Gospel Centered Family

Helping families and churches share Jesus with the next generation.

How will same-sex marriage impact children's ministry?

Jared KennedyComment

Question: What is the role of the children’s ministry when kids ask about the topic of same-sex marriage? Are there certain Bible truths you stress for kids that would make this issue less confusing when they encounter it later? How would you respond if several children raised the issue during your teaching?

In the fall of 1997, I headed off to college. I planned to room with a high school friend, but, during that summer, he confessed to me that he’d been hanging with a number of gay friends, and he was struggling with same-sex attraction. He called me out of respect, because he wanted me to know before we were roommates. I was repulsed, took a posture of judgment, and, we ended up not rooming together. I’m convinced now that my repulsion and judgment was ungodly. And the sad irony was that I was also struggling with all kinds of sexual sin. My orientation was different, but my depravity was no less.

Many Christians and whole churches have lost confidence in the gospel when it comes to how they think about and respond to homosexuality. Some single out homosexuality as “the sin.” Many have strong emotional reactions to homosexuality that flow out of deep insecurity, feelings of repulsion, disgust, and threat. These reactions expose profound unbelief both in the gospel’s power to change lives and about the depth of sin in our hearts.

A children’s ministry’s approach to homosexuality begins with having a heart of hospitality. We must welcome and treat all people with dignity and respect. We should assume homosexuals are always in our midst and avoid all homophobic speech. We should repent of our stereotypes and prejudices towards homosexuals, be ready to welcome seeking gay or lesbian couples who are raising children into our worship gatherings, and pray that they will entrust their children to our care.

We must remember that the world has never seen a perfect family. Since Adam and Eve, every family has been jacked up enough to be desperate for grace. Pick up your Bible, and you’ll see stories of homicide, gang rape, polygamy, concubines, incest, and prostitution before you even get out of Genesis. When we teach kids, we should be sensitive about explaining sin with age-appropriate discretion. But we should also be clear that everyone is capable of every sin. There is no sinful behavior that given the right circumstances my sinful heart will not adopt.We should help kids to see that we often act just like the sinners in the Bible’s stories. When teaching youth about sexual sin, we also must be honest about the sexual sins popular among heterosexuals (promiscuity, fornication, masturbation, pornography, lust, etc.). We should not single out homosexual sinning as worse than any other type.

There are kids in your ministry who will ask about gay marriage, and there are kids in your ministry that are struggling with same-sex attraction. When the questions come, we must be clear that homosexuality is not God’s design for human relationships (1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:9-10), but we can’t be simplistic about its cause. There may be biological factors that pre-dispose a child to more feminine or masculine behavior than is usual for his or her gender. There may be family factors that make it difficult for a young person to feel confident in his or her social gender role or which make opposite sex relationships unattractive. Emotional, physical, and/or sexual abuse can affect a persons understanding of their sexuality. We must be sensitive about each child’s story while affirming that each child either confirms or chooses to resist homosexual desires with their choices.

Our job is to help every family understand that they are invited into a bigger story of redemption and restoration. Every family is dysfunctional, but God has good news—no matter your family’s history, baggage, or present situation—change is possible. I know this is true, because I have changed. Over the past 18 years, God has been rescuing me from a lack of compassion and ungodly judgment as well as from sinful living. All family dysfunction can be changed. Homosexuality is no exception. The gospel is the power of God that is able to change anyone. 

I'm really thankful for and in wholehearted agreement with the words of Rosaria Butterfield and Christopher Yuan last week at The Gospel Coalition blog.

We affirm that God has ordained marriage to be the union of a husband and a wife, which Jesus himself restated in Mark 10:6–8 and Matthew 19:4–5. But even though some in our culture believe, as Justice Kennedy wrote, that marriage “embodies the highest ideals of love,” we disagree. Earthly marriage does not have a monopoly on love. God is love (1 John 4:7–19). The pinnacle of love is his love for us in Christ. Nothing is greater.

In actuality, marriage is a mystery and a reflection of a greater reality. The highest ideal of love is Christ’s love for his bride, the church. In Ephesians 5 and Revelation 21, marriage is revealed to be analogous to Christ's redemption: the marriage consummation between the bride (redeemed sinners) and the groom (Christ) shows all redeemed people are married to Christ. Only in Christ can anyone experience the full definition of love and acceptance. As important as earthly marriage and family are, they are both fleetingly temporary, while Christ and the family of God (the church) are wondrously eternal.

We have failed to show the LGBT community another option to marriage—which is singleness—lived out in the fruitful and full context of God's community, the family of God. This does not mean, as Justice Kennedy wrote, that singles are “condemned to live in loneliness,” but that singles can have intimate and fulfilling relationships full of love [within the church]. This is not a consolation prize. It can be just as rewarding and fulfilling as marriage.

We need to give the kids in our ministry biblical vision of family and singleness (one that moves beyond cultural stereotypes), and they need encouragement to pursue that vision with the Holy Spirit’s help and ordinary means of grace—prayer, God’s word, repentance, faith, and community.

God didn’t make boys for Bass Pro Shops, ESPN, and Old Spice, but He does want them to grow up loving Jesus and others by leading, protecting, and working with wisdom (Genesis 2:15, 19-20). God didn’t make girls for pink doilies or Pinterest, but He does want them to grow up loving Jesus as powerful counterparts and life-giving nurturers (Genesis 2:22-23; 3:20; Proverbs 31). God didn’t ordain the Cleavers or the Cosbys as the perfect family, but he did create marriage as a life-long, loving, covenant relationship between a man and a woman—a picture of Christ and his bride, the church (Genesis 2:23-24; Ephesians 5:21-33). That’s a vision worth teaching, praying for, and pursuing as we train up the next generation.

An original version of this posted as part of a part of a round table discussion at ministry-to-children.com