A few weeks ago, I shared some of my experiences as a gay teen in high school. I followed up that post with a plea to see gay teens beyond their sexual orientation. Both posts have sparked some great discussions online and offline, and that’s what I was aiming for. We need to be talking about this issue.
I’m going to assume, however, that there is a question being asked internally that needs to be discussed externally. The question isn’t a wrong one, and people asking it aren’t being ignorant. Like all questions surrounding homosexuality and ministry to gay individuals, this question needs to be discussed, too. So, let’s chat for a bit.
The question is: Why should I care?
Fair question. I think there are many youth workers who read this blog asking this question about gay teens. And maybe these are some of their thoughts: “I don’t have gay teens in my church or youth group, so why should I bother with this issue? .. The chances of a gay teen coming to our youth group is slim to none. .. I’m so tired of hearing about homosexuality – move on!”
Again, fair points.
However, I would like to offer three reasons on why every youth worker (and for that matter, why every church), should concern themselves with the issue of ministering to gay teens and adults.
First, just because you may not know about them doesn’t mean there are no gay teens or adults within your church or ministry. From 1996 to 2007, nearly every church I was a part of and worked in did not know about my past or present issues with same-sex attractions. And the main reason why was because I didn’t feel safe enough to tell people. For me, it was easier to hide away my secret than to lose friendships with people I really cared about. Though today I am sure they would have continued being my friend, back then it was a fear that gripped my life.
Second, the early church included people with same-sex attractions, so why shouldn’t our churches of today include them, too? Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 are mostly used when attacking or debating gays and lesbians. However, I want us to see something. In this passage, Paul is talking to people who were Christians (see 1:2, 10), and who were still engaging in sins that they had “died to” when they came to Christ. Paul reminds these brothers and sisters that this is how they used to live, and because Christ now lives in them they should live differently.
Notice that Paul doesn’t tell the Corinthian church to shun those with same-sex attractions. He doesn’t single them out, or even tell them their attractions must change in order to be good Christians. In fact, Paul is more concerned about people following Jesus, and the transforming work of the Spirit in people’s lives. In this letter, Paul calls for the church to be united, as one body. He calls the church to suffer and rejoice together, because everyone in the church matters (12:26).
You may not have gay people in your church, but you probably have some in your community. Here’s a question I would ask: why aren’t gay people coming to your church?
The third reason you should care about ministry to gay teens and adults, what if you were in their place? What if you were the one looking for a safe place to wrestle with things? What if you were gay and didn’t know Christ; wouldn’t you want someone to reach out to you, extending God’s grace and hope of salvation?
We are not country clubs. We’re not only for the elite. God’s church is universal. God’s salvation is for all people. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, through whom God makes His appeal, entrusting to us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).
It is only by God’s great grace we stand in the position we do as Christians. And this grace is not beyond anyone to be a recipient of. God has chosen us (the church) to be a vessel in which His grace flows towards all people. This is why we should care.
Shawn / @611pulse
P.S. I would love to see you at my workshop, “Ministering to Gay Teenagers,” at this year’s Simply Youth Ministry Conference!