We live in a tragically broken world, and no one is more aware of that than the teens in your youth group. Teens experience the brunt of the problems in the world, and that weight increases enormously on days like today, when a school in Santa Fe, Texas is rocked by a school shooting.
Here are some ideas for addressing tragedies like this with your kids. Comment below with your ideas.
This one’s simple, but too often it’s the simple stuff that we overlook. This weekend, attend to the kids in your youth group. Find ways to be present with them. They’ll have questions about God’s justice, about hurt and pain, and about loss. They’ll have questions about safety. You don’t have to have all of the answers, but you do need to be present with them through the questions. And by all means, next week, make sure you are on campus for lunches at least once. Your presence reminds teens (even the ones that don’t attend your youth group) that adults care about them.
Text your Kids
Right now, text them and remind them of God’s love, presence and hope. Send them texts over the weekend reminding them of youth group and inviting them to attend. Encourage them to invite their friends. Remind teens that they belong to the larger body of believers and that there is a community of support around and under them.
Open Your Church
Consider offering an “open church” this weekend. Open the doors of your youth room for unstructured time where kids can hang out in a place where they feel safe. Offer food, video games, a movie or whatever tool you have to give them space to disconnect with the world and connect with each other.
Immediately Revise your Teaching Plan
Reshape your next three Bible studies or youth group meetings to cover topics like suffering, God’s healing and evil. You have an incredible opportunity to help frame teenagers’ understanding of what it means to believe in God and live in a real world.
Encourage Open Conversation
When you get kids together, it’s ok to pass a microphone and invite them to talk about recent shootings in public schools. Encourage them to ask honest questions, give their peers space to answer and offer advice and counsel, and be ready with your own answer too.
Invite parents, school leaders and other adults for an open meeting at your church to share their concerns about safety, or seek to organize one at your local school. Staying in front of the dialogue give your space to lead the conversation and be a voice for God’s healing.
Above all, listen to teens’ fears and concerns. Your role in their lives is huge. You represent God’s hope, and for many teens, you are the one adult who believes in them and who can offer solid, biblical counsel in the midst of tragic school shootings. Listen to their questions, address them with grace and truth, and walk with them as they seek understanding.