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Topic: Teenagers

5 Talking Points on Gender Dysphoria for Those Ministering to Youth

March 30, 2016
By Sean Nolan


I have found it increasingly effective in ministering to youth and children to quote sources from outside of the broad evangelical circle. For example, this past Sunday I used a clip of Christopher Hitchens quoting Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians in a debate with a Universalist. He may not have assented to the gospel message, but he certainly understood it intellectually.

When it comes to biblical manhood and womanhood, my new favorite source from outside the circle is the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds). You will not find any reference to the Bible on their website. The authority to which they submit is purely scientific. Yet, their recent statement titled, Gender Ideology Harms Children affirms what those who trust the Bible have claimed all along: human beings are created both male and female and these distinctions are assigned at birth.

This statement is invaluable to my toolbox for ministering to youth. It is an example of science catching up to what the Bible has taught all along. Long before a man could surgically transform himself to resemble a woman the Bible’s Old Testament gave this warning: A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God (Deut 22:5). Let us also be cautious not to think that this was only an Old Testament prohibition. The apostle Paul upholds the twofold distinction between man and woman in all of his New Testament writings. When writing about proper worship practices he appeals not to Scripture, but to nature regarding some gender confusion happening in the first century Church: Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering (1 Cor 11:14, 15). As always, the commands God gives us not only please him, but are best for human flourishing as well.

What God reveals in Scripture to be immoral, science is now finding to be destructive. ACPeds research corroborates what God has stated from old: it is dangerous to encourage humans to embrace a sex other than the one assigned to them at birth. It offends God, mars the imago dei, and leads to further human suffering as sin is always guaranteed to do.

How can we talk with our churches’ teenagers who are at the forefront of the ongoing battle over gender ideology? Here are some things we can share with teenagers about human sexuality that the Bible affirms and the ACPeds research confirms.

  1. God does in fact make humans either male or female. While there is increasing hostility to this view, our biology cannot be changed. Many students are confused on this issue; many more will interact with (and if equipped, minister to) people who struggle with gender dysphoria. In equipping our students for ministry to others and helping them to think through this issue we should keep in mind our Lord’s combination of both truth and grace (John 1:14). God’s truth is not threatened because others challenge it. Meet confused students with compassion and grace, while challenging them to think deeply about who God has made us to be biologically.
  2. No one is exempt from believing lies. Currently there are massively popular lies about our sexual identities and our bodies that we cannot inoculate our teenagers from. Let us steep ourselves in God’s Word while keeping abreast of the changing climates of culture and medicine and the insights they will provide us.
  3. Puberty is an awkward time for everyone and insecurities abound during this season of life. The physical and hormonal changes are only compounded by the rhetoric that states we can choose our gender. Appropriately (use caution as there are many inappropriate ways) affirm and encourage students that despite the transition their body goes through God made it and ordains its transformation, he sees them as “very good” (Gen 1:31) and they are his workmanship (Eph 2:10).
  4. Do not tell teens struggling to work through sexual identity issues that what they are going through “is just a phase.” While the statement from ACPeds research suggests that it is, this sort of comment is unhelpful for those in the midst of the confusion. All you will achieve by bringing this up to those in the midst of the confusion is invalidating their struggles and feelings. This will shut down conversation and eliminate trust.
  5. Conversely, for those teens who are thinking biblically about sexual identity and ministering to those struggling with it: do mention that it is just a phase. It can be encouraging for students that are praying for hope and healing for their friends to know that with time it is likely feelings of gender dysphoria will eventually subside. We may also want to remind them that sharing the idea that this “is only a phase” with their friends comes across as dismissive and unhelpful.

Those of us working with youth have a momentous task ahead of us. There is growing suspicion amongst the next generation that traditional sexual identity is outdated, bigoted, and ignorant. However, the same God that rescued people in a previous generation from the errors of the sexual revolution is in control of the generations that will outlive us.

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