Across North America, pastors, parents, and those who care for LGBT+ individuals have been using Guiding Families of LGBT+ Loved Ones as course material in their small group.
Shawna shares her story of faith as she stepped into a group leadership position and then brought her group through Guiding Families material.
Shawna, how did you end up becoming a small group leader?
There was a Christian support group at a church in another town. It was a husband and wife team, and they had a son who was gay. They started the group because no one else locally had been offering any support for Christian parents of LGBT+ kids.
Initially, I joined the group with a friend of mine. Her daughter had just come out as LGBT+, and she was very distressed. I had an LGBT+ child, too, but I was not ready to face the challenges in my own family. So I decided to go with her to “support her” — but it actually ended up helping me.
I started going regularly. At the same time, I was reading through Lead Them Home resources and gaining more insight. As I learned more and more along the way, the leaders were giving me more and more opportunities to lead, influence, and share what I was learning and living out in my family.
One season, the couple was praying through a transition of leadership and asked me if I would be interested in leading the group.
I said yes that same day.
How were you able to say “yes” so quickly?
I had been feeling for a long time like I was being called to support other parents along this journey. I didn’t really know what that would look like, but I just kept saying “yes” anytime a door opened. So I was already in that frame of mind when they asked me.
God has grown in me a deep compassion for other parents going through what our family had gone through. It can be a very isolating journey to be a parent of an LGBT-identified child, and to try to find support in your church community is very rare. There was no support within a 60-mile radius of the town I lived in.
What obstacles have you faced as you’ve moved into leading a group study?
When our child came out as transgender, we had experience after experience of church leaders and communities rejecting our family, giving us unhelpful advice, or telling us they couldn’t help us. Since we had been through so much rejection, I definitely had a fear of people rejecting us. But I also knew God was bigger than that.
I’ve been able to help a lot of moms already just by sharing my own experience and helping them know they’re not alone.
I just walk forward in hope and faith and love of everyone involved. I don’t walk in fear.
What would you tell someone — a ministry leader, campus ministry leader, friend — anyone who is thinking of starting a group study through Guiding Families?
There’s no better way to draw closer to God than to serve others, especially the people around you who are struggling with the same things you are.
I encourage people to step out in faith, read through and get to know the course content, and pray through the timing and next steps God has for you.
Do you have any other encouragement to give to those in the Church with LGBT+ loved ones?
I feel like the culture is going to change. Things are coming, and churches are going to start waking up to the ways they’ve failed to effectively share Christ with LGBT+ people. And I’m just thankful to be a part of it in any little way I can. I’m just amazed.
Being a part of God’s missional work takes a dying to self, a showing up, and a humbleness to just say, “God, use me.”
. . . Just watch out when you pray that.
Josh has an M.A. in Biblical Literature, and his greatest passion is help people grow in their relationship with Jesus.
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