Chat rooms, virtual sex, porn, date rape, masturbation, abortion…dang, really? As a youth leader, I am slowly becoming less shocked when a young lady approaches me with the “can we talk privately” line only to proceed in spilling some of the most painful stories I’ve ever heard. Stories that often begin with “when I was 5 my neighbor…,” “well, when I was 7 my uncle…,” “Uh, when I was 9 the girls at the sleepover…,” or “last night I…”. I have been serving in youth ministry for a decade, have lead countless small groups and had hundreds of tough conversations with teenagers and I still have no idea how exactly to help in these situations.
Over the last 2 years however, I have come across some resources that have helped me and have been blessed with some amazing, brave young ladies that have walked through this journey of hope with me. We’ve now lead three small groups using the book Every Young Woman’s Battleby Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn. We’ve tweaked it with some of our own stories and the Kingdom of God theology to create a “Raw Hope” group where we can journey into freedom together.
As I have dived into the pain and brokenness that these young ladies have experienced, I’ve learned some things along the way. I invite you to learn from the journey we’ve been on together. My hope is that these tips will help you cultivate places and groups where honest and intentional conversations with students on the tough and real issues that they are dealing with.
1—Invite Jesus into this journey. Make sure you share His love with each of the students. Help them find that place where Jesus can speak and meet them in the midst of their pain and their healing! Ask for the Holy Spirit to guide you, your words, and your emotions and to help comfort the group throughout the whole healing process.
2—Provide a safe place. One of the most important ways to help those wanting to be free from sexual brokenness or addiction is to provide a safe place where they can be real, a place where you are not shocked and you are always pointing them back to Jesus. Set “safety rules” that ensure the group is willing to be kind and confidential. If there are members in the group that are not willing to be kind in the process, they need to meet in a different setting.
3—Shatter the shame trap! I have found that most girls have not talked about the ways they have struggled because they are silenced by shame. We like to kick off our groups by going over the fact that God has amazing plans for us (think everything that the world was before sin was introduced), but when Eve took that apple, evil and every painful thing we’ve ever had to walk through was introduced to the world. I actually map out a timeline of my own life with the goodness of God’s plan as the path I want to be on. Then we review the assignment against our lives, STEAL, KILL and DESTROY. And I show where on the map of my life the enemy of my soul (Satan) tried to take me out of the game. I talk about things that happened when I was 7, 9, at sleepovers, in middle school. In all of this, I try to highlight that each of these evil moments were part of Satan’s attempt to keep me from the fullness of what God has for me. I also keep repeating the fact that Satan failed! I go over the ways God has helped me heal, escape, and help others from those moments. This takes the shame from “I did ______ when I was 10” to “God has such amazing things for me and the enemy of my soul wanted to steal it from me so he tried to take me out with _____ when I was 10.” See the difference? I try to be as real as possible to set the tone for being authentic and covered with forgiveness!
4—Say what they are thinking! If they are thinking that oral sex isn’t that bad, say it: “Do you guys think oral sex is bad or good?” Get a dialogue going. The more you dialogue, the more they will have a chance to share what they feel is behind a particular struggle. Ok, maybe this is a really intense example to use in this brief article; but I use it because if there is something we are unwilling to talk about, they will get their belief about it somewhere else—maybe movies, youtube, or their friends. Think about what that means when they are thinking about _______.
5—Don’t pretend to have all the answers! As a youth leader, we are NOT supposed to “fix them” but we are to be a safe person that can help them in their journey to healing. If you don’t know the answer, say “I don’t know, let’s get some help with that.” Getting help might mean praying and asking God to meet them in their pain, it might mean connecting them with a professional counselor, and it might mean asking your leadership for help if you feel they are in immediate danger.
6—Give them tools! Depending on what it is they are struggling with, find tools together to help. This might mean setting up anti-porn software on their laptop, helping them change the pass codes on the television, getting accountability emails set up through xxxchurch.com or another site that keeps them accountable for websites they visit, help them think of other “activities” to do when they are tempted, etc. Get abortion/pregnancy resources and healing opportunities that they can access. Help them find a counselor; sit with their parents if they need you to. Prayer is a great tool and must be at the heart of the healing, but it cannot be a cop-out tool if you don’t know what to do. Pray, invite the supernatural in-breaking of the Kingdom AND help them break up with the guy who is pressuring them into oral sex!
7—Explain the already and not yet of the journey! The Kingdom of God theology, as spelled out in George E. Ladd’s stuff is helpful in this particular process. Many times we may want a “quick fix” but true freedom is walked out in a day to day journey. I love going over the already power of the cross and the DAILY, HOURLY, MINUTE BY MINUTE potential in-breaking of the kingdom as THE source of freedom in our lives. When we pray “let Your Kingdom Come” in the area of sexual brokenness, we are inviting the Holy Spirit to speak healing, strategy, and even send angels for us to interact with! But when we are tempted with the same thing tomorrow, the NOT YET part of the Kingdom of God, knowing that until the perfection of the future age is come in fullness, evil is still fighting to steal, kill and destroy. We need to invite the goodness of heaven in again, and again, and again…and the journey of freedom continues. This is not a frustration (well, I guess it kind of can be) but it is also empowering!
I am cheering for you; be brave and be real. Keep celebrating the freedom that the cross is meant for. Wear YOUR forgiveness like a crown and invite the youth around you to do the same! When we live authentic journeys of faith and healing, I guarantee the youth around us will seek to do the same.
- HLI Moment: Discipleship For The Long Haul - May 10, 2017
- Lighting the Paths of Young People: HLI’s Commitment to Kingdom Theology - January 13, 2017
- “It’s amazing what can happen if no one cares who gets the credit” - April 18, 2013