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7 Steps to Confronting Homosexuality

Mihinthalaya StepsI 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,

ac

17 thoughts on “7 Steps to Confronting Homosexuality

  1. Avatar

    Great thoughts, AC. Thanks for the plug, and for continuing the conversation!

  2. Avatar

    Great thoughts, AC. Thanks for the plug, and for continuing the conversation!

  3. Avatar
    Christianprincess

    I think you did a great job of explaining how to teach on homosexuality within the church context to our students. This is a topic that comes up at least a few times a year in discussion, and as I’ve stated in previous post, I have some students and families who either struggle or identify as lesbian, bisexual or gay.

    One of the things missing from the conversation is how to help and minister to those who have experience negative circumstances and experiences because they identify as LGBT or struggle with gender identity or same-sex attractions. I had a student call me this past week on behalf of a friend of his who was kicked out of her home because she identifies as lesbian. (It wasn’t a Christian home) This young lady was crushed and truly in need of services and love in a great way. I was able to get her shelter and services through a local organization that works with LGBT youth. (I know this will be controversial in our profession, but they also know how to help find counseling and services that will not further stigmatize these young people in desperate times) After we checked her in, I prayed with her and have every intention of keeping in contact with her, hopefully plugging her into a ministry as a result.

    My question becomes how do we deal with the crises that come into the lives of students/families who either identify as LGBT or who struggle with same-sex attractions/gender identity. As difficult as teaching on homosexuality can be, I am not sure if it compares to seeing the results of what some people do based on that teaching. Should we create crises services for these students and families? Should we connect with agencies that already service these individuals (which in many cases will mean that their philosophy is much different from the church’s in terms of sin and identity)? Should we work with LGBT organizations specifically? Should we train Christian organizations on how to service those identify as LGBT or struggle with same-sex attractions/gender identity?

    I apologize if this seems like rambling or takes us slightly off the original topic.

    Thank you for loving students and families!

    • Avatar

      Thanks Christianprincess,

      There is definitely a difference between students who are choosing to live that lifestyle, and students who are struggling with same sex attraction. And I think our approach should really be on a case by case bases.

      I think if there was a christian alternative, there would be no hesitation in reaching out to them for her. And seeing if that would be something she would be interested in. If she has made her mind up about how she wants to live her life, you have to respect that. So I would be praying for the opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with her. Love her like Christ and keep the line of communication open. This is where I believe we as youth pastors need to persevere. When we have to rely 100% on God to open the hearts and minds of students. We have to trust that He is watering the seeds we are planting. We have to know that even if the turn around doesn’t happen on our watch God is at work.

      I think in terms of talking with different organizations and churches about programs is a great idea. This is an area we probably need to beef up on. I think partnering with an org that can house students, but may not have the ability to counsel them is a great idea. I would also reach out to the parents and hear there side of the story, and try and bring some healing their. Maybe offering to walk with them through this difficult time. Maybe keep her home and meeting with you. I wouldn’t rule anything out, but I would also want to be led by the holy spirit in who I partner with.

      hope this helps and answers your questions.

  4. Avatar
    Christianprincess

    I think you did a great job of explaining how to teach on homosexuality within the church context to our students. This is a topic that comes up at least a few times a year in discussion, and as I’ve stated in previous post, I have some students and families who either struggle or identify as lesbian, bisexual or gay.

    One of the things missing from the conversation is how to help and minister to those who have experience negative circumstances and experiences because they identify as LGBT or struggle with gender identity or same-sex attractions. I had a student call me this past week on behalf of a friend of his who was kicked out of her home because she identifies as lesbian. (It wasn’t a Christian home) This young lady was crushed and truly in need of services and love in a great way. I was able to get her shelter and services through a local organization that works with LGBT youth. (I know this will be controversial in our profession, but they also know how to help find counseling and services that will not further stigmatize these young people in desperate times) After we checked her in, I prayed with her and have every intention of keeping in contact with her, hopefully plugging her into a ministry as a result.

    My question becomes how do we deal with the crises that come into the lives of students/families who either identify as LGBT or who struggle with same-sex attractions/gender identity. As difficult as teaching on homosexuality can be, I am not sure if it compares to seeing the results of what some people do based on that teaching. Should we create crises services for these students and families? Should we connect with agencies that already service these individuals (which in many cases will mean that their philosophy is much different from the church’s in terms of sin and identity)? Should we work with LGBT organizations specifically? Should we train Christian organizations on how to service those identify as LGBT or struggle with same-sex attractions/gender identity?

    I apologize if this seems like rambling or takes us slightly off the original topic.

    Thank you for loving students and families!

    • Avatar

      Thanks Christianprincess,

      There is definitely a difference between students who are choosing to live that lifestyle, and students who are struggling with same sex attraction. And I think our approach should really be on a case by case bases.

      I think if there was a christian alternative, there would be no hesitation in reaching out to them for her. And seeing if that would be something she would be interested in. If she has made her mind up about how she wants to live her life, you have to respect that. So I would be praying for the opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with her. Love her like Christ and keep the line of communication open. This is where I believe we as youth pastors need to persevere. When we have to rely 100% on God to open the hearts and minds of students. We have to trust that He is watering the seeds we are planting. We have to know that even if the turn around doesn’t happen on our watch God is at work.

      I think in terms of talking with different organizations and churches about programs is a great idea. This is an area we probably need to beef up on. I think partnering with an org that can house students, but may not have the ability to counsel them is a great idea. I would also reach out to the parents and hear there side of the story, and try and bring some healing their. Maybe offering to walk with them through this difficult time. Maybe keep her home and meeting with you. I wouldn’t rule anything out, but I would also want to be led by the holy spirit in who I partner with.

      hope this helps and answers your questions.

  5. Avatar

    Thank you everyone for the posts. I am in the midst of this very struggle and it seems that resources are very very limited. I also agree from experience that it is a” one situation at time” when we minister to our students struggling with this topic. I THANK GOD for SHAWN and his sincere honesty and the book he has written “MINSTERING TO GAY TEENAGERS” It is a must read for all Uth people. I have recently handed the book and Shawn’s website address http://www.Six11.wordpress.com to our Pastor. I look forward to seeing other posts and resource information. Thanks and keep on loving those students!

  6. Avatar

    Thank you everyone for the posts. I am in the midst of this very struggle and it seems that resources are very very limited. I also agree from experience that it is a” one situation at time” when we minister to our students struggling with this topic. I THANK GOD for SHAWN and his sincere honesty and the book he has written “MINSTERING TO GAY TEENAGERS” It is a must read for all Uth people. I have recently handed the book and Shawn’s website address http://www.Six11.wordpress.com to our Pastor. I look forward to seeing other posts and resource information. Thanks and keep on loving those students!

  7. Avatar

    You’re welcome Renee,
    I hope this post at least gave you some principles and steps that you can shape in the context of your ministry. Ministry in this area is very case by case. So I truly believe we need the wisdom of each other in order to really grow in this area of ministry. So thanks for the comment!!!!

  8. Avatar

    You’re welcome Renee,
    I hope this post at least gave you some principles and steps that you can shape in the context of your ministry. Ministry in this area is very case by case. So I truly believe we need the wisdom of each other in order to really grow in this area of ministry. So thanks for the comment!!!!

  9. Avatar

    An excellent book by one of the best Christian voices on sexuality just came out and specifically addresses youth ministry. See Mark Yarhouse’s book “Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry.”

    I do find it a bit strange that this article says the church is silent on the issue. Actually the church has been loud and clear to the point that studies show many young people have a negative view of Christianity because they perceive it as anti-gay. Most young Christians who have same-sex attraction struggle with a lot of self-loathing precisely because they know (or think they know) what the church thinks about them.

    The problem is not silence. The problem is that the church is not talking about the issue in a helpful way. The church thinks that by handing down a moral code that is all it needs to do. But the issues are much more complex than that. The fact is there are now more compelling gay affirming books written by Christian theologians than there are for the non-affirming side. The affirming side is much more educated on the biblical arguments, the science of it all etc. I know one gal who became affirming because after talking to her pastor all he could say was “Its wrong.” She was desperate for answers so went to another progressive pastor down the street who could engage more in-depth discussion on the issues. I also know another young person who, without telling her parents or anyone, struggled within herself and determined she would have to reject Christianity because she could not change her feelings, and if she couldn’t be both gay and Christian and she couldn’t change the gay part, it meant she had to drop her faith.

    While Jr. High/High Schoolers are too young to be putting themselves in boxes in terms of sexual orientation, it is sobering to realize that many people do not experience change in sexual orientation. Thus, to live faithfully will mean life-long celibacy. That is too much for a teenager to face. But its something that church leaders need to have in the back of their minds. Currently there is very little support in the church those facing life-long celibacy.

    Also, I find this post by a mother of a gay son who was raised evangelical to be sobering regarding some of the issues. I am noticing more Christian parents becoming affirming because they see this struggle and pain upfront. See here: http://justbecausehebreathes.com/ Having read this article, what would we do differently? I would suggest one of the problems was a focus on trying to change sexual orientation and the failure for that to happen led to despair. They focused, perhaps, too much on the issue. But its a difficult situation to know how to respond to especially when they seemed to try to do everything right.

  10. Avatar

    An excellent book by one of the best Christian voices on sexuality just came out and specifically addresses youth ministry. See Mark Yarhouse’s book “Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry.”

    I do find it a bit strange that this article says the church is silent on the issue. Actually the church has been loud and clear to the point that studies show many young people have a negative view of Christianity because they perceive it as anti-gay. Most young Christians who have same-sex attraction struggle with a lot of self-loathing precisely because they know (or think they know) what the church thinks about them.

    The problem is not silence. The problem is that the church is not talking about the issue in a helpful way. The church thinks that by handing down a moral code that is all it needs to do. But the issues are much more complex than that. The fact is there are now more compelling gay affirming books written by Christian theologians than there are for the non-affirming side. The affirming side is much more educated on the biblical arguments, the science of it all etc. I know one gal who became affirming because after talking to her pastor all he could say was “Its wrong.” She was desperate for answers so went to another progressive pastor down the street who could engage more in-depth discussion on the issues. I also know another young person who, without telling her parents or anyone, struggled within herself and determined she would have to reject Christianity because she could not change her feelings, and if she couldn’t be both gay and Christian and she couldn’t change the gay part, it meant she had to drop her faith.

    While Jr. High/High Schoolers are too young to be putting themselves in boxes in terms of sexual orientation, it is sobering to realize that many people do not experience change in sexual orientation. Thus, to live faithfully will mean life-long celibacy. That is too much for a teenager to face. But its something that church leaders need to have in the back of their minds. Currently there is very little support in the church those facing life-long celibacy.

    Also, I find this post by a mother of a gay son who was raised evangelical to be sobering regarding some of the issues. I am noticing more Christian parents becoming affirming because they see this struggle and pain upfront. See here: http://justbecausehebreathes.com/ Having read this article, what would we do differently? I would suggest one of the problems was a focus on trying to change sexual orientation and the failure for that to happen led to despair. They focused, perhaps, too much on the issue. But its a difficult situation to know how to respond to especially when they seemed to try to do everything right.

  11. Avatar

    Thanks for the comment Karen. You make a great point about the church not being silence. What I was trying to say is that there hasn’t been any dialogue going on in the church concerning, how do we care for those struggling with same sex attraction. I make a lot of the points you make within the post. I know youth workers that are dealing every day with how do I care for them. So my objective with this post was to give them something to go off of. As they shaped their own.

    Thanks for your contribution.

  12. Avatar

    Thanks for the comment Karen. You make a great point about the church not being silence. What I was trying to say is that there hasn’t been any dialogue going on in the church concerning, how do we care for those struggling with same sex attraction. I make a lot of the points you make within the post. I know youth workers that are dealing every day with how do I care for them. So my objective with this post was to give them something to go off of. As they shaped their own.

    Thanks for your contribution.

  13. Avatar

    I came across this while researching creative ways to talk about LGBTQIA+ issues with my youth group. Not trying to troll, but wanted to share:

    I’ve grown up evangelical and have been on staff and/or pastored within Southern Baptist and nondenominational churches. And in my time on staff at those places, I’ve witnessed, perpetuated, and experienced the damage that your approach can do.

    No matter how gently you try to come at this — no matter how nice your words sound or how much you smile at your gay student — you are teaching them that a) they are uniquely more broken than the straight kids in your youth group; b) their God-given attraction is shameful and not a part of who they are; c) if they continue to experience a yearning for romance/sex with someone of their own gender, that’s just their cross to bear.

    I understand the seven verses you’re using as a foundation for your theological position on this. I would ask you to carefully reconsider those verses in light of both books like God & The Gay Christian and Those Seven References, and also the lived experiences of LGBTQ Christians.

    My own experience in this has been pretty traumatizing — I fought who I was for years in order to keep my job and place in my churches; at the same time, I was experiencing severe depression, anxiety, dissociation, and suicidal ideation. I tried your way because I though that’s what I needed to do to be close to God — and thank God I learned how wrong it was. I came out and lost my job, my church community, and relationships with people I miss dearly to this day. But I didn’t lose God, and I am thriving for the first time in my life because I found a church that accepts people for who they are while calling them to the way of radical justice and love.

    I’m not looking for debate and do not plan on responding to any replies. Please just take a step back and seek out stories of LGBTQ people who have left the church because of what this approach — no matter how thoughtful you try to make it — has done to them. Please don’t uphold your theology at the expense of people’s well-being.

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7 Steps to Confronting Homosexuality

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