Posted on 13 October 2016 by Rachel
Listening and Responding to LGBTQ+ Young People
Years ago my husband and I met a teenager called Tom (not his real name). He was one of those young people who seems to arrive out of nowhere and jumps, head first, into this crazy, incredible, life-changing gospel! So we met up with him loads to chat through faith. For a few years he was part of our home group, involved in loads of stuff at church and became one of our awesome peer leaders.
Then one night Tom told us he was gay, and he wasn't sure if he could be gay and God’s. So he made the only choice he felt he could.
I remember the last time he came to church with us. He sat next to me, with his head on my shoulder, and wept all through the service. I was crying too.
Not all christian young people are the same. Not all gay christian young people are the same. Not all christian young people struggling with their same sex attraction are the same.
But at that time we were just starting out as youth leaders and hadn’t really talked about this area of pastoral care with anyone in real depth. We genuinely didn’t know what to do. Above all we wanted to be faithful. To Tom. To Jesus. To our church. But to be honest, we didn’t have a great sense of what that could be.
Over the past 10 years I’ve spent lots of time, up close and personal, with christian youth leaders. I know they often feel high levels of anxiety around how they ‘should’ respond when a young person in their youth group asks a question about homosexuality or ‘comes out’ as gay. Conversations in our youth groups around sexuality often seem fraught with anxiety and confusion. No other topic spikes as much interest and as much dread. As we try to navigate such an emotive and important topic, we can feel under immense pressure to ‘get it right’, and to have all the answers when we’re not even sure we know them ourselves.
So last saturday we opened up a new way to have important conversations about sexuality, discipleship and mission. And we were thrilled that over 50 christian youth leaders from across the UK church and christian youth organisations joined us.
We made listening the focus of our day, and everything was structured around that.
We listened to LGB young people as they opened up about their journey of struggling to find God in the midst of their pain, and the hope they felt when they began to discover the life-changing power of his grace and love. Some of them talked about the power of commitment to celibacy Some of them talked about to power of commitment in relationship.
We listened to each other, choosing to receive every question or comment as coming from a deep place of friendship and grace. We promised not to be easily offended, or jump to answering the question for someone else. We agreed to being OK with conversations feeling uncomfortable.
We listened to the wisdom offered by Church leaders and youth pastors operating within a Christian Pastoral Ethic framework. We were inspired to challenge homophobia in our churches, and encouraged to honour the theological framework of our church or organisation.
We listened to voices that affirmed our theological position and those that challenged it. No one made their case. No one engaged in ministry robotics (do this and it’ll all be OK).
Mostly we listened to God, alone and together, because we acknowledged that what unites us isn't our doctrine of human sexuality, but our need for Jesus to find, rescue and restore us.
No programme or event can cover everything that ever needs to be talked about or wrestled with on any given topic - let alone human sexuality. But I believe that on saturday we did something good. Something that we can build on as we walk with the precious young people God asks us to care for.
Jesus’ friend, John tells us that perfect love drives out fear (1 John 4:18). We know that is true. But look how often fear rules in the church over this topic, instead of love. I hate the fear that keeps us suspicious of each other’s motives, afraid of listening to a believer who thinks differently to us, cowed into not saying what we really think for fear that people would think us judgemental, fear that leaves a LGB person convinced that God’s love and grace isn’t for them.
We are a brilliant and complex church with lots of difficult conversations that need to happen. But saturday showed me that we can listen, really listen, and we can respond out of the place of confidence that comes from knowing we are truly loved by God.
We’re going to be running this day again. Why not join us?
We have just announced our next 'Listening & Resdonding to Young People to Sexuality' event which will take place on Saturday 30th September. Book online here: