Can Marketing Save Lives? Welcoming the LGBT Community

Can Marketing Save Lives? Welcoming the LGBT Community

October 13, 2011 by

What do Jamey Rodenmeyer, Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh and Raymond Chase have in common? They were all teens who were bullied about their sexual orientation to the point that they committed suicide. That is a tragedy, no matter your theology on homosexuality. This is a case where marketing could literally be saving lives.

Youth pastor Brian Kirk offers an open letter to progressive churches, urging them to speak out for LGBT teens:

How many of our moderate and progressive mainline churches are completely welcoming of GLBT persons and yet offer no hint of this on their website or print material? “We are welcoming of all,” I’ve heard some say, “but does that mean we need to put a rainbow flag on our church sign?”

Brian Kirk says for the sake of these kids, yes. He encourages churches that affirm LGBT people to make their stand known. To communicate it. To put it in their marketing. One church in Toledo, Ohio, did just that, slapping their message on a billboard: “Being Gay is a Gift from God.” (Prompting a billboard war with another church. Note to churches that are not gay-affirming: It’s OK to disagree, but a billboard war sucks.)

How you communicate matters. It can lead people into eternity and it can save lives here and now.

Can gay-affirming churches really stand up as a whole with this kind of message? Hemant Mehta, the friendly atheist, says no: Progressive churches are too little too late.

There’s only one way to find out.

One simple way to start would be to join these other churches in supporting the It Gets Better Project.

Please remember that we’re an ecumenical organization. We agree on the gospel, that Jesus is the way to salvation, and we agree to disagree on all other theological differences. We’re here to debate communication, not theology. Thanks!

Photo by Wyoming_Jackrabbit
Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

35 Responses to “Can Marketing Save Lives? Welcoming the LGBT Community”

  • Chris Syme
    October 13, 2011

    Thank you for this article. Appreciate it. Wouldn’t it be great if all our churches were more helpful and less critical? Many churches hang out the “we don’t want sinners here” sign without even understanding the ramifications. God help us.

  • Jeff Karnes
    October 13, 2011

    I agree that we have to be inviting of the lifestyle in order to lead them to God. Just as we have to be inviting of drunks, adulterers, and any other people who live in sin.
    Yet we can’t invite them in order to just meet Jesus if we don’t believe he can get the sin out of their life. You don’t have a relationship with Jesus in order to remain in a sinful lifestyle.
    That is why the sign in Toledo is wrong, it isn’t inviting the lifestyle to church, it’s taking a stand that being gay is not a sin, that it is a gift from God.
    That isn’t an inviting issue, that is a theological issue, no matter what you say or think.

    • Kevin D. Hendricks
      October 13, 2011

      Hey Jeff: Just a reminder that we’re not debating the theology. You disagree with the theological stance of gay-affirming churches that would lead them to post a billboard like that. That’s fine, but it’s not the issue here.

      We’re talking about how gay-affirming churches can communicate their message. Nobody is asking non-gay-affirming churches to communicate a message they don’t agree with.

    • Barry K
      October 27, 2011

      I think your argument would be more credible if your statement had been “Just as we have to be inviting people like me” since we all live in sin, you included. Instead you point the judgmental finger at others, which is exactly what is causing the decline of mainline christian churches is the US these days.

  • Jamey Halfast
    October 13, 2011

    I have to agree with Jeff… You can’t have a discussion about how to communicate your church’s acceptance of sin without having a theological discussion of that sin, so be ready! We have a handful of homosexuals in our church, and we communicate freely that we accept them equally – as we do all people who sin. But they also know through our communication that an active homosexual lifestyle is just as abhorrent to God as any heterosexual extramarital activity – or drunk, or liar, or murderer… Any sign on the church forces a perception of the inside. The purpose of the advertisement is absolutely to state an acceptance of homosexuality as normal and natural. It’s amazing the length to which the rebellious human spirit can go to rationalize a selfish desire.

  • Aaron McCarroll Gallegos
    October 13, 2011

    Thanks for this important post. Many congregations in The United Church of Canada share the welcoming position of the denomination through their marketing and communication efforts. Slowly this public witness is helping to change the public’s assumptions about “organized religion” in a positive way.

  • Michael Buckingham
    October 13, 2011

    Jamey and Jeff bring up a more difficult question that we MUST wrestle with and find a solution. How do you be accepting of a person but still preach the truth of sin? I see too many churches that don’t want to talk about sin and only talk about grace and forgiveness. The church doesn’t call people to a higher standard and in doing so waters down the gospel. That goes beyond LGBT.

    Just look at the landscape, we have churches that say being gay is a gift, there is no hell, and even here with us not wanting to talk about theology and only methods. If we are communicators that means we must understand that which we are communicating.

    • Drew
      November 2, 2011

      I think the way you preach the truth to sin is you preach Jesus’ gospel and stop lying about what you wish the bible said so you dont have to feel guilty for all the gay teens you genocided with your hate rhetoric, and your complacent ignorance of scriptural translation/context. Isnt it awful that we have churches preaching what churches were preaching before the 1800’s when they added all that extra crap into mainstream religion about hell and homosexuality?

      Apparently so few of you commenting on here are not intelligent enough to address the topic at hand. You all are disregarding the topic which is how to reach out to the group that the mainline anti-science churches have genocided with lies, hate, shame and disregard. We are not asking for a theological opinion which most of you are only offering. If you are not a gay-affirming Christ-centered church, then you have nothing to comment about since you cannot fathom the reality of the topic.

  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    October 13, 2011

    Certainly a church has to have that theological discussion. I’m saying we don’t need to have that discussion here. Where a church stands on homosexuality is up to them. How they can communicate that position is what we want to talk about.

    • Michael Buckingham
      October 13, 2011

      But I think as communicators we absolutely need to have theological discussions. It’s not enough to just “make LGBT community feel welcome”, as communicators we must understand why we are doing that and what it really means.

      Take this outside of an arena with tension, let’s talk diversity.

      It’s not enough for me to create a campaign that makes a certain culture feel welcome. As a communicator I must be involved in the entire discussion of why the don’t feel welcome, why they should feel welcome, what we can do internally to make sure they feel welcome, how to work with the current congregation, etc.

      Now replace that with something of a theological/sin issue that the church isn’t great at welcoming be it homosexuals, strippers, prostitutes, etc. and it makes those conversations even more important.

      Communicators shouldn’t be technicians or production monkeys, their gifts mean more than that and church marketing will continue to suck if we keep them in that box and not welcome them into the theological conversations like this.

      • Drew
        November 2, 2011

        such as people named Michael, child molesters, people with the last name Buckingham, rapists, murderers.. etc.

        Ive illustrated your community style above, and its not that great.

    • John McMann
      October 13, 2011

      Kevin, would your church openly advertise “Being a (Insert ANY Sin Here) is a Gift from God”? What we say as a church matters. This church has moved beyond creating a welcoming environment, they have publicly stated that this lifestyle is not a sin but rather a “gift from God”. By the very nature of the sign’s message, they are broadcasting a theological position. The broader church has an obligation to preserve sound biblical doctrine. You cannot be surprised by a theological discussion following a controversial posting.

      The posting was not intended to spur discussion of the effectiveness of church signage. That could have been done in a bunch of different ways. Your article contained an intentionally controversial theological statement.

      If a discussion on church signage is really your desire, they are among the least effective means of reaching a specific targeted segment. Secondly, the message included in the signage is exclusive to a broad audience. As a heterosexual, I must as why have I not received the gift of homosexuality? Should I pray for God’s blessing of homosexuality for my life? If the desire is to be inclusive of alternative lifestyles, they fail to communicate their message.

  • UMJeremy
    October 13, 2011

    I think the communication aspect is crucial. There are many churches who are affirming in practice but don’t want to put it out on their billboard. They worry about alienating their membership and response from the community. In my opinion, it’s too bad they aren’t equally hoping that if they had it on their billboard, a suicidal gay teen might walk by and realize they have a chance.

    Every church is different but a practice kept in secret is keeping light under a basket not putting it in the window or on the hill. If you already practice inclusion, expressing it in words and symbols may cost you something but it may gain you something as well.

    • Michael Buckingham
      October 13, 2011

      Or they put it on a billboard (because it’s the right thing to do) but not carry it out in practice.

      ie. “a new way to do church” “sinners welcome” etc. only to walk into a typical church with noses in the air.

    • Drew
      November 2, 2011

      That’s an excellent point and it draws me to think of what the point of a church really is. Isnt it to reach people for Christ? Churches are worried about what the community might think or alienating their congregation, but what about people who could benefit from having a church family where they can grow in Christ? So many LGBT people have their strong relationship with Christ through their own efforts and devotions, but have to face an uphill battle to retain that faith without a church family supporting them, with local ordinances discriminating against them, depending on where you live. If its a big city like Atlanta dozens of gay churches and hundreds of integrated gay-straight churches, then the LGBT person has a supportive environment for their faith journey, and gays who do not know Christ can be reached. But if its a small town without an organized gay community or a known gay-straight church, then the gay Christians do not have a place to grow spiritually with other believers.

      My hometown has very little to offer LGBT people that I know of. The Unitarian church and the Episcopal church are the only welcoming congregations. I live in Atlanta now and there are more gay churches than I can count and many many gay-affirming churches. However there are anti-gay churches like New Birth Missionary Baptist church where the pastor molests youth members, and there is North Point Community Church where they let gays sit on the pews, accept gay money, dont preach against it but secretly dont like gays. Then there is a church I, sure some of the commenters on here would love to attend called Rescue Atlanta where they promote themselves with T-Shirts which say “All are welcome here: Drug Dealers, Rapists, Murderers, Homeless, Gang Bangers, Strippers, Prostitutes, Homosexuals, Pregnant Teenagers, Atheists” – which is not marketing ploy that I know of that would make gay people feel welcome.

      But yeah, its sad that the gay affirming churches may not feel comfortable “coming out” as an ally for all the gay Christians maintaining their faith on their own.

  • Jamey Halfast
    October 13, 2011

    Kevin – CMS people, above all, must know you cannot separate the medium from the message, hence my “be ready” comment above. You WILL get the theological discussion, because the post is a theological post – The problem you’ll find is that the very nature of homosexuality forces someone to choose to take sides. If the post were simply about how a church reaches out to the troubled teens of their area, you wouldn’t have sparked as big a response – because that point can be debated as far as technique. But there is a stance taken, purposefully or not, in the writing – in the opinion of many readers (this one included), there’s no mistaking the slant towards homosexuality being normal. Once that is understood (intentional or not), it isn’t about technique anymore – it’s about right or wrong. That’s what happens when the topic chosen is one that many people claim is debatable, but in the end boils down to polarizing truths.

  • Martha
    October 13, 2011

    I work with The United Church of Canada; there is a LOT of diversity of acceptance to the LBGT community, depending on the congregation. Happily, becoming an “Affirming Congregation” helps (through resources and tools provides by the General Council office) raise awareness that “We are all one; We all live in God’s world” and that LBGT folks are Very Welcome in those congregations. It’s also the case that many non”Affimirming” churches are welcoming, but aren’t ‘official’ for many reasons–generally they don’t see the need for it. All members are encouraged to’ live God’s welcome’ and this, above all other reasons, I why I have a lot of respect for the United Church (although I am actually Anglican, and I often struggle with that denomination’s reluctance to ‘go there’)

  • Kristen LaValley
    October 13, 2011

    John McMann-You pretty much said everything I was going to say. But in addition to that, whatever that church’s theological stance is, by putting up that sign, they boxed their church in. They are now “the gay church”. Perhaps that is what they were going for. Would they put up “Being straight is a gift from God?” probably not. Because that would be unpopular and cause an uproar and possibly even be dangerous for them to do. The sign will work for them-they’ve already received a lot of attention and will no doubt get a lot of visitors and maybe even new members. But by making being a homosexual seem so desirable, they are deceiving people and leading them farther away redemption. However, if this is what their church believes, then they did a pretty good job communicating it.

  • Jamey Halfast
    October 13, 2011

    Oh – and to go back directly to the post – the best way for a church to help suicidal GLBT teens is to lead them to repentance and forgiveness – not acceptance. If they advertise THAT on their signs, maybe they’ll save a few lives from being thrown away needlessly, and BONUS! They might actually feel accepted, too.

  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    October 13, 2011

    What’s funny here is that some of you are arguing against this idea based on your theological stance. My whole point is this church has a different theological stance. So Jamey, your last comment about leading GLBT teens to repentance and forgiveness makes no sense from the perspective of this church’s theological stance. You can’t argue their belief with them (well you can and you’re welcome to, but it’s not productive for this conversation).

    Michael’s getting at it with taking this to a different issue. I agree with you Michael, a church needs to have that conversation of why they’re taking a stand on this issue, how they’re doing it, etc. But for this church the debate isn’t ‘is diversity sinful?’ The church has already decided how they feel about diversity, now how do they act on it? It’s not my place to tell them they’re wrong about their stance on diversity.

    If you feel you have to take that stand and you can’t work with them because of how you feel about their take on diversity, that’s fine. That’s your choice. But on this blog we’re not taking those stances based on anything less than the gospel.

    I’m not sure how else to explain it. An Advertising Age article on the marketing of [Insert Politician’s Name] wouldn’t take issue with their political stance, it’d focus on how they communicated that message. That’s all I’m trying to do.

    • Michael Buckingham
      October 13, 2011

      But is that their stance? Do they think a man being attracted to other men is really a gift? Who thinks that? Does the whole church think that? Can they show up to the marriage weekend? Anyone freak when they kiss? Will they encourage the boys in the youth group to have a boyfriend? Do they believe it is a gift or are they trying to make a point that all are welcome. Two different messages. And as it stands they indeed have labeled themselves as the gay church. Was that the goal? Maybe, but if not this was a big flop.

    • Jon
      October 13, 2011

      The point others have tried to make is that you haven’t communicated how others communicate the spectrum of this theological debate. You haven’t cited any ways to promote any of the other positions. By only bringing up how one segment of the church is communicating the same message you have communicated that you believe the church should support a homosexual lifestyle. By saying ” ‘…but does that mean we need to put a rainbow flag on our church sign?’ Brian Kirk says for the sake of these kids, yes,” you have communicated your feelings about what churches need to do with this issue. Not very ecumenical.

      • Kevin D. Hendricks
        October 14, 2011

        Sorry Jon, but I disagree. Being ecumenical does not mean giving equal air time to every viewpoint in every single blog post. It simply means we don’t argue over the non-essentials (and we defined what we’ve determined to be essential).

        Go back to my Advertising Age comparison. Their article exploring politician A’s marketing doesn’t have to explore politican B’s marketing in order to be fair. An article on Apple’s marketing doesn’t always have to cover Dell’s.

        And we have covered multiple viewpoints on this issue. (This is my favorite, though it never mentions LGBT issues by name.)

        • Jon
          October 16, 2011

          I don’t think you need to give “equal air time”, but it does mean that you would “focus on our shared mission of communicating that gospel” rather than choosing a topic which gets us off topic.

  • Cameron
    October 13, 2011

    I think we can talk about the marketing aspect of this topic without having to delve too deeply into the theology. Although, as is so often the case, our marketing will often belie our real theology, regardless of what is written in our official church manuals.

    Our denomination has a fairly clear policy with regards to homosexuality. Homosexual people are welcome in all aspects of church life, as long as they are not ‘practising.’ We recognise that people can’t help their desires, but they must choose what to do with them. Theologically, that seems to be the general feeling in this forum, it seems.

    Like many places in the Western world the subject of same-sex marriage has come up here in Australia. My denominational headquarters is concerned about this and our denominational leader, along with several other church leaders, wrote an open letter to the government expressing concern. All churches in our denomination were encouraged to join in a letter writing campaign to the relevant politicians expressing their outrage at such a proposal.

    Now, it turned out that there were several problems here, mostly to do with the breaking of very wise denominational rules about the way we deal with political issues. The biggest problem, though, was what the whole thing communicated to LGBTI people in our congregations. When the letter writing campaign was announced many gay people I know took it as a personal attack. The way it was all communicated came across as an attack on homosexuality, not a specific political issue.

    One gay man I know told me he couldn’t understand it at all. He’s celibate and has spent years ‘mortifying his bodily desires’ because he believes that’s what God requires. The announcement of the letter writing campaign didn’t do anything to make his burden lighter. The anti-gay rhetoric that was going around that Sunday just made him feel bad about himself.

    He’s a seasoned campaigner, you might say. How would it be for a teenager who is coming to the realisation that he is, in fact, gay? Is he going to discuss it with the pastor who has just stood up and asked everyone to contact their politicians about the foul abomination sweeping the land? No. And if the relevant statistics are anything to go by, I don’t like his chances of a happy and fulfilled life.

    This is a case where marketing mattered. This subject could have been dealt with in any number of ways. We don’t have to have a position on the theology to know that the message communicated to gay people who worship in our churches was the wrong one.

  • Tim Schraeder
    October 13, 2011

    This is indeed a bit of a controversial conversation but one that is very necessary. Regardless of your theological stance this is an issue and a conversation that all churches are going to need to address.

    I blogged about something similar last year:

    I’m very proud to attend a church who is currently running a series of ad campaigns on Chicago’s transit system that have different phrases like, “We love doubters. We love belivers. We love Cubs fan. We love White Sox fans. We love suits. We love tattoos. We love gay people. We love straight people. We love Republicans. We love Democrats.” And the church lives out that mission and has created a space where no perfect people are allowed [to borrow John Burke’s terminology].

    GLBT people know what the church believes about homosexuality, and our challenge is how we create an environment for them, or anyone, to feel like they belong… because they do.

    Back to the heart of this issue, teenage suicides and bullying, one man recently said, “the church may not be killing teenagers, but they are handing them the ammunition.” Most of the gay teenage suicides that are happening are because of religion.

    I’m glad that Jesus didn’t say, “come to me once you are perfect, spotless, and blameless…” He said, “come as you are.”

    Obviously, He begins the work of transformation in the hearts and lives of those who choose to follow Him and the Spirit is what leads us all to repentance… but rather than trying to challenge hearts or change minds, our focus should be to swing our doors wide open to everyone, and to astonish the world with love and grace.

    It’s God’s place to judge people and our place to love them. That’s the heart of our message and that’s the core of the Gospel… God so loved.

    We are all broken and helpless and are all undeserving sinners that are in desperate need of God’s amazing grace. Don’t arguments and debates create barriers between your church and the people, regardless of the age, race, orientation or gender, that God is calling you to reach. God will do the heart work, you just have to be willing to extend His love and grace to everyone.

  • Tim
    October 14, 2011

    It’s a little disingenuous to your readers to assert a theological opinion in an article – whether it was the main point or not – and then say “please don’t debate this point here”.

    If the post had kept strictly from a marketing standpoint, then the discussion would likely have followed.

    There’s actually an irony here because this is the exact problem churches often have with their marketing. They (rightly) desire to communicate love and acceptance of people, and in general, desire to move people toward repentance of din,

  • Jamey Halfast
    October 14, 2011

    Kevin – You failed at the ecumenical message by presenting a subject that is not ecumenical by nature. The thought of a church advertising it’s carte blanche acceptance of a lifestyle many understand to be sin – …and then telling your readers that this is about technique… Well, that’s not a theological problem, that’s a logic problem.

    Maybe to help put this debate into a better understanding, it may be helpful to remove the LGBT from the situation – take God and the church out of it completely, too. Let’s remove the argument you’re calling theological, and place the logic in a similar, if not utterly ridiculous situation, and see what it sounds like. This is not name-calling, this is an attempt to follow the logic when it’s away from the flashpoint. OK…

    You present an article about a bank who wants to advertise that they cater to muggers, extortionists and thieves, because these people are not normally welcome to do business in other banks – in fact, many people turn them over to the police by society as a whole. But if they come here, they will be accepted and appreciated. They will be free to execute their method of income, and not be ashamed… And you want to talk about how they can get their message out?

    (PLEASE, PLEASE do not read into this – do not equate homosexuals with thugs and other uglies, or a lifestyle with a crime! It’s the relationship of the bank with these people that I’m drawing a connection, not people to people!!!!)

    Talking about this church’s marketing is like trying to debate a politician’s election campaign, when the politician’s message is saying, “there’s nothing wrong, and electing me will do absolutely nothing for the citizenry. So vote for me.” …Do you really think telling a group of political campaigners to ignore his message and just debate his technique will be successful?

    You see? The communication is side-tracked by the situation that many here see, not only as theologically wrong, but logically wrong for an organization that calls itself a church. I don’t think (Oh, God I hope not!) that any of us would allow our church to post a sign that said, “All are welcome – unless you are gay.” That goes against the nature of the church universal. But the statement at the other end, “All are welcome – especially if you’re gay” should be just as unnatural to us. So, debating the techniques of spreading that message …it’s kind of like, “…Really?”

    This church’s communication is an open invitation, yes – but it does more than a little implying that you don’t need to change. That’s the failure. On a much grander canvas, this church (and the article) is implying that it’s good to accept someone as they are with the hope of saving them from suicide, but not address the spiritual issue (*any* spiritual issue, not necessarily homosexuality) …but it leaves us thinking, they’re not interested in any internal change, which leaves them exactly where they were spiritually as when they entered. And from everything I’ve read about God, that goes against his very nature.

    So, what’s the best way for a church – which is supposed to be a place where people heal, grow, and change – to communicate a message that does little more than make people feel good about themselves? …Some of us just can’t encapsulate that much, I guess.

  • brad
    October 14, 2011

    If Advertising Age was highlighting an ad where a politician takes an against-the-grain stand on a controversial issue, there’s no chance that angle wouldn’t get a mention! I imagine it would probably go something like this: “This piece will garner no shortage of attention for Sen. Joe Schmoe, which could ultimately prove to be his undoing.”

    The deepest problem that I have about this particular issue is ignorance. The people (and churches) who tend to be the most staunchly anti-gay are generally those who don’t know any gay people (or don’t know that they do). The issue is kept abstract. People affected by it are dehumanised. And so people (and churches) allow themselves to remain callous to horrific realities being faced daily, like suicide.

    When the church loves its LGBT neighbours deeply, and it understands their particular struggles, and it has wrestled through what grace means to them on an eye-to-eye level, and it has come to the realisation that any billboard message is an insufficient oversimplification one way or another, only then has it earned enough credibility to post one up somewhere.

  • Jamey Halfast
    October 16, 2011

    We are all hypocrites to one extent or another. Through the article, Kevin asserts the church can save lives if they effectively communicate to a section of society that suffers from ridicule, ostracizing, and guilt. My heart hurts for these people. I am a hypocrite because I have been in the same place, though not for the same reason. I have the chance to recover because I had a loving church and family. Kevin is pointing to those that do not.

    If we boil it down to the basics, this church and youth minister definitely has their heart in the right place, but we react against it because it seems they have allowed their heart to control their reasoning and morality. Of course, we don’t know that for sure, and determining that is a judgment that we should not take lightly.

    It is a good lesson in communication here – that *not* communicating something can speak as loud – or louder – than what you do communicate.

  • Marc Aune
    October 17, 2011

    Wow! I don’t check CMS for a couple days and come back to find this? I feel like Elihu toward the end of Job: I patiently read through all the comments, and now I will type.

    Kevin usually writes great posts. Clearly, this was a rare misstep as evidenced by the digression of the conversation away from the point he was trying to make. I will avoid the theology piece and attempt to reframe the issue as many of you have done. Let me know if I’m successful.

    Culturally, GLBT people are generally viewed in similar fashion to races. By that I mean the issue has shifted from a morality debate (as we Christians would argue) to a debate over equality. From this perspective, being homosexual is not a choice, much like being (pick one: Asian, Black, White, Latino, etc.) is not a choice. Because it is not viewed as a lifestyle choice but rather an intrinsic attribute, the GLBT population should not be put on an unequal playing field, many would say. (For more information, google: Same-sex Marriage Debate.)

    For the sake of trying to make Kevin’s point, an appropriate substitute for “Being Gay Is a Gift from God” would be something like “Being Latino Is a Gift from God.” This could make sense for a church located in a heavily-populated Latino area, for example, that wants to better reflect and serve its surrounding community. A church using this message could logically expect an increase in the number of Latinos attending its services and programs. The potential problem, however, is the other races and people groups that see the billboard and think that the church must not be for them because they don’t fit the category it’s recruiting. The risk is that the church in this scenario becomes known as the Latino-friendly church at the expense of making other groups of people feel invited.

    A church has to be very careful to evaluate its mission and vision before embarking on any sort of campaign like this. Is the church in question prepared to cater its ministries to whatever targeted demographic it has chosen? Does the church risk alienating some for the benefit of others? Those are the subjective questions each church needs to answer. My church has chosen to focus its vision on young families with children. It has been successful in reaching that group, but one of the consequences is that it has been challenging to recruit young adults and singles. Ultimately, I view this conversation in a similar light: by focusing on one group, whether it’s a race of people or a certain kind of sinner, the church necessarily turns its attention away from others…or others feel turned away.

    One more thing: Tim Schraeder, can you support your statement that “Most of the gay teenage suicides that are happening are because of religion”? That’s a very bold statement to make without a citation. I don’t doubt you, necessarily, but I would like to know where you got that information.

  • Carrie
    October 20, 2011


    Just wanted to say thanks for posting on this controversial topic. It takes a lot of courage to step out of the box and open yourself up to this stuff, but these kinds of conversations need to happen in the open.

    One step for churches who chose to go down this pass is to add it into their mission statement, like this church in Bozeman, Mont.

    There are also lots of resources from larger organizations that help with structure, marketing and branding.

    This is one Lutheran group who does this.

    And of course the It Gets Better project is a great place to start.

    Other advice includes avoiding remembering that people who are gay are people before they are gay. Don’t direct marketing to “gay people” direct it to people who are gay.

    Thanks again Kevin!


    • Drew
      November 2, 2011

      A play on words. Unfortunately people who are gay, are constantly reenforced by religious culture that they are gay more than they are people. Our culture reenforces that, and is just now starting to spin it around as you suggested. However, for teens and adults, due to the nature of how society has defined as a ‘gay people’ we have accepted that as who we are instead of people who happen to be gay. Wording it to say people who happen to be gay in a way is disrespectful to our history in that all this time, you defined us this way, and we have overcome all that, but now you want to act like it doesnt exist?

      I would compare it to saying “people who happen to be black”. Many black Americans were proud of their progress and “title” as black Americans when President Obama was elected. That night, they probably would not have liked to be thought of people who happened to be black. I dont know these are my thoughts. For all the hardships I have overcome in my life brought on to me by the church/religion’s treatment of LGBT’s, I cant stand the thought of being someone ‘who happens to be gay’ – I accept my label that Ive worn all these years.

      Now that the tide is turning against the haters in history, now that 52-56% of Americans support same-sex marriage depending on the poll you are reading, now that DADT has been repealed and orientation is a protected hate-crime class, now that things are finally looking good for us, we want to wear our label with pride. I would respond more to a church reaching out to ‘gay people’ rather than people who happen to be gay. If the church went so far out of its way to spend billions of dollars on keeping me unequal and unprotected, instead of feeding the poor, then the church needs to single me out as welcome. Otherwise, how would I know Im welcome?

  • Carrie
    November 3, 2011

    Good to know, Drew. My father-in-law is gay and he prefers “people who are gay” over “gay people.” (I called him before posting!), but I shouldn’t assume that his thoughts are what other people think, too! I appreciate the feed back.


Leave a Reply

Show CFCC Bar
Courageous storytellers welcome.
Hide the bar