New Pastoral Paper: Youth Ministry with LGBTQ+/SSA Students

New Pastoral Paper: Youth Ministry with LGBTQ+/SSA Students
September 5, 2023

By Anne Wilson and Tony Rogatto.


When I (Anne) was 22 years old, I never would have guessed that my most complicated practical ministry scenarios as a youth pastor would involve students’ sleeping arrangements. But that’s exactly what has happened.


Most youth ministries regularly host overnight events, which means making arrangements for students’ sleeping areas. As a youth ministry, we want to be thoughtful in our approach so that all students (and parents) feel safe. We also want to ensure that what we decide about housing aligns with our approach to every other ministry environment: removing unnecessary barriers that could keep students from encountering Jesus.


At times, these two goals—fostering safety for all and removing unnecessary barriers—can feel like they’re at odds. This can be especially true when it comes to working with students who are same-sex attracted, experience gender dysphoria, or identify as LGBTQ+, as well as with students who have experienced sexual abuse or other forms of trauma. For instance, a few decades ago, most youth ministries assumed that putting students in same-sex sleeping spaces kept them “safe” from sexual activity. But today, we know that this isn’t always true. (It wasn’t always true a few decades ago, either.) Do we need to make different housing rules for gay and same-sex attracted young people? Or does imposing extra rules on some students—especially students who might already feel like they’re under extra scrutiny in your youth ministry because they’re LGBTQ+/SSA—become a barrier that makes these students feel unwelcome or second class?


Or what about when your youth ministry includes a student with severe gender dysphoria? Requiring this student to stay in a space with same-sex peers could spark their dysphoria, leading to a higher risk of depression or self-harm. But placing this student with opposite-sex students who share their gender identity—for example, putting a trans student who is biologically female and identifies as male in a room with biologically male students—may also raise concerns, for both the trans student and the non-trans students (and for their parents). Sometimes, it can seem like every option is a bad option.


You can read much more about this and other practical youth ministry questions in The Center’s newest pastoral paper, “Youth Ministry with LGBTQ+/SSA Students,” available at this link.

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