Sexual Identity & Youth Ministry

zondervanHere is an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry. The book can be pre-ordered here and will be available from Zondervan in October.

I share the following story in the opening chapter to set the tone. My argument is that compassion is an important starting point for youth ministers. The importance of compassion is underscored in later chapters as I will draw a contrast between various competing groups. For now, let me share the opening story:

Several years ago my wife and I attended a meet and greet luncheon for adoptive parents in one of the suburbs of Chicago. While I was parking the car, my wife went in to find us a spot at one of the tables. She sat down with a group of women and didn’t give that fact much thought. When I joined her and the other guests, we realized that I was the only guy at the table. Then it dawned on us that the women at our table were all same-sex couples, and we were the only heterosexual couple at the table. It was a little awkward at first; we felt we had crashed the party, or at least I had. However, as prospective adoptive parents, we sat with the women at our table and the many other couples in the room who shared a similar interest in learning more about the process.

After the luncheon was over, we went out to our car only to find that it wouldn’t start. It wouldn’t turn over. As a man I had been taught to lift up the hood and take a look, but I didn’t really have any knowledge of what to do after that. So after assessing both the situation and reflecting on my overall competence with automotive repair, I proceeded to give the universal sign for “help” by leaving the hood of the car up.

car batteryThe next several minutes were interesting. I looked under the hood occasionally—just because it was something I could do to retain the impression that I knew something about cars. I moved some things around, and I was beginning to suspect it was the car battery. Other luncheon attendees walked by us on their way to their cars. Let’s just say that there was a steady stream. For several minutes nobody stopped. Then a guy walked by with his wife, and I asked him for a hand giving the battery a jump. He actually said, “Oh, sorry, I have to get to a meeting at church.” Um, ok, what?

Then one of the lesbian couples from our table walked up to us—the one woman offered to take a look. She quickly confirmed that the problem was the battery. “I agree; I think you just need a jump,” she said. “Let me get our car, we’ll put up right here and take care of it.” And they did.

I couldn’t help but think of the story Jesus told of the Good Samaritan. It is recorded in Luke 10:25-37. My pastor recently put it this way: God puts in our lives people each of us has a hard time picturing God loving. We have a hard time seeing them in all of their complexity because of positions the church holds. For many in the church today, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people are the “other”, the group of folks who are difficult for us to see with compassion.

Before anyone runs with the analogy between ethnicity and sexual identity, I am not saying that just as Jews of that day thought of Samaritans, Christians today think of gays. However, we have a cultural context today in which we have local communities of faith in which the climate is such that young people who are navigating this terrain cannot find any compassion. In fact, we may inadvertently push people toward the mainstream gay community precisely because we share the same tendency to reduce complexity to culture war. There are times we appear to prefer politics to pastoral care.


Adapted from Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry. Pre-order your copy today!

10 thoughts on “Sexual Identity & Youth Ministry

  1. “In fact, we may inadvertently push people toward the mainstream gay ”

    And this is in fact where I think they should go. They should lead authentic lives without shame. Because it is healthy for them.

    I wish for them all, as I wish for young straight people, a happy life and a life partner to share it with.
    For the sexual minorities that will naturally be someone of their own sex.
    If you cannot offer them what is BEST for them in your church, you should help them find a church that will embrace them as they are, a church that does not adhere to your tenants on homosexuality but is Christian/Jewish etc.

    I think it is wrong of the churches to clutch onto every last member, when what you have to offer them is harmful to them. It harms them to force on them that they can never fall in love and have a life partner. To say we all get that but you don’t. Let them go, help them find another church if that will ease your conscience. Let the Lord judge.

    • Sexuality is intentional – has purpose: procreation and complementarity (determined by sexual difference – German sexologist HANS GIESE).

      Sexuality is not an essential part of the identity, such as Pepsi. (“Be yourself – choose Pepsi”).

      We are not sexually active in different circumstances. People are forced to maintain celibacy for various reasons. Sex as a compulsion of human nature and the immanence of gay identity is a figment of Freud. I will give you dozens of reasons why sex is not worth, not need or not allowed to realize because of its accidental nature – it is not our identity, but rather an addition to personality – legitimated by a greater whole: for example procreation, love (not feelings only, will), maturity. To be gay has no sense because of gender disorder, problems with harmonic connection between sex (biological) and gender.

    • make a balance. Pros and cons of being gay, or at least the msm. Undoubtedly these are.
      Why gay sex remains unfulfilled?
      1 It is infertile.
      2 It is non-complementary – unification is incomplete in mental and physical dimension, because both of these dimensions are combined.
      3 Homosexual men desire masculine men. Masculine (not female) men are straight only.

      • Arthur, why don’t you just leave them alone? You are saying that gay sex is “unfulfilled,” contrarily I think it is very fulfilling for THEM. This isn’t about us straight people. And your point number three don’t you think you are being a tad presumptuous?

        Yes, our sexual orientation IS part of our core identity, for all of us. Even for you.

        I know what gay men like, I have seen it in the pictures. Here take a look.

        I wish this for everybody. That everyone finds happiness, falls in love and marries and has a partner in life. Do you want to dent people Love?

  2. Thank you for your response. I hope you did not have to guess what I was saying. English is not my native language.

    I think we differ fundamentally. What else we mean by love and by the identity. What else we also understand by freedom and human rights.

    Sexual orientation is not an essential part of human identity. In paradise will not marry. However, people will exists through their biological sex. We will be in heaven, men or women, whatever that means.

    Declaration of Human Rights does not include sexuality, but it includes biological sex.

    On the psychological level sex (men or woman) is a major reference for sexuality, rather than vice versa. Even if it is a reference incomplete or highly complicated.

    Biological sex does not change, but sexual orientation changes in our lifetime. (Savin-Williams, RC and Ream, GL (2007), Chapman BE Brannock JC. (1987); Whisman Vera1996, Rosenbluth S. 1997.) Sexual orientation is fluid especially in the transition between bisexuality. I meet men who report that once functioned satisfactorily as heterosexual. Less heterosexuals report that satisfactorily living as homosexuals. This is because homosexuality is strongly conditioned by the sensory dimensions (behavioral psychology).

    Sexuality can cross, can be sublime. Biological sex does not sublimate.

    We love a man or a woman, but the essence of love is not sex but friendship (filia). Sex is not being – in itself.

    You showed me pics of same-sex couples. If happiness be measured by the number of smiles in the photographs that most people would be happy. But if I pick up the statistics here It’s hard for me to believe in the truth of these feelings, but do not rule out that they are sincere. Honesty is something other than the truth. People are smiling, but their facial expression says otherwise.

    Forgive me. These pics are like gay movies – sweet, cheesy and not real. But it’s a matter of taste.

    Norwegian scientist Andersson (2004) calculated that the separation in male same-sex marriages, there are about 50 percent more than in heterosexual marriages. The female same-sex marriages that this figure rises to 167 percent (Andersson, 2004).

    Domestic violence:

    Mortality rates among married lesbians have begun to rise, despite a long period of decline. 6.5 million adults from 1982 to 2011 were Followed from Denmark’s civil registry in the study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

    When I read the statistics, I’m sure that in same sex relationships is something destructive.

    In psychology it is known that people deny, rationalize and manipulate term happiness. Happiness is a reconciliation of your life with purpose (Aristotle). How many questionable this definition? And you want to replace them with a plastic advertising?

    Love is a desire for the good for my friend. If you know that your partner lose his personality (masculine) by gay sex – that are you his friend?

  3. Arthur, you don’t have to answer me if you are not comfortable, but what is your country of origin?

    In Norway the people were not married. Gay Marriage became legal in Norway 1/1/2009

    “When I read the statistics, I’m sure that in same sex relationships is something destructive.” It is because you are ignorant. Gay people just like straight people, are perfectly capable of finding a life partner, falling in love and coupling together for life.

    I do not think it is appropriate to turn Yarhouses blog into a forum into an attack gay people. That is NOT what Yarhouse is about. At least as far as I know.

  4. Norwegian government proposed a same-sex partnership law in 1998, that would give lesbian and gay couples the same rights as heterosexuals, Including church weddings, ADOPTION and assisted pregnancies.

    Danish statistics showed the same regularity as Norwegian.

    “Heterosexuality is more complete than homosexuality.” Do you think that this statement is false and humiliate gays and Lesbians? I’ll have to think about this sentence. Maybe I withdraw from claim that heterosexuals have something that gay do not have… to avoid offend the gays and Lesbians.

    Are you sure assigning a greater destructiveness of gay unions is homophobic? How much are you sure about this?

    Do you think that denying privileges (right group) negates the rights of individuals? Is the denial of legalization of homosexual cohabitation a negation of gay individual rights?

    I’m a little indocile grandson, but I have no bad intentions. I’m not a wolf. I’m not a wolf in sheep’s clothing as well. Dear Grandma, give me a empathy, please. I hope on your help, because I can see how well you understand gays and Lesbians. I thank you very much for helping me understand my notice. I may have hidden homosexual tendencies and project in self-defence hatred gays and lesbians.


  5. I happened to have had several phone conversations with the Danish Researcher who puts out a lot of the statistics on gays and lesbians. I told him how destructive it was to call these relationships by false names. They should accurately report Civil union or Civil Marriage. In a quite collegial way we had several e-mails and phone conversations on this topic.

    He kept telling me that in order to honor the sexual minorities and offer them the same dignity of a Civil Union that is why the called them marriages. I finally kind of won him over when I e-mailed him the history of Civil marriage in Denmark and showed him how many years and through how many different changes in law until there was finally full civil marriage for sexual minorities. I asked him, well they must NOT have thought they were married or they would not have kept pushing until they got full civil marriage. Whereas you as a researcher consider them married, (a Civil Union is the same thing as a Marriage), they themselves did not. The little light bulb went off in his head.

    Are you sure assigning a greater destructiveness of gay unions is homophobic? How much are you sure about this?

    Yes, what if I told you a greater number of interracial marriages break down, would you them come out and say that you would NOT recommend to anybody that there be interracial marriage? What if I showed you that way worse statistics for breaking up is Southern Evangelicals, there shoudl we take away their rights to marry? The fact is our rights, our Constitutional rights, are not group rights, they are our individual rights.

    I actually think this is kind of humerus, “I may have hidden homosexual tendencies and project in self-defence hatred gays and lesbians.” Look you are on the internet, nobody knows you you are, you can be truthful. To be honest I have never heard a straight man say, “Maybe I’m gay?” I’m old, trust me, straight men do not wonder about it if they are straight or not. There is nothing wrong in not being 100% straight. I read a study not to long ago, a good survey, I was myself shocked to read it was in the low twenties, I want to say 23% of the population said that they are NOT 100% straight. So Arthur you are not alone, you have a LOT of company.

    There are millions of gay people who live a happy healthy life, and you can to.

    • Civil union, partnership – it’s just a label. The content that’s behind them is important. These unions in Scandinavia have the same benefits as marriage. Gay people are not very interested in these partnerships. They prefer to be “free”.

      Why lesbians joining in such unions record higher levels of suicide and attempted suicide, and domestic violence?

      Race is innate, like biological sex, which is the basis of sexual difference, complementarity and marriage. Race does not relativisis of sexual difference, complementarity and consequently marriage. Homosexuality relativisis sex, sexual difference and complementarity and marriage. These one fund marriage.

      Do you think that such view is homophobic because it arises from questioning what you think is innate and what I consider to be acquired?

      “What if I Showed you that way worse statistics for breaking up is Southern Evangelicals, there shoudl we take away Their rights to marry?”

      There are many reasons by which the unions disintegrate. I mean the most fundamental, that is a prerequisite for marriage: sexual difference and complementarity. Marriage needs it, like a bird needs wings to fly.

      That’s why I asked about capturing the differences between gay and heterosexual – is that homophobia? If you assume in advance that you can not talk about these differences because it is a bias, I have no right to think of such differences and to ask questions about the differences between straight, bisexual and gay.

      “The fact is our rights, our Constitutional rights, group rights are not, they are our individual rights.”

      Marriage is a privilege, because not everyone can be a husband or wife. Do you think that rights and privileges belong to everyone equally, without differentiation? Equality can apply only to individuals and groups in identical situations. Making equality between groups of people residing in different situations, it is … an injustice – it is absurdal equality, inequality in fact, because the protection and privileges will be included without reasons. Of course I do not have to explain that absolute equality, no distinguishing the positive and negative discrimination, is utopia for which humanity paid the terrible price.

    • “Look you are on the Internet, nobody knows you you are, you can be truthful. To be honest I have never heard a straight man say,” Maybe I’m gay.”

      It was obviously a joke, for that I’m sorry. Gays often claim that men who criticize homosexuality are latent homosexuals. It is so Freudian. I should go to a psychoanalyst and face my fears. I have no fears. I am not afraid of gays. I am naturally critical, because I think. I criticize demoliberalizm , corporatism (like Naomi Klein), hypocrisy on either side, also gay ideology. But the suspicion of homophobia is an easy way to close the debate. You can not think, you are ready to accept instructions. If you think, ask questions, you will have a problem, you will get a label. ‘ll put you in the corner. As in the days of the Cultural Revolution in China. History repeats.

      I already wrote about happy gay. I do not know monogamous same-sex relationship with work experience of more than five years. I see gay men who are together in the formula of two friends who are not each other attractive and look for masculine men outside their relationship.

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