I recently read Shawn Harrison’s book Ministering to Gay Teenagers. I have been writing and thinking a lot about the subject of homosexuality and teenagers recently because I’m seeing this issue pop up in my ministry and other student ministries more and more. I believe this is a subject student pastors, youth workers, and parents need to learn more about and be ready to minister to teenagers around them that may come out as being gay. Shawn’s book is a great tool for anyone who my find themselves ministering to a teenager that may be gay.
Shawn admits that “this short book isn’t about providing a theological position on homosexuality…Ministering to Gay Teenagers is designed to equip youth workers in ministering to gay teenagers, their families, and the gay community at large” (page 3-4). Many books, articles, and blog posts have been written about the theological position of homosexuality, but not enough has been written about how the church, particularly youth workers, should reach out and minister to homosexuals. As Shawn says in his book, “The church is long overdue in stepping out of its comfort zone and embracing a group of people who need to experience the love of Jesus like never before” (page 3).
Instead of giving a summary of the book, I want to point out a few things I really liked about this book in hopes that if your a student pastor, youth workers, or parent you will be motivated to grab a copy of this book for yourself.
Honesty. The first thing that stood out to me as I started reading this book was Shawn’s honesty and openness. He writes with the perspective of someone who struggled with same-sex attraction as a teenager and shares a lot of his story. I appreciate his openness and honesty in sharing the details about his struggle. Because of Shawn’s personal experience with same-sex attraction, he brings things to light about this subject that most don’t.
Gospel centered not behavioral change. Many people just go after behavior when ministering to gay teenagers. They think that all they need to do is get the teen to stop liking the same sex and being a homosexual. However, the goal shouldn’t be change of behavior. The goal should be go after the teens hearts and introducing them to the love of Jesus that eventually does change behavior. Shawn says, “Remember, God is after heart modification, not just behavior modification, and that ought to be your focus too” (page 26). This book doesn’t go after just changing the behavior of gay teens, it goes after change their hearts with the Gospel, which in the end is what every teenager needs, gay or straight.
Balance between youth workers and parents. Another thing I liked about this book was it’s balance between equipping student pastor and youth workers, as well as parents. Parents are the first ones responsible for their teenagers spiritual growth. It’s not the responsibility of the youth worker, it’s the parents. Youth workers come alongside to support and partner with the parents. I believe this is the conviction Shawn holds as well so he writes much to parents in this book. He includes too chapters that are written straight to parents: helping parents love their gay child and parents FAQ’s.
I would highly recommend this book to student pastors, youth workers, and parents. Dealing with gay teenagers is something we will continue to have to do more and more. Ministering to Gay Teenagers is a book that will help both youth workers and parents minister to gay teenagers effectively. Also, check out Shawn’s blog for more resources and articles about homosexuality and teenagers.