Monday, 17 November 2014

Youthwork Conference Seminar 'Is There Room In Your Youth Group For The Rainbow?'

This seminar was led by Chris Kidd & I at Youthwork Conference 2015, this is a conference for UK youth workers who are Christian.

This content is taken from their website where I have originally blogged it as part of the live blogging team and as the seminar host: 




'Gemma is a church pastor and in addition heads up a project called Streetspace Bournemouth, Chris is a church based youth worker from the New Forest. Both have been wrestling with how to love the young people who identify as homosexual in their different contexts. Neither of them are experts but rather practitioners responding to their contexts who recognise the lack of credible resources for youth workers.

Chris begun by clarifying that in 45 mins of seminar we would only be beginning the conversation and so in order to clarify what it is that was being covered he shared the reminders:
What this seminar is not:
•A debate
•A lecture
•A deep hermeneutical exploration of scripture
•A complete guide to working with LGBT+ teens

What this seminar is:
•A conversation
•A starting point
•A pointer to some other resources
•Being recorded - please hold that in mind when sharing personal things on the microphone

Gemma reminded us that the term homosexual and homosexuality are not terms used by many people outside of the church context. Young people use different terminology and and such is important for us to know what they are talking about. The most popular acronym is QUILTBAG and Gemma ran through the definitions of this.

Questioning - The term questioning is used when individuals are trying to work out their sexual orientation of gender identity. It can give young people space.

Undecided - Not everyone has clear labels and some are content to align with that of undecided. But as youth workers we like labels!

Intersex - May be used when someone doesnt fit into a concise binary male/female definition because of their biological attributes. This affects about 1% of the population. Sometimes medical intervention occurs when they are children to force a binary sex.

Lesbian - Lesbian is a term used to refer to women who are exclusively sexually attracted to other women. Many lesbian women prefer to self identify using the term gay.

Transgender - Is referred to when individuals gender identity (feeling about which gender they are) doesn't match with their biologic gender (or sex). This means that their mind may tell them one thing, but their bodies tell them another.
For example, a person born with male biological features may feel that they are a female trapped in a male's body.

Bisexual - A term used to refer to a male or female that is sexually attracted to both sexes.Some might have a leaning towards a greater level of attraction in a specific sex but have an openness and attraction towards both sexes.

Asexual - Asexuals experience a lack of sexual attraction to anyone. It is not a choice like celibacy or for a season like abstinence. Some asexuals may experience romantic feelings towards either sex and some may at times choose to have sex such as to parent etc.

Gay - A term often used to describe men who are exclusively sexually attracted to other men. In church this is
sometimes referred to as homosexual or same sex attracted if in an Evangelical context.A person who is sexually interested in other people regardless of gender.

Pansexual - A term used to describe a person who is sexually interested in other people regardless of gender. This can include males, females, transexuals, intersexuals, androgynous people, and those with sex-chromosome anomalies. The attraction may be based on personality rather than any other identity factor.

Straight - The main term used to describe someone who fancies people of the opposite gender.


Chris reminded us of the biblical truth that everyone is welcome to the Lords table but reflected that at times many people, for a variety of different reasons may not feel welcome in our churches. Chris asked us to spend a few minutes reflecting with those around us as to how we can make people feel welcome, whether our churches are welcoming and what it means to feel welcome.
We considered the reality that discipleship is an ongoing journey. A young persons sexuality or gender identity is not a defining factor in how we disciple them but the truth that they are loved, known and saved by the grace through Christ Jesus.

Gemma identified the lack of resources or youth work theory to equip and enable youth workers for discipling young people who identify as QUILTBAG and so as part of her MA in Applied Theology sought to adapt an informal education model on the needs of young people so that she could have something to work with in her context. We recognised the lack of good practice stories on this topic and Gemma requested that if anyone does have something that works that she would love other about to include in some writing she is undertaking. Gemma can be emailed via bournemouth@streetspace.org.uk




Chris highlighted some of tensions around this topic that as youth workers we encounter. So much of our policy and procedures are set up around same sex group situations like mentoring, prayer ministry, residential experiences where we have historically segregated young people making assumptions that all young people identify as straight. Perhaps its time we revisit our policies to be more young person specific. Every context will have its own tensions.


Resources - Gemma highlighted a few resources that are useful for youth workers to know about:
Diverse Church -A supportive community of 120 young LGBT+ Christians aged 18 - 30 from UK evangelical churches. Who aim to be a pastoral/mission resource for the wider church. They can be found at diverse church.org.uk

Living Out -A group of Christians who experience same-sex attraction, and want to share their stories, answer your questions, and recommend resources about Christianity and same-sex attraction. They can be found at living out.org

Books in the bookshop that are highly recommended include:

Wendy Wanderwal Gritters 'Generous Spaciousness' written as a conversation starter to the Evangelical church

Andrew Marins 'Love is an Orientation' a game changing book that encouraged and inspired Gemma's intentional decision to serve her local community better

Sarah & Rachel Hagger - Holts 'Living it Out: A Survival Guide for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Christians and Their Friends, Families and Churches' a UK based resource

Questions & Comments were given.


We are keen to carry on the conversation so please do tweet us @gemmadunning @chriskidd

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