3 Simple Steps Church Leaders Can Take to Fight Porn

It was 2001 and I was introduced to porn for the second time in my life. The first was at a bachelorette party, but I thought the whole thing a bit ridiculous, so it didn’t phase me much. The second time, however, was on our home computer. I stumbled upon some websites my husband forgot to clear in the history.

This moment would mark the start of our battle against porn addiction—a war that we waged for somewhere around ten years until the time came that Craig truly felt he was set free.

A New Era of Porn Awareness

In 2001, I couldn’t google “porn addiction” and have the resources that are now available at my finger tips. There was no Fight the New Drug. Covenant Eyes was in its infancy. The truth is, I didn’t even know you could be addicted to something with your eyes. Naturally, neither our church nor the Church  was talking about it either.

Not that I’m surprised.

But, times are changing. More and more pastors are talking about pornography from the pulpit. Christians are involved in offering help and resources, and many are willing to have conversations about it. There are websites, blogs, and entire companies who are boldly and unreservedly in the fight.

However, there are still many people who stay silent or who cast judgement with their eyes and their lips when it comes to porn. There are still people in the rows of our churches who do not feel safe revealing the problem that plagues them. And sometimes, though pastors may talk about porn, they offer no resources on how to get help.

As a wife of a former porn addict, I’d love to offer individual churches (and the body of Christ as a whole) some helpful tips as to how you can come alongside people hurting from porn addiction.

1. Ask good questions. Then, listen.

First, just to be clear, porn isn’t something men just do. Are they visual? Yes. Is this an excuse to watch pornography. No. Is it reasonable to think it’s harmless and “safer” than having a physical affair? No.

No matter if it’s the person addicted (yes, women can be addicted, too), or a person betrayed by pornography use, listen to what s/he is telling and validate their struggle and/or their hurt.

Related: 5 Reasons We Should Not Talk About Porn in the Church (Sarcasm Alert!)

Sometimes, people don’t know how or why they continue behaviors in which they no longer wish to engage. They may come to you wanting a solution that will change their actions. However, addictions are rooted in disconnection — from themselves, others, and sometimes, their past. It’s in the exploration of their heart, not solely their behaviors, where true healing and change will begin to happen.

Here are some questions you might ask someone who’s using:

  • When was the first time you were exposed to pornography?
  • How did you feel when you felt tempted to return to it?
  • What are some of the circumstances (or triggers) that pull you towards porn?
  • How do you feel after you use?
  • How is porn an escape for you? What are you trying to escape or numb?
  • Do you have a significant other in your life and how do you plan on letting them know about this struggle?
  • How can we come alongside you through this?

Here are some questions you might ask someone who feels betrayed by an addict:

  • Tell me about the circumstances around you finding out about the porn use (someone who found it accidentally or caught their partner looking may have a different response from someone whose partner willingly confessed).
  • How are you feeling now about the situation?
  • What have your conversations been like with your partner since you found out?
  • Is your partner willing to get help?
  • How can we come alongside you through this?

This isn’t necessarily going to be a neat and tidy conversation. People and addictions are messy. But listening with empathy, asking good questions, and asking the Holy Spirit to guide your discussion is a healthy place to start.

2. Know what resources are available.

Unless you’ve been through addiction or betrayal, you will most likely need to point people to other resources. And honestly, if you’re a pastor of a church, you will probably not have time to walk closely with this individual/couple for the long haul. Do you know anyone in the church who has overcome this addiction and is in recovery? Has their spouse (if applicable) found healing from his/her personal hurt?

Connecting them with another person or couple who has been through and survived this is incredibly helpful, as it provides empathy and hope. Just knowing that someone has been through and made it to the other side is a powerful motivator to stay in the game and keep working.

Related: Accountability Is Not About Shame and Fear

If you’re working with a married couple, it is imperative to recognize that it’s not just the addicted spouse who needs the help. The betrayed spouse needs help, too. A first instinct might be to get them into couples therapy, but the truth is, whenever addiction is present, individual therapy is of prime importance first.

This is not an exhaustive list, but some options beyond or in addition to individual therapy include:

3. Recognize the hurt that addiction can cause.

Pornography addiction doesn’t just hurt the addicted and his/her loved ones. Anytime a marriage goes through the pain of sexual betrayal (yes, this includes using porn), the world witnesses the very institution God designed start to falter in a big way. Marriage is a representation of how much Jesus loves the truth, so how can the world know how much Jesus truly loves His people if His followers are cheating on one another? The love of Jesus is sacrificial and selfless. Porn use is the exact opposite of this.

The use of porn also contributes to sex trafficking, sexual abuse, and the degradation of women and children. It is a billion-dollar industry that only creates more demand for people to take advantage of others. Helping people to understand that their addiction is actually harming others opens their eyes to a whole new motivation to make changes in their personal lives.

Porn addiction is real, but it’s not a hopeless situation that the church can continue to sweep under the rug. With practical tools and compassionate hearts, we can come alongside people and marriages, help them find freedom, and show them how transforming the power of Jesus is in our lives to the world around us.