I have been Youth Leader at my church (Baptist) for the last 16 years. In that time we have had our ups and downs ministering to teens; the good times and the bad.
But never this bad.
About 4 years ago, we were averaging 10-15 teens in our group (we're a small church, with attendance in the 80s and 90s.). Then an incident happened which began an unfortunate pattern.
"The Incident" (as I call it) involved a Sunday night youth meeting in which I mentioned, in passing, that the Bible condemns homosexuality (the topic was in the news). After everyone had been dismissed, one of the young girl's mother came storming into the room and blasted me for my insensitivity.
It turns out that the mother's oldest daughter (who was not at the meeting) is a lesbian.
The fallout was immediate and devastating. Sunday school and Sunday nights' attendance shriveled down to me and my 2 sons.
It stayed that way for an entire summer.
Slowly, younger kids who were coming into the 7th grade started attending and from that we started over. We eventually built it back up to previous levels.
Then gay marriage started becoming a prominent national issue, and again I was forced to make a decision: go soft on the issue or stand firm on what the Bible teaches. Ignoring it wasn't an option, it kept coming up.
90% of the teens played along with everything until we got back from the annual Youth Convention in 2014.
And then they fled.
This time it hurt my sons, since the ones who left were their contemporaries.
How did I explain all this to my sons? It was rough. This is a small neighborhood. You can't help but pass by people that you know, people that you have ministered to. People that now look away when they see you, not even acknowledging your existence...or your sons'.
What of the remaining 10% that stayed? They moved away.
Our trip to youth Convention this year was a very small group. The only ones that stuck around afterward were my sons.
You can guess what this past summer looked like.
A couple of months ago, our bus ministry found a group of black teenagers that were really talented in performing arts (dance and interpretive movement). We even let them perform on a Sunday morning. However, one of them is gay.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
And here's the kicker: I've never had the chance to actually TEACH on the subject. I've just mentioned it in passing...and teens have fled for the tall grass.
As you can see, we have been on the receiving end of history. Believe me, it gets old.
I am on the verge of giving up, which I didn't want to do until my sons both graduated.
I've condensed our recent history for time's sake, but suffice it to say that we are in desperate straights.
The other thing that makes this so challenging is that I have no co-workers in this ministry, I work 2 jobs and have been the only teen ministry worker for most of my 16-year term.
My pastor has been supportive, but is really unable to help beyond encouraging words and prayers.
I'd like to have a dialogue here with Freepers who may have suggestions.