This post is the last one in a 5-post series on sex and related topics. I’ve talked about the importance of a theology of sex, a theology of marriage, a theology of parenting, and a posture towards homosexuality (a theology of homosexuality is important too). This week, I want to bring to your attention an issue that should not need to be brought to your attention, because it is incredibly relevant. I want to discuss gender issues. And as I did last week, I want to say less and offer more questions. Questions that will challenge all of us to consider this issue on a deeper level, to consider how we should respond biblically, and what impact it has on our ministry to teenagers.
Even if you’ve been under a rock for the last 3 years, you know that transgender has become a buzzword. You might not know someone who is transgender or experiences gender dysphoria, but the teenagers you serve most certainly do (even if it’s only someone like an Instagram celebrity). If you are serving in a formal ministry role, you better be thinking and solidifying some guidelines so that if a transgender teenager enters your ministry, you aren’t creating a policy based on an individual. This is an important issue to consider, especially because the teenagers you serve are considering how to think about it.
But all I want to do in this post is offer some food for thought. So, eat away:
- The Bible talks at enough length for us to know that God created male and female, and there are distinctions between them (whether you’re a complementarian or an egalitarian, that much should be clear). But is there a difference between sex and gender? Our sex is biological, but gender norms/roles are often cultural. What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a woman? (this is where it’s important for us to help our teenagers see more than one model of manhood or womanhood)
- Terms are important – there is a difference between transgenderism and transsexualism, and gender dysphoria is another thing as well. The best resources I have found on this topic, and especially in understanding various terms, is Understanding Gender Dysphoria: Navigating Transgender Issues in a Changing Culture by Mark Yarhouse. We also have to keep in mind that terms are used differently by different people.
- We have to resist the temptation to lump transgenderism in with homosexuality. They can be connected but are not always – and those of us who do not experience these things wouldn’t like people to generalize something about us.
- I think there are different categories, like I wrote last week. For example, there is a difference between a Christian teenager who is struggling internally with what it means to be a man, and a non-Christian teenager who is openly transgender and askes that you call them by another name.
- Once again, we have to hold onto our convictions with actual love for people. May our theology never become a tool for us to withhold grace.
That’s all I have for you this week. Short, but tough. And crucial. Wrestle with these things, and think through how you will help teenagers think through them as well. Pursuing excellence in youth ministry means we have to be attentive to gender issues, and we have to integrate sound Biblical theology with real life. May God grant you wisdom and grace in this pursuit.
P.S. the inspiration for the title of this post came from this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUAThApzhCw