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M2GT: Perspectives from a Gay Teen

Shawn Harrison —  February 7, 2014 — 15 Comments

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Earlier this week, Chuck Bomar offered 6 questions gay students are asking of youth workers. And I thought this was an excellent perspective to take on the issue of how to minister to gay teenagers.

Last year, I wrote a book specifically for youth workers that was really a first of it’s kind. In a few weeks an new edition of this book will be released, and it will offer even more practical advice for youth workers, family members, and even the church at large.

My heart is to see gay individuals become connected (and stay connected) to Christ and His body in authentic relational ways. This passion stems from my own story of being a gay teenager and young adult, and one who still wrestles with same-sex attractions even though I’m married and in ministry.

This year at SYMC, I am teaching a workshop on ministry to gay and lesbian teenagers. So for the next few weeks, I want to touch on specific ministry issues and questions that youth workers are either facing right now or will soon face one way or another.

YM from a Gay Teen’s View

If you are not familiar with my full story, you can read it here on my blog. I’ve always been attracted to other guys. I don’t know for certain how these feelings came about, and really I’m not concerned anymore. I tried dating girls but nothing felt right; I wasn’t attracted to them like I was to my own sex. I was deeply confused, and always felt alone. My parents didn’t talk with me about what was going on, and most times it was passed off as “a phase” I was going through. I had a small group of friends who stood with me – which I am grateful for, but by-and-large I was rejected by everyone else around me (at least that’s how I perceived things).

I went to school with a lot of Christians. Some of them were nice, but for the majority of them, we had a mutual agreement: they hated me and I hated them. These Christians would take every opportunity to inform me I was bound for hell, God was sick with me, and God’s love did not extend to me. Being agnostic, I was fine with this; however, looking back, their message was damaging in multiple ways. My self-worth continued to lower. My views of God were deeply warped. Their words didn’t help my already suicidal state (I still shudder when I think about this time as an unbeliever, what if I really did succeed?).

I was never invited to youth group by these individuals, much less a time to sit and talk about Jesus. It was always condemnation, or some other threatening remarks. And all I truly wanted was to be accepted and liked for who I was. This desire to be liked extended beyond my sexuality. Sure I wanted people to accept that gay was OK, but more than that, I wanted people to accept my gay friends and I for who we were. I wanted people to know that I was more than a sexuality label.

How I wish there was a place for me to go, to belong, so that I could talk about my questions concerning God and life. How I wish there was a place I could just get away, or at least escape the consuming pressures of the day for awhile. How I wish an adult would have reached out to me in support and spoke truth into my life.

This is why youth workers are so vital in a gay teenagers life. We have the hope of Christ living within us. We are vessels God wants to use to speak truth into a gay teens life, whether they know Jesus or not. We have the ability to create a safe place for gay teens to come, find true connection, and the chance to forget about the day. God has given us an amazing platform and calling to reach every student, that He created and died for, and whom He wants a personal relationship with.

Are we such vessels?

Do we offer such places of common ground in our ministry?

With you and for you,

Shawn

@611pulse

Shawn Harrison

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Shawn is a pastor, author, speaker, ministry consultant, and the founding director of Six:11 Ministries. Passionate about Jesus and people, Shawn lives with his wife and three kids in Ohio, where he helps pastor Greenville Alliance church.

15 responses to M2GT: Perspectives from a Gay Teen

  1. I gave your book “Ministering to Gay Teens” to my teen’s Youth Pastor early December and now here we are in February and I have not heard from him. I have had to politely ask him by text or calls if he has read it. I don’t know about you, but too many leaders in the church are not interested.

    I feel like we as parents of struggling teens or gay teens will need to step up.

    • I appreciate your efforts, Nathan. Some youth workers, and even more churches in general, are not ready to talk about this issue. Which is deeply unfortunate. It is a divisive topic. It’s an uncomfortable topic. It’s a risky topic. However, it’s a topic about real people … people who need a faith community to help them grow closer with Jesus. My conviction is: transformation happens within community.

      If the leaders of the church won’t step up in this area, step up yourself and gather others to be the church your community needs!

    • A couple of thoughts came to mind.

      First, the concept of how any church ministers to gay individuals is going to be a touchy subject. Youth Pastors (in my experience) usually report to their Sr. Pastor. If the Sr. Pastor (and your church at large) have differing opinions on how to minister to gay individuals, I can understand why the Youth Pastor might be slow to respond to the book which you gave him.

      Secondly, it is difficult to receive a book on any subject and instantly incorperate those teachings/concepts into an existing ministry. I remember a nice and sincere parent giving me a book about the dangers of Harry Potter leading kids to witchcraft. I didn’t necessarily disagree with her opinion but I didn’t share her extreme passions either. Youth Pastor’s can only lead in those areas they are passionate about or it comes across as fake/insincere.

      Like most things ministry related, I suspect that there will be both successes and failures in our attempt to show the love of Christ to gay teens.

      • You make some fair points, Bobby. Thanks for commenting. However, I do think (and maybe it’s biased) that this issue is too important not to talk about and engage. This is why youth pastors, and church leaders as a whole, need to be proactively discussing this topic.

        This is not just an issue of a gay teen simply moving on to the next youth group, but rather moving on from faith altogether.

  2. This article reminds me why I am thankful to be part of a Christian denomination (ELCA) that is steeped in history and tradition (1500′s) and forward / faithful to accept gay persons as they are! I guess it’s understandable there are branches of Christianity that cannot accept homosexuals/homosexuality, I’m just glad my faith practice is not one of them. Because of this – I don’t have to single out gay youth as different than the straight youth based on sexual identity. I can minister with all of them as precious children of God!

    • Thanks for commenting Josh.

      The point you made is the exact point I make in my book, actually. We don’t need specific ministries geared towards gay teens, and we don’t have to single them out either. They need to be treated just like every other teen that crosses the threshold of our youth rooms.

  3. Thanks for taking the time to write this. Looking forward to reading your book AND seeing next month at SYMC.

  4. To Shawn and Josh,

    The ELCA church that Josh is referring to says homosexual practice is NOT a sin. Shawn, I assume you disagree?

    I understand all your points on how to treat gay students, but just wanted clarification of your understanding of the Bible’s view of homosexuality, as you commended what Josh was saying perhaps without knowing that he is coming from a differing view point.

    • Regardless of how my denomination or Shawn’s faith tradition views homosexuality (sin or not) we do agree that the Love of Christ is for ALL people. If all youth are precious in God’s eyes, why treat the youth that understands themselves to homosexual differently than a youth who comes from a broken family? Both need to loved, and since God does that, so should we! Of course every individual has different specific needs, but we ALL need God’s grace and mercy.

      In regards to my specific denomination – the ELCA – we as a church have said it’s not a black and white issue. I know many Lutherans who hold that engaging in homosexual intercourse is sinful, and I know other Lutherans who feel that homosexual intercourse is not sinful IF it’s done in the confines of a lifelong committed relationship. Some Lutherans support gay marriage, while others maintain the marriage is strictly understood as between a man and a woman. The part about my denomination states you can have any of these beliefs and still be a Christian, and still be an ECLA Lutheran. Ultimately we choose to believe that all people are precious in God’s sight, and that God’s Love and forgiveness and redemption are big enough for ALL people. We as a church choose to focus on the issues of God’s love and Grace and that we all should reflect that.

    • Hi Sean,

      You are correct, I have a strong conviction that engaging in same-sex relationships are against God’s design – no matter if the relationship is monogamous or not.

      However, like Josh states, that should not deter the church from truly loving gay adults and teens, as Christ loves us.

  5. Thanks for the clarification, Shawn. And I fully agree in that we should show Christ’s love and treatment to all persons. Thanks for your posts on this subject. Has definitely helped!

    Hi Josh,
    I think the emphasis on extending love and compassion is right on. However, I would lovingly challenge you to consider this:

    Scripture says, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

    This says those who practice homosexuality and are unrepentant, will not inherit the kingdom of God. For me, that makes this issue VERY important. We are talking about heaven and hell. If the ELCA or any church for that matter, says that it is not a sin, and endorses it as an acceptable lifestyle, 1) that is un biblical 2) the church is leading them to false assurance of their salvation

    So if there is a young man or woman who is struggling with same sex attraction and/or practice, and I tell them that is OK to indulge in those thoughts and live that lifestyle, I would be leading them down the wrong path. And that would be on me. And so this issue is important and I don’t believe you can just say: “Ultimately we choose to believe that all people are precious in God’s sight, and that God’s Love and forgiveness and redemption are big enough for ALL people” and stop there. While this statement is true in and of itself, Jesus calls everyone to repentance, and a failure to do this is very unloving.

    The best way to help someone is to extend them all of God’s love, grace, and compassion AND TELL THEM THE TRUTH. God wants all of us to deny ourselves (fight our sinful natures), take up our cross, and follow Him.

    Respectfully,
    Sean

    • Sean,
      I respect your opinions and won’t waste my time or yours trying to “convince” you otherwise. Not my job nor my concern. Truly. I will continue to love first and judge second (only after I am blameless before the Lord and my plank is removed- which I haven’t obtained or removed yet). I will continue to follow two commands from Jesus Christ, Love my God, love my neighbor. [period].

      I don’t believe leading any person to a relationship with Jesus Christ is ever the wrong path, and that’s the only path I am truly concerned about. My first step in my path is to share the good news of Jesus Christ. In all my studies of Christ and his interactions with others, I see the same formula. Love, forgive, redeem first (without being asked), then guide and instruct and rebuke if needed. If a faithful homosexual Christian feels that they are not engaged in sin then that becomes between them and God. Not me, them, and God.

      I live my faith as I feel called to live it. I don’t agree with your view, but that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme. I think it’s generally a waste of time to debate theological minutia with Christians. Sex and sexuality are not central to my identity nor my faith. Jesus Christ is. My salvation is secure as is my faith.

      Finally homosexuality does not exist in scripture – all that does exist is same-gendered intercourse. Check out the King James version of the bible and find the word “homosexual” or “homosexuality”. You will notice all my statements (until this paragraph) are about what I believe and will do, not about what you or others should believe or do – how you live your faith is your job and your call, not mine.

      God bless you and God bless me.

      • What I also meant to say was I choose to point all people to Christ, not to my understanding or representation of him but Jesus himself. Therefore, I don’t have to be concerned that my walk of faith is flawed and so far from perfect – the burden of perfect is off me and on Christ where it belongs.

        If any person, (and therefore a sinner – as we all are) develops their own relationship with Christ, and deepens their relationship with him in scripture they will learn and understand they are sinners and redemption and life can only come through Jesus Christ. A recognition of the fact that we/they are sinners (repentance) is of course required because otherwise there is no need for Christ. (The healthy have no need of a doctor). So I am not an intercessory between others and Christ, I try to be an example of HIS life and love so others can come to know HIM, not me. I am inconsequential and merely a dim mirror pointing to the true source of light. How people receive and understand the light is between them and God. Any other thinking on my part would lead me to elevate myself above others, a sinful path for sure. Here I stand. I can do no other. Again, peace and blessings.

  6. Final thought – I promise. I do love scripture and I’m glad you mentioned it, and thought it might be good for us all to delve deeper. I think it’s dangerous to take 3 verses and say “point” proven. Scripture is so much more than that (and for me it’s not a source of proving a point but of developing better relationships and understanding). Now for me – let’s expand a bit. Sean, you referenced:

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ( I believe you’re using English Standard Version – a good translation.)

    9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous[a] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[b] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
    Footnotes:
    [a] 1 Corinthians 6:9 Or wrongdoers
    [b]The two Greek terms translated by this phrase refer to the passive and active partners in

    So wrongdoers/unrighteous people will not inherit the kingdom of God. I so agree. Now let’s add more to this scripture. Matthew 5 (the words of Christ):

    21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother[c] will be liable to judgment; whoever insults[d] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell[e] of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.[f]

    27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

    Now what does this passage tell us?It tells me, by Christ’s own standards NO ONE, except he, is righteous, and none of us will inherit the kingdom of God. (if we have cursed our brother we are liable to the fires of Hell). Besides only rightful heirs can inherit anything – and we gave up our right as heirs in the Garden of Eden. We are ALL unrighteous and will always be so. What (who) therefore can make us righteous or clean or worthy? What (who) can restore our status as Children of God ie rightful heirs? Let’s go back to Paul in Corinthians because it contains the answer:

    But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    This passage says that we made righteous, justified, sanctified ONLY by the name of Jesus Christ and the work of the Spirit, not our works, or repentance, or decisions, or actions.

    Thank you again for incorporating scripture. I do love a good scripture conversation. Now I am finished. Thanks again for making good points, looking to scripture, and for your faith!

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