By Patrick Showers, Associate Elementary Pastor
Woodland Hills Church
Shortly after I started working as a children’s pastor at Woodland Hills Church, my boss handed me a file and tasked me with teaching 5th graders about their body developments (i.e. puberty) from a Biblical perspective. She saw a need for the church to partner with parents to provide a supplemental resource for kids to learn about a typically taboo topic in a safe environment and tied to a Biblical perspective. The goal was to provide an overview of the body’s changes during puberty with a Biblical understanding of how and why God created us this way as well as how love and relationship were key to expressing our desires in the most healthy way.
Here I was, a young, newly married guy with no children and no formal training in this subject, tasked to teach preteens about a topic that is the equivalent of a “stinky cheese touch” in their eyes. When I looked into the file, all I found was individual photocopies with highlighted sections from various sources of interest to my boss. I tried to recall what I learned as a preteen about this topic and came up blank. My parents avoided this topic like the plague, so that was no help. I felt ill at ease, ill-equipped, and just plain ill. My only options were becoming knowledgeable or seeing if I could get my old job back. In the end, I decided that in spite of my fears, I would go beyond my comfort zone to ensure that preteens could feel safe enough to ask questions or seek help regarding puberty and sex. I was fortunate to find a few good resources, which helped me form a framework to build upon.
I eventually, created a booklet complete with visual aids, and a Bible study about sex, love, and the covenant of relationship, especially as expressed in marriage. I prepped my boss so she could lead the girls, and I prepared so I could lead the boys. When the day finally arrived, I wasn’t sure who was more nervous or embarrassed – the 5th grade boys unfortunate enough to have their parents sign a permission slip to participate or me. It didn’t take me long to realize that while these students were uncomfortable, they also wanted to learn about the mysteries of puberty and sex. My boss had a flood of questions from the girls about many aspects of puberty or why women did certain things. The boys, well, they didn’t have any questions, but they did pay attention with a few sniggers and bouts of nervous laughter.
Over the years, we’ve given this talk many times. We even added a workshop where parents can attend with their 5th grader and we go through the content together with activities and discussions. I now enjoy being a part of this class and value the importance of equipping and empowering kids about a topic that the world is all too ready to mislead them about.
Several years ago, my oldest became a 5th grader. I was now in a unique situation as the parent and as the teacher. My wife and I spent time in prayer and discussion about the best way to present this topic to her. We decided that my wife would take her out on a date and start talking about how her body would change and develop. She opened the door for further discussion. Then, they both attended the parent/5th grader workshop, as well. Afterwards, my wife and I used the Bible study I developed for the class with my daughter. I’m sure she wasn’t overly thrilled about going through this topic with both mom and dad, but it has opened the door for her to ask more questions since then.
As parents, we often have a list tucked in our brain of things we want to make sure kids learn from us. Sometimes, our list gets expanded and stretched through situations in life as we enter new stages of development or growth. Sometimes, other people become a catalyst for learning moments, whether good or bad, planned or unplanned. As a parent of several teens, I’ve realized that if I don’t teach my kids about tough topics, then other sources get the first chance: peers, the internet, TV, music, books, or boyfriends/girlfriends. I was fortunate to be ahead of the puberty talk only because I was given the task to teach it before my oldest child was even born. Sometimes, we are given advance notice or early detection alerts and we have to decide if an opportunity is worth going beyond excuses or discomfort to equip and empower our children. We are fortunate that we have so many resources available: books, seminars, webinars, and even the classes at the church. You may feel like I did when I was given the task of explaining puberty to a bunch of preteens: afraid, uncomfortable, unprepared, unsure where to start, and overwhelmed. Yet, a part of you may also thank God that you have the opportunity to reinforce a firm foundation in the lives and faith of your children as well as creating a home where your kids feel safe enough and comfortable enough to ask you about taboo topics. Now that is an outcome that is worth breaking out of our comfort zone to have.