When My Students Come Out to Me
Lately, I have had more and more students want to meet and talk about same-sex attraction. We have moved from “my friend” is struggling with this, to “I” struggle with this. I am broken for my students who live in a world that has so many confusing messages surrounding this subject.
Cards on the table…
I believe that God established marriage for a husband/male and wife/female and to act on homosexual desires is sinful. I’m not saying this to start an argument but just to be honest about where I’m coming from.
As ministers, our job is to diligently study, understand, and interpret Scripture for those we serve. In my own commitment to study, I’ve maintained a traditional view of scripture and definition of marriage, and it shapes how I lead students and families in my ministry.
At times, it can be hard to voice my beliefs with so many in my life who do wrestle with same-sex attraction – family & friends alike. However, I’m called to lead those I minister to in a way that honors what I’ve found to be true through my study of Scripture.
Here’s the deal…
Whether you agree with me about my understanding of Scripture or not, the thing we can agree on is that our response to our gay students matter. It matters a WHOLE lot. As I’ve been navigating relationships with my students who have come out to me, here is what I’ve learned:
1) Don’t freak out!
When a gay kid comes out to you, they are scared about how you’ll respond. Make sure every facial expression, every movement of your body, and every word you say communicates that you love them like crazy, that you are there to listen to them, that you want the best for them, that you won’t leave them, and that God feels the exact same.
2) Some parents do FREAK OUT!!
I literally heard a mom recently say, “oh no, my kid is gay and they are going to go to Hell.” Part of supporting teens that are walking through this is also helping parents. Parents need help navigating just as much as their teens do. Prepare yourself for those conversations and find some resources that your church leadership approves that you can have on hand ready to pass to a parent. Remind parents that how THEY respond to their kid matters a lot too, and the next few points below are just as important for them as they are for us as youth workers.
3) FREAKING LISTEN
My word. So often teens just need someone to chat with that will listen to them, not judge, try and correct or tell them they are wrong. With so much information in our world, sometimes students don’t know what they are experiencing and are genuinely confused. Giving them an ear to listen oftentimes helps them to flesh things out.
4) Let the HOLY SPIRIT do the work…
I have no power to change anyone, neither do you, however, the Holy Spirit can bring the change that needs to take place. Any sort of convincing, guilting or persuading will only bring more confusion and hurt.
5) Start with the Bible.
I have had great conversations with students when we opened the Bible together and they took time answering questions from scripture, rather than listening to me talk about this subject.
6) Help students understand the difference between temptation and actual sin.
There is so much confusion in the church over the difference between temptation and sin. So many students believe that being tempted is sin. Back to point 4, open to James and help students see that just because they are tempted with something, doesn’t mean they have begun to sin in that area.
7) Grace. Grace. Grace.
Just as Jesus offered to us, we can offer the same to others, give grace, we are all sinners trying to learn how to walk with God. Remember verses like Romans 5:8 – while we were still in sin, Christ chose to die for us!
8) Pray for them.
Let us not neglect this part of ministry. Praying for students who struggle with sin.
9) Have referral options ready.
There are times in ministry when you have to recognize your own limitations. It is no secret that gay kids are almost 5 times as likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual kids. Do the hard work ahead of time to identify mental health professionals who your leadership recommends and build a referral process that can help take care of your kids in ways you aren’t equipped for.
Check on them a week after meeting, text, e-mail etc. Then check on them a month, then 6 months. This helps you stay connected and helps them to know you really care.
Joshua Glymph is the High School Pastor at Fruit Cove Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. He is a 13-year ministry veteran, the husband to Beth, Daddy to Hannah, Micah, and Ezra, and a football loving, UGA fan. You can find him on TWITTER and INSTAGRAM @jglymph1 or at WWW.JOSHGLYMPH.COM and JOSH@FRUITCOVE.COM.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.