Silver Ring Thing began in Yuma, Ariz., after Denny Pattyn and his wife, Amy, heard that county had the highest teen pregnancy rate of all counties in the country.
Since they lived on the border of Mexico, they purchased silver rings and asked the children to wear them. They created a seven-week program, with 25 students who chose to do so.
“That was all we planned to do,” Pattyn said. “Then somebody asked if we could do it again. We did it all in one night instead of seven weeks. That was a 2 1/2 hour program. It’s basically what we still do to this day.”
Silver Ring Thing now is based near Pittsburgh and visits 82 U.S. cities a year, including Williamsport from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Williamsport Area High School, 2990 W. Fourth St. Registration begins at 5:15 p.m. The parents’ session begins at 6 p.m.
This is the second time Silver Ring Thing will be in Williamsport. In Jan. 2009, the program came to Picklener Arena. Those involved were hoping for 900 attendees, yet 2,200 arrived, said Laurie Staib, youth pastor at Watsontown Alliance Church.
“We’re basically bringing it back four years later to reach another generation of teens,” Staib said. “We waited on purpose. Because we had such a tremendous response, we knew that the need was there.”
“The reason I would give (regarding why teenagers respond so well to the program) is young people have been so inundated with this sexual push down on them that when they see their own families breaking up and in their hearts and souls, they know it doesn’t make sense, it’s not right, but they don’t have an alternative,” Pattyn said. “Silver Ring Thing comes to Williamsport and presents opportunities to live a different way, move in a different direction.”
While some people are looking for an alternative and some will respond, he knows abstinence is not for everyone.
“It’s for people who want to discipline their lives for a better future,” Pattyn said.
Even though 85 percent of the world population – whether Islamic, Christian or Jewish – teaches how abstinence is the expected behavior, many people fall into other influences.
“Now when there’s an alternative … that has a message that resonates with God’s message, they respond and they have the power of God living in them, they keep that commitment ’til they’re married,” Pattyn said. “Without faith working in them, they don’t have the power or capacity. The faith-based part of the program is very important.”
After the program moved to Pittsburgh, Pattyn began receiving calls from different cities, asking if the program could be brought there. They loaded everything in a truck and went with high school students. Yet as more cities called, the schedule became too demanding, so now a dozen 20-somethings give up a year of their lives to travel with the program.
” ‘This is my story,’ ” Pattyn said. “‘I’m waiting.’ Or ‘This is my story. I messed up, but now I’m waiting. If I can do it, you can do it.’ That’s the basic message.”
That message is sent to teenagers in middle school and high school through a high energy, humorous yet inspirational program with skits, live talks and video messages.
But the program extends to more than just teenagers.
“We have single parents who put on the ring,” Pattyn said. “We have college students who put on the ring.”
A special program also is put on for the parents, since they are the No. 1 influence on students’ sexual decision making, he said.
“We ask parents to put on the ring to be reminded to pray for their child’s abstinence decision. The students put on the ring to wait. The vision is on your wedding day, you take your ring off and say ‘Here you go. I’ve been waiting for you.’ and you give them the ring.”
Yet the encouragement extends past the concert called ‘Until marriage follow up.’ Teenagers are asked to pull out their cellphones during the program to receive a follow-up text message the next day.
Help also can be found on the website (www.silverringthing.com), including a library with information about things they might be struggling with, such as pornography or their relationship with parents.
“We give them a resource when they go to the program that helps them through temptation and dealing with ‘How far can I actually go in a relationship?’ ‘What happens if I mess up?’ ‘How do I give God complete control?’ The follow-up is multi-faceted.”