Serving LGBTQ+ Youth

This past summer, my wife Beth and I packed everything we own into a uhaul van, loaded up an ipod with playlists and audiobooks, equipped the cab with a cooler full of snacks, and said goodbye to our friends and family in Vancouver before heading east across the country to start a new life in Toronto.  Having never spent significant time in Toronto, and leaving an incredible community of friends and family on the west coast, this move was one of the hardest decisions either Beth or I had ever had to make. But an opportunity was knocking that was impossible to ignore.

When I had left youth ministry in my denomination in order to marry the woman I love, I knew that someday I would work with teenagers again, but I had no idea when or in what capacity.  My education really only qualified me to pastor, and I had yet to feel at home in another denominational context.  Maybe I could care for youth as a school teacher or social worker, but either would require more schooling, and neither felt like quite the right fit for me.

In the wake of my coming out and attempts at sorting through my vocational options, both Beth and I were offered work with New Direction Ministries.  Even before deciding to take the jobs, we felt they were signs of hope that there was exciting work out there for us.

So here I am, introducing myself on the blog as the Co-ordinator of Youth Services, a job that allows me to connect and support LGBTQ+ youth themselves as well as those who want to create safe spaces for them in the context of faith communities.  Regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity, adolescence  is a messy, confusing, and awkward time of changing emotions, bodies, and hormones, when we begin to make sense of our world and make decisions about what kind of adults we will become. What is a unique pattern for LGBTQ+ teens is that they are too often treated poorly by their communities and loved ones, taught to hide a part of themselves, making them far more vulnerable to all kinds of abuse.  In my new role, I get to listen to and support these youth in shaking off their sense of shame and begin to accept their particular realities.  I look forward to journeying with them as they discover and clarify their own values and beliefs, and to help discern how these things might shape the many decisions that face them.

In the past year, Rolling Stone Magazine has published two major articles focused specifically on how Christians are treating LGBT youth. Alex Morris is the journalist who is shedding light on this demographic that so easily falls through the cracks, and she does this with a whole lot of honesty and care. In October of last year she wro