Is Your Ministry Polarizing?

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This last month we’ve doing a series on Sex and Dating.  In this series we are trying to address everything from homosexuality to the sexual pressures that guys and girls face on a daily basis.  The series has been great at engaging the teens and it has given us a great opportunity to talk with parents.  However, the bright spot of this ministry is that it gives us an opportunity to address a subject that is polarizing.

Chances are you approach certain subjects with the mindset, “No way.” or “Bring it on!” While it’s not always healthy to be the HOT TOPIC church, there are times when we need to look at certain subjects.  When it comes to themes like sex, evolution, abortion, the death penalty, etc. a lot of hype seems to surround them.  And as important as these subjects can be, if we come on too hard or brush right over them we only end up fueling their polarizing nature.

If we aren’t leaning in and addressing these topics we give our students the impression that we don’t care or that they aren’t important.  This mindset will only show them the church doesn’t care about what really matters.  If we go in full force with nothing but the truth, knocking down every opinion, ounce of doubt and curious thought we show them the church is nothing but closed minded.  Either way we risk losing teens.  The healthy approach is to engage with the proper content and context by:

  • Encouraging Them To Sit In The Tension – Many times we put teens in a situation where they have to make a decision before they are ready.  When this happens they don’t truly embrace a belief.  By encouraging them to sit in the tension we bring them along a journey to gain appreciation and ownership for what can be a bold statement.  Sitting in the tension also allows them to think outside the box, to look at other perspectives, which will also give them the confidence to defend it.
  • Promoting Honest Questioning And Authentic Answering – If we take away their ability to ask questions, they’ll resent us.  If we give them an answer that’s anything but authentic they’ll lose our trust.  Many times we avoid the Q&A because we ourselves are afraid of the tension.  There is nothing wrong with not knowing.  There is nothing wrong with saying, “Let’s find this out together.”  If anything it builds trusts and says, “I’m with you on this.
  • Continuing The Conversation – Even if we engage in Q&A and lean into a difficult situation it doesn’t mean it’s over when the series is done.  Most times these conversations need to be left open ended so that the teens know they can bring it up again if doubt emerges.  It’s easy to say, “We’ve discussed this already, why do we have to open up wounds?” It’s because not everyone has healed.  Continuing the conversation is saying to the teens, “I’m willing to discuss this whenever you have a question, concern or thought.
I’m not promoting controversy; however, I’m hoping you don’t run from it.  If we aren’t intentional about the topics we teach and the growth we want, we risk creating a church that polarizes people.  Granted there are going to be teens who won’t agree with church teaching; however, we have to make sure we aren’t forcing them into that situation.  On top of creating an open dialogue and sitting in the tension we need to PRAY.  Bring God into every conversation and allow Him to open minds and hearts to His word and love.

How do you address polarizing issues in your ministry?  What’s worked and what hasn’t?