Okay, I pick on Manhunt a lot, but would you have read the article if it was called "Is Your Church on YouTube?" The real question is, "Are you taking your ministry to LGBTQ people or are you simply holding an affirming space if they choose to find it?"
If you want to grow your ministry and help lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning people find their way back to god (however you define the terms "ministry" and "god"), then you need to consider undertaking a new mission to LGBTQ people.
Did Mother Teresa open an orphanage and then sit back and wait for people to find it? No, she went out into the poverty-and-disease-ridden streets of Calcutta to bring unconditional love and care to those who needed it most.
In contemporary Christian circles, this approach is described as an "Incarnational Ministry" because it requires ministers to plant a new ministry where the underserved community lives. To create an Incarnational Ministry is to enter into deep relationship with the people who need you most by moving into the neighborhood.
You can do this literally, like Rev. Megan Rohrer, queer Lutheran minister (one of the "Bay Area Seven") and Executive Director of The Welcome, who goes on street retreats among San Francisco's homeless and plants gardens to feed the hungry. Andrew Marin, a self-described former "straight, Bible-beating homophobe" incarnated a ministry in Chicago's Boystown, not to change anyone's sexual orientation but to build bridges, deep relationships, and to share his belief that "Love is an Orientation" (the title of his book - no, I haven't read it yet). (Both of these folks desperately need financial support right now: Donate to The Welcome | Donate to The Marin Foundation)
You can also now incarnate a ministry virtually, by taking your mission work beyond Facebook and into the online social networks where 61.2% of men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) now find their first sexual partner - and millions of MSM find their next. These sites include Manhunt.net, Adam4Adam.com and Gay.com, among many others.
Why take your church onto gay hook-up websites? I certainly don't suggest it because I think sex between consenting adults is bad/naughty/sinful! Don't assume every MSM on those websites needs or wants your spiritual input or support. You should take your ministry there, not to preach against those websites and their function, but to enter into Incarnational Ministry with MSM who are in crisis. Through my own memberships on these websites I have counseled a young gay man facing chemotherapy alone (he hadn't even told friends and family he was sick), drug addicts, escorts and prostitutes, the lonely and the suicidal.
Many MSM on these websites are healthy, happy men just using the service to network, date and hook up. However, many others are dealing with huge life challenges like cheating on their wives with men, coming out, coping with a health crisis, poverty, loneliness, depression, despair, or flailing about begging for someone to make them feel loved, even for just a few minutes.
I'm not saying you should create a ministerial profile on these sites and then start banging on the virtual door of anyone who you think must be in crisis - besides being rude, it might also get you kicked off by a website administrator! But I challenge you to incarnate your ministry in these online communities; just create a profile explaining that you're available if anyone needs support or guidance, and let people in crisis come to YOU. Use a simple photo that doesn't reveal much about how you look - you don't want them distracted by how gorgeous you are! (And, of course, even if you don't show your pretty face, it goes without saying you'll need to be prepared to field some very angry or sexual messages.)
You know, when I published the test issue of MyOutSpirit Magazine in Austin, we distributed them for free all over town, but can you guess where they were claimed the fastest? Gay men snapped up the copies we left in gay bars and clubs faster than anywhere else. Our plan is to expand this print incarnational ministry to 100,000+ people in the USA in 2011.
The point is, the LGBTQ people who need you most aren't necessarily going to stumble into your church (sangha/temple/retreat center/yoga studio/counseling center) on their own. But you can create an Incarnational Ministry right where they are, online or off.
Oh, and the other thing about Mother Teresa? She didn't do it alone. If you feel called to do this incarnational work, talk to your peers and members and students about it and build a team of people to go there with you!
Do you already have an LGBTQ Incarnational Ministry? What are some that you've heard about? Post in the comments below!
P.S. Another "Incarnational Ministry" that ALL LGBT-affirming body/mind/spirit resources are invited to join is just getting started on YouTube. You are asked to make short instructional videos offering step-by-step advice to help LGBTQ youth "MAKE It Better" today. Learn more at YouMakeItBetter.org.
P.S. Finally (really, I promise!), you can also become a distributor of MyOutSpirit Magazine to spread LGBT-affirming inspiration and guidance in your local community. You'll be joining a Movement of people, organizations and businesses dedicated to helping each LGBTQ person "Live Your Best Gay Life," today and for future generations. Go ahead and sign up now at GaySpiritCulture.com.
(And if you are the dream investor we've been waiting for to take this ministry to the next level, please get in touch with me!)