As humans we struggle with many things. Some struggles are easier to talk about, while others cause us to hide. Mention the word sex and most of the time people shrink back from the conversation. Mention the struggle of same-sex attraction or sexual addiction and more often than not, people will find another conversation of which to become a part.
FirstLight is a not-for-profit ministry organization seeking to make these types of struggles and conversations better understood and easier to talk about. They focus on walking alongside, those struggling with same-sex attractions and sexual addictions. Recently they also began offering support groups for family members, spouses, and others walking intimately with an individual struggling in sexual ways.
Sean Maney, the Director of FirstLight since 2010, has greatly expanded the ministry. When he arrived, FirstLight had 2-3 volunteers with 2 groups, and now there are 20 volunteers who are running and developing 13 groups!
I had the opportunity to sit with down with him over a good cup of coffee and discuss the ministry of FirstLight. I asked him some questions, which he kindly answered. Here is what he had to say…
Q: Lianne: “Tell me about the ministry of FirstLight.”
A: Sean: “FirstLight ministries began a little over 10 years ago when a group of pastors and counselors saw a need for there to be a more compassionate response to homosexually within the church. They desired to create a loving place for people struggling with homosexuality to be supported. This group of pastors and counselors prayed for roughly 4 years about creating a ministry to support this identified need. From this desire and faithful prayer came FirstLight.
In 2003, FirstLight became a not-for-profit. FirstLight desires to walk alongside the church and support its ministry to those struggling with homosexuality. While initially FirstLight sought to solely address the struggle of homosexuality, now we have expanded our ministry to include sexual addictions, same-sex attraction, pornography addiction, and support for spouses & parents who have family members struggling with these issues. Overall, our focus is to be a safe place for those in the community and in the church who are facing these types of issues.
FirstLight also aims to teach and train within the community about these issues.”
Q: Lianne: “What groups are you currently offering?”
A: Sean: “Currently we are offering 6 groups for men with sex addictions, a group for men with same-sex attraction, a spouse & parent support group, and a group for women with same-sex attraction/addiction.”
Q: Lianne: “Are these groups confidential?”
A: Sean: “Yes. The groups are kept small and are led by trained facilitators. We place a high priority on keeping identity and stories confidential. We have had leaders in the church (including pastors) in the program and are very aware of the need to keep our work confidential.”
Q: Lianne: “Are there areas of FirstLight’s ministry you hope to grow in the next year?”
A: Sean: “Of course! We would love to see all of our areas grow. Specifically, we would like to see our ministry to women grow; our groups for women who are struggling with same-sex attraction and sexual addiction. Statistics say 1 in 4 porn users are women. In this next year we hope to raise enough funds to hire a female director to help me lead these ministries.
Also, we would like to continue growing our partnerships with churches in the area.”
Q: Lianne: “Does FirstLight have a ‘Wish List’?”
A: Sean: “Our first and most immediate wish would be for us to raise enough funds that would enable us to hire a female director.
At this time, our groups are held all around the St. Louis area in churches and counseling centers that partner with us. Although we want to continue having our groups offered all throughout the St. Louis area, a wish is to have a ministry “house” that would allow for centralized offices and groups.
A third wish is to have someone come on staff who can nurture our community contacts and donors. Part of this is helping churches talk about these issues. We are a voice for people who are struggling with these issues. We have found the support we receive from the community, whether that be financial or prayers, to be a great source of encouragement for those we serve.
Expanding our base of supporters is another big wish we have. We need individuals and churches to financially support us, and to support our ministry within the community. Frankly, we need many more people to give financially to our ministry. FirstLight is a donation-based ministry; churches and individuals in the area support us. We hope to be a blessing to people, and as they are able we hope that people are able to bless us in return.
We don’t want anyone in the church or our community who is struggling with these issues to not get the help they need.”
Q: Lianne: “How can someone find out more about FirstLight?”