Don’t Be a Conversation Short
About the Guest
The Bible has plenty to say to your kids about sex and marriage, says author Josh Mulvihill. In Genesis 2:24, God defines marriage and gives the purpose and meaning of sex and gender; Ephesians 5:22 is a great launching point to talk about servant leadership and roles; and Proverbs 5 captures a father having "the talk" with his son. Mulvihill also shares preventative measures parents need to consider in order to protect their children from early exposure to porn.
Josh MulvihillJosh Mulvihill is the Executive Director of Church and Family Ministry at Renewanation, where he equips parents and grandparents to disciple their family and coaches church leaders to help them design Bible-based, Christ-centered family ministries. Josh has served as a pastor for nearly 20 years, is a founding member of the Legacy Coalition, and has a PhD from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Biblical Grandparenting, Preparing Children for Marriage...more
The Bible has plenty to say to your kids about sex and marriage, says author Josh Mulvihill. He also shares preventative measures parents need to consider to protect their children from exposure to porn.
Don’t Be a Conversation Short
Bob: Our children will likely, someday, be married; and even if they’re not, they’re going to have thoughts about marriage. Josh Mulvihill says we need to help our children start thinking correctly about marriage, even when they’re young, including basic building blocks/foundational principles, like—
Josh: God designed marriage, so God gets to define marriage. It’s critical that our children understand that God is the Creator, and God gets to define that. If, on that point, they don’t have a settled conviction there, all the other dominos behind that fall in the wrong direction.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 16th. Our host is Dennis Rainey; I'm Bob Lepine. As parents, we should start early preparing our children for marriage. We’ll talk with Josh Mulvihill about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. Mary Ann and I just recently sat down with a young couple in our church, who are headed toward marriage. We had a chance to help with their premarital preparation. We got them copies of the book that FamilyLife® put together, Preparing for Marriage, and started working through that with them.
But it occurred to me that, if the first time you start preparing your kids for marriage is in premarital preparation, you’re probably a little behind the game; don’t you think?
Dennis: And you’re putting them behind the curve.
Dennis: No doubt about it.
Our guest would agree with you, Bob. Josh Mulvihill joins us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back, Josh.
Josh: It is great to be here!
Dennis: Josh has written a book called Preparing Children for Marriage: How to Teach God’s Good Design for Marriage, Sex, Purity, and Dating. All of a sudden, there are some parents who turned their ear toward the radio. [Laughter]
Bob: They turned the radio up a little.
Dennis: This is where a lot of people are living right now.
Let me just tell you a little about who Josh is—he is the Executive Director for Church and Family Ministry at Renewanation. He and his wife, Jen, have five children and have been married since 2000.
Josh, you had a mom come to you one time—this is kind of how you got started or, at least, one of the things God touched your life with in terms of piquing your interest in marriage preparation starting at home, with parents. You had a mom, who said, “I need a book for ‘The Talk,’”—the sex ed talk. She wanted you to point her to a book. What did you say to her?
Josh: Yes; I said: “Let me look for something that’s broader than just ‘The Talk,’ that you can begin to teach the foundational teachings of the Bible related to where the talk’s headed, ultimately, in marriage. We want to begin there since dating and ‘The Talk’ are just an on-ramp to that.”
I had a hard time finding something that I could hand to that mother. It ended up resulting in what we’re talking about today, because the whole ball of wax is one that needs to be dealt with together; meaning, you know, we have been given a lot of resources on the purity and puberty side of things—that needs to be part of the conversation—but it’s definitely not the entirety.
Bob: Your book is titled Preparing Children for Marriage. I think the place where most of us, as parents, start with that is talking about sexuality. Is that the right place to be starting when we’re trying to prepare our kids for marriage?—to have the sex talk, or a series of sex talks, with them?
Josh: I like to start with Genesis 2:24, because that’s where God starts; but if a child comes in with a sexuality question, or the opportunity presents itself, I certainly will go there with a child.
Interestingly enough, when we look at Scripture, there is a lot on both of those subjects—both for marriage and sexuality—that we see in Scripture with children; and I don’t think sometimes that’s recognized. So, on the marriage front, we can look, cover to cover, from the Bible; and we can see kids taught that subject all the way from Genesis through / into the epistles.
One of my favorite passages is this passage—it is Joshua 8:35, which talks about how Moses read the Law to the whole community, which included the sojourner, the woman, and the child. It said, “There was not a word of it that Moses didn’t read.” I take that literally, meaning that the Law—at a minimum, the Law and the first five books of the Bible—were read, which means—that’s part of Genesis and all the other stuff marriage-related in that section.
Then, of course, in Deuteronomy we have a command—
—a very specific command—to “teach these things to your children and your children’s children.” Parents and grandparents are included in that—that’s Deuteronomy 4. Moses had a very specific thought in mind when he said that. What are the things that we are to teach them? Well, he was referencing the Ten Commandments. Many parents like to think about the commandment to obey, and the commandment to not steal and not lie; but there are a couple other commandments in there specifically related to the topic we’re talking about today that parents and grandparents are commanded to instruct on and to model before the next generation—and that’s commandments seven and ten.
Dennis: So you’re, actually, not encouraging moms and dads to, at the dinner table tonight, to pull open the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Bible—and to begin reading them to their kids as a way of preparation for marriage. That’s why you wrote this book; isn’t it?—to break it down into pieces and talk about: “What does the Bible say about each of these components that truly make up a great marriage?”
Josh: Yes; we need to start having some of these just little bite-sized, everyday conversations. When we understand what God expects of us and the ways that He has put these kinds of tools in our hands, as parents—and, by the tools, I mean that God doesn’t call us to a task that He doesn’t equip us for, as parents and as grandparents. He has given that to us in Scripture, and we can be confident to go where God has gone with kids in the Bible—we can do that with our own. Our words, simply, can be God’s Words that He speaks to kids on these subject matters in the Bible as well.
Bob: Josh, your kids are—you’ve got five.
Josh: Five kids.
Bob: What are their ages?
Josh: The oldest is 12; the youngest is 3. They’re spaced about two years in-between.
Bob: Okay; so if we took your five- or six-year-old today—boy or girl?
Josh: The six-year-old is a girl.
Bob: Okay; so you’ve got a—
Dennis: He had to stop and think about that, Bob!
Bob: I understand! [Laughter]
Josh: Yes! Five kids!!
Dennis: That’s what happens when you have a bunch of them.
Josh: That’s right.
Bob: So, with your six-year-old daughter, are you being intentional and proactive in terms of trying to prepare her, or are you being responsive, or both? If you’re being proactive, what does that look like for you, as a father?
Josh: Yes, both. As we just read through Scripture with our family, these topics come up and present opportunities, as parents, to talk about them. With Genesis 2:24, for example—with our kids, we talk about it as “God’s definition for marriage: one man/one woman for life.” With a six-year-old, I might say, “Kate, God’s design for you is to marry a boy and not a girl.” We’ve had those kinds of conversations.
That has then come out in the responsive way as well. We were at a cabin and one of the other families—their about-six-year-old daughter was playing with my daughter. Kate came back in and said, “When I get older, Victoria said that we could marry each other,”—
—you know, just kind of an off-the-cuff comment during lunch, which provided a great opportunity to then reinvest in these kinds of truths from Scripture with Kate.
Those opportunities present themselves every day—with the things our kids watch, the people they spend time with, the things that they’re reading—they’re all over the place, especially, with where our culture has gone—as parents. I like to say it’s the missionary zeal of our sex-saturated culture.
The example I give with my own boys is this idea of Star Wars. My boys did not see the newest versions of Star Wars / the newest releases until just a couple of years ago; but if you talked to them, you would have thought they knew—had seen those movies ten times; because they knew the stories / the characters—they could quote everything—because our culture is saturated with Star Wars—it was all over.
And the same is true with sex for our kids—it’s everywhere—so it necessitates some of these early and often conversations; because if we don’t, others will. We know those conversations are happening.
Dennis: And you just don’t know what’s taking place with your kids today. One mom came to you, who had found out her 12-year-old son was video-chatting with a young lady online. What exactly happened there? I don’t remember exactly.
Josh: An innocent conversation on the phone—a video chat—one classmate to another. The child bared herself to the son, and the son wasn’t prepared for it.
Josh: Of course, the fall-out was pretty significant. The comment that the mom made was, “We found that we were one conversation short.”
Dennis: The mom said that?!
Dennis: What did she mean by that? I mean, what exactly would you encourage a mom or a dad to have done by the time their child is 12 years old?
Josh: So the critical conversations that parents need to be having with their children: “What is marriage? What’s the role of a husband and wife? What is the purpose and meaning of sex? What does it mean to be a boy or a girl?” God lays all of those out very clearly in Scripture and equips families to have those conversations with their children.
On a pure, basic “Let’s-boil-this-down” conversation, I think three passages are critical and pretty easy for families to say, “Okay; let’s zero in around these.” Genesis 2:24, which has already been mentioned—that’s God’s definition for marriage. God designed marriage, so God gets to define marriage. It’s critical that our children understand that God is the Creator, and God gets to define that. If, on that point—if they don’t have a settled conviction there, all the other dominos behind that fall in the wrong direction.
Bob: Well, I just want to add here—Jesus affirmed the Genesis 2:24 definition—so anybody who’s wondering, “Did Jesus ever say anything about homosexuality or about gay marriage?” He did!—He affirmed [biblical marriage]. When He was asked about divorce, He said, “Haven’t you read in the beginning what it was said, that ‘…a man shall leave father and mother and cleave to his wife’?” This is God’s definition, and Jesus affirms it.
Dennis: What are the other two passages here, Josh?
Josh: Yes; the other two are Ephesians 5:22-33, which talks about the husband and the wife’s role. With young people, I like to talk about that in a question; so I, with our boys—we have three—we ask them a question that helps them understand their role as a future husband. That question is: “How can I serve you?” which gets at the heart of what God’s role is for husbands—sacrificial servant leadership. We affirm our boys when we start seeing forms of service as leadership—
—that, then, translates over into their future marriage role. For our two daughters, the question we ask is: “How can I help you?” That, then, helps translate into a future wife role.
But, in general, some of our children may not get married—God may have a call of singleness on them. That is to be elevated and celebrated just as much as marriage is. Those questions still apply for our young men and our young women, as they can ask those questions to those whom they are leading and serving, as well, in whatever sphere God has for them.
Bob: Okay; Genesis 2, Ephesians 5—what’s the other one?
Josh: Proverbs 5—and you could add 6 and 7. Proverbs—I’ve calculated—it is about ten percent or so of the book, roughly, deals with the subject matters of marriage, dating, sexuality. That’s quite a bit of real estate for the only book of the Bible that is written directly to young people / to children.
Proverbs 5 is a pretty steamy passage.
Josh: Gritty; yes. But God, in His wisdom, captured a father having “the talks”—not just “The Talk”—but “the talks” with his son. You know, in this setting, the son is a little older; but Proverbs 5 is a wonderful model.
If you say, “How do I do this with my child?” God actually put that in the Bible for us. I love walking through Proverbs 5 with families—to say: “Capture the essence of this. It’s important to look at what God says and doesn’t say, both with the warnings—there are some pretty strong warnings in there; and that’s meant to help our young people make wise and good godly decisions and consider the cost; because there is a price tag, sexually—
—but also, then, to capture the blessings and the joys of making godly sexual decisions, having sexual self-control. Our kids, many times, get presented with a lot of the don’ts and the negative side, without the positive.
Josh: Here, God balances that. It’s a weighty passage with the “don’ts,” but it is also a really joyful passage with—in Proverbs 5, God uses the phrase, “blessed,” meaning: “You’re going to be happy if...” It gets to the reality that, underneath a lot of the decisions our young people make, is a reminder that they’re on a quest for happiness. They’re making a certain decision, because they believe the outcome is going to be their happiness—only to be given these examples in Scripture to say: “God’s best for you is not to be choosing outside of the parameters that He’s creating. You’re going to be happiest when you choose to walk in the path that God has laid out and make these decisions that are in obedience to His Word.”
Bob: Josh, you don’t know this, I don’t think, but Dennis wrote a book for parents, years ago, called Aggressive Girls, Clueless Boys. That book is Proverbs 5, 6, and 7—
Josh: Oh, it is? That’s great.
Bob: —for a father to sit down / or for a mother to sit down with a son and say, “Son, there are aggressive women.” In our day, this has just exponentially increased.
Dennis: Well, this story that Josh tells in his book—
Dennis: —that a 12-year-old girl—
Dennis: —exposed herself to another 12-year-old boy?
Dennis: I mean, how much of this should a parent be preparing their children for, Josh?—because it really isn’t a matter of if they’re going to see pornography / if there’s going to be exposure. It’s going to be a matter of when, and what you do.
Josh: Covenant Eyes has a statistic that, at a minimum, 50 percent will have exposure to pornography by the age of 12. For many, it’s much earlier than that.
I was a Children’s and Family Pastor for many years. I would have plenty of families in my office—in the K through 2nd-grade range—who said: “My child has had this experience. What do I do? Help!” But, for sure, Covenant Eyes also says that upwards of 90 percent of boys and 65 percent of girls, by the age of 18. You’re absolutely correct, Dennis.
Dennis: So what’s the best preventative? Obviously, you’re going to teach the Scripture; but they’re going to see it. Coach a parent in what he or she can do to prepare their child to know what to do when it happens.
Josh: We live in the age of the overexposed child. Obviously, one of the main places that that is coming in is through technology into our homes—whether that’s television, whether that’s video games, whether that’s personal devices like phones and iPads®, or the internet as well. Measures have to be taken in all of those to place some filters and parameters on those.
I think, with personal devices—which is what I experienced as a pastor—that a lot of the exposure happened with young children. Parents would give, with good intentions, a phone that had internet on it—capabilities—or an iPad®. In that, they were giving their child the gift of pornography—not intending to do that—but the child often stumbled on it by accident or when doing homework, and then it was a catch-up piece for the parents.
One of my encouragements is to either delay the giving of devices until much later; because our kids—like our kids use ours—it’s not that they’re not on them—but they use them in our presence. This is all the way up through our child, who is 12. We’ve just begun having a conversation—Jen and I—about a phone for our 12-year-old. It will probably be one that has no internet opportunities on it; and then, when that becomes the reality in our home—when our kids are using those components—there have to be filters / there have to be limitations.
I’m continually amazed at how many don’t have that [filters and limitations]. Just that basic step is huge; and in that, there has to be accountability from parents, talking with their children about what they’re doing on the computers and their devices; so that there’s an awareness that is there—where their kids are and where their kids are not. If those steps are taken, that, at least, puts a good foundation in place.
It’s not, as you said, it is not “If…” but “When…”—so we want our kids to be prepared for it. As we are having preparation with our young people, it’s really the preparation that’s happening in their heart; because it could be any type of technology device, but it could be a whole lot of other things as well—
Josh: —in print; it could be what they’re seeing in other spheres. If the battleground of the heart is won, then that playground—whether it’s those areas or others—
—becomes a much easier piece for us to navigate with our young people.
Here’s how we’ve navigated that with our kids—the more we can help our children see the beauty and the grandness of who God is and who Christ is, the less they will want to pursue other elements. I think that—it doesn’t, obviously, negate that altogether—but, man, it sure minimizes the temptation and the allure that would be there if that wasn’t the case.
Dennis: We’ve talked a little bit on the broadcast today about Proverbs 5, 6, and 7. I just want to read the beginning of it; because I think it’s very instructive to dads, but also to moms. Listen to how this Scripture begins: “My son, be attentive to my wisdom.” It’s kind of like [tapping sound]: “Listen up! I’m about to give you something important, son! Really! Listen! This is life or death!”
He goes on: “Incline your ear to my understanding,”—I’m older. I’ve been around the block a couple of times. I know you may think I’m getting dumb; but you need to listen carefully, because I have some understanding!—he says, “that you keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge, for the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is as bitter as wormwood,”—so, son, listen carefully what I’m telling you; because this is going to be an issue for you, all the way from puberty until the grave. This is an important issue.
I’m going to tell you: “Parents, you’ve got to do this! You’ve got to have these talks; not just ‘The Talk’; you’ve got to have a thousand talks by the time you launch your arrow toward the target.”
Bob: Well, and you’ve got to be strategic, and intentional, and purposeful—that’s what you’re saying. You’ve got to have a plan, as parents, for how you’re going to engage with your children on the subject, not just of human sexuality, but on all kinds of relational issues that are going to be a part of their life as they head toward marriage.
Josh, you do a great job of talking about all of these issues in your book, Preparing Children for Marriage: How to Teach God’s Good Design for Marriage, Sex, Purity, and Dating. We’ve got copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order it from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to order.
A lot of parents, as you guys both know, have used the Passport2Purity® and Passport2Identity™ resources as a way to have a foundational experience with their children that helps spawn all kinds of other conversations on the subject of sexuality, and dating, and relationships.
We have those resources available, here, at FamilyLife. If you have a child, who is pre-adolescent or one who is in his or her early teen years, check out the Passport2Purity and Passport2Identity resources; and then think about a getaway time with your kid, where you can go through this content with them and help get them ready for what’s ahead for them.
You know, we’ve had so many parents, over the years, who have told us, that when it comes to issues like this, they have found help, and encouragement, and guidance from the resources we provide / from things they hear every day on FamilyLife Today. Our goal here is to provide practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families.
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Now, tomorrow, we’ll talk more about the relational dynamics that moms and dads need to be helping their children understand and helping foster these in the lives of your kids as you prepare them, not only for adulthood, but for, eventually, getting married. I hope you can be with us again tomorrow.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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