could be producing something and I’m not.

Sitting in silence seems like the opposite of doing something.  So, more often than not, I say more words than I should.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10

And so I sit here tonight, wondering if I can begin to listen for God’s voice in the way that my children naturally lift their ears towards the heavens.  I wonder what being still actually feels like and if, once I experience it, I’ll find myself changed by it.

silence.

Consider this a call to listen this week.  Carve out time to seek the stillness that comes in being silent.  And, in that stillness, ask to see if there is anything that God would like to tell you.  If nothing else, know that God is there in the silence.  Like a father, watching his child learn what it’s like to listen for his voice.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on May 30, 2013 in Thoughts

 

Tags: , , ,

More than a “Good Example”

More than a “Good Example”

You cannot earn your child’s place in Heaven

Growing up in a small town, I loved driving past the local car wash on Main Street for one reason: they had a sign with changeable letters.

The sign owners would change the display often – switching from riddles, to knock-knock jokes, to [in]famous quotes, to sales… but, one thing stayed the same.  We all paid attention to that sign.

Fast-forward 20 years and you’d often find me driving past a similar sign that sits in front of a local church that I live near.  If you saw me drive past it today, you’d have seen me turn pale as I read this week’s “inspirational” quote:

churchsign

“The greatest thing you can give your child is a good example”

Here’s why I disagree and wanted to take down the words from the sign where I read them:

As parents, we cannot place the weight of our children’s future squarely on our shoulders. Our children need more than good examples. Good examples won’t get them to heaven, friends.

From a secular understanding, I’d totally agree. The only thing you can give your children, if this world is all there is, is an example to watch.  They’ll choose whether or not to follow that example – but it’s yours to offer.

From the understanding that I’m coming from, that there are greater things yet to come (and, by yet to come, I mean to say that there will be life that continues long after my lungs no longer have breath in them), the greatest thing I can offer my children is a relationship with Jesus.  The example I set for them will pale in comparison to the life-changing power of God’s spirit in their lives.

All too often, parents neglect the spiritual ramifications of their choices and their examples.  If I truly believed that the most important thing, 100 years from now, is my child’s relationship with their creator… would I ever choose to skip gathering with the Church because of sports, a birthday party or a homework assignment?  If I had a sign that hung over my door, reminding me that the one thing that matters is my child’s relationship with Jesus, would that change the way I approach the day?  I think it would.

This is not to say that a good example is meaningless.  Rather, the example I set shows my children what it looks like to be a husband and a father who loves Jesus.  But, friends, my example is not the greatest gift I can give to my children.  My example matters, but it isn’t enough to save them.  The school they go to, the grades they get, the sports they play, the scholarships they receive, the person they marry, the job they get or the house they live in will not save them.

That’s something that only a relationship with Jesus can do.

Unless, of course, this world is truly all that there is.  Then your example is all you have to offer.  If that’s your worldview, then this sign is for you.

However, I believe in something bigger than what I can offer my kids.

How about you?
Agree or disagree?

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 1, 2013 in Kidmin, Quotes, Thoughts

 

Tags: , , , ,

Loving with a Broken Heart

empty table

Loving with a Broken Heart

Living with the echoes of a miscarriage

This post will go live on Valentine’s Day, but it could be written on any random day over the last few months.

I sat this morning, looking at my children, and my heart ached for the baby who’ll never sit in a Bumbo, a child who’ll never have chocolate smeared on her face, a little girl who will never have the chance to forget her Disney Princess lunch bag at school.  Our family of five has a sixth member who we’ll never meet and, on mornings like this, the feelings of loss that have slowly faded to the background of life come rushing forward in a moment that makes me catch my breath.  I miss the baby I never met.

It feels funny to write that last sentence.

(you can read more about how we’ve processed our story here: http://westcoastcm.com/?s=miscarriage)

Before our miscarriage, I could have never understood the way that losing a child hangs with you like a cloud on days like today.  I never understood why parents would buy into the myth that our lost children spend the rest of our days hovering over us as guardian angels.  Now I understand – there are days when it feels like there is literally something hanging over you.  It’s hard to explain.  If my understanding of Scripture and the historical Judeo-Christian understanding of angels didn’t get in the way of this belief, I’d consider buying in.  I blame Hallmark, Precious Moments and It’s a Wonderful Life for making this belief a popular option for mourning families.

For those of us in ministry, we need to go out of our way to make room for families who will find themselves mourning the loss of a child at random times.  If you’ve been impacted by the loss of a child, this isn’t news to you.  However, if you’ve never suffered through a miscarriage, still birth or loss of a young child, I’d encourage you to consider keeping tabs on The STILL Project.

I’d encourage you to watch the trailer below, and to say a prayer today for families who have an empty spot at their table today that could be filled by a child they’ve had to say goodbye to.

So, today, help me leverage our loss for the greater good.  God’s heart is for those who mourn (Matthew 5:4).  Share this post, or the video above.

Point people toward this post: http://meredithannemiller.com/2012/01/09/the-world-has-stopped/

Or read and share this post: http://www.lauraziesel.com/2011/12/miscarriage-fertility-and-my-broken.html

Or share your story.  Our communities need to speak openly about this topic.

Today, I’ll keep loving my wife and my kids, even as my heart breaks.  I’ll pick up my son from school.  Help coach a T-Ball team.  We’ll cuddle on the sofa later and watch Charlie Brown movies together.  The echoes of our miscarriage still bounce off the walls of my heart sometimes.

Thanks for listening in with me.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 14, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , ,

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”)

 
2 Comments

Posted by on February 6, 2013 in Thoughts

 

Tags: , , , ,

Partnering with Parents: Workshop Prezi

(pictured above, Westwood United Methodist Church)

Partnering with Parents

Workshop Prezi and LINKS

This weekend, I was asked to present a workshop on Partnering with Parents at a West Coast gathering for ministry leaders in the United Methodist Church.

Here’s the Prezi I used for the weekend’s presentation… which should look familiar because the content was very similar to what I presented in Chicago last Fall.

PREZI LINKOrange-ology: Turning Parents into Partners
(you’ll notice a shout-out to Orange in this workshop, because I wanted to pitch the Orange strategy to these leaders in a way that I felt would have been distracting at Kidmin)

Other posts related to this topic:

Reaching a New Generation of Families

http://westcoastcm.com/2011/10/13/reaching-a-new-generation-of-families/

Reaching a New Generation of Families: Redux

http://westcoastcm.com/2012/03/13/reaching-a-new-generation-of-families-redux/

Turning Parents into Partners: An Introduction

http://westcoastcm.com/2012/10/06/parents-into-partners-an-introduction/

Parents into Partners: Strategy #1

http://westcoastcm.com/2012/10/06/parents-into-partners-strategy-1/

Casting a Vision for Partnership

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

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 4, 2013 in Kidmin, Resources

 

Tags: , , , ,

Strategic Church Leadership: ECO Workshop

A Gathering of The Fellowship & ECO

Strategic Church Leadership Workshop

I recently had the privilege to teach alongside my senior pastor, Jim Miller, at The Gathering of the Fellowship and ECO: a denominational conference in Orlando, Florida.

Here’s the description of the workshop:

Strategic Church Planning
Tired of ministry ideas that never quite hatch into effective mission? Wondering why so much of what you try
doesn’t get off the ground? Maybe a strategic approach to preaching, family ministries, staffing, meetings,
and everything else would help you move God’s people from being an institution to being a movement of the
Kingdom. Study effective steps to building systems that produce the results you want.

(Click HERE to view the Prezi/slideshow for this workshop)

It was exciting to be at a national gathering of church leaders who made a public pledge to baptize more people than they bury over the next few years – something that few denominations can actually say in 2013.  As mainline denominations continue to die, it’s encouraging to see churches rally around the call to make disciples (who make disciples) and who are trying to do so through innovation and strategic planning.  It was a blessing to be a part of this gathering.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 31, 2013 in Resources

 

Tags: , , , ,

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,488 other followers

%d bloggers like this: