Students & Sexuality

Preparing Your Children’s and Youth Ministries for Inevitable Scenarios

Josh Hussung

Regardless of your context, confusion about sexuality and gender is coming to your church (and probably already has). Student ministries will see some of their students come out as gay or transgender, confess a secret struggle with same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria, or engage with friends or family who are LGBTQ+ affirming. How can student ministry leaders better prepare themselves for the coming questions and situations surrounding sexuality and gender? 

Be proactive in talking about God’s design

First, churches need to be proactive in helping children and youth see the importance of cherishing, believing, and obeying God’s Word. Students may not be asking questions about sexuality when they are in the third grade, but if we instill in them an understanding of the truth of Scripture, they will know where to find the answers when they start to hear lies about gender and sexuality. Read and teach from the Bible in your children’s and youth ministries. Make sure students have a Bible. Encourage them to read it and to see God’s Word as having the final authority in their lives.

Second, ministries should find age-appropriate ways to affirm the goodness of God’s design for sex and gender. Students are already learning about sex and gender from the wrong sources. Streaming video platforms are doing a great job of indoctrinating children into the cultural standards of sexuality. Therefore, we cannot sit back and wait to address these topics until students ask about them. They need to hear what God’s Word says about these issues now.

Third, help students understand who they are and what they are made for. The current thinking about sexuality has everything to do with our self-perception. Self-expression is our culture’s highest end, and we are all affected by it. The chief end of man is not the expression of self—it’s the glory of God. Glorifying God is the greatest pursuit to which we can give ourselves. Students need to understand that their identity is not their sexuality. Instead, their identity is that of a creature made to know God.

Finally, create an environment that is open to questions that challenge biblical teaching. Childhood development will sometimes include an evaluation of the beliefs students are taught in their homes. Oftentimes, that means asking the question, “Why do we believe that?” Your ministry should be a place where students can ask hard questions while being met with kind, calm, and biblical answers. 

Evaluate your message and tone

In order to avoid confusing students about what it means to be a man or a woman, churches should examine how they represent masculinity and femininity. Are all of your events geared toward boys centered around traditionally masculine activities like hunting and fishing? Do your girls’ events only include traditionally feminine activities like tea parties and baking? If so, you might be overemphasizing gender cliches. Society’s confusion around gender is largely based on cultural stereotypes. If a boy likes musicals, he’s told he might be gay or transgender. If a girl likes the outdoors, culture says she might really be a boy. 

We may add to the confusion if we lean heavily on these stereotypes, unintentionally telling students they don’t belong in your group because they do not fit the profile. Instead, we should teach students that they are all made in God’s image, male and female, even if some of their preferences fail to fit the cultural stereotypes. 

 In addition, youth leaders must be careful about the tone we utilize when discussing sexuality and gender. If we are snarky and unclear, students who have gay or transgender classmates may mistake our tone over the issues related to society’s confusion about gender as directed toward the people affected by it. This could deprive you of the opportunity to meet their friends and make your students feel uncomfortable talking with you about gender and sexuality. Though our anger may be rightly directed toward a movement that damages children, we could unwittingly shut down conversation with our students and fail to show them how to love people well. 

Be a welcoming place

The odds are good that your ministry will have a student who struggles with gender identity or a visitor who identifies as transgender. Rather than waiting for this to happen, it would be wise and helpful for your church to begin considering what you will do in order to welcome that student and remain biblically faithful. 

Ministry leaders must remember that students who identify as LGBTQ+ are people. They are not problems for you to solve; they are people searching for something they won’t find anywhere but in Jesus. They are literally sheep without a shepherd. See them the same way Jesus does—with compassion. Our first priority should be that each image-bearer who walks through our doors is given the chance to know Christ. 

The programming you offer students can make a big difference in creating a welcome environment. If a transgender student were to visit, is there a place for that student to be involved that does not require you to make an awkward decision? For example, if all of your programming is gender-exclusive, then you may find yourself in a position where you need to ask the student to go to a group in line with their biological sex. To be clear, I believe that gender-exclusive spaces are vital to healthy discipleship in churches. However, a good option for a transgender student might be to attend one of your co-ed spaces. This would allow the student to come and hear the gospel without putting them and everyone else in an uncomfortable position right off the bat. 

There are also practical decisions that should be made before there’s an actual need. Where will a gay or transgender student sleep during an overnight event? Will the student be able to attend the event, or are there special accommodations that might allow them to participate? And what about bathrooms? Sit down with your church leadership and decide beforehand what you will do so that students feel welcome and you remain faithful to God’s Word. 

While there are many things to take into consideration, do not lose heart. This challenge presents us with an incredible opportunity for ministry. The lies surrounding sexuality and gender are not able to give students ultimate fulfillment. But Jesus holds the answers that our students need. Prepare well, show compassion for the lost, and give them Jesus.

Josh Hussung is pastor of youth & families at Grace Community Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24