The Power of Dialogue
I am part of a unique church with three language groups, each bound by a particular culture with immigrant parents who spent most of their childhood outside the US. These parents now face a huge cultural, generational, and social challenge in connecting with their children. “How do we equip parents to connect with their children?” This has been a constant hurdle we are faced with. One response we took into action was to hold Family Forums for our children, youth, and parents. We sensed a need to create safe platforms to address current issues our next generation is facing.
Recently, the topic of the forum was “sexuality”.
A panel of educators from the church led the forum. Teachers in the preschool, elementary, and high school age groups each shared how the world is shaping our children’s worldview of sexuality. We presented the idea that all people are born as sexual beings. This was God’s design. We see signs of this as early as an infant growing in his first year, being stimulated by certain bodily touches. While this age group may simply realize and explore their body parts, we see how sexual identity is sadly and destructively shaped without a guided biblical worldview.
In the early years, we see manifestations of sexual promiscuity through a little girl’s flirtatious personality and dress. In the elementary schools, we see children openly talking about “sex”, as many reside in homes where the television is available without restrictions. We see teenagers falling into depression and insecurity as the world of social media has become the primary voice of their sexual identity. Our children will begin to form a worldview on sexuality from an early age—who will we allow to shape this in them?
Parents confessed their lack of engaged dialogue with their children on this topic. It can be a very private topic as many of them never had such conversations with their own parents. Many parents felt ill-equipped to give a proper response that is age-appropriate to their children. Unfortunately, many parents live in a world of secrecy and shame as they themselves struggle with sexual sins. How can they talk about sexuality when they cannot overcome their own battle?
While the church could have spent the forum talking about the do’s and don’ts of sexuality education, we took an approach that would challenge parents to sense the deep need and urgency to create dialogue with their children. Often, our next generation does not want to be lectured at. They want to be heard. They need to process what they hear and see. They need to be asked questions, to realize they can think for themselves. We are not raising puppet Christians, merely focused on their outward behavior and actions. Rather, we must engage with the heart. It is not a 1-2-3 step process, but it is having a place in the hearts of our children for them to know it is safe to talk to mom and dad about this issue (among all others). They would not be judged or shut down if they are struggling with gender confusion nor would they be forced to end friendships with children of same-sex parents. We are not compromising our biblical standards in creating dialogue. Rather, we are slowly shaping our children’s worldview through the power of dialogue.
Schools are trying to create “safe places” for children. They are already making changes to create gender neutral bathrooms and even adopting the term “they” in the singular form. While the world strives for safe places, how are the church and families creating safe places for our children to process what they are exposed to and possibly engaged with? How are we equipping our children to embrace God’s truth, heart, and thoughts? Are we askable parents and church leaders, where children feel safe to talk to us? The harsh truth is that our children will learn about sexuality from somewhere, from someone. Will we be the primary voice that shapes our children’s worldview? Will we be the “safe place” for our children?
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will (Romans 12:2).