Families are so busy. Living in the metropolitan Atlanta area has many families spending more time than ever on the road running errands, going to work, and delivering little people to all that will give each child an edge. Children are tutored, rushed, coached, taught, and fed. Families eat on the run, do homework late, and can hardly get the laundry folded. Planning for and setting aside time to have ‘the talk’ is indeed a priority, but hardly makes the ‘urgent’ column. And when is the right age? Where do you even begin? How much vocabulary needs to be covered? What does he/she already know? WHY and HOW do they know what they already know?
The United Methodist Church has taken the point on emphasizing a healthy biblical and Christian perspective on human sexuality, values, and relationships since the 1980s with a program specifically for 5th and 6th graders entitled Created By God. The course was updated significantly in 2017 by Rev. Dr. Leigh Meekins, Rev. Dr. Tanya Eustace Campen, and Mark Huffman, Certified Sexuality Educator and is now known as Wonderfully Made: Loved by God. Updates in the program include time for reflection and ways to incorporate learning into the lives of students, as well as a strengthened spiritual component.
The course offers a comprehensive introduction to human sexuality – anatomy, vocabulary, attitudes, morals, growth and development, relationships, reproduction, responsibility and safety – built on the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ and the written Word of God. Participant Books serve as resources that help children ages 10-12 understand their bodies, the changes they are going through, and how God loves them now and always. The course explains sexual anatomy as well as the different aspects of puberty. Additionally, the book will discuss the influence of social media on sexual desire and decision making.
Why ages 10-12? Because their parents and families are still the primary influence in their lives. They are still listening. They still trust their parents and teachers more than their peers. Current research also tells us that changes are beginning to take place in their bodies on the average at age 8. Age 8!
Wonderfully Made is typically a 3-day course for 5th and 6th grade students and their parents: Thursday evening (parents), Friday evening (students), all day Saturday (students in the am, parents & students in the afternoon). Attending a trainer-training a couple of weeks ago reiterated the need for the church to champion for kid’s souls AND their bodies.
I sent an email last spring to several then-4th-grade parents sharing we would have the opportunity to host a Wonderfully Made event the next year when their students would be 5th graders inviting them to pray with their spouses about their family’s participation. Though families didn’t want yet to think about it, they overwhelmingly agreed they would indeed participate. It’s on the calendar for March 2019 for 5th & 6th grade families.
We will also invite other churches in our district/region to bring their families/students because we believe we are better together. A smaller church probably wouldn’t offer a class to one or a couple of students, but together we can offer a critical mass environment and their families will receive an excellent small group connection with their own church’s leaders. This is also one of those events when a trained facilitator/trainer comes into your house to lead. Though I am now a trainer, I have invited a fellow Children’s Pastor who has experience offering this program to her own students for many years with the one of the authors as her church’s facilitator/trainer. I will serve as the hostess-with-the-mostest.
How will you reach out to your families to provide Christian education for mind, souls, and bodies?
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 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 12:1-2