Dr. Jim Burns of HomeWord ministry joins hosts Mike Clear, Gina McClain, and Kellen Moore to discuss phase-appropriate ways of introducing sexual integrity to preschool and elementary students and how to equip and support parents to have these conversations.
LET’S GET INTO THE EPISODE
Oh, good. You’re here! Welcome to the Orange Kids Podcast, where we talk kids’ ministry and discuss practical solutions to our weekly challenges. This week, we start with beverages. Kellen has hot tea. Gina’s drinking iced coffee. Today’s guest, Dr. Jim Burns, has been provided with Diet Coke and a bottle of water. And somehow, Mike has ended up with a glass of sad, sad tap water. Mike is not sure what this says about his role in the hierarchy of this podcast. The Orange offices. The universe in general.
But even this can’t dampen what promises to be a hot topic conversation. Jim verifies he is a doctor, but not of medicine. (As people assume—and then ask embarrassing questions.) Jim is founder and president of HomeWord ministries. He began in youth ministry and moved to working directly with parents, equipping them to talk with kids about how to have sexual integrity.
Mike points out that every single parent feels ill-equipped to have “The Talk” with their children. He asks:
1. As ministry leaders, how do we resource parents to have conversations with their kids about sexual integrity?
Jim: “Most parents didn’t have their parents talk to them about sex. The more positive sex education kids receive, the less promiscuous they will be.”
Even though we obviously shouldn’t be doing a sex series in preschool or elementary, we can still introduce phase appropriate concepts. At ages 3-5, that might look like “God made your body. God made boys and girls. God made you special and with different skin color and eye color.”
Jim emphasizes that it is important to give children the correct names for private parts.
Jim points out these conversations can feel awkward even for experienced leaders. He tells a story of hearing from Reggie (Joiner)’s daughter that her dad was awkward when he gave “The Talk.” Jim asked his own daughter, expecting to hear that he’d done a better job. But she verified that Jim, too, came across as uncomfortable and awkward. He emphasized that all parents need the church cheering them on.
Gina: Working in preschool, I found my approach was often more reactive than proactive. Occasionally a parent would pull me aside for a conversation. I made sure we had Jim’s books available in the resource center.
Jim: Talking about sexuality in church will always create tensions. Our job is to look at it from a developmental/phase approach. We need to give parents the research about when to have the right conversations.
“They are the parents and they make the call about when to talk to their kids about sexual integrity. But give them resources. Don’t let them off the hook. By age 11, kids will see pornography. Boys say their first sex ed is on the internet.”
2. What does it mean to focus on “sexual integrity” instead of “sexual purity?”
Jim: Purity is a biblical word. But it’s got to be about more than just asking teens to commit to no sex. In the purity movement, that lasted about 18 months. It didn’t work.
“We have to raise the bar to help kids understand at a young age, because they’re being bombarded by sexual images and messages.”
“Sexual integrity is teaching kids how to guard their hearts. How to give their body to God. How to renew their mind.”
“If you start talking when they are 3 to 5 years old, they are still willing to talk when they get older.”
“Paul went into Greece and he talked about the Christian faith from their vantage point. If ‘purity’ is going to turn someone off, I’ll use the word ‘sexual integrity.’ It essentially means the same thing.”
3. What could we do as churches to be proactive in helping parents have sexual integrity conversations with kids from a young age?
Mike shares about a church that does a mother/daughter experience that included a mud run, and then a talk about true beauty. The church also plans a father/son event called Football, Chili & Porn that sets up the topic for dads and sons to have ongoing conversations.
Jim: The great thing about younger kids, as opposed to teenagers, is that you can have parents in the room for an event or discussion about how God made their bodies. Then you can offer parents materials to continue those conversations.
Gina: “Starting young is like a zero entry pool as opposed to diving in the deep end. You grow comfortable over time as the conversation about their bodies becomes commonplace. By the time you are talking about the birds and the bees, it’s not new anymore.”
Jim: “All studies show ‘The Talk’” doesn’t work. We should say ‘The Dialogue,’ and the dialogue starts really young.”
Mike: Since student ministry talks about sex (at least) once a year, look for ways to align. Have the phase-appropriate “God made your body” and “God made you in His image” conversations in preschool and elementary at the same time.
Jim: Having these conversations also opens up a door for kids to ask questions about inappropriate touching. Since 80% of child sexual assaults are committed by someone a child knows and trusts, being able to talk about something that feels uncomfortable to them could actually prevent abuse.
4. How can a church prepare for these conversations?
Jim: Church leadership needs to decide what’s the best way for staff and volunteers to have these conversations about sexual integrity.
- Train the parents. Get the parents of younger kids into training for the parents of teenagers so they know what’s coming for their child. At Jim’s church, they have even invited in a healthcare profession to give weight to the information.
- Train staff and volunteers. Give them appropriate ways to respond to awkward questions from kids about their bodies and sex.
5. What resources can churches use to align their teaching on all these issues relating to sexual integrity?
We are so glad you asked!
- Orange has partnered with Jim Burns to create a curriculum series, MADE, that offers phase appropriate materials about sexual integrity for preschool, elementary, middle school, and high school students.
Orange curriculum partners have already received this content with the March curriculum. It can also be purchased as a standalone curriculum.
- The Orange Phase Project includes a Sexual Integrity Timeline to show what conversations kids are developmentally ready for.
Look at your curriculum calendar and find the best time to start talking with parents and kids about sexual integrity. Check out the resources below for some excellent tools to get started.
And as Kellen sings us out, Britney style: “Ooops! We listened to Jim!”
- MADE curriculum – Available May 2019! If you’re an Orange partner, you can access it now in your March curriculum.
- Phase Project Sexual Integrity Timeline (free download)
- Books on Sexual Integrity by Jim Burns
- “God Made Your Body” (3-5 year olds)
- “How God Makes Babies” (6-9 year olds)
- “Teaching Your Children Healthy Sexuality”
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Let’s keep the conversation going!