On the fringes of youth ministry lurks an evil monster. It seems to rear it’s ugly head often. No matter how we run, or hide it is chasing our students and their families. The heat of summer seems to sometimes make him appear stronger than ever before. Maybe it’s because there’s more time on everyone’s hands with less to do.
The name of this hideous creature?
We could also call him: hurt, suffering, hopelessness or even depression.
We are talking to adolescents who mask their problems with alcohol, drugs, perfectionism, anger, or acting out in a multitude of ways. At camp and on trips students break down with honest assessments of their thoughts and feelings. They hunger for: Hope. Truth. Love. Acceptance.
Instilling life into the heart of a youth takes, time, energy and focus. There are days when the lives of our students just seem so heavy. In the midst of all the weight we are left feeling helpless.
What do we do?
Keep Building Relationships:
I heard it said once that a “touch is worth a 1000 words.” In a world focused on social media we can easily hide and pretend to be anything we want to be. HOWEVER, all of us, especially teens are hungering for deeper, authentic relationships. YOU may have time to really go deep with maybe 3-5 students. Teach your team how to build relationships with students. Make this a philosophy that spreads like wildfire.
Include and Involve the Parents:
One of the first things we as the youth worker want to do is to “save children from their bad home life.” However, getting to know a family and their situation just may save a life. This goes beyond offering “classes or meetings” for parents. Genuinely get to know the families. Figure out practical ways to lift them up and come along side them.
Train and Equip:
Bring your team together to talk about all of the “sidebar” issues in the lives of your youth. Let’s face it, we can find a book on programming or how to run a Bible Study. All the “hard stuff” our teens are going through is intimidating. Find videos to watch, books to read together and experts to bring in. The more involved you are as a unit, the more the paid “staff” will not feel alone in handling the “tough stuff.”
Know When To Direct to “Professional” Help:
We are called to walk life with students. However, some problems simply are too big for us. There may need to be a counselor or agency brought in to aid in the situation. This does not mean they take over. We still need to stick around, yet, there are spaces where the professionals know how to take the monsters down fully.
Let’s face it the sword of the truth is the only thing that can bring freedom once and for all. Sometimes we need to look a youth in the face and simply let them know the truth: “They are loved with an everlasting love.” Not just once. Over and over. Together I think we can slay this dragon.
What are you doing this summer as your students share the “tough stuff?”