Loved and Valued

By our creator

and in our churches

Here’s an alarming article on BBC News about the pressure teenage girls are under to perform sex acts.  It’s a blunt and realistic article so be aware of that; the summary points to some of the issues raised but it’s worth reading the whole article.

Are children turning to pornography to educate themselves about sex? Are boys coercing girls to do things they later regret? A 24-year-old secondary school teacher tells the BBC she’s shocked by the stories she hears from her teenage pupils.

Girls go along with sex acts, says teacher

I have yet to put together a youth group session on these issues for this site, but it won’t be far away. What I’ve thought of so far are some things that churches and youth groups can do to counteract this sad trend.

We need to talk about sex
I get why we don’t: our world seems to be obsessed by sex and we have way more important things to talk about. However, that doesn’t grow an atmosphere where a young person under pressure can come to their youth leader or a trusted person in their church and tell them that they’ve been pressured into sex acts; that they need help getting out of a relationship that they think is heading that way; that they’re addicted to porn or they’ve performed acts that they know are wrong.

Be aware of the most vulnerable
The teacher in this article has correctly diagnosed a source of the problem: girls think being asked to perform sex acts is “a validation of their appearance and attractiveness”. All teenagers are at risk of this. But some of those with SEN tend to be more trusting, find it harder to recognise abuse for what it is and gravitate to what they see as normal for other kids their age. It is a sad truth that those who don’t fit in society’s narrow boundaries of conventional beauty are in danger too; that means ethnic minorities, those without hourglass figures, those who don’t have the latest trends, those with acne etc. They don’t see people like them on TV or in magazines so they think they’re not beautiful and are more susceptible to the idea that if someone wants to have sex with you that means you’re beautiful.

The pressure is on boys too
The article focuses on girls being pressured by boys to perform sex acts. But we can’t ignore the damage the world has done to the picture of masculinity. Boys may feel pressure to ask/demand sex acts as a way of validating their own masculinity, attractiveness, as a way of keeping up with their friends. This is the model of male-ness sold by American Pie, The Inbetweeners, The Big Bang theory where even the ‘uncool’ protagonists have girlfriends and copious amounts of sex.

So what can we as a church offer to counteract this message. Better sex-ed than they get in school? A watchful eye over our youth? More to do on a Friday night than have sex? Models of healthy relationships? A listening ear? Absolutely yes, to all those things but at the heart of the gospel is not only salvation for our souls but for our attitudes to sex.

Everyone is made in the image of God
Genesis 1:27 puts it like this:

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

That means that each individual has worth and value as someone-like-God regardless of their appearance or popularity or how attractive they are perceived to be. They deserve to be loved and valued by others simply because of their humanity and they are very, very much loved and valued by God because he made them to be like him. That means we don’t need to look for validation in the mirror or a romantic partner or how good at sex we are. We are valuable to God. We also need to treat others as individuals whom God holds as valuable.

Everyone sins
Whatever you’ve done whether it is sexual, been forced on you, been a desire you had, been consensual doesn’t make you worse than other people. Sexual sin is no worse than any of the myriad of other sins that people in your church are struggling with. We’re all broken so sexual sin also shows up in all of us. Just think of the list of Biblical heroes who have fallen in this area: Abraham, Jacob, Judah, Rahab, David and Esther is in no sense in a healthy monogamous marriage – even before we get to the issue of consent. Sex, no more and no less than any other area is a broken aspect of our world, meaning we’re free to ask for help, confess our sexual sins and that no-one should sit in judgement over us.

There is forgiveness for everyone
Having said that we’re no worse than any one else when it comes to sexual sin, that is abundantly and wonderfully untrue when it comes to Jesus! The one who died to rescue you, did so out of great love, valuing you more than his own life, and set you free from the power and guilt of all your sin, including your sexual sins. This total forgiveness is available for the girl who did something she knew she shouldn’t because she wanted a boys love more than God’s love. This complete forgiveness is available for the boy who spends every night on a porn site. This absolute forgiveness is available for the youth leader who struggles with the masturbation in their own past. This unrestricted forgiveness is available for the ‘lad’ who asks his underage girlfriend for sex even though neither of them want it, and even when they both do.

Our mission to share this good news is so important especially with young people in today’s sad and broken world, not just in words and teaching, but in loving them and valuing them the way our Father does.

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Thinking about adopting…

Home for Good’s new study

aimed at those thinking about future adoption

This isn’t strictly a Sunday School matter, but it matters to me and I imagine to most people concerned with teaching children faithfully and seeing them trust Christ at a young age.

Home for Good works to support foster and adoptive parents, looked after children, and their churches. Read more about them here.

The Foundations Course, coming soon, is a study and aimed at those looking to adopt either now or in the future. Take a closer look and sign up for notifications here.

Even if you’re sure that’s not you, take a look and pass it along: there are 4000 children in the UK waiting for adoption and maybe you know their future parents.

In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ

How to think about…

Planning All Age Services

and including children and young people

I’ve added a couple of pages of suggestions for how to include children and youth in a church service – any church service really but particularly the kind where Sunday School isn’t on and the kids are staying in. It’s my usual pic ‘n’ mix style so if you’re struggling to get yours serving practically there’s a subheading for that, or if you know that little ones aren’t following the reading let alone the sermon there are ideas for both of those as well: I hope you can find what you need!

Because this is a Sunday School blog my ideas are focused on youth and children, but it also could serve as a good checklist to check you’re celebrating diversity, in race, gender, age, ability and background  and creating role models for serving the church while walking with the Lord.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Check out our other pages on inclusion, under the ‘how to…’ menu including this one on hearing impairment and one on helping dyslexics.

A whole heap of things…

…is an accurate description of what I’m supposed to be doing…

…and what’s in this blog post.

Apologies for not posting earlier this week: we’re moving house (to a different continent!) and are spending the summer holidays packing, organising, getting rid of things,  visiting friends and family, having visitors, throwing parties, throwing away junk and researching our new city/country/culture.

What this means is…

I will be posting erratically (more so than usual!) this summer. But once we’ve arrived and settled (October-ish) I’m not able to work so will have more time to write material for this blog. I’m also looking forward to seeing church and children’s work in a different – albeit still western – culture and will have lots to learn from how things are done differently. You’ll get my thoughts on that when I have some.

In the future…

  • Writing up thoughts on children and youth engagement in church with a particular eye on those tricky beasts known as all age or family services.
  • Partially written a series on the 10 commandments for children which I’ll finish and post.
  • Checking this site to make sure that all my currently posted content is up to date and easily accessible – Spelling and grammar check on!
  • Games young people love to play – for all group sizes and situations!
  • Linking to other fantastic websites and blogs with great resources for teaching kids and young people in a Christian context. Any you use regularly or think are brilliant (especially your own) let me know!

Something for today…

The BBC posted this info on Makaton today. I often turn to Makaton or BSL when looking for actions for song words or to help teach memory verses. There are some great reasons why parents will find it a useful tool and I see no reason why Sunday School teachers wouldn’t find it helpful too!

How to…

Help an anxious child

whether it’s first-day-jitters or an anxiety attack

Anxiety (along with depression) is the most common mental health issue today.  Having just read Emma Scrivener‘s latest book A New Day which deals in part with anxiety and receiving some helpful guidance from secular sources because all the schools are preparing for a new intake of students;  I thought I’d pass on some helpful tips to you.

Find some ideas on how to fight fear with fear right here. And honestly I cannot recommend Emma’s book or blog enough!

How to…

Be more inclusive

for those with hearing impairments

I hope these five, easy to implement, tips help with including those with difficulty hearing. I’d suggest trying to do these things even if all the kids in your class can hear perfectly as it may also help those with difficulty listening.

Sorry for the delay in posting I wrote and uploaded this How to… on Saturday and then forgot to tell you about it – disorganised by name and disorganised by nature! I have a church weekend away in two weeks, which will be an awesome time hanging out with my brothers and sisters in Christ, having fun and worshipping God together. I am also co-leading the children’s and youth work for it so I’m well into the planning and preparation stage and, to give you fair warning, will be more erratic than usual when it come to posting in the next couple of weeks. There is an upside: I will blog the church weekend when it’s all over and done (and I’ve fully recovered).