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Common Mistakes That Youth Workers Make When Dealing With Pornography

A few years ago friends were giving my wife and I a tour of their ranch in their “side by side”…basically a big off-road vehicle. By the time we got near the river bed, Jen had already assumed death was coming more than once!

As we drove towards the river, I remember thinking to myself, “I’m not sure these vehicles are designed to float.” 

Then we buried the ATV into the mud, up past the axles. 

It was clear we were seriously stuck, and no matter how much we spun our tires back and forth, there was no way we were getting ourselves out of the hole we were in.

But we didn’t have to get ourselves out of our hole. We were not alone. We were with friends, and as soon as we were stuck, our friends showed up, winched onto our vehicle, and together, we worked until we got free.

For a young person, pornography can feel like being buried in a hole they can’t get out of. As much as they “spin their tires”, things just seem to get worse.

But that’s where we come in.

God did not design us to journey alone. He created us to be part of a “body”, and when we as youth workers come alongside our students, together, by God’s grace, we can help them work to freedom.

But too often youth workers hinder their impact by making a few major mistakes as they work with their group. Here’s what they do:

1. Refuse to offer grace.

We are all broken, we all need grace. So when you refuse to offer it, your students don’t see or experience the amazing grace that comes by leaning into a relationship with Jesus.

A graceless faith is a cold, hypocritical faith without hope.

And that’s not faith at all.

Instead ask yourself… What are you intentionally doing to position yourself with your students to model grace?

2. At no point ask them their story.

Asking questions with gentleness and respect offers our students dignity…which is exactly what pornography takes away from them. 

When you refuse to listen to their story you won’t know if your students are being tempted (we are all being tempted), are entrenched (starting to engage in unhealthy patterns), or are trapped (involved in compulsive sexual activities that seem to be getting worse and worse). 

Have you crafted 3 or 4 questions that could help you hear the story of your kids?

3. Never create a plan.

Without a plan, you rob students of the opportunity to recognize the patterns and sequences they experience.

Without that self-awareness, they’ll struggle to find self-control.

New responses to temptations require a process of right thinking (this is where scripture is important for understanding reality), right feelings (most importantly how God sees them), and right doing (an action plan for physically responding in healthy ways) that won’t happen all at once.

Do you have a tool that can help students observe their rhythms, notice when they are most tempted, think through how they normally react, and create new ways to respond?

4. Need immediate results.

Breaking free from compulsive or addictive behaviour takes time. It can be a journey of ups and downs.

But if you expect everything to change instantaneously then students won’t trust you to bear with them and pull them up through the losses.

Most of us are not clinical professionals (even though some of our kids might need professionals), but all of us can be relationally present. It is through the work of relationships that we come alongside our students and by grace, help pull them to freedom.

What makes it difficult to be consistently present in the life of a young person as they wrestle with porn? What does your team need to help them be 10% more effective on their journey with the kids in their care? 

As a youth worker, you have been given the incredible privilege and calling to be with students through the most significant season of transition and change they may ever experience. It is in these times that decisions are made, values are shaped, character is formed, and God uses us to be a part of that process.

We would all love to spend most of our time on mountain top experiences, but the truth is, much of God’s best work is done in the trenches when our kids are most aware of their needs. 

We want to help you in the trenches.

That’s why we have created a 7-session curriculum on pornography designed for use by small group leaders.

To help your students understand their own journey, understand the journey of unseen victims of porn, and understand the journey of confession, forgiveness, and wholeness because of the Gospel.

Think of a student in your ministry.

What could be the consequences in her life, if no one ever talks to her about God’s design for sex?

What if no one told him how porn is an evil counterfeit experience?

What could be the consequences 10 years from now if no one shows him a better way?

What difference could it make for her family (now and down the road), if someone took the time to journey with her in a loving and gracious mentoring relationship, helping her experience the freedom she never thought possible?

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