Addressing Pornography in Youth Ministry
We’re excited to have Walt Mueller as one of our NYWC speakers. This blog post is a great start to the conversations he’ll be navigating in his seminar: Pervasive Pornography and Youth Ministry. Check out more information HERE.
When living out your calling includes hour after hour spent standing at the front of a room, your intuitive ability to read the faces in the crowd sharpens. Are they with me? Are they bored? Am I connecting? Do I need to shift gears? Did I just say something that struck a nerve? The answers to those questions are sometimes written all over the faces in the room.
One of my favorite things to do is spend time with rooms full of youth workers, especially at the National Youth Workers Convention. This is my tribe. I’ve been participating in the NYWC since 1986. The youth worker world is a world I love. I know how important they are to the Lord, to parents, to the church, to kids. I’ve not only been a youth worker, but I’ve been shaped and blessed by so many youth workers over the years. . . something I am consciously mindful of and thankful for.
Fortunately – and unfortunately – the discussions in our youth ministry world increasingly include talking about pornography.
It’s a good thing to be talking about pornography because it’s one of the greatest threats to the spiritual and relational health of ourselves and everyone we minister to. It’s an unfortunate thing because it’s so pervasive and enticing in today’s world. The statistics tell us this. Our own experience tells us this. Common sense tells us this. The sheer number of stories we see, hear, and find ourselves in tell us this. And, the faces I see in the rooms full of youth workers tell us this.
A few years ago I started noticing that every time I mention this horribly twisted and fallen expression of the sexuality that God created and enthusiastically declared as “GOOD”. . . something happens in the room. Postures and expressions change. The quiet in the room moves to a new dimension. You can sense an increased uneasiness that comes with having to talk about something that we need to talk about that’s been hushed and hidden – corporately and individually – for far too long. That all adds up in a mix that offers convincing evidence of our need to talk, talk, and talk some more about something that’s destroying kids, families, culture, and even some of us.
More and more, when I mention or talk about pornography the faces I see in the room scream urgency.
Consequently I’ve become more and more deliberate in my quest to dig more deeply into understanding the roots, dynamics, and outcomes of this social and spiritual scourge. I’ve said it before: It’s a different world. I was a 12-year-old boy when I first saw the inside of a Playboy magazine. We found it. . . it didn’t find us. It wasn’t readily available not-so-very-long-ago. To be honest, it’s frightening for me to think about who I might be today if my 12-year-old self was 12-years-old in 2016. . . a time in cultural history where pornography “finds” kids. . . as young as six or seven years old. . . and is easily accessed in anonymity.
I’m convinced that our current cultural realities require the church to be about responding to the pervasiveness of pornography by trumpeting God’s positive good news on sexuality, rather than beginning with a list of “don’ts.” If you’re a youth worker, think and talk about God’s gift of love, marriage, family, and sexuality. And as you think, ponder how each of those relational threads is woven together in your own life. Get personal with yourself. What does that tapestry look like? Does it reflect the glory of God? Or is it a mess that needs to go through some cleaning up? We’ll all see some of both.
Five years ago I was sitting and watching the news with my then-19-year-old son.
He commented on the disgusting nature of some of the new allegations and details that were coming out in the Penn State sex-abuse scandal. After that story, there was a report detailing how the average weekly number of sexual-abuse reports in our state of Pennsylvania had doubled during the week after the Penn State story broke. I mentioned that I believed a multiplicity of factors – including the growing pervasiveness, presence, and nature of pornography – were combining in a perfect storm that will only make these stories more common as the years pass. Sadly, in the five years since, that dire prediction has come true. That’s why we need to act now – corporately and individually – on the uneasiness in the room and the expression on our faces. I think we know. . . we’ve got to start dealing with this stuff as it impacts our culture, our kids, their families, and even ourselves.
Youth worker. . . if the uneasiness is rooted in what’s happening in your own life, speak up to someone you trust as the first step in getting the help that you need.
Dr. Walt Mueller has been working with young people and families for more than 35 years. He’s the founder and president of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, a non-profit organization that serves schools, churches, and community organizations worldwide. He writes on youth culture and family issues and is a regular contributor to a variety of magazines and journals, a blogger, and an author of nine books. Walt and his wife, Lisa, have four grown children and brand-new twin grandchildren.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.