A local United Methodist Church (UMC) kindly hosts a MOPs (“Mothers of Preschoolers”) small group. With a spirited toddler and new baby due in May, this Bible study/support group is a perfect fit for me. As I am learning, there are loads more lessons to parenthood than teaching ABCs and potty training.
My daughter is only a toddler and already my husband and I are navigating how to equip her with historic Christian teaching in a broken society aiming to reframe one of her most basic foundations—the family unit. Goodness knows we aren’t the only parents facing this tall challenge.
MOPs groups try to help prepare moms for parenting hurdles. I along with about eight or so other young moms from various church backgrounds gather bi-weekly to enjoy fellowship and snacks, pray for one another, and examine Scripture to better equip us for the highs and lows of motherhood. But at my last meeting, the conversation took a more provocative turn than usual as one mom asked for advice in approaching the subject of homosexuality with her preschool-aged son.
This mom’s young son began asking her tough questions after seeing his uncle kiss his boyfriend. The other moms quickly sympathized with our friend, but this was a tough question to answer over snacks and small talk. As the other moms talked, I couldn’t help but think about how we were sitting in a UMC church building, a denomination that just convened a historic, specially called session of General Conference to debate sexual morality.
Thankfully, the UMC upheld traditional Christian sexual ethics as its church law at General Conference 2019. But if there are adults in (and leading) the Church that are misguided or hesitant when debating biblical sexual morality with one another, then how are we to approach the topic with preschoolers? Or where do we draw boundaries when in fellowship with loved ones in same-sex relationships? How do we teach our very young children what it looks like to speak the truth in love per Ephesians 4:15?
Some readers might think there is no need to discuss sexuality with such young kids. However, the reality for parents today is that we live in a society—and some church communities—that aim to reframe children’s understanding of the marriage covenant and family starting young and younger. To give you an idea, I have to be careful when picking out children’s books at the local library. More than one book that I’ve started reading to my daughter has featured families with two dads or two moms.
All this to say, the young mom in my MOPs group brought up a very relevant question that we cannot shy away from. Nor can we simply tell our kids that homosexuality is wrong, and end the conversation there. It’s not a helpful or loving approach when the likelihood is someone in our child’s lives—a dearly loved uncle, aunt, or family friend—is in a same-sex relationship.
I was happily surprised by the wisdom offered by the other moms in my MOPs group and would like to relay some of their advice here. Keep in mind these are twenty and thirty-something-year-old women from a variety of geographical and evangelical backgrounds, including Methodists, Baptists, and non-denominational congregants.
A caring piece of advice encouraged the mom to avoid unintentionally making her young son feel awkward when asking questions and to foster open discussion by boldly discussing words like “gay.” Another recommended using children’s books that demonstrate traditional families to affirm God’s creation of the marriage covenant between a man and a woman.
One mom suggested her friend be upfront with her uncle about her faith and ask that he kindly avoid displays of affection when her young son is around. She admitted that this could be a touchier approach because of how much of a hot button topic the LGBTQ issue has become.
What I’ve come to notice is that my daughter learns best from the example of my husband and me. Consistent demonstration of the verbal lessons we teach has the most significant effect on her behavior. Teaching my daughter to speak the truth about sexuality while being loving to others starts with me. If my daughter hears me instruct her to love others while speaking Christian truths, but never sees me loving my neighbors or I fail to publically make a defense for traditional Christian teaching, then it’s likely she will follow my example and fail to do either. (1 Corinthians 13 comes to mind, which says, “If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”)
Indeed, there is so much societal pressure around the LGBTQ issue, that even Christian grownups are compromising Christian teaching in an effort to appease the world around us. So the best advice at MOPs group came from a young twenty-something mom who encouraged her friend to just “be brave and teach what God’s word says.” It might sound simple, but even adults need reminding that following Jesus Christ takes courage.
Thoughts or comments? What advice do you have for discussing such a hot topic with young children? Do you have resources that would aid parents struggling to discuss the LGBTQ issue with their kids?