“Transgender” . . . “Pansexual”. . . “LGBTQ” . . . “Hook-Up”. . . every one of those terms was part of a foreign language for those of doing youth ministry in the 1970s and 1980s. I could have ventured a guess on definitions, but I certainly had no idea on the specifics regarding how we understand these familiar terms today.
Now, the challenge isn’t so much about understanding the terms themselves, but navigating the difficult, tender, and sensitive issues regarding how to craft real responses to real people in ways that balance grace and truth while bringing glory to God. The youth ministry landscape has changed.
Rather than shoot from the hip and hope that we hit the grace and truth target with faithfulness, we need to be more thoughtful. We must seek to come to a deep and growing understanding of God’s glorious and grand design for gender and sexuality. And, we must faithfully minister the Gospel in ways that lead to our students’ flourishing rather than to their demise. It’s a difficult and sensitive road to know and to navigate.
Last year, Duffy Robbins and I had the opportunity to pull together a group of a dozen youth ministry practitioners for four days of asking questions and seeking answers on the issue of youth ministry and sexuality. We met on the beautiful North Shore of Boston on the peaceful campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary for a Symposium on Traditional Biblical Sexuality in a Changing Youth Culture. Our time was rich as we engaged in cohort learning through case studies, interviews, small groups, and discussions. Our time together was rich, practical, hope-filled, and encouraging. Three of our participants said this about our time together. . .
“The first day was so good I wanted to cry! You have to bring Walt and Duffy back for these kinds of symposiums. It’s deep and challenging.”
“Sitting in one room for a whole week, surrounded by so many contexts and years of experience, focusing all this on one issue impacting youth ministry – I never would have been ready for the issues I’ve had to deal with in my youth group this year if God hadn’t led me to attend the symposium in 2018. “
“If you’re looking for time and space to process the important practical concerns surrounding human sexuality, this week-long conversation is for you. Even more so, the symposium provides friends for the journey—colleagues in ministry wrestling with the same tough questions, as well as humble, capable guides in Walt and Duffy. This experience was invaluable for 21st century engagement as a minister of the gospel.”
This coming January 7 to 10, we’re doing it all over again! We’re limiting participation to 25 people in order to facilitate stimulating conversation and small group work once again. Here’s the descriptor from the Gordon-Conwell website and registration page: “As debates about human sexuality dominate classrooms, coffee shops, and social media, youth ministers committed to a traditional Biblical ethic may struggle to find their voice. Some may wonder if there is a safe space in which to form a theologically informed and nuanced approach to these charged and complex issues. Join Dr. Walt Mueller of the Center for Parent Youth Understanding and Dr. Duffy Robbins of Grove City College for an intensive multi-day symposium to deepen your own Biblical and theological foundations, to broaden your apologetic for affirming the goodness of expressing sexual intimacy within the bonds of marriage between a man and a woman, and to strengthen your pastoral skills in helping youth live out these truths.”
This Symposium presumes participants’ affirmation of a historic, orthodox Christian sexual ethic and will be building from this premise, not debating it. Participation is limited to 25 to allow for deep exploration of these issues and will require some preparatory work and active involvement in the Symposium.
Duffy and I would love to have you join us! Registration is open and there are still spots. There is a registration discount for those who register before November 30 (this Friday!). You can learn more and register here.