Are R-rated Movies Ok for My Preteen?

When I was a preteen I watched many R rated movies. Somehow I turned out ok. BUT, I believe this is only by the grace of God and through my relationship with Jesus Christ. Without these things I don’t know where I would have ended up.

So, are R rated movies ok for my preteen?

In Luke 6:45 Jesus said, “A good man brings good things out of the good stored in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” In other words, GARBAGE IN – GARBAGE OUT. To help us answer this question, let’s take a look at the ratings and what they mean.

G – All Audiences

“A G-rated motion picture contains nothing in theme, language, nudity, sex, violence or other matters that, in the view of the Rating Board, would offend parents whose younger children view the motion picture.” (emphasis added)

Well, I don’t know about you, but I can be fairly certain that my views of what is appropriate and not are probably quite different from those of the “Rating Board.” Just cause something isn’t offensive, “in the view of the Rating Board.” Doesn’t mean that I want my kids to watch it.

As a general rule I allow all of my kids to watch G rated movies without previewing them myself, but I would recommend caution even with these movies. As the moral standards of our world decline even these may not be safe.

“Some snippets of language may go beyond polite conversation but they are normal everyday language.”

“Normal everyday language” for who? I spent 16 years working in an emergency department. I can tell you that all sorts of language including regular use of the F-bomb are “normal everyday language” for many people. This included both patients and staff, men and women, and all ages. This assurance that the language in the movie is “normal everyday language” doesn’t give me much reassurance.

PG – Parental Guidance Suggested 

Some material may not be suitable for children

“A PG-rated movie should be investigated by parents before they let their younger children attend…The more mature themes in some PG-rated motion pictures may call for parental guidance. There may be some profanity and some depictions of violence or brief nudity”

In one step from G to PG we are looking at “more mature themes”. How much more mature can they get in just one step? Depending on the age of the child “some profanity” may be tolerable. With my 11 year old I use these as teaching opportunities. However, my 4 year old doesn’t need to hear it. She does not yet have the self control to hear this type of language and not say it.

I feel the same way about SOME violence. I feel that when it comes to FANTASY VIOLENCE my 11 year old is capable of differentiating that from reality. I don’t think that after watching two fictional robots beat each other up that my son is going to go out and beat anybody up. That being said, I will not allow him to watch movies that contain a more realistic violence such as Nightmare on Elm Street or Friday the 13th. Of course, even mild violence is not appropriate for my 4 year old.

PG-13 – Parents Strongly Cautioned 

Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. 

“A PG-13 motion picture may go beyond the PG rating in theme, violence, nudity, sensuality, language, adult activities or other elements.” 

Ok, I would have to agree that 13 year olds can probably handle more mature themes. They can  probably handle a little more violence or language. I still would not let my 13 year old see movies containing realistic violence. BUT, at the age of 13 NO KID needs to see any amount of nudity, sensuality, or adult activities. Hormone filled teenagers don’t need these things. For that matter adults should avoid movies with these things in them.

“Any drug use will initially require at least a PG-13 rating.”

Well, that makes me feel much better. At least drug use depicted in a movie could be used as a teaching moment for a preteen. 

“More that brief nudity will require at least a PG-13 rating, but such nudity in a PG-13 rated motion picture generally will not be sexually oriented.”

“Not sexually oriented.” REALLY?!?! For a teenage boy ALL NUDITY IS SEXUALLY ORIENTED. Sex and sexuality is everywhere we look.  It is hard enough for a teenager to avoid sexual content in their everyday life. Do them a favor and filter this from the movies they watch.

R – Restricted

Children under 17 require accompanying parent or adult guardian.

“An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements.”

Does this sound like something that you REALLY want to expose your preteen or even your teenager to? Go back and read Jesus words from Luke at the top of this post. Do these things sound like EVIL to you? Guess what, when our kids view such things they are “storing up evil in their hearts.” From this evil stored in their heart they WILL do evil things. When we allow them to view such things we put ourselves, as parents, in a negative balance. We then have to scramble to try to store enough good in their heart so that good comes from it.

So, are R-rated movies alright for my preteen?

NO! Being a kid these days is harder than it ever has been. Biblical values are becoming less and less common and are even being considered BAD by many in our society. Used to be that the values you taught in your home were at least supported in the other places your child would spend time. This is not the case anymore. As Christians much of what we believe is not only no longer popular, it is often considered a negative thing. Schools actually teach the opposite of what we believe, while working hard to keep the Bible out. For these reasons we need to help our kids. Remove as many negative influences as possible. I’m not saying that we lock our kids up and keep them separate from the world. After all we are instructed to be “salt” and light in this world. We can not do that if we don’t interact with this world. However, things like R-rated movies, and even some video games, simply add a layer to all this that is easily avoided and can be harmful to our kids.

I know that taking this stance may make you unpopular with your preteen and almost certainly will with your teenage. But, at the end of the day it is our job to parent them, not be there friend, but that is a whole other post.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with this topic.

Matt Norman

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Should My Preteen Have a Cell Phone?

When I first thought about writing this post my answer was a resounding NO!! However, considering my self an ineffectual person I decided to ask some other parents what they thought. So I posted on Facebook asking when other parents allowed their children to have cell phones. I got answers from 6 years old to college age. The reasons were nearly as varied as the ages. So I found myself still asking:

Should my preteen have a cell phone?

I must admit that I am still split on this one. Part of me points to the fact that we never had cell phones when we were kids. Heck, I was in my 20s and married before cell phones became main stream and I got my first one. However, we are living in a different world than when I was a kid. So, how would I answer this question now?

It depends.

You see I think that, ideally, a preteen does not need a cell phone. I feel that my 11 year old son should never be anywhere without a responsible adult who I know and trust and whose cell phone number I have. If this is true, then he doesn’t need a cell phone. At this point in our lives he rides to and from  school with my dad. The rest of the time he is, usually, with us. However, now that he has entered middle school I know that this will not alway be the case. Coming soon will be youth events and trips that take him out from under our protection. For this reason I am beginning to rethink my stance on this subject.

So, should my preteen have a cell phone?

The world is crazy and sometimes even dangerous. If your preteen walks to or from school, has to walk alone an extended length to catch the bus, or is sometimes left alone after school or other activities, then you might need to consider getting them a cell phone.

Good reasons to get your preteen a phone:

  • Safety: This is really the main one. If your preteen is in situations that might not be the safest, then give it some thought. However, I would first recommend that you try to adjust your life so that you can be there to keep your preteen safe instead of the cell phone.
  • Convenience: This is not a strong argument, but in some cases may be valid. One thing that I heard in my survey was that kids were involved in after school activities that had varying end times. Rather than sit there for an extended time waiting or risk their child being left alone they got them a cell phone to call when they were done.

BAD reasons to get your preteen a cell phone:

  • They want one: our kids will want all kinds of things that they don’t need or that might even be bad for them. We were the same way when we were kids. If there is not a LEGITIMATE reason that they NEED a cell phone, then don’t get them one.
  • Their friends have them: This goes back to the old saying, “If your friends were all jumping off a bridge would you?” There are lots of things that my kid’s friends do or have that I am not going to allow in my house. If this is the best argument my child can come up with then the discussion is over before it even started.

Be Smart! If you do decide to get your preteen a cell phone consider these things:

  • Safety: Cell phones can be used for good and for bad. Talk to your kids about this. Make sure they never respond to a text if they don’t know who it is. This could be someone trying to get personal information from them.
  • Sexting: We would all like to think that our kids would never take provocative pictures of themselves and send them to others. They certainly would take sexual or nude/partially nude picture of themselves. Talk to your kids about this. I would hope that modesty would be reason enough for them not to do this, but it may not be. Explain to them that what they might intend for just a certain “special person” to see could end up being seen by many more people. Never send anything you wouldn’t want your parents or the rest of the world to see.
  • Smart phones: I know that this one will probably make me unpopular, but NO PRETEEN OR TEEN NEEDS A SMART PHONE. There is no reason that anyone in this age group would need such ready access to the internet and all the potential problems that come with it. There is so much bad that can be done with a cell phone, why risk it. 
  • Responsibility: Remind your preteen that having a cell phone comes with a great deal of responsibility. They must take care of it.
  • Privilege: Having a cell phone at any age is privilege, but especially as a preteen or even a teen. Remind them that privileges can, and will, be taken away if need be. 
  • Check out: Consider using a check in/check out system for your preteen. If they are going somewhere where they might need the phone allow them to check it out. Then when they return they check it back in. This way they have it when they need it, but not all the time.
  • Parental controls/monitoring:  Cell phone providers have programs that allow you to monitor your child’s cell phone usage. Check these out and use the ones that fit your situation.

At the end of the day you have to decide when the right time is for your child to have a cell phone. I hope that these thoughts are helpful as you consider when the right time is.

Matt Norman

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Product Review: New Cubbies Materials from Awana

One complaint that I have often had about Awana is that much of there stuff is kinda dated. I understand that deep tradition that Awana has. I understand the long standing history of Sharing the Gospel with children and discipling them. But, this is 2013 and some of there stuff seems almost to be from the original days of the Awana ministry. So, when I got an email offering me a chance to review some cool NEW stuff from Awana I jump at the opportunity. What arrived at my house a short time later was a treasure chest full of tools designed to capture the attention and imagination of preschool children from age 3-5, also know as CUBBIES.

Much of what I received was updated styling to familiar things. Included was a new Cubbies T-shirt that my daughter looks so cute in (My daughter is 4 years old and is, therefore, a Cubby). Also included were some rather attractive t-shirts and Polo style shirts for Cubby leaders.

  • The Handbook:The most important part of any children’s ministry material is the teaching materials. Included in the updated Cubby materials is a new handbook for the kids. I LOVE THIS BOOK. The Bible makes it clear that parents are to be the primary spiritual leaders for their children. This is especially outlined in Deuteronomy chapter 6. This new book starts by explaining TO THE PARENTS their important role in the spiritual development of their children. However, it doesn’t stop there. It then goes on to explain how parents can use this new book to help guide their preschooler throughout the Awana year. Each week is a story for the parents to read with their child along with activities that help them to learn the truths within that story. Of course what would Awana be without Scripture memorization. Each weeks activities also includes a memory verse aimed specifically at preschoolers.
  • Teaching Aides: One of the keys to teaching Biblical truths to children is getting and keeping their attention. This is especially true with preschoolers. Awana has developed a number of tools to help with that. 
    • Puppets: Included in the kit I received were puppets to help deliver each weeks message. These fuzzy, fun and lovable characters can really help to get the kids attention and keep it long enough to deliver your point home. Don’t worry about a fancy puppet stage, being the best puppeteer or becoming a great ventriloquist. With this age group just the fact that you tried is enough.
    • Graphics: Also included are large, full color prints that go along with each weeks message. This can really help to tell the story and to get your preschoolers to pay attention. It also included a CD with high quality digital versions of these images for those that might be using Power Point or some other presentation software.
  • Fun Stuff: Also included was one of the those light up fans that spells out a message. At first wen I turned it on I thought I was just something fun that the kids would like. As I watched the different messages pop up I realized that it was telling the gospel. Well, not really telling it, but highlighting different verses that can be used to tell the gospel. What a cool tool this would be. Turn the fan on, point it towards the kids and start sharing the gospel with them. I think it would be a fairly rare kid that could turn away from the cool, red lights as the words change. 
  • Over All Impression: Overall I love these new materials. If this is a sign of things to come from Awana, then I am really excited about the future of Awana in our church. I can’t wait to see our Cubby leaders use this material to teach kids and share the gospel with them. These materials are high quality and useful. If you are wondering if you should order these new materials or not, I say order them. You will not be disappointed.
Matt Norman

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Margin = Ministry: Health

Margin is a term often used in reference to finances. The idea is that you have some money left over after you have met all your financial obligations. The amount of money you have left over is your margin. I share my thoughts on how margin can prepare you for ministry or allow you to do more ministry or do your ministry better. This is not only true of money. I also believe that you should have margin in your time and spiritual margin as well. You can read the full articles on each of these using the links below:

Margin = Ministry: Money
Margin = Ministry: Time
Margin = Ministry: Spirit

Today I want to look at another area where you need to ensure that you have margin. That area is your health. There are obvious, biblical reasons for this. The Bible talks about how our body is the temple for the Holy Spirit. As such we should care for it as well as possible. Beyond the Biblical/spiritual reason, I want to talk about some practical reasons.

You see, as I type this I am sitting in a hospital bed. I have a history of high blood pressure and a couple weeks ago ran out of my medicine. Since then I have been having some difficulty breathing that got worse yesterday. I am back on medicine now and I am fine. But, as I sit here I am missing the opportunities to minister to the kids at my church. I was scheduled to baptize a child this afternoon. I have been really looking forward to this and she was looking forward to me being the one.

Now, at the end of the day the other pastors at my church will pick up my slack. They will ensure that this sweet young girl gets to follow our Lord in believers baptism. What really matters is that she has received salvation through Jesus Christ and that she will be baptized. That’s what is important and it isn’t about me.

BUT, this is just one opportunity.

You see when we fail to properly care for our bodies we WILL miss opportunities to minister. We WILL be less effective in our ministry. We WILL hinder the potential of our ministry. Now, I am not saying that our ministry depends entirely on us. I know that at the end of the day I am just a tool that God uses. BUT, I am a tool that God USES. Paul wrote, “I plant and Apollos watered, but God provides the increase.” Ultimately God is the one who causes growth,but we are the ones to plant seeds and to water. Not taking care of our health can decrease our ability to plant seeds and water.

So, don’t neglect your health. With the many demands of ministry it can be easy to ignore our own needs. Take care of yourself so that you can can take care of others.

Matt Norman

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Are These Kids Even Listening?

If you are a parent, teacher or a leader in children’s ministry than I an certain that you have felt this way at some point in your life. Let me share this story from a couple years ago. I hope that it encourages you as much as it did me.


The night started like any other. The flurry of activity; getting my son from school, figuring out what to do for dinner and still managing to get to church in time to help set up for Wednesday night activities. While it started normal enough, it did not end that way.

The trip home seemed like any other. Kim and I were chatting about miscellaneous stuff while our son did his thing in the back seat and our 3 year old daughter was happily talking to herself, while we basically ignored her. Then it happened. For a brief instant my wife heard what my daughter was saying. She was reciting the pledge to the Bible.

You see Wednesday nights for us is Awana night and my daughter is a Puggle this year. Awana night starts with opening ceremonies that include the Pledge of Allegience for the American Flag, Awana Flag and then the pledge to the Bible.This is where my daughter had picked up the pledge to the Bible.

Now, I know that my daughter at 3 years old does not fully understand the pledge. She doesn’t know what it means to make the Bible “a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” She doesn’t know what it means to “hide it’s words in my heart so that I may not sin against God.” But, the point is she is already “hiding it’s words in her heart” and someday this will help her to not sin against God.

Sometimes we may not think that the things we do are making an impact. However, for me this is proof that the things we do are sinking in for the kids we minister to. She may not understand what these things mean, but they are “hidden in her heart” and when the time comes they will be there for the Holy Spirit to use when she needs them and for that I am thankful.

Whether you are a parent or a ministry leader or both be encouraged. In Galatians 6:9 Paul encourages us to, “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will read a harvest if we DO NOT GIVE UP.”

Matt Norman

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