The latest Youth Worker Magazine includes an article by Julia, my research assistant, and me. We write about ministry to LGBT+ youth. We introduce and develop three ideas based on a metaphor of navigating difficult terrain: 1) Identify markers on the trail; 2) Communicate with base camp; and Help youth find God on the trail.
The markers on the trail refer to milestone events in the development or formation of sexual identity. These are common experiences that gay and lesbian adults tell us were a part of their own journey. Some of these are unchosen experiences, such as first awareness of same-sex sexuality, while other milestones are more of a decision, such as whether to enter into a same-sex relationship. Other milestones include ‘attributional search’ (or making meaning of one’s same-sex sexuality), disclosure to others, use of a private sexual identity label, and use of a public sexual identity label. Exploring the underlying meaning associated with various milestones can be helpful in ministry.
The parent-child relationship is the best predictor of a sexual minority’s emotional well-being over time. We discuss the importance of communicating with base camp (parents). Every significant climb has a base camp from which one directs the journey. Navigating sexual identity and faith is no exception.
Youth group can be the place where we help teens get to know Christ so He can help them discover who they are. It seems unlikely that they will ever get to know Him if His merciful love is not made crystal clear, in the very places where they feel most unworthy.
Lastly, we invite youth ministers to help LGBT+ youth find God on the trail. Youth have many questions and possibly fears or angst or confusion. Invite them to ask Christ those questions. Love them. Disciple them into an increasingly mature walk with Christ.
The call of a Christian is simple: to enter in and to remain… This is not a race, but an important journey on difficult terrain, that no on e should have to travel alone. That’s where you come in.
This image of hiking difficult terrain is developed more fully in the book, Understanding Sexual Identity: A Resource for Youth Ministry, published by Zondervan.