Confused about gender confusion and other modern family issues?




Faith-based resources to help church leaders minister effectively.

Gender confusion, gender nonconformity, gender discordance, donor kids, gay and lesbian issues—these are real-life struggles that children are observing in their own families, even with their own parents. The better you understand the many issues surrounding these families, the better you’re equipped to help.

As Christian leaders we must stay in tune with what the world is thinking. I’m not saying we must accept immoral issues or sinful actions, but in order to minister effectively, we need to understand the issues shared in this post.

Following are some definitions to help you understand current terminology. I’m also including resources that I turn to when faced with these situations.

Gender confusion

In our world today our culture sends mixed messages about gender issues that can be confusing to young children. For example:

  • A child may be confused if he sees a male family friend who sometimes dresses like a man and at other times dresses as a woman.
  • A young girl who grows up with heterosexual parents may be confused when she sees a homosexual couple displaying affection.
  • It might be confusing for a little boy being raised by a single mom to understand how to use a razor. While as adults we realize that a man’s razor is used to shave his beard, a little boy raised by his mom may think it’s used to shave his legs.

Most young children will naturally explore playing with and experimenting with opposite-gender issues simply because they are inquisitive children. While most children normally outgrow this phase, for many children, depending on their family circumstances or what they’ve been exposed to by the media, confusion will reign longer than in past generations.

It’s important for those of us in children’s ministries to understand how the family and society is influencing such issues as gender confusion. Here are a couple of very good resources to get you started in comprehending such issues.

Resources and articles for gender confusion

  • A Focus on the Family article explains that it is normal for a young child to experiment with opposite-gender clothes and toys.

They explain, “Remember, most little boys and girls have never been men or women before, and they need both mother and father to show them what being one is like, as well as what it is not!”

They proceed to explain that most children outgrow this phase and do very well in their masculinity or femininity as adults.

  • Another excellent resource is the book Understanding Gender Confusion: A Faith Based Perspective by Denise Shick.

Because Denise’s father chose to have a sex change operation, Denise has a personal understanding of these issues. As a child she lived with a man who was confused about his gender. As an adult she watched as he became a woman. She has immersed herself in research of both gender confusion and transgender issues. She brings compassion to these sensitive subjects along with God’s healing Word from a faith-based viewpoint.

For many of us it is puzzling why more children are not outgrowing gender confusion. I have to wonder if one reason might be due to the attention and hoopla the news media and others are giving to gender issues. These are not children who feel uncomfortable with their gender, as in gender nonconformity.

Gender nonconformity

Gender nonconformity refers to children who during their childhood have behaviors that are considered uncharacteristic for their gender. Children who display gender nonconformity have opposite-gender preferences, such as rough and tumble play for girls, or wearing frilly dresses and playing with girl toys for boys. Children with gender nonconformity continue playing with opposite-gender items even though they know the differences in male and female roles.

Resources and articles for gender nonconformity

“We know that most kids with gender non-conformity become comfortable with their biological sex as they progress through childhood. For those who continue to experience significant gender discordance as adolescents, far too many will have experienced trauma, mental illness, social isolation, self-injury and suicidal thoughts.”

Transgender (Gender discordance)

Transgender (or gender discordance) refers to “a person who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person’s sex at birth” (Merriam-Webster).

The transgender issue is invading our schools and our churches very quickly. This can be disconcerting for children’s church leaders, as more parents are allowing their children to pursue changing their gender. Or you might have to deal with children whose parents are changing their gender.

Resources and articles for  gender discordance (transgender)

  • One of the best resources about living with a transgender parent is Denise Shick’s book My Daddy’s Secret.

When Denise was only nine years old, her dad took her aside and confided in her. From her book we read, “Denise, I want to be a woman. Denise, you know how you can tell when I’m feeling especially feminine? It’s when I sit with my legs crossed, you know, like I do at your dance classes…. I wish I could wear a dress … I wish I could twirl a baton, with my skirt flowing in the wind … I wish people would understand.”

Denise talks about the heartbreak and the embarrassing aspects of how her daddy’s secret affected her. She gives new insights into the pain families experience in such a situation.

While we have attempted to give you current terms of various gender issues, we realize that many of these terms are fluid. In other words, these terms are constantly being redefined by various organizations. Tomorrow or next year there may be several new issues thrown around, and again those of us in ministry will need to attempt to stay current so we can communicate with the parents of the children in our ministries who struggle with worldly issues.

Donor kids

Donor kids are children whose mother used donor sperm to conceive.

Depending on where you live, this might not be a big issue for your church. However, if you live in Southern California or other places that have large sperm banks, these children will impact your ministry at some point.

There are now online sites where kids can go to find their half siblings. Research shows these children have a lot of questions about their existence, even more so than adopted children or foster children.

Resources and articles for donor kids

  • My daddy’s name is Donor is about the only resource that explores this situation. It was written by a friend of mine, Elizabeth Marquardt. Elizabeth and two other researchers compiled their research into a thought-provoking study about young adults who were conceived through sperm donation.

In the book Elizabeth says, “We learned that, on average, young adults conceived through sperm donation are hurting more, are more confused, and feel more isolated from their families. They fare worse than their peers raised by biological parents on important outcomes such as depression, delinquency and substance abuse. Nearly two-thirds agree, ‘My sperm donor is half of who I am.’”

The book goes on to talk about how half of the people in their study were disturbed that money was involved in their conception. Many are disturbed that their father is known only by a number assigned at the fertility clinic where the sperm was donated.                                                        

Gay and lesbian issues

This issue is about children who live with gay or lesbian parents. What will you say when a child discloses that a parent has decided to pursue a same-sex relationship? (Need ideas? Click here.) What about when those parents show up at your church? With the new ruling on allowing same-sex unions in the US, this is becoming a huge issue for the church.

Resources and articles for gay and lesbian relationships

  • Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach is one of the best resources I have read to date. He was raised on weekends and during school break by his lesbian mother and her partner, and during the week by his gay father. He gives some eye-opening revelations about how a child perceives Christians while living with his lesbian mother and her partner. In this book he talks about his childhood.

Thankfully for the Christian world, Caleb came to know Christ as a teenager and became a minister. He now preaches and contends that “sexual abstinence is what God expects of all people, whether heterosexual or homosexual, if they are not married to someone of the opposite sex.” He goes on to say, “It’s not all black and white, though I completely support what the Bible says about sexual intimacy. There’s tension for people on both sides of this issue. Anytime you have people involved in a situation, it gets complicated. It is filled with pain, regret, hurt, growth, joy, and more.”

Having a better understanding of the issues that these children and families are facing better prepares us to come alongside them and help them navigate the turbulent waters. It is our responsibility to be equipped with faith-based resources as well as best practices that we can use to train volunteers and others who minister to the children in our churches.

In another post I’ll offer practical application and helpful tools you can use to train your church leaders and volunteers to use when ministering to there children and their families.


Need tips in know how to react and what to say when a child discloses something sensitive? Click here

After this article was released an excellent resource has become available. It’s another book by Denise Shick, “Transgender Confusion, A Biblical Based Q & A For Families.” This book can also help church leaders and children’s leaders respond to many questions one may have about this subject.

DC4K blogs posts are great to use for training. Plus they are free.  Subscribe to the DC4K blog here

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