Last summer, The Center took a survey of over 500 Christian parents who have LGBTQ+ or same-sex attracted kids. We wanted to better understand the challenges these parents were currently facing—and we used the data we gathered in that survey to help us create our series Parenting LGBTQ Kids. Now that the series is complete, we want to share more of our findings with you in a new resource called “Challenges Faced by Christian Parents of LGBTQ+/SSA Children.” This research report discusses the major findings from our survey. In it, we summarize key data, analyze the meanings behind the numbers, and evaluate the implications and limitations of the study.
We hope this resource can be an encouragement to three groups of people. For Christian parents, we want them to see that they’re not alone in the challenges they’re facing. We also hope that the paper offers insight to counselors, church leaders, and supportive peers coming alongside these parents. And finally, for LGBTQ+ and same-sex attracted kids with Christian parents, we hope that understanding other parents’ experiences can help them better understand their own parents.
Here’s a brief excerpt from our findings:
When it comes to finding support, parents’ experiences were quite mixed. Some seemed to have little trouble locating support among their peers, within faith communities, and through counseling. For others, all these avenues of support fell short. Most of our respondents resonated with the idea that, at least to some degree, they “went into hiding” after their child came out. Roughly 70% found this feeling at least “somewhat challenging,” with 24.7% finding it “extremely challenging.” One mother wrote, “[W]e are well loved and understood by church leadership (pastors, elders, youth leaders), but there is an unwritten/unspoken rule that we are to remain ‘closeted’ to the larger church body.”
As these parents “in hiding” sought to come out of hiding, they faced the subsequent challenge of finding safe people to talk with. The level of challenge parents felt in identifying these people maps reasonably closely onto the degree to which they felt forced into hiding. Over three quarters (77.7%) of respondents who described going into hiding as “extremely challenging” also answered “quite challenging” or “extremely challenging” when asked how difficult it had been identifying safe people to talk to about their family’s experience. This suggests that perhaps parents’ sensation of being in hiding was correlated with their impression that they did not have safe people with whom to share their experiences.
Although Christian leaders might hope that the church would be a primary source of such safe people, respondents did not always find this to be the case. Roughly two thirds of parents found it at least “somewhat challenging” locating a church they considered biblically sound where both they and their LGBTQ+ child felt welcome; 30.6% of parents found it “extremely challenging” locating such a church. And these numbers did not substantially improve for parents whose LGBTQ+ kids held a historic Christian sexual ethic. Among these parents, 28% still found the search for a welcoming church “extremely difficult.”
The entire report is available for free download as Paper #15 at this link.