I was just at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference and sat through a workshop by Shawn Harrison, the author of Ministering To Gay Teenagers. I would definitely grab his book, it’s a great resource. The workshop was great also, but revealed that the silence of the church on this topic has placed us at a disadvantage in many ways. I would also say that because of our silence we have generations that have no idea how to handle it. Students know more about what the world says concerning homosexuality than what the bible says. This must change. For that to happen, we have to see and do things much differently than in the past.
Here are a few practical things we can begin to do:
- Be on the same page as the church you’re working for. – As a youth pastors we need to know where our church stands on the issue and create a plan as a church in how we all will deal with members, leaders and students who are struggling. We want to make sure that however we as youth pastors are handling it, the church can back us up 100%.
- Talk about it. - Everyday the world is finding ways to normalize sin. Our students need to hear where we stand and our hearts on the issue. If we never expose it, our students will never seek help.
- Be prepared for the conversations. – We should be prepared for the conversations we will have with our students. Whether you read through Shawn’s book together with your leaders or bring in the head pastor or elders, there should be some training so everyone is on the same page.
When speaking to students I know the easy answer is to call it sin and tell students not to engage in it, but we have to be careful when making statements like that. Because if that’s your main focus, then you are preaching that behavior modification equals salvation. In actuality, harping on behavior modification only leads to a secret life of the sin they are fighting against. So we must be careful that we don’t treat any sin as a mere change in action…because sin goes deeper than that.
So here are a few things to think about when speaking to students:
- God’s view - A lot of times students are struggling with the temptation, but also God’s rejection that they believe comes with the temptation and lifestyle. It’s important they understand the difference between God’s love and view of us and his approval or disapproval of our actions.
- Temptation - Being tempted to sin is not sin. It’s what’s done with the temptation that can result in sin. You may have students who are being tempted by this lifestyle and are tortured by the guilt of just being tempted. The world is calling it denying your true self. Well, they need to hear and know from us what the Bible says about it.
- Life is complicated – We all have different stories that are layered with not just our own experiences, but generational experiences that affect us just as much. That’s why we need more people caring for the lives of students, and not just harping on their behavior. If you care about their life, you will affect their behavior. We need to minister holistically and not departmentally-especially in this area.
- Their struggle is not their identity - Just because you struggle with sin, doesn’t mean you have to be defined by it. When we reinforce the labels of gay, lesbian, etc…we continue to identify people by their struggle. If you’ve given your life to Christ, your identity is first and foremost in Christ. Now, you still may struggle, but understanding your identity gives you power over your struggle. It’s the beginning of the road to deliverance.
I really hope that you didn’t hear in my post that this should be easy, because it’s not. What I do hope you’ve heard in my post is that our students need to hear from us. We can’t stand on the side lines any longer. I also think we all have something to add to the conversation. So what’s missing from this post?
Hope it helps,