This coming summer will be the 15th year that Ashley and I have been pastoring students in local churches. I began serving as a full-time youth pastor in May of 2002 when we moved to Lancaster, SC to serve as the Family Minister at First Baptist. As I look back over these years of student ministry, I would estimate that we have taken students on well over 60 camps, mission trips, and retreats. Each one is unique and it’s been amazing to see the Lord work in our lives and the lives of our students during each trip.
This weekend I had the privilege of leading a very special retreat. It wasn’t hosted by our church or any organization. It was just me and our oldest son, Anderson. It was probably my favorite retreat of the past 15 years. Since the day I heard that Ashley was pregnant with Anderson, we knew this day would come. We knew that one day, Anderson might be a teenager…in our student ministry. Though we’ve worked with hundreds of teenagers and seen God work in powerful ways, we’ve never experienced it from the perspective of the parent.
This weekend I took Anderson away on a “coming of age” trip where he and I had candid conversations about life, the teen years and about sex. Before he hears it from the world, I want him to hear about life from his dad and his Heavenly Father. But honestly, even after teaching on these topics for 15 years to other people’s children, it was a bit intimidating trying to convey these truths to my own child. I’m so grateful that I wasn’t alone. A few friends who have gone before us introduced me to a curriculum called, Passport to Purity by Dennis and Barbara Rainey.
Passport to Purity is hands-down one of the best curriculums I have ever used. It’s easy to prepare, covered all the topics, and is Biblical in content. The activities and format are great too. It’s set up to be done over a weekend retreat. It includes five sessions, a free time activity (we went to WonderWorks in Myrtle Beach) and a special father/son dinner at the end where I presented Anderson with a gift from his mom and I to help him remember the weekend and his commitments. The sessions are mainly audio recordings that you and your child listen to together and then work through the provided journal as you talk about each topic.
Teaching our children God’s Truth about puberty, peer pressure, sex, sexuality, dating, pornography, and other key topics is not easy, but is vital. Teenagers will learn about all this in school, in the locker room, watching Netflix, on the internet, and at church. They need to hear about it at home first. Though this retreat was great, it isn’t a once and done event. It’s an ongoing conversation. Parents are the primary place children can go to for the truth and for support through the teen years. Whether I like it or not – my children are growing up. Ashley and I are responsible to make sure they grow up well equipped to be fully functioning adult men, who by the grace of God, will be leaders who point those around them toward Christ.
I want to strongly encourage you to check out Passport to Purity to help plan a coming-of-age retreat with your child. You won’t regret it!