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Sexual Sin, Porn, and the Church

Sexual sin and pornography is probably one of the most challenging issues we face as youth workers today. Here are some thoughts.

THE IMPACT OF SEXUAL SIN AND PORN: 

  • It is a sin that students have learned to hide more than any other sin…
  • It is a sin that pastors and youth workers have learned to hide more than any other sin…
  • It is sin that has massive implications for students as they grow into young adults…
  • It is a sin that the church has NOT talked openly enough about and has, (in my opinion), condemned this type of sin too much…  Students have often gone deeper “underground” with their struggles rather than seeing the church as their refuge and help…
  • It is a sin that is impacting in the trenches youth workers and their families…
  • It is a sin that I have personally seen three pastors lose their jobs and families to… One pastor friend took his own life after he lost his family and ministry… I still hurt from this huge loss…
  • Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) is not something we can brush under the carpet. We must lovingly and carefully understand the issues and discover good theology. It is not enough to have a stance on the issue, we must see people as God’s children and meet them where they are… I am also learning that brothers and sisters in Christ have different theological stances on this issue and I must be understand my stance, but be sensitive to others…
SOME THOUGHTS ON WHAT WE NEED TO DO:  
  • It is something that we must address with our students on a regular basis in our teaching, conversations, retreats, and our own model to them… How are we doing in this? 
  • It is something that parents are dying for help with. We must educate, empower, and equip parents who are at home with these students so much more than us… What tools and resources are we giving our parents? 
  • We must create environments that encourage conversation and not condemnation… Ask your students openly if they feel they could share some of these deep issues? Ask them what you could do to create more openness?
  • We must help students learn accountability now, not later… How are we helping students to connect authentically? 
  • We must personally surround ourselves with mentors, friends, and accountability partners to stay strong. Who can ask you tough questions? Who knows your struggles? Are you on an island of  sexual sin and need to be rescued? 
  • We should seek help NOW if we are struggling and not wait until we crash… Who can you call today? Feel free to contact me on my contact page if you need some help beginning these steps? 
  • We have a responsibility to speak truth in love to our students and ensure they are getting a healthy perspective from God’s Word. Are we scared to speak truth to those students who desperately need it? 
These are just a few thoughts and I have so many more. However, here are some FANTASTIC ways to continue thinking on this subject: 
GROUP MAGAZINE LIVE: SEXUAL SIN PODCAST: Thurday July 21, 2o11 @ 9am MST
(See info on the graphic above). 
  • Live Stream info: 
  • RSVP at: 
ARTICLES ON SEX AND SEXUAL SIN:
MORE THOUGHTS?
1. What would you add to this conversation?
2. On Thursday after the Group Magazine Live Podcast I plan to post some more thoughts on this. I am eager to learn from a panel of in the trenches youth workers who I respect…
UPDATE:
After watching the podcast, here are just a quick few thoughts about it:
  • The format of having a panel of experts was great! Being able to have people like interact and bounce questions off of was fantastic! The level of questions were both authentic and challenging.
  • There was a great deal of interaction online from viewers watching who were able to field questions that Scott Firestone was able to field to the panel! Again, some great questions and interactions.
  • Sexual sin is rampant in the church and people in ministry are not immune… In fact, in many ways the panel talked about how it is sometimes harder to talk about issues when you are in ministry. Craig Gross from shared that it is potentially not a good idea to go your direct mentor, but to find accountability and support through mentors and accountability partners.
  • There was a great deal of discussion about creating an authentic communinty where sexual purity and other challenging isses can be faced.
  • The GLBT discussion was handled well and Rick and Jeff shared a story about a group of youth workers at the last Simply Youth Ministry Conference who has grappled and struggled with this issue. It is clear that it is a “hot button” for many and there are many differing views on the GLBT subject. I think a takeaway for me was that we should deal with the issues head on, but with great sensitivity and care. I think it will be interesting to watch this debate continue in the church in years to come. Many of us in ministry still have a fuzzy understanding of the scriptural response to this issue.
  • Finally, a takeaway for me personally is the challenge to stay sexually pure and accountable in my ministry position. It is imperative that I have good boundaries, accountability, and support as I minister to students. It only takes a youth worker falling in this area to destroy the hopes and dreams of students. We never want students to say, “If they can’t get this right, how am I supposed to get it right…”

Independence can be a Bad Thing…

On this 4th of July, because I am British, you might expect me to say  something bad about Independence Day. (Haha!) However, I now live in Michigan, I love the people, and I love the idea of freedom that emanates all around the world because of this country. But, here’s the specific problem I have with independence within youth ministry

You see, independence, when lived out in healthy ways is no problem at all. But there is an unhealthy independence that I see in many youth workers in the local church today. Here’s what I mean:

  • It’s the unhealthy independence that says, “I know better”
  • It’s the unhealthy independence that has little regard for leadership structure
  • It’s the unhealthy independence that constantly lives as the “victim youth worker” within the church
  • It’s the unhealthy independence whose key phrase is, “it’s better to ask for forgiveness, than it is to ask for permission”
  • It’s the unhealthy independence which considers others inferior or deficient in their thinking
  • It’s the unhealthy independence which establishes a silo ministry that is independent from the parents of students we work with
  • It’s the unhealthy independence that looks to protect our buildings, spaces, and resources, rather than share

There’s a lot more I could say, but are you with me and my thinking? You see, it’s important to be a strong leader and someone of healthy convictions and independence. However, it’s important to realize that independence can become unhealthy and self-serving in our churches if we are not careful. Here’s some good and painful lessons I have learned personally:

  • Youth Ministries should be a part of a team in the church, regardless of whether or not others have the same vision
  • We can always learn from others and their points of view. Personally, I have found that God gives me different people to help me learn my most valuable lessons. What is God teaching you? Who is He using to teach you?
  • We are employed as youth workers not senior pastors. We should know our place and submit to God ordained authority in our lives…
  • Being a victim youth worker is a choice. If we are in difficult situations, we can either choose to stay and celebrate God’s calling of us there, or we can choose to move on. (I have done both).
  • Constantly asking for forgiveness instead of permission can be disguise for not having the leadership ability to ask others difficult questions or communicate a compelling need. Are we simply side-stepping leadership growth by not asking others for permission?
  • Whether or not we know better, it’s imperative to realize that people do not listen if we come across as the “know it all”
  • Our ministries thrive when we share our resources, people, and spaces. Favors can often be returned at the most crucial times.
  • Without a good support and connection of parents, our ministries will die

I hope you are enjoying a good summer and Independence Day. How are you going to pursue healthy independence in the coming weeks?

Phil <><

Keeping Parents Plugged-in on Mission Trips: Part Two


In my previous posts I talked about the importance of Keeping Parents Plugged-in On Mission Trips and the importance of Keeping Leaders Plugged-in on Mission Trips.

This video is an update from as they finish up their week in Memphis providing flood relief. My friend , over at sent the link to me with this comment:

“We are in Memphis, TN this week doing flood relief. I have been posting updates, pictures and am putting together a quick midweek video”

This is a great way to continue the communication with family and supporters as Brandon and his youth ministry finish out their week. Not only does it encourage the parents, it gives them a number of conversation starters when their kids return. Parents are able to better understand what their kids have been involved in, and are also able to praise and encourage them specifically.

Finally, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words... In this case, a video is priceless!

Keeping Parents Plugged-in on Mission Trips

This Sunday, myself and a team of high school students and leaders will be heading to Copperhill, TN for a week-long mission trip. As I have prepared for trips like this, I have found it to so important to over-communicate details with the parents and students and make sure that everyone understands deadlines, details, and the decisions we are making.

However, one aspect that can get overlooked, is the importance of communication during the week of the trip. This includes daily updates, blogs, photos etc. Good communication from the trip helps in so many ways:

  • Families can pray specifically
  • It calms the nerves of worried parents
  • It promotes God’s work
  • It creates “bridges” of communication between parents and students once the trip has ended
  • It can involves students (as they blog and post photos)
  • It keeps fundraising families in the loop as they hear the progress of students which they supported

Here’s just a few ways we are communicating with families while we are away:

1) A Daily Blog: It’s easy to set up a basic blog through WordPress or Blogger. Every day, we plan to have a couple of students blog about the work and experiences they are having. We set a blog up a few months ago to communicate the details of the trip, as well as creating interest for parents and financial supporters. Here is a very basic blog we set up:

Continue Reading…

When Sports Compete With Youth Ministry – Part 2

In my previous post I talked about the reality of sports (and other extra curricular activities), and how they often collide with our youth minisrtry events and programs. In this post I want to look at practical steps I take to help sports and youth ministry work for me and the families I minister to. Or another way to put it, here is how I I try to create teamwork between youth ministry and sports:  Continue Reading…

When Sports Compete with Youth Ministry – Part 1

Recently, I have spoken to a number of friends in ministry who are frustrated by sports schedules and the negative impact on their ministries. Here’s the kind of scenario I often hear:

“We had a retreat planned, and the week before students dropped out because of a Basketball game”

“Parents asked me to change the start time of my retreat because of a volleyball tournament”

“How can parents expect their students to grow close to God if they never show up to youth group because of sports”

I am sure you have more of your own stories to share (and I have a few of my own). To be honest, in my early years here in the States, (I am from England), I was shocked by the amount of focus that sports take up for the average student. Like many of you, I have been frustrated in the past when it comes to priorities of sports schedules over church activities. However, for me, I am finding the way I view the sports and ministry determines whether I react in competition or if I partner in teamwork.

Viewing the Situation Differently: Continue Reading…

Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 4: Parents

Many parents are busy, stretched, and stressed. Everything I do must be intentional about their helping families – not hurting them. The way I schedule, the way I communicate, and the way individually support parents should be a passage to helping them (and ultimately helping their kids). If I can partner with parents effectively, it could be one of the best ministry investments I make!

It’s God’s design that parents disciple their kids, (Deuteronomy 6:7). Unfortunately, many models of youth ministry either take over the role of parents, or do not intentionally partner with parents to support them. Continue Reading…

Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 2: You

Yesterday I began a five-part series reflecting on why it’s important to be family focused in our student ministries. I also gave a quick snapshot of how I keep this focus. Today I want to continue this focus by looking closer at one aspect I mentioned in my previous post:

IT STARTS WITH ME (OR YOU): In 1 Timothy 3 Paul gives Timothy the charge of calling overseers and deacons. Continue Reading…

Family Focused Student Ministry – Part 1

Today I am beginning a five-part series on family focused student ministries. In the last few years I have intentionally changed my focus of ministry to focus on the family as a whole. Here’s why:

Every student that we see in our ministry is part of a family system and is impacted by the health of their family. Given that we typically will have only a few hours a week of contact time with our students, I have had to realize that my impact on my students is greater when I can impact and support the whole family.

In addition, students value relationships and family more than ever. Many of them have been raised in a world of broken families or have seen the impact the of broken families in their friends. Out of this brokenness, they are desperate for answers as they look to their future. Therefore, it is imperative that we not only look to support their families with healthy family focused ministry, but we also look for ways to model healthy family through our own lives as volunteers and paid youth workers.

In the next four days I will take a look at how I am attempting to model and support healthy family ministry for myself, my volunteer leaders, my students parents, and for my students. I don’t claim to have all the answers, I am simply on a journey to discover the answers. Here is a snapshot of where I am going this week:

For Me: In 1 Timothy 3 Paul gives Timothy the charge of calling overseers and deacons. He insists, “if anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church”? In the same way, as a church leader, I have to realize that healthy family ministry starts with me and how I model health for students and their families. It’s crucial that I understand how my ministry will reflect my own life and family…

For My Volunteer Leaders: My volunteers have families and are an example to our students on a weekly basis. Many of them work full-time, or have teenagers of their own. The time they volunteer in student ministry is over and above their work week, is over and above their family time, and ultimately takes them away from their families. Therefore, it’s imperative that I create an environment that is conducive to healthy family ministry for them…

For My Parents: Families are busy, stretched, and stressed. Everything I do must be intentional about helping families – not hurting them. The way I schedule, the way I communicate, and the way individually support parents should be a passage to helping them (and ultimately helping their kids). Again, if I can impact parents positively, I am helping my students for the long-term. If however, I choose to lead a silo ministry that runs incredible programs, I might feel like I am helping students, but in reality I am not.

For My Students: Many of the students in our ministries come from broken homes or difficult situations. Statistically many of them are living with only one parent and have seen divorce. It’s important that I see the big picture of my ministry as a model to these students who need to see how a dad / husband acts and lives. In the same way, many of my students need to see how a mom / wife acts and lives through the example of my wife. It’s vital that my students get the inside scoop to myself, my wife, my kids, and the way we live… Scary thought?

In the next four days I will be exploring each area and brainstorming the ways that I currently support families and how I hope to support them in the future.

Phil <><

A Long-Term View of Student Ministry

A number of months ago one of our students was tragically killed in a car accident on his way to church with friends. This young man had a strong faith and had a passion for serving and missions trips. His funeral was obviously a very gut wrenching occassion, but in many ways a time to celebrate his faith, life, and his eternal destination. At the lunch after the funeral, a parent asked me this pertinent question:

When all is said and done, where do you hope to see students by the end of high school? What are your priorities for them?

It’s a question that I somewhat answered at the time, but is a question I have been working through ever since (and still am). The funeral of a sixteen year old student and this question from a parent gave me a new perspective on what I do. In some ways, it gave me a new lens to look through in what I do… It has caused me to struggle through the question:

What matters most in my ministry” What priorities are truly going to help students grow and “finish well”?

Or, maybe, frame it this way:

What is most important today that will impact students in the long-term?  Continue Reading…

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