Ministry to the Same-Sex Attracted
Most likely, there are students in your ministry struggling with same-sex attraction right now. Most likely, those students have been silent for a long time, fearing judgment and shame. While same-sex attraction might not be as common of a struggle as pornography, more students struggle with it than we think.
Unfortunately, our “accepting” culture offers same-sex attracted students a refuge that oftentimes looks more inviting than what they have found in the Church. More often than not, we in the Church have lobbed easy fixisms and one-and-done Bible verses in the general direction of students. But, in the process, we have discouraged every student who has struggled with any sexual sin.
Oftentimes, however, instead of our Bible-verse grenades and “just stop it” attitude towards sin, we are simply silent on the issue. And as student ministers, our silence perpetuates our students’ silence, confusion, and desperation.
But I do think many of us want to do ministry differently! So how do we begin to have a ministry that can effectively minister to students struggling with same-sex attraction? Perhaps the first thing that needs to happen is for us to recognize that we are all more alike than we think. We are standing on common ground when ministering to students who struggle with same-sex attraction (check out our blog on this HERE). And here are some other things for us to keep in mind:
Talk about it. Whether our students hear it listed as a legitimate struggle in our messages, or we encourage our small group leaders to discuss it, let’s publicly talk about same-sex attraction and build it into our ministry vocabulary.
Let’s also bring it up in conversation with students. Maybe we can ask them if they’ve ever struggled with it. Maybe we could ask our groups what it would mean if a friend came out to them or confessed same-sex attraction. And then, let’s encourage students to come and talk to us! From the front of our meeting rooms, let’s make regular pleas to students to come to us if they wrestle with any sexual struggle. Let’s tell our students that we want to listen and pray with them, that we love them. And let’s tell them that Jesus loves them too.
Validate their suffering. Same-sex attracted students have heard so many times from the Church that homosexuality is “disgusting” and simply wrong. But rarely have we acknowledged the suffering of the same-sex attracted student. This means a couple of things. Firstly, Christian suffering is a part of the Christian life, and many students might have to struggle with same-sex attraction for the rest of their lives. Secondly, suffering means hardship. We must validate the real battle that comes with being tempted in this way. Students who experience same-sex attraction can contend with intense loneliness, confusion, fear, and even despair as they wrestle with something that seems as if it’s an essential part of who they are. We must acknowledge and enter into their pain and experience while simultaneously helping them to repent and follow Jesus.
Never say that same-sex attraction is a simple choice. Let’s stop making it seem like students can flip a sexual light switch and change everything. None of us chose the temptations and struggles that we would be stuck with for this journey. Reducing students’ sexuality to a simple choice brushes aside their stories and their complexity as people.
Cut out the gay jokes. Same-sex attracted students have heard these jokes so many times, and these jokes have forced them into hiding. Who wants to be open about a real temptation when it is treated flippantly or the term “gay” is used in a mocking manner? If we hear students crack “gay” jokes, we need to lovingly and firmly correct them and lead them into truth. Same-sex attracted students need to know that they have an advocate in us.
Put an end to gender stereotypes. Not all guys love football. Not all girls love dresses. Let’s show students what real men and women look like, constantly teaching against masculine and feminine stereotypes. Let’s teach our students what true men and women look like in the kingdom of God. Real men and women leave everything, denying even themselves, to follow after Jesus.
We must also be ready to affirm and help students use their God-given gifts for His glory instead of pushing our students into culturally-conditioned gender molds. When ministering to or hanging out with guys, we need to offer more than simply a pickup football game or a camping trip. For girls, we need to offer more than simply craft time or coffee talk. Our ministry to students must be varied and rich, recognizing and validating our students’ gifts and how each individual mirrors our God in unique ways.
Keep the main thing the main thing. Students need to hear that the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality but the holiness that flows from trusting and loving Jesus. Yes, God’s design and intention for mankind is heterosexuality, but heterosexuality doesn’t solve the problem of sin. Heterosexuality didn’t bleed out on a cross for God’s people. And because of our sin, even our heterosexuality is distorted and used to rebel against God. We are after one thing in ministering to our students: Christ-likeness.
Our students, regardless of their struggles, need to know that they can be and are now a functioning part of the body of Christ. The Church has something to offer them that our culture can’t: the life-giving Savior and His Body. Hopefully by moving towards each other, we can help to provide the thriving, honest, and life-giving community that Christ has provided for all of us in Himself.