6 Ways Youth Leaders Can Help Their Students Overcome Porn

That moment when one of your students tells you about their struggle with pornography…it is a vulnerable and agonizing moment.

It’s also a holy one.

Any moment of true confession is a holy one. Praise God for it.

First Things First

Here are three things you want to communicate right away to your student:

1. You made the most important move you could have possibly made today.

It was the right move.

It was a brave move.

It was a wise move.

It was a tough move.

It was a mature move.

2. It’s only one move in your fight for freedom, but freedom is possible and well worth winning, and I’m here to help however I can.

3. Breaking free from porn is not about becoming good or better, but about becoming more alive and whole and free. Because, like all sin, porn is not just bad. It’s deadly.

Deadly to your walk with the Lord.

Deadly to your soul: stealing peace and joy.

Deadly to your mind: hijacking your thought life and distorting your perceptions of truth, beauty, and even reality.

Deadly to your future: threatening your hopes for both marriage and career.

Deadly to your relationships: causing you to objectify those to whom you’re attracted and hide from those who know you best and love you most.

After affirming your student in this holy moment of confession, here’s a playbook of the steps you will want to walk them through over the course of the following weeks, so they can win their freedom back from porn.

1. Help your student recognize the lies that porn is telling them (and they are believing).

Here’s a word picture any student who has struggled with porn should be able to relate to: porn feeds you crap that your mind thinks is chocolate cake, until psychological indigestion kicks in, sending you back to the toilet of shame. To end this cycle, we need to figure out how to cut through that crap to see the truth, instead of the naked image.

What porn lies are your student believing? Here are just 21, along with 21 corresponding truths which can help them see through those lies. (And here are 19 more.)

What I do with the young men I’ve met with is give them a worksheet that lists the lies of porn. I then ask them to underline those they have fallen for and circle those they still fall for. (You can reach out to me via email to get a PDF of that worksheet.)

The point of this exercise is to help your student see porn as something they want to avoid, not because it’s a naughty habit, but because it’s a deceitful enemy.

2. Guide your student in realizing the impact of porn on their life.

Your student’s recent confession means there’s at least a part of them that wants to quit porn. How do we convince the rest of them?

We start with what they’ve already shared: a little bit of their situation and their fear that they might have a problem.

Beyond being convinced they do indeed have a problem, we want them to see they truly need help with that problem. In other words, they need to come to terms with the reality that they can’t expect to win this fight on their own.

However, most people don’t like hearing this, nor will they be inclined to believe it. Especially a teenager.

So instead of just coming out and announcing, “You’re going to need a lot of help with this,” we want to guide our students in recognizing all the ways their porn habit is affecting them.

Here are some questions to lead them in realizing the impact of porn in every part of their life:

  • How has porn impacted your relationship with God?
  • How has porn impacted your sense of worth and well-being?
  • How has porn impacted the way you think about sex or those to whom you are sexually attracted?
  • How has porn impacted your ability to focus or rest your mind?
  • What are you giving up for porn?
  • How has porn impacted your character?
  • How has porn impacted your relationships?
  • How could porn potentially impact your future if you stopped now?
  • How could porn potentially impact your future if you keep choosing porn?

Don’t race through the questions above. Press them to dwell on each answer. I can also give you a PDF worksheet with these questions.

Again, the point of this exercise is to strengthen their desire to kill this sin and strengthen their resolve to seek out whatever help they need.

3. Encourage your student to confess their porn habit to God. COMPLETELY!

Odds are, it will take all the vulnerability your student can muster just to admit that they’ve been looking at porn. So, instead of pressing them for more information than they’re comfortable sharing right away, encourage them, that very night, to go home and confess everything to God.

Remind them that God is the only one who already knows every single pornographic image, video, text, or sext your student has witnessed. And He still loves them anyway.

Because of Christ’s sacrifice, forgiveness has already been extended to them for every sin they ever have or will commit. Including porn.

However, to experience that forgiveness as a personal reality requires confession.

The main point of complete confession is to break the shame of this sin, so they can walk in the forgiveness already paid for on their behalf, because how can we feel forgiven of a sin we’re still hiding?

Confessing fully to God also prepares your student’s heart for the next step.

4. Prepare your student to confess their porn habit to others.

It’s a big hairy deal when a student confides in you about their struggle with porn. True story.

But that can’t be the end of the story, because we’re part of a body, and it takes a whole body of believers to empower any of us to walk in freedom from sin. So at some point, your student should understand that others need to know what’s going on in their lives.

If your student has parents or guardians who not only care for them, but about them, we will want to enlist their help. But more than just getting the help they need, it’s important for your student to see that hiding a problem like this hinders the openness and health of their relationships with those who know them best and love them most.

We can’t feel truly accepted by people we’re hiding from. And as long as we’re hiding a problem like this from the important people in our lives, on some level we are living a lie, which leads to the unhealthy habit of self-loathing.

Related: Before You Tell Your Parents About Your Porn Struggle

That said, even if there are extenuating circumstances where telling the parents would seem ill-advised, your student can’t be solely dependent on you. They need the body of Christ.

And here’s the really cool thing: the body of Christ needs them too!

In fact, it just might blow your student’s mind to discover how going public with their struggle will not only empower them to get the accountability they need, but it will embolden others to confess their own porn struggle and get help as well!

5. Lead your student to their first love. And second and third and…

Here’s a freeing truth for your student to grasp a hold of: God did not make us to spend our whole lives running from things, like porn or any other sin.

He made us to run toward something; more accurately toward someone; namely Him. Even better, He made us to live with Him, live like Him, and live for Him!

This is why our hearts simply can’t be satisfied by the artificial love of a plasticized, digitally-enhanced lover. And why we long so deeply for the true love of a perfect, ever-present Lord. And then the love and acceptance of family and friends in Christ.

Leaving porn requires living for something else. More to the point, leaving porn requires finding joy in our relationships with God and those He divinely put in our lives.

So whereas porn acted as a barrier to intimacy in those relationships, as your student puts to death this sinful burden, they will be empowered to find greater delight in relationships. So encourage your student to commit to and pursue that which brings them joy in all their relationships.

Does a “quiet time” seem boring? What about going on a regular run with God? Or walk or bike ride or drive with him?

What good, healthy, refreshing (non-screen) activities does your student enjoy doing? Sports? Cooking? Fishing? Hiking? Music? Board games? Reading? Encourage them to do more of that with their family and friends.

This leads us to our final step.

6. Urge your student to make the necessary lifestyle changes.

If you have a student confessing porn to you, it’s probably more than a habit. It’s likely a part of their life.

Your student will have to change the way they think and behave in order to finally say “no” to porn once and for all. We like to call these changes eye-gouging decisions (“If your eye causes you to stumble…”).

That said, from experience I can tell you it’s tempting to urge a student to change their behavior as quickly as possible, but I encourage you to address the other issues above first.

Because a student who ditches his smartphone for a flip phone and closes all their social media accounts will still be drawn to porn like flies to poop (remember that cake), unless their heart begins to change through the previous steps I’m recommending.

You’ll find infinite suggestions in other Covenant Eyes posts on how to guide your student in making these necessary changes.