I have fielded private questions from three of our youth since this past Saturday concerning the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on same-sex marriage. What this tells me is that many of our young people have questions that this recent SCOTUS ruling is causing to bubble to the surface. Dear parents of youth, I say this to you to ask… no… implore you to talk to your teenager(s). And when I mean “talk” to them, what I don’t mean is give them a diatribe on your views of sexual ethics. When you do this, you are merely scratching your own itch. When all you do is tell them what you think and feel, you achieve the feeling that you can check off that mental box labeled “parent my child through this over-sexualized maelstrom.” But when all you do is say what you think and feel, you are scratching your itch and (most likely) failing to help them scratch theirs. They have their own questions, their own angst, their own pressures to deal with. Don’t start the conversation assuming that you know what their questions are. Ask them. Find out what’s banging around in their heads and their hearts. Proverbs 20.5 says, “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” You’re the adult here. You’re the “man of understanding.” So apply yourself to drawing out what is in their deep waters. When you are drawing them out, remember that the goal here is to find out what’s inside them. So asking yes/no questions is often unhelpful. Here are a few sample questions showing how not to ask questions:
- “Do you think homosexuality is wrong?”
- “You don’t struggle with same-sex attraction, do you?“
- “Are any of your friends gay?”
Can you see how these questions are easily answered with what they think you want to hear? Can you also sense the undercurrent of hostility? If you can’t, I guarantee they will.
The best way to plumb the depths of what’s going on inside someone is to ask what are called “open-ended” questions. Here are a few examples of some open-ended questions as they apply to this cultural moment:
- “What are your friends saying about same-sex marriage?”
- “Christianity’s position on homosexuality isn’t very popular these days, is it? What are some of the objections to Christians that you’ve heard by people who are in favor of same-sex marriage?”
- “Why do you think we, as a Christian family, ought to talk about same-sex marriage?”
- “What would you say to a friend who told you that they struggled with same-sex attraction?”
Can you see how these questions have the potential to open up much deeper conversations? Questions like these also allow your teenager some anonymity to explore how you might react if they were to reveal to you their own struggles.
Dear Christian parents, you may not know what direction the conversation will take if you begin this way, but think about things from your teenager’s perspective. They don’t know what direction life will take them from here. But God has placed you as the primary source of discipleship in their life, and part of raising them “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” is wading into their deep waters. But take heart. You have the Word. You have the Spirit of the Living God in you. And you have the support of the Church of Christ with her officers and all those dear saints who have walked this road before you. These are resources of inestimable value. Who can despair when the Lord of heaven and earth has equipped us so?