When You Don’t Know What to Say
How can you minister to parents and grandparents of children in same-sex relationships?
by DANIEL HEDGEPETH
MY WIFE AND I WERE so glad to see our old friends from seminary. We had great respect for this pastor and his wife. They had faithfully served two congregations more than 39 years and have always been the model of a happy, well-balanced family.
The conversation over dinner turned to catching up on our children. I noticed my friend’s expression change from a light-hearted smile to a look of concern. He quickly switched the subject of our conversation away from children to old memories and funny stories.
Later he pulled me to the corner of the restaurant parking lot and quietly said, “I don’t talk about this much, but you will probably hear the news from somebody. Our middle son came home from college this summer and told us he was in a relationship with another young man. To make matters worse, he wants to bring him home for Christmas!”
I didn’t know what to say. I gave my friend a strong handshake and weakly said, “I’m praying for you.” We went our separate ways.
My friend’s dilemma with his son is being repeated in thousands of homes across America. Several surveys estimate that same-sex relationships presently exist in 4.5 percent of the United States adult population. Churches are not immune to the growth of adults who are entering same-sex relationships.
Many families are sitting in our pews, hurting because a child or grandchild has made the decision to live in opposition to biblical teaching about marriage and relationships. They are torn between the love for their children and the biblical truths they hold dear. How can we as Christ-followers minister to these families?
- Intentionally reach out to these families. People in our churches who have children and grandchildren in same-sex relationships often feel ashamed and blame themselves for a child or grandchild’s behavior. These families express feeling isolated and alone. Sometimes they leave the church. Reach out to these families, and let them know you are still their friend.
- Avoid easy answers. Many well-intentioned Christians give advice based on their opinion or own experience. The parents and grandparents of these children are dealing with complicated issues concerning how to love their children or grandchildren without loving the sin. Offer to listen when these friends need a sounding board. Pray, and then speak.
- Remind these families that their adult children or grandchildren are responsible for their own actions. It is true that bad parental choices can make a negative impact on children. It is also true that some people will make bad life choices no matter how great their home environment. We cannot punish godly parents and grandparents who have children living in disobedience. Parents and grandparents of children in same-sex relationships cannot continually punish themselves for the actions of their children. God’s marvelous grace extends to them.
Fifteen years ago, I had another close friend whose oldest child had entered a same-sex relationship. He and his wife were so grief-stricken over their daughter’s actions that it affected their ministry and their relationship with their other children. Eventually, they sought a Christian counselor who helped them. Later he told me, “I had to release my child into the hands of my Father. We could not carry the guilt and burden ourselves. He can carry what I can’t.” That is simple theology but an important truth for parents and grandparents of those involved in unbiblical relationships.
- Point these families to the truth that God’s power and love can reach those in a same-sex relationship. Based on Romans 8:38-39, these families do not have to give up on their children and grandchildren: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We, as the church, should not give up on these people either. We believe, as Paul, that the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ can lead any person to genuine repentance and new life.
Love these parents and grandparents who have children and grandchildren in same-sex relationships. Encourage them to find hope in their relationship with Christ. Let these families know there is also support for them in faithful, compassionate friends in their local church.
DANNY HEDGEPETH is a bivocational pastor who resides in Bogart, Georgia. He and his wife, Sherry, own an agency in Athens, Georgia, that specializes in the care of older adults.