We have a calling to reach out to all people and yet there are some who feel isolated, condemned and unwelcome in our churches. The LGBTQ teens have often been pushed aside and the stories of mental health issues, suicide, bullying etc. are never ending. As Church, we need to do something…our arguments are alienating people from the love of Christ and the fellowship of faith.
4 Views on Pastoring LGBTQ Teenagers is a book published by the Youth Cartel that wants youth workers/ministers/pastors etc. to rethink how we engage with youngsters on the margins who are often isolated and avoided by church. Whatever your theological positioning, the Church does not have a good track record and something has to change, or we will continue to abdicate our responsibility leaving vulnerable young people further condemned and judged.
This book steps into a space to try and help those engaged in Christian youth ministry think through how they may be better equipped to honour those who find themselves in a place where a welcome is less than welcoming. The book takes a conversational style which includes testimony and practice from one practitioner and has a response from a second contributor. This is done remarkably well although it does not provide all the answers, nor attempt to provide a theological treatise, but rather seeks to begin conversations. It is not possible to join the conversation and not change practice. It is not possible to avoid being humbled by our own failings whilst engaging with our LGBTQ community – this has to be good news! Reading this book and joining the conversation has changed my own thinking and is nudging me towards being a better ambassador of Christ.
The main contributors do a good job of seeking to share their perspective without forcing a personal agenda although that struggle comes through on occasion. Each viewpoint gives insight to the difficulties faced when pastoring LGBTQ youth and highlights the personal struggles that a pastor goes through when seeking to support the very people they are called to serve, especially when a church congregation holds a traditional conservative approach to sexuality.
I would recommend the book because it opens up conversation – there were moments when I wanted to thank the contributor and give them a pat on the back and moments when I wanted to say, No Way! This for me, makes a good book. It is impossible not to tread on toes and there were a few moments when I wanted to challenge theological thinking but this does not take away from the importance of the contributions.
Thank you to all involved for beginning this journey. I am looking forward to see how it will unfold.
Personal scoring 4/5
To buy a copy in the UK – follow the link from Gemma Dunning page here
In my previous post on starting a missional community from scratch the first point was to “adopt the posture of a learner” but what does this mean? How do we do this?
Adopting the posture of a learner demands patience, time, listening, observation and most of all, an attitude of continuous learning. When you are in a new environment and do not know people, where do you begin? How do you progress?
- Observe: where do people gravitate to? Watch were people go shopping, where they gather to relax, which community events are on, what is happening within the community. This will teach something of the lifestyle of the people around you.
- Listen: As you open up conversations, listen to what people are saying and why they are saying those things. This is critical in listening and most often forgotten. As you listen, assume that you know nothing, put aside your own viewpoints, your own learning. The people whom you are listening to are the professors and you are the child in kindergarten – this may help you to listen well.
- Patience and Time: Do not rush your listening, you will never have all the answers and if you jump to the wrong conclusions you will find yourself less effective. Time is the greatest gift that you give to your community.
- Attitude of Continuous Learning: There is not a time when you know it all, the community constantly changes (especially if it is living!) and the answers from a previous season do not always translate to the latest season. We are all aware of people who have stopped learning and growing, their stagnation smells horrific, don’t become that person but be willing to learn afresh, change your ways and act accordingly.
The posture of a learner keeps you humble and prevents you from “lording it over others” – missional communities should be a place where we are constantly in change, growing, developing and loving. Adopt the position of a learner and see what happens…..you may be glad you did.
You know that you want you community to be a place where Jesus is seen and accepted but how do you begin with a missional community. Most communities start with a team but there are occasions when you have nobody…..what then?
1)Adopt the posture of a learner – it can be easy to make assumptions and to think that you know a community well. However, demographic studies, stats, maps and more stats are no replacement for legwork in the community and getting under the skin of the place. You need to be ready to learn more, listen more, observe continually and accept things may be different to what you perceive. Be ready to learn, be willing to learn and spend a great deal of time listening. Adopt a learning attitude.
2)Seek someone who will inform you – who is the person of peace, someone who imbibes the community, who will share their knowledge and is a friend. They do not necessarily hold your beliefs of faith but they are willing to share with you. Their willingness usual strengthens when you adopt the posture of a learner and not that of teacher.
3) Build relationships – as you talk with people, seek them out again, develop friendships, go deeper and let this rootedness in the community help you to flourish. Not all relationships will be tight, see it more of a spiders web with a central strength and a growing network beyond the fringes. Relationships are critical.
These first three steps are very practical and the holy people reading will ask, ‘what about prayer?’ Prayer is the most necessary component and I have assumed it will underpin, surround and inhabit everything. Without prayer you have nothing and the steps above only help begin a social club, not a missional community. Prayer is the blood running through our veins….do not abandon it.
All the above takes time….it is worth it!
The comment by Mike and the response from Martin got under my skin. Nothing personal because I love them dearly….genuinely, not just out of politeness. My previous post outlines my initial thoughts. I am still insistent that we should not look back on the late 80’s/early 90’s with rose coloured spectacles but I have continued to mull over these things that they have raised in my heart.
Why did we get involved in youth ministry in this old era? There was no ‘profession’, very few from whom we could glean wisdom – we were ‘professional amateurs’, people who loved Jesus and concentrated our ministerial calling on a specific target age group known as ‘youth’! We had to learn skills in situ, often making more mistakes than we would care to admit and we were moderately successful. As the ‘amateur status’ grew, we sought to be excellent in what we did and there was the move to the professionalisation of youth ministry were people ceased to be ‘professional amateurs’ but ‘professionally skilled’. This change also transforms the framework in which people operate, the arena is so much wider, so much so that with many years of youth ministry experience, with professional skills, the lack of qualifications barred me from many roles in youth ministry. I left a salaried role. John Piper says;
“Professionalism has nothing to do with the essence and heart of Christian ministry. The more professional we long to be, the more spiritual death we will leave in our wake….there is no professional panting after God.”
Expectation upon youth ministers/workers/pastors has changed dramatically and it may well be that the professionalisation of this aspect of ministry has impacted the spiritual health of many of those who serve in this area.
However, this is a church issue as it should be impacted by our discipleship programmes and recruitment of these workers but I am not sure that this is anything new in the life of the church. Every generation needs to understand what it means to live a God honouring life in its context. The context is changing daily and we need to work out how to support those on the frontline so that they can serve well and effectively. This challenge belongs to us all.
I am blessed to know many good, passionate people engaging in youth work who are passionate for Jesus and challenge my own discipleship journey. I do not think that it has got worse over the last 25years but I do believe it has become harder. I am so grateful to those who stand for truth and live to serve our younger generation. I, for one, stand with them and will do all I can to help them in their role….I know that this is not something I do alone.
Love this quote from T.J.Addington and the heart for Reach Global
“For leaders who bring change and desire that change to last, there are two tipping points to watch. The first tipping point is a change in thinking. One of the significant changes we have been working on in ReachGlobal is for our staff to be equippers of others rather than primarily doers. In this way we move from a model of addition in missions to a model of multiplication. For those who came into the organization when staff were primarily doers, this has been a difficult transition to make, but ten years in we have passed the tipping point in thinking multiplication rather than addition. The second and more difficult tipping point is that of figuring out how to do multiplication rather than addition. Until that occurs, the new DNA will not have been planted in a way that will outlast our current leadership. It is really about developing, empowering, and releasing others in ministry. As that concept catches momentum, the DNA of being equippers will become part of the lasting culture of ReachGlobal.” T.J.Addington
From the book by “T.J.Addington “Deep Influence”
One of the dangers in any work is “over management”. So often, there are attempts at controlling work, maximising revenues and increasing efficiencies, that we draw things closer and manage things tightly. This may inhibit creativity, work flow and the general excitement of team growth, more importantly, it may strangle faith.
In ministry “over management” can be stifling. We see in the Old Testament that the people of Israel, when arriving at the borders of the promised land, were warned to remember their God, the God who sustains, the God who provides, the God who is faithful. However, as they settled in the land, they forgot their God, relied on the land to sustain them and thereby forfeited those things that had been so longed for. Why was this?
The land was given as a gift, not as a possession. The land was owned by the creator and therefore the people needed to manage the land in a way that recognised ownership – instead they “over managed” the land as if it was their personal possession. It came to a point where they lost the land and were driven into exile.
What does this mean for ministry? It causes us to stop and remember that our ministry does not belong to us – it belongs to God. Remember who the rightful owner is – manage it appropriately, to enhance and not possess. Honour the owner of the work – remember faith is integral to all that we do. This is a challenge but it enables us to honour the Creator God – management is important but not to the point were we stifle those good things that need space to grow.
Easier said than done…..but I will keep trying!
The phrase “sitting in the stairwell” from Marko’s Youth Ministry 3.0 has sat with me for some time now. It is a challenge to find those places in which we can sit, ready to serve. Looking for those places has led me to think of those people that have ‘sat in the stairwell’ on my behalf, those people that have chosen to place themselves in a place of service, those who have given me time and space, those that have been as a friend.
A few years back, I left a job that was special. It was one that had its challenges but the momentum was all forward and there were many positive results. There was the usual politics, but that goes for any role we have, and things were looking good for the future, despite various challenges on the table. However, during a long season where the politics, hurdles and personal things came together in an unnatural way, I chose to leave. My spiritual life was crumbling as the circumstances battered the fragile shell of mine – there was no alternative. No-one questioned my decision (to my face anyway) and I believed that there would be people to help me re-form my spiritual life as these were my friends. Unfortunately, it was not that easy and those I relied upon became too busy.
I entered a wilderness, yet one man whose path crossed my own chose to ‘sit in my stairwell’. In the 18 months that followed he spoke few words, he spent little time with me, but he provided me with everything I needed. He welcomed me into his tribe, he engaged my family, let me know he was there, encouraged involvement at my own pace and demonstrated that he understood my struggles. During this time, spiritual life returned and balance of life returned. I owe him a great debt as he was willing to sit in a place that my friends did not – that type of thing cannot be bought.
My friend has since moved on to new pastures but our paths crossed again the other week. It was a privilege to share with him in ministry and over lunch had an opportunity to thank him for sitting in my stairwell.
My friend has mentored me – albeit in an unusual way – and now I am looking for the opportunities to do the same for others.