On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states. Since then, church leaders have been trying to figure out how the ruling will affect their ministry. Small-group pastors are beginning to wonder whether small groups should welcome gay couples. Should same-sex married couples be barred from married small groups? Should they be welcomed with open arms? Three church leaders respond:
See the Ministry Opportunity
In response to the Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage, there’s a lot of discussion about whether churches will be forced to conduct same-sex weddings. But I believe the issue will reach your small group first—if it hasn’t already. What will you do when the first same-sex married couple shows up for your Tuesday night married couples group?
They are legally married in the eyes of the law, and your group was advertised as open to all married couples. Do we start adding asterisks beside the group descriptions: All are welcome *except if you’re gay? If we go down this road, we better start dusting off the asterisks for divorced people, people with lust, husbands that cheat, etc.
This is not how Jesus invited people into his small group. He put out open invitations to tax collectors, liars, prostitutes and thieves. To follow Jesus’ example and open our groups to same-sex married couples, we must do five things to prepare:
1. Have the conversation now with your group.
It’s never too early to start talking about this issue. Allow group members to express their feelings openly in a non-confrontational forum. Gay marriage will undoubtedly bring out deep feelings on both sides, but it’s healthy for the group to talk through them and get everything on the table. If everyone in your group seems to fall on the same side of the issue, it may be a good idea to invite someone on the other side of the issue to come and talk to the group one night. It’s amazing how harsh rhetoric softens when there’s a familiar face to an issue.
2. Pray about what your response should be as a group.
Spend significant time in your group meeting seeking God on how you should respond to same-sex couples who want to join your group. Unfortunately, prayer in groups can become an afterthought. We can easily run out of time after the discussion and push it to the next meeting. Now is the time to seek wisdom and God’s heart on how the group is going to be Jesus to the whole community.
3. Lead with grace and love.
Colossians 4:6 tells us, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” As you talk through your response, know that you should always lead the conversation with grace. Too often, we approach these conversations with mostly salt and very little grace. No matter how you feel about the issue of gay marriage, we are commanded to love.