Something I have mentioned before in other posts, but never gone in to too much detail, is the silence that many people in the church have towards ‘scary’ subjects like homosexuality, pornography, prejudice, and mental health, especially among church programming directed towards kids and teenagers. It is something I think we as a church need to work on, especially because the silence on the subject did quite a bit of harm to me as I grew up.
As I grew up, I attended main services, kids’ programs, youth groups, and as I left high school, both the college group at my church and other church groups on campus. I learned a lot, and they were great at teaching a lot of things. The youth groups especially were very good at tacking subjects that pertained well to the people who attended them. A lot of times they would have sermons or even a series on topics that would be helpful. They talked about staying away from drugs and alcohol, keeping opposite-sex relationships appropriate, how to deal with bullying, and much more. The issue is, they seemed very hesitant to even approach any topic that was possibly controversial or even just too personal. This was done in an effort to make youth groups and just church in general more accessible to outsiders. And this does seem to make sense. What happens if you happen to invite a friend to youth group one week and it happens to be the same week that they are talking about pornography? That friend won’t be coming with you again.
So yes, I do agree that we do need places and ministries that are open and inviting to newcomers. But if that mindset ends up going in to all ministries of the church, there ends up being no substance. This is a criticism that I often hear about some para-church organizations, the criticism being that they focus too much on getting people to attend the events and not scaring them away that the teaching falls in the background and lacks any substance. But the thing is, I see the same issues in more than these organizations. I see them in so many churches and Christian groups.
The problem with this is that many kids growing up need to hear some of these things, and it seems that one of the only ways is if they actually ask about it. And I know this from experience, sometimes growing up, there are things that you don’t feel like you can tell anyone about. For me, that was homosexuality. Homosexuality was rarely spoken about in church when I grew up. It was maybe mentioned once or twice, enough for me to know that it was something the Bible said was a sin. Other than that, it was never really spoken about. I remember a few times it was almost brought up by another kid, and the leaders, not really knowing what to say about it, would figure out some way to change the conversation without addressing the topic. This made the thought of talking to someone about it even scarier.
Unfortunately, mainly because of those reasons, I was terrified to tell anyone my secret struggle with homosexuality, especially people I knew in the church. I started to discover my struggle in 6th grade, and didn’t tell anyone until after I graduated high school. I kept my secret for all of junior high and high school, over 6 years, and it was so hard. I think we as a church need to work hard to be sure that the kids growing up in the church are not afraid to talk about something they might have questions about or be struggling with. I don’t want kids to feel like they have to be silent like I was, because it was a very painful silence.