By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) – Parents must do a better job of preparing their children at a young age in order to help them function in a culture that is hostile to Christian principles of sexuality, Clint Davis, director of recovery services with The Hub: Urban Ministry in Shreveport, said at the annual Forum for Louisiana Baptist student leaders Feb. 21.
“It’s a parent’s job to represent Christ in the Church,” Davis told more than 50 student leaders gathered for the event at the Louisiana Baptist Building in Alexandria. “Just showing up on Sunday or a Wednesday night and expecting a church to teach your kids the Gospel is not what God calls us to do.”
As parents and leaders strive to equip their youth with tools necessary to have a fulfilled life, they must base their approach on love and trust, Davis said.
“Without these two foundational beliefs, all the struggles of our lives will be difficult to manage,” he said. “They affect how you engage in relationships with your pastors, with your parents, with yourself and with these kids.”
Davis said parents must discuss sexually-sensitive issues with their children before the world educates them. He said social media has expanded the opportunities available for young people to view pornography, but few parents have rules for using devices that access the Internet.
“A large majority of parents you work with let their kids take their iPads, cell phone or computer to the room at night without supervision,” he said. “They have no clue what they’re texting and no clue what they’re looking at.
“People ask me, ‘When do you think a kid should get a smartphone?’ and I say, ‘When you want them to see pornography,’” he continued. “When you want your kids to be exposed to hardcore pornography is when you give them a smartphone.”
Davis encouraged parents and student leaders to gradually introduce their young children to social media, starting with a very basic phone with many restrictions and then over the years increasing access to more safe websites.
Davis, owner of Clint Davis Counseling and Integrative Wellness Center with a staff of 19 in Shreveport, linked consumption of pornography on social media, television and other avenues of media with an increased likelihood of committing acts of verbal, physical and sexual aggression. The end result, he said, is that sometimes men act out their sexual desires through human trafficking.
“When you watch pornography you’re casting a vote for human trafficking,” Davis said.
While the current situation is not positive, Davis hopes enough parents and student leaders educate young people who will reverse the trend.
“We are to teach our children to be healthier by setting better boundaries,” he said. “Then, they will have a chance to go grow up, have children, teach them earlier, not neglect them and then we spin the cycle the other direction.”
Brandon Lewis, youth ministry strategist for Louisiana Baptists, said the Forum is a time for leaders in youth ministry to network, discuss important issues and to learn best practices from each other.
“The introduction of smartphones brought a great deal of change to society, and quickly,” Lewis said of Davis’ message. “From his unique perspective and insights, Clint Davis has been able to help us learn and think carefully about the less-acknowledged implications and the potential impacts if these issues are left unaddressed. Our goal is not to label technology as bad, but to call parents and youth ministry leaders to a more intentional approach to its use.”
Tom Bruce, minister to families at the First Baptist Church in Sulphur, was reminded of the need to take action on educating teenagers.
“Clint did a great job of helping us see how our history of generations of sexual neglect has contributed to the shame, fear and ignorance that shroud our youngest generations in wrong thinking and unhealthy coping skills,” Bruce said. “It’s up to us to stop the destructive cycle by actively engaging with our students and parents in these uncomfortable conversations.”
Robert Parkin, minister to students at the First Baptist Church in Ponchatoula, enjoyed the fellowship.
“Clint helped us all see the battle teenagers are facing as they are developing in a culture that only knows technology,” Parkin said. “One takeaway is the importance of educating teenagers and parents alike on how to properly and safely use technology especially when it comes to the realm of smartphones. The insight I gained from this conference will aid me in better understanding and guiding teenagers to the real hope found in Christ in a virtual and technology filled world.”
Ethan Hunt, activities director at Tall Timbers Baptist Conference Center in Woodworth, was reminded about the many threats that impact the next generation.
“As we hire young adults, the information from the Forum can be used to help us understand how to help our staff,” he said. “Not only did it challenge us as people, but also as Christians to want to know how to protect and to prevent these things from affecting our ministry.”