“Where do I buy the ring?” Dylan, a 9th grader from a local high school, is one of the first students to pour out of the auditorium on a Sunday night in Wexford, Pa.
He shows me the silver chain around his neck and excitedly tells me, “I’m going to wear it here, close to my heart.”
Like over 635,000 students worldwide, Dylan has just experienced the Silver Ring Thing. Six hundred and twenty students were in attendance that night and about 40 percent made a commitment to wait for marriage to have sex.
Like Dylan, they will wear a specially made ring to signify that promise.
Now celebrating 20 years in ministry, Silver Ring Thing (SRT) has built a growing partnership with pregnancy help organizations across the U.S. to reach teens with the gospel of Christ and help them live out their Christian life God’s way.
Tweet This: @SilverRingThing has served 635K students in 20 years of #prolife ministry.
SRT founder Denny Pattyn envisioned an abstinence movement that would be incredibly engaging, large scale, and full of energy. But, behind the massive productions and ongoing programming is a humble team of leaders, serving under the direction of Jason Burtt, SRT’s Senior Vice President.
Married and the father of four little ones, Jason carved out some time to sit down with me last week for some coffee and a Q&A.
Amy: Tell me about your first connection with SRT.
Jason: I got involved with SRT back in 2003. I was helping out with the youth ministry at Christ Church at Grove Farm where SRT rented office space. That summer, I was invited to a camp up in Minnesota where the SRT team was performing two live events while also serving as camp counselors.
After witnessing these events and personally interacting with students to see the impact in their lives, I realized that SRT was a powerful tool to effectively reach this generation with the Gospel and truth of sexual integrity.
Amy: Staying with an outreach for almost 12 years takes passion. Where does that day-to-day inspiration come from?
Jason: I am passionate about this message because of my own past and the strain my own decisions have made on my marriage. My wife was a virgin when we got married.
I carried forward the sins and consequences from two prior relationships, which created mistrust, jealousy, hurt and regret in what could and should have been whole and pure.
So, I fight daily so that others can experience the joy of marriage as God intended.
Amy: Over the last 20 years, how has your audience changed? And how SRT has responded to those changes?
Jason: Over 60 percent of our student audience will return for a second visit. This is good news, but it also means that we must stay ahead of their needs. Teens are seeking role models and clarity in a world where truth is viewed as relative.
They want authentic stories from real people. We strive to communicate a message of perseverance, not perfection. We are reaching into the brokenness and confusion of this culture to offer hope and forgiveness.
Our desire is that every student in every audience will be able to relate to at least one of our team members on the stage. We utilize the real-life stories of our team like Spencer and Mackenzie Te’o who met and were married while working with SRT.
Amy: What about parents?
Jason: Twenty percent of our audience is parents. Our parent program grows larger and more effective each year. Parents are desperate for information and resources.
The questions are new: ‘What about homosexuality?’ ‘Same sex marriage?’ We continue to encourage parents that they are the key to their student’s success. Parents are still the leading influencers in their child’s life.
We’ve added more research and resources, and we stay current so that they can be better equipped. Many of these parents become SRT partners. They stay in touch and build into our program.
Amy: Tell me about SRT’s relationship to pregnancy help organizations.
Jason: Pregnancy help organizations are vital partners. Over the last 7-8 years, 25 percent of our events have been hosted by local pregnancy help organizations, and 50 percent have been supported in some way by PHOs.
We share a similar mission, to protect the life of the unborn and to preserve a quality of life that is lost through poor choices. Like PHOs, we link with local church and ministry networks.
Great things emerge from these local collaborative efforts. PHOs help to spread the word about our events because they have relationships with a broader community.
Tweet This: "Together, we can realize a shift in culture where abstinence becomes the norm again." @SilverRingThing
Our reliance on local pregnancy help organizations will grow as we look to build day-long conferences, more follow-up programming, and a “presence” long after we head out on the bus.
Together, we can realize a shift in the culture where abstinence becomes the norm again, rather than the exception.
To find out more on Silver Ring Thing, click here.