What is it about?

Sexuality is part of our God-created goodness that youth need help to understand and embrace. Faith leaders can influence how teens understand their sexuality and relationships. This article provides rich theological and practical discussions of youth sexuality, including specific ways to integrate healthy and holistic approaches to incorporate faith-based sexuality education into youth ministry.

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Why is it important?

Today’s young people are bombarded with messages from culture, religion, history, family and social media about how to interpret their sexuality. Young people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) often face rejection, discrimination, and harassment in every domain of their lives, including home and church. LGBT teens who are highly rejected by their parents and caregivers are at very high risk for health and mental health problems. Included in behaviors that are considered “high rejection”: telling your child that God will punish them because they are gay. Many religious institutions promote non-affirming views of gay and lesbian sexuality, such as doctrines that hold marriage as exclusively reserved for one man and one woman and actively reject equating gay rights with human rights. These teachings have death-dealing consequences for LGBT youth, as feeling abandoned by their religion is correlated with significantly higher risk of suicide. All hope is not lost, however. When LGBT youth are accepted by their families and faith-based institutions, they are much more likely to believe they will have a good life and will be a happy, productive adult. Religious institutions, specifically youth ministries, can and should affirm and support all teens developmentally appropriate exploration of their sexuality. This article describes how.


Teenagers are my favorite people on the planet and youth ministers are a close second (because they spend so much time with my favorite people). I care deeply about teenagers having access to accurate information and supportive home, school and faith environments as they develop into young adults. This article was an opportunity for my professional social work experiences with teenagers, my role as a social work educator, my deep appreciation for my own youth ministry leaders (from long ago) and my passion for teenagers to meld with my co-author’s significant experience and research into theological and sexual ethics. Writing this article and presenting together both broadened my understanding of feminist theology and deepened my understanding of the vital responsibility that faith leaders have to embrace their influence in the lives of young people and use that influence for good.

Lorien Carter
Washington University in Saint Louis

Youth ministry has been my passion for close to twenty years--from serving as a youth minister to training seminary students who will be future youth ministers. Our teenagers deserve the best leaders and programming we have to offer. That includes sexuality education that connects their lived experiences and questions to their faith. This article was an opportunity for me to partner with a social work educator to develop a foundational text on the theological and sexual ethics supporting holistic faith-based sexuality education. From an expanded, robust understanding of sexuality to the immediate need for inclusion of LGBTQ youth, I hope this article inspires and equips religious leaders to proactively address sexuality education in their ministry context.

Kathryn Ott
Andrews County Library

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: ReVisioning Sexuality: Relational Joy and Embodied Flourishing, Journal of Youth and Theology, March 2021, Brill,
DOI: 10.1163/24055093-02001002.
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