Culture is always changing. And there are things in our culture that take us away from Christ. Every generation tends to feel doom and gloom at the rate of change. Ours is not different in that respect—but the pace of change seems to be on caffeine!
With rising rates of pornography use correlating with declining church attendance, many Christian leaders are recognizing a serious threat to the Church. Chris McKenna, the founder of Protect Young Eyes, recently joined our ministry leaders round table to address these challenges.
Here are McKenna’s recommendations for parents and church leaders to rescue the younger generation from the influence of pornography.
10x Your Empathy
Chris first emphasized the need for empathy for the unique situation of children and young people in the 21st century:
“When I was growing up—here I am, a man in my forties—I had big questions about where I belonged and what my identity was, and who I wanted to be. It used to be back in the 80’s and 90’s there were only so many sources to answer that question: it was church, it was youth group, it was family and friends. Then along came MTV and it was a shock. But it was still limited. It was me and about 4-5 mirrors who were speaking into my questions of who I was and what I was searching. Now, we have a thousand mirrors—TikTok, Youtube, etc. We have put a thousand answers from a thousand people who do not care about the hearts and mind of our kiddos. And we wonder why they have questions?”
As pastors and ministry leaders, we need to recognize the daunting situation that kids today face! This attitude of empathy will prepare us to help kids and encourage parents as well.
“When I see young people struggle with the pace of change, I say to myself, ‘That’s not their fault.’ We’ve put these devices—these mirrors, apps, and digital spaces—in front of developing precious brains. That’s a ridiculously confusing thing to grow up in! If we walk away with nothing else, I want it to be with ten times the empathy we have now.”
Before addressing any other concern, remember that empathy is key.
Use Two Kinds of Solutions
For ministry leaders trying to tackle these issues in their communities, what are the biggest questions we need to address? McKenna says there are two big buckets of solutions. There are practical, tactical solutions. But there are also relational and spiritual solutions. We need to keep both categories in mind.
First, parents need to have practical steps to take with their children. Clear-cut action items are a must! However, the second piece is just as important. These practical steps can never be separated from the relationship context in which they occur. We obviously pray for our kids, but we can’t just pray porn out of their lives. So both kinds of solutions are vital.
All parents have certain conversations about this. Parents are reminding them unconditionally, no matter what, they can land safely and softly with their parents. The enemy is telling them they can’t share this with a trusted adult. It’s not enough to tell kids this—it’s abstract. We need to make it as tangible as possible.
To this end, McKenna advises parents to rehearse these situations beforehand. Parents should practice scenarios in which they imagine their child has been exposed to porn and think through exactly how they will respond. Children need more than a general admonition to “talk to me if you see anything bad.” Parents should actually walk a child through the steps of what to do if exposed to pornography on an electronic device: Put down the device, walk up to the parent’s room, knock on the door, and explain what happened. This kind of role-playing prepares parents and children alike, so they can navigate these situations when they arise.
Remember 3 Things
McKenna encourages parents and ministry leaders to remember three things when responding to a child’s pornography use: exercise compassion and curiosity, and leave condemnation at the door. As with the initial point about empathy, parents should have compassion on their children and the unique challenges faced by this generation.
After an initial response of compassion, the parents need to use curiosity to understand what has happened. This means, that rather than expressing shock, horror, and disapproval and what a child has done, they should show they are interested, and ask curious questions. However, a crucial criterion for these questions: They should not be condemning or shaming. McKenna says that remembering these three things is vital for parents who want to nurture their children in the digital age.
This discussion with Chris McKenna is only one of MANY great resources that we have for pastors and other ministry leaders. If you’re looking for resources for your ministry, check out the Covenant Eyes church page!