How Your Church can take on the Porn Epidemic, we looked at the need to communicate clear answers for dealing with porn and sex addiction from the pulpit, and provide a safe place for those who struggle with it.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published December 12, 2006. We run it again now as part of Pornography Awareness Week, October 26 - November 2. For more information, click here.
But in the big picture, even if every church in the U.S. did this we’d still have a immense problem because men and women don’t get hooked on porn in their 30’s or 40’s. The only way to contain and choke off the porn epidemic is to equip our youth for the inevitable battle with lust, before it gets a grip on their lives.
I can’t remember meeting a man or woman who struggled with porn and didn’t get hooked in their teenage years, if not earlier. Recently I was contacted by a mother whose 14 year old son was a full blown porn addict; it’s not uncommon to hear of a first exposure to porn as early as age 10. I remember 13 year olds who were having sex when I was growing up, and that was in the 70s. It’s even worse in the sex-saturated sewer we live in today.
They’re reaching out for help at a younger age; in our local Strength in Numbers meeting we’re seeing guys as young as 18. The picture these young men paint of the environment they’re growing up in is shocking: “porn is all over the boy scouts” said one. “At our private catholic school, porn and masturbation are the norm,” another told us. They made it sound like porn was everywhere, and I couldn’t help wondering if they were exaggerating.
Sadly, the statistics don’t show otherwise. In a study done in January 2002, the London School of Economics found that nine out of 10 children between eight and 16 have viewed pornography on the Internet. If your kids aren’t finding out about porn online, they’ll learn about it at school from their peers (and yes even at Christian schools.) Some will find out about porn from their parents; I hear stories all too often where Junior stumbled onto Dad’s porn stash and got hooked.
The only way the church will turn the tide on the porn epidemic back is if we address it with our kids, before the world gets to them. We have to prepare them for the sex saturated culture that they will be exposed to and teach them how to deal with it; if we don’t the statistics show your kids and mine have a 50/50 chance of turning into a porn addict (See How Many Porn Addicts are in Your Church? for a look at the numbers). Those odds are too risky to bet our kids’ future on.
Some of you may be squirming at the thought of addressing the topic of sex with your 10 year old, but there’s no avoiding the fact that our children will be exposed to pornography (that is, unless we move our families to a monastery in Nepal and go into isolation). We have to face the reality of the culture we live in today, and take the initiative to equip our youth for the battles ahead.
Preparation starts in the home, before they’re ten years old. I told my son about sex when he was nine, and eased him into the subject of pornography by saying that it’s “pictures of naked people.” We’ve discussed the Biblical framework for sex a number of times, and he understands that pornography is a warped, satanic distortion of what God intended it to be. We’ve discussed how destructive and widespread porn is in our culture; my son knows he will be exposed to it, and that hiding his temptations or trying to fight them on his own will give lust the power to rule his life. We’ve talked about the need to avert our eyes from sexually inappropriate images, and he’s caught on. This past summer I took him to see a movie in a theatre, and when a trailer was shown for the “Dukes of Hazard” (which shows women running around in hot pants,) my son saw me turn my head away – and he did the same without me saying a word. (We have to model what we teach.)
Openly discussing the perils of lust with my son has already made a difference. On his own, he told me of images of scantily dressed girls in a video game he bought (which the ratings on the sleeve had said nothing about) and threw the game away. He told me when he watched a movie at another kid’s house with a scene of a girl in a bikini. He still has a long way to go, but at age 11, my son has employed tools that many men don’t use until much later in life.
My son would have never done this if we didn’t have a strong relationship, which is why it’s so vital that we make an effort to talk to and have fun with our kids. They won’t confide in us if we give them the impression we don’t care, neglect their emotional needs, or come off like we never sin. Our honesty with our faults teaches our children that it’s safe for them to come to us with their failures and temptations.
Next, we need to talk openly and honestly about sex and pornography to our junior highers at church. In a group setting, our 12, 13 and 14 year olds should repeatedly hear God’s standards for sexual purity. They should be warned of the perils of playing with pornography and how the decisions they make now can set them on a course of destruction later in life. One way to do this is to have an adult who’s struggled with porn share in honest terms how sex addiction was destroying his or her life – and what it could do to them.
And, in a group setting at church, our junior highers should be invited to share their own experiences and temptations with porn and lust. (Don’t think they haven’t had them.) Doing this will build community and transparency in the church of the next generation, and encourage them to be less secretive with their weaknesses – which our generation hasn’t always succeeded in.
One of the guys at our Strength in Numbers group once said “I wish I would have known when I was a teenager that my addiction with pornography was going to destroy my life.”
If we try to hide our kids from the sexual sludge the world is throwing at them, we will be responsible for keeping the porn epidemic alive and thriving in the next generation. By preparing our youth for war, the church will turn back the tide of sexual sin in the church and be the salt and light it’s called to be.
Mike Genung struggled with sex addiction for 20 years before God set Him free in 1999. He is the director of www.blazinggrace.org, a ministry to the sexually broken and their spouses, author of The Road to Grace; Finding True Freedom from the Bondage of Sexual Addiction (available at www.roadtograce.com) and is co-host of the Blazing Grace radio show. Blazing Grace also helps churches minister to the sexually broken, by providing resources and helping them set up Strength in Numbers groups.