How to Talk About Sexuality in Your Youth Ministry


How to Talk About Sexuality in Your Youth Ministry

I spoke with a youth worker several weeks ago who told me she prefers to stay away from conversations like homosexuality, transgender rights, and general sex stuff.

Her rationale was sound.

“It’s better to keep the focus on Jesus.”

She’s not wrong, of course, and I absolutely understand the desire to not want to have those awkward conversations.

But the problem is that the news, schools, and friends are talking about all of those things, and if we don’t have those conversations at church, then students will gain nearly all of their learning from Facebook memes.

I’m not going to tell you what to say, but I will tell you how to say it.

So when it’s time for “the talk”, here’s HOW to do it.


Seriously, tell them what you’re going to talk about before you talk about it.

You may think that 7th graders need to hear about how far is too far for totally valid reasons and their parents may think that they’re not ready for equally valid reasons.

In almost every case, the parents reasons trump your own. Parents have the right to know what you’re going to discuss and how much detail you’re going to divulge, and trust me, it’s better if they find out before your talk instead of after.

No youth minister has ever gotten into hot water for being too open and upfront with parents about what was happening in youth group.

But what about when questions come up?

What happens when a student or a whole group of students are faced with an issue and hijack an otherwise non-controversial session because a friend at school came out and they aren’t sure how to handle it?

Delay answering those questions until the next session.

Promise students that next week, we will talk about this fully and then follow through on that promise.

This gives you time to let parents know what’s going on, and just as importantly, it gives you time to really prepare.


Just like parents want to know preemptively that you’re talking about potentially inflammatory issues, your senior pastor would also prefer a heads-up.

Give it to him.


You should speak from the Bible and from your own conscience.

If your personal position on any issue is well-considered and rooted in Scripture, but differs from the position of the larger denomination (or church)…

…I would never recommend capitulating to the denominational line (or church) instead of your own personal conviction.

But if you’re going to share something that conflicts with your denomination’s (or church’s) theology, you want to do so carefully, and you want to know that beforehand, not after.


Your students have wildly different opinions about issues like sexuality and those opinions come from a gamut of Biblical and non-Biblical sources.

You do not need to keep an open mind about issues that are Biblically clear for you.

But you do need to keep your ears open.

Give students time to think and process out loud, even if you disagree with what you’re saying.

The fastest way to lose your audience is to shut them up because they’re wrong and lecture instead about what’s right.


When I was in high school, I had a youth pastor who answered all questions about homosexuality by saying, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. End of story.”

It was a shame, because questions of sexuality deserve a much more thorough, well thought-out response and discussion.

There’s plenty of rich Scriptural wisdom to draw on, so draw on it.


Regardless of your position on issues of sexuality, violence and hate are NEVER the path to take for any group of people for any reason.

Love is always the way.

You might think that this a no-brainer and that it doesn’t even need to be mentioned, but it might not be that way for your students.

There are, unfortunately, groups that both claim the name of Jesus and celebrate acts like the nightclub shootings in Orlando.

They are a small minority who claim an undue portion of the publicity.

For students on the fringes, they may read and hear about a Church that celebrates hate against homosexuals.

Make explicitly clear they know that you are not that Church.

Always promote love rather than hate.


Conversations about sexuality are dicey and divisive, and at the end of the day, the most important thing is the love, grace, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.

Pray together and agree to walk together in a unified way to spread and share the love of Jesus even when there are disagreements among you.

Agree to have more conversations like this one in the future.

Aaron-Helman-150Written by Aaron Helman. Aaron has been in youth ministry for over 15 years and is currently a youth pastor in South Bend, Indiana.

Discussion Starter: Pokemon Go Craze Sparks Movement, Mishaps


In the News

Washington, D.C.—In what’s being called the future of gaming, Pokemon Go players are using smartphones to “capture” digital creatures at real-life locations. The free game uses augmented reality to blend digital images with someone’s view of the real world.

Since its July 6 release, Pokemon Go has become a global phenomenon, shooting to the top of charts and boosting Nintendo’s market value by $9 billion. Nostalgia accounts for some of the game’s popularity, as teenagers and young adults re-engage with favorite characters from childhood.

“It’s what your dream has always been as a kid, to be able to catch Pokemon on your own,” says Joey Levy, 19.

“I feel like I’m actually in it with my Pokeballs, moving around, and I’m winning freaking Pokemon,” says Sana Lynn, 27. “It’s like I’m part of the cartoon. It’s so cool.”

On the plus side, Pokemon Go gets players outside, keeps them active, and encourages socialization with other gamers. But distracted players have been injured while driving and walking, and others have been robbed or caught trespassing. Two players survived after falling off an ocean cliff, and one law professor warns that “death by Pokemon Go is coming.”

That hasn’t stopped gamers from seeking out new PokeStops, or in-game landmarks that animated creatures can be lured into visiting. Some sites, including the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., have asked people to stop catching Pokemon on its premises.

A 37-year-old woman says she didn’t mean any disrespect by playing the game there. “It’s not like we came here to play, but gotta catch ’em all,” she said, referring to the game’s slogan.

Some churches are advertising their PokeStop status, hoping to connect with millennials—one-third of whom are religiously unaffiliated. Yet playing during worship will likely be discouraged. “That’s the dilemma for churches trying to ‘catch ’em all,’” writes pastor Aaron Earls.

Last Sunday, Earls announced to his young-adult students, “Don’t play during class unless you see a rare Pokémon. Then you have to let me know, so I can catch it, too.”

Sources: chicagotribune.com, washingtonpost.com, vox.com, foxnews.com, time.com, wsj.com, fortune.com

* * *

Discussion Starters for Student Small Groups

Have you played Pokemon Go yet? If so, what’s your opinion of the game? Why do you think it appeals to so many people? Does the game have a high potential for addiction? How long do you expect the craze to last, and why?

If you’ve played the game, where have you ventured? Who have you met? What safety precautions are you taking?

To you, what are the biggest pros and cons of a game like this? Is it good to get people outside, even if they’re still staring at a screen? Explain. Do you consider this a safe way to meet other people who share your interests?

Why is nostalgia such a strong force? In this troubled world, what are the benefits of being reminded of better or simpler times? What programs, games, songs, or celebrities spark the best memories from your childhood, and why? Where do you turn when you need an “escape” from reality and your day-to-day problems?

In your opinion, are the dangers of playing Pokemon Go being sensationalized? Why or why not? Do you think the game is any more distracting than other things people do while on their phones?

What types of places, if any, do you think should be off-limits for playing Pokemon Go—or for being on your phone, in general? Where do you draw the line between wanting to stay connected and showing respect by not using technology?

How do you feel about churches promoting themselves as PokeStops? Is it okay for religious organizations to capitalize on secular trends like this? Why or why not? If young people are being drawn to church buildings because of Pokemon Go, how might Christians welcome and engage them?

Do you view evangelism as a “catch ’em all” type of mission? Explain. What strategies do you use to fish for people and to show them Jesus’ love?

What might it be like if people pursued Jesus the way they’re pursuing Pokemon characters? How can you share the appeal of Jesus with other people who might not realize they need him?

Scripture links: Ecclesiastes 7:10; Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 16:15; 1 Corinthians 9:19-27; Colossians 2:8; and Titus 2:6-8.

Steph Martin