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By Whitney Wyatt
The Red River Sun
CHILDRESS – While some parents are outraged at the Childress Church of Christ for its youth sex education class on Wednesday, April 21, others say it was blown out of proportion.
“We understand how you can look at a list of vulgar words and get upset,” said a mother who attended the class with her two daughters and is a member of the Childress Church of Christ. “But what wasn’t listed was all of the Christian values that came with the lesson.”
The No. 1 question she gets asked is why the church shared the list of sexual words. The answer might surprise some. “Those words came from the teenagers themselves,” she said. “The last thing we want is for the kids to look them up online.”
Childress First United Methodist Church (FUMC) Rev. Lou Ellerbrook agreed. He said these sexual words are in the music kids listen to, TV shows they watch and schools they attend.
“This was a safe place for them to get answers,” added Ellerbrook. “We asked our youth to get permission from their parents before they went. I’m at fault for not making sure each of the students had parental approval. I didn’t doublecheck.”
Dr. Mike Henderson, the spokesperson for the Church of Christ, said he doesn’t want to blame others for what happened. “The Church of Christ has been doing this for 14 or 15 years,” Henderson said. “This is the first time something like this has happened. I can see how they would have possibly been offended if they didn’t understand the entire situation.”
It was also the first time that kids from another church have attended. What the First United Methodist Church kids’ parents didn’t understand was this lesson was the fifth one out of a seven-lesson series, Henderson explained.
Ellerbrook said they reached out about attending, but they did not realize at the time it was not a one-night thing. “Leadership has been talking about needing to offer something to our kids about relationships and sex,” Ellerbrook continued. “And we heard that the Church of Christ was doing this, so we reached out, and they said that we could come over and be a part of what they were doing.”
Jennifer Coles’ 16-year-old son, who attends FUMC, attended that Wednesday night. While she gave him approval to go, she said she was not aware it was a series. When her son got home Wednesday night, he told her how it was about abstinence and how pornography is bad. While she was fine with that, she said it changed the next day when a friend of hers on Facebook shared another friend’s post.
“I actually know the girl that filled out that paper,” Coles said. “She’s 13 years old. And I saw that paper on Facebook, and I was like, whoa, my son was there.” While she posted on the Facebook group “Rant & Rave part dos,” she wants the public to know she did not call the media. “That was not me,” she said.
By the time KFDA, the CBS-affiliate TV station in Amarillo, showed up in Childress on Friday, April 23, the town was divided.
“We don’t want to start a fight,” Henderson said. “Our intent was to help them have a healthy perspective towards sexuality and towards relationships and towards their growing into being good citizens and good people and good husbands, wives and good parents. It wasn’t intended to be the pornographic venture that it has been played out to be. That’s just wrong. I’m sorry people are taking it that way.”
Ellerbook said parents have called him wanting clarification on what was said. Ellerbook said while the Church of Christ taught within the proper frame of what Christianity understands sex and relationships to be, that’s been misunderstood by many in the community thinking they were teaching the way the world was teaching.
“I had all four of my kids there,” Ellerbrook added. “It was probably on the mature side for my youngest, but I don’t feel that it was it was too mature from my older three.”
Henderson said the class was led by their youth minister Drew Denman and his wife Kelsey, who has a master’s degree in clinical psychology. “We also invited the parents to come,” Henderson explained. “There were a lot of parents there.”
For the mother who attended the class with her two children, it was presented in a professional way. She also said it was age appropriate. “I sat in my car with my two children, and we spoke about it for an hour.”
Because of FUMC’s last-minute request to attend, Henderson said they didn’t require proper consent in advance. “I think you should have been there from week one,” Henderson explained. “They would have either understood what this was going to be about or would have opted out and not come.”
Moving forward, Henderson said the church will require seeing parental consent before allowing kids in. They will probably insist kids attend all sessions too. “It took us 14 years to hit a snag. But as you do, you have to make adaptations, because we don’t want to deprive the kids of good quality moral teachings.”