My Church Support Group
Some years ago my church, in discussion with TFT, decided to set up its own same-sex attraction support group. Our group meets three to four times a year for dinner together, a discussion around a topic/article and then prayer. A few of our members have been attending the group since the beginning, but most have joined for a season while they have been living in the area or studying at university. There have been regular comings and goings of people, but the support group has provided valuable stability and a rhythm to the year. As I reflect on what it means to share life together, I am struck by how important this support group has been for my own growth as a Christian and for sharing life with others. Three reasons spring to mind: the group is made up of people who ‘get it’, it helps us to feel more part of the church family and we take care to point each other to Jesus.
People who ‘get it’
One of the reasons I find our SSA support group so helpful is that I’m among other people who ‘get it’. We may have different personalities, ages and backgrounds and we may even struggle with different aspects of same-sex attraction. Still, there is an ease of being understood and of not having to explain the basics. We all want to follow Jesus with our whole lives, including our sexuality and we have the privilege of getting to know each other beyond the politeness of small talk. My friends who don’t experience SSA are often wonderful, but they don’t always know what to ask me about my experiences of SSA or how to respond when I tell them. I can end up feeling even worse rather than better, if those friends who don’t ‘get it’ are unable (perhaps understandably) to relate to my situation. At the support group, I don’t have to explain why close friendships can come with complications, or why housing is as relevant a topic as lust. I’m among people who ‘get it’.
Part of the family
Our group is hosted by a married couple, neither of whom experiences SSA. We have been so blessed by our hosts’ hospitality over the years - their welcome, their care and their delicious dinners - but more than that, being hosted by a married couple has helped our group to feel more part of the wider church family. I can find it hard to be single in a church where that is not the norm for my age. I’m thankful that I have heard good messages from the front of the church, such as reminders that everyone is part of the church family and that family days are for all of us, not just family units of mums, dads and children. But it is one thing to be told this and another to be shown it. In a culture where it is normal for married couples to invite other married couples over for dinner, and families go on holidays with other families, I have sometimes felt like I belong a little less than others. For members of our group, it has been a real treat to be invited over for the evening by a married couple who make an effort to show us that we are family, who tell us that they are encouraged by us and who genuinely seem to enjoy our company! Church family is supposed to be beautiful in how diverse and counter-cultural it is, and I think we get an important glimpse of that at our support group meetings.
Pointing to Jesus
We take care in our group meetings to point each other to Christ and not just to enjoy each other’s company. As we discuss topics or articles together, we encourage each other to keep going in our Christian faith. We remind each other that we are loved by our Heavenly Father and that He sees Jesus when He looks at us and we pray that the Holy Spirit will work in us to make us more like Jesus day by day. Sometimes it is disheartening to realise that your prayer requests are the same as last time, but we are not promised quick transformation! It is easier to notice a change in others, of course, and to point out where God has answered prayers. We need each other for that. I find it especially encouraging to see other people with the same struggles as me persevering and hearing them talk about the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness with palpable joy. Their example points me to Jesus and demonstrates that I can trust in the Lord for the strength I need to follow him and live a godly life.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2020 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend. Click the button below to download your copy.
Download the Summer 2020 edition of Ascend