youth pastor

Stopping the Shootings – Youth Workers Can Help


Another school shooting.  Another tragic event.  Lives forever changed. It really doesn’t matter where you live, if you have any interaction with students, especially those in middle school and high school, the news of another tragic school shooting causes one to pause and ponder, “What is wrong?”  

ike with so many other events in our world, the news cycle will quickly move to the next hot topic. And unfortunately we often move on with it.  It’s easy to understand. It’s easy to get mentally worn out when we stay focused on all the tragic events that unfold around us.

n actuality, youth ministers are in a unique position to help combat many of the ills that face our nation.  Instead of waiting for politicians or national leaders to combat issues, we can have a much better chance of “fixing” them by focusing on them at the community level.  

I have never met a youth minister who isn’t well ingrained in a community. Even though our titles contain words like “youth” or “student”, all of us interact with people of all ages and from all backgrounds.  We do so with the authority that comes from the title “Minister.”

What do we do with this?  How do we combat the ills that lead to tragedies like school shooting.

1. Claim our voice and speak with authority.
Conversation with your students, conversations with family members, conversations with church members, and conversations with community leaders about dealing with the situations that lead up to tragic events.  

So much of the talk in our country turns away from solutions towards the polarizing and divisive.  We in the church must be the voices that bring people together.  This is not to say that we have to water down what we say, but we can have hard conversations around tough topics when we do it with honesty, integrity, and, most importantly, love!  Don’t stop talking about the issues that face your community.  Claim your voice and speak with authority.

2. Love kids and families like it is the most important thing in your job description.

Many people want to simplify the causes of tragic events like school shootings.  It is easy to say, “Gun control is the answer” or, “Social media is the culprit.” But we in youth ministry know the reasons for events like school shooting are far more complex.  

I am not suggesting that simply loving students and families will stop all school shootings, but when we focus on loving and caring for the people in our flock, we go a long way towards creating better communities, better churches, and better schools.

Over and over again through the Gospels we see Jesus loving all; and doing so with integrity and accountability.  If we model this same thing, I believe we can turn the tide in our communities.  And at the same time, help people look once again to the Church as a place of leadership in the community.

3. Report what you see: the next tragedy could be sitting in your youth group.

How many times have I been in an airport and read a sign or head an announcement over the PA that says, “If you see something, say something.”  In this day and age, even the slightest of situations can lead to the biggest of tragedies.  As youth ministers, we are all connected in to kids in unique ways.  You hear what is going on!  You know what kids are talking about.  We must not be afraid to say something when we see or hear something!

This is not easy to imagine, and it may even be a bit controversial on my part to say.  But the reality is, the kids sitting in your youth group could be involved in some way in the next tragedy.  But that doesn’t have to be scary, it can be hopeful because it also means the kids sitting in your youth group could be part of the solution to the next tragedy.  

I find myself thinking about tragic events as happening far from my home, in another community that is nothing like mine.  Yet, we all know deep down inside that our town or our schools could be next.  We must provide lessons and discussions with our students that deal head-on with preventing and dealing with tragic events.  These aren’t scare-tactics. They are living into the reality of what could be.  Focusing on Christ-like love and accountability becomes more important if we stop and imagine one of our own is capable of carrying out a tragic event, or if one of our own has the opportunity to stop a tragic event.

We always want to have your back.  We have another article specifically on shootings called Responding to a School Shooting: Three Approaches for Youth Workers

Discipleship Ministries has a video focused on engaging unchurched in the community during times of tragedy.It was developed during the Hurricane in Houston last year, but can apply to a range of tragedies.

Chris Wilterdink also has a prayer that you might be able to use as well.

Original post HERE

Responding to a School Shooting: Three Approaches for Youth Workers


It seems like we are having to come up with responses to tragedies around us on a daily basis now. 


I am not about to rant on the state of young people’s emotional health these days, or how terribly exposed we are to the risk of tragedy in spite of our sometimes insane efforts to stay “safe.” Today, I want  humbly offer up a framework to help us minister effectively to young people (or anyone else for that matter) during days, times, or seasons such as these.


Three approaches


There are three basic approaches to any issue in ministry. Our choice of approach should depend on our role during any given moment or situation. While each approach is important and necessary, the outcomes of each could not be more different.


1. The pastoral approach (role: minister)

This approach is not an easy one, and it’s certainly not an exact science. Instead, the pastoral approach feels more like an art. When you are responding in this role, your immediate reaction to tragedy is love and compassion. You feels the pain of those directly affected. But you also understands the fear and anxiety of those who are watching, those who feel “it could have been them,” and those who can immediately relate to the suffering and loss (parents, siblings, grandparents, those who have lost loved ones… just about anyone). 


The pastoral approach loves people by: 

  • Listening to them well (and weeping with them) instead of being quick to offer up points of view; 
  • Learning about people and their stories in the process;
  • Leading them, in community, to the arms of a loving God.


Friends, our students (and communities) need more people ministering to them in love and compassion. My (very biased) advice to you is that you seek first to be a minister to those whom God has entrusted to your care. There will be plenty of opportunity for advocating, and for teaching. But great ministry happens in moments of openness and vulnerability. 


2. The theological approach (role: teacher)

This approach tends to be the “go-to” for those of us who fancy ourselves to be thinkers. It’s response will immediately take us back to the biblical narrative. It hears of tragedy and automatically begins making connections between the news, parallel biblical stories, and key theological concepts. The theological response reminds us that we live in a broken world, where things are not the way they ought to be. It points to the hope we have of a future where tears and pain will be a thing of the past. It reminds us of a savior who, himself, suffered and died a tragic death. 


The theological approach will ultimately say “but three days later…”, and quote scripture saying that we too are “raised up with Christ” to life eternal. There’s a lot more that could be said about this approach, and we could spend days thinking through theological implications and responses to tragedies. At the end of the day, I don’t think our first response should follow the theological approach, but as we live into and further process tragic events, this approach is key.


3. The political approach (role: advocate)

Personally, my “knee-jerk” reaction to just about every shooting is to “go political.” I immediately want to talk about gun control, about mental health, about failing public education policies, etc. The political role responds to crises from the standpoint of political action. It wants justice, now! It assumes, and rightly so, that part of the solution to so many of these tragedies is to advocate for more just and humane laws, to put pressure on those elected to represent us, and to encourage as many people as possible to join in the good fight. Furthermore, it reminds us that our God is one who is very much interested in justice. The political approach helps us interpret our world systematically. In other words, it allows us to read about an injustice such as yesterday’s, and immediately make connections all the way up to budget decisions, campaign funding policies, corporate lobbyists, and ideological fallacies. 


Personally, in the wake of such heartbreaking news, I don’t think OUR (youth worker) first response should follow the political approach, but like a theological approach, it is something to consider in the longer term with your church leadership. 


Lastly, let me tell you about a moment of ministry I was privileged to witness years ago. A friend of mine lost two friends in a tragic car accident. Both were international students in seminary, and both had left family in their home country to pursue a call to further their education. My friend, who was very close to them, was asked to speak at the funeral service. He walked up to the pulpit bearing the weight of being called to minister even as he was in need of being ministered to himself.  He said, “I don’t know why this happened. I don’t know if God is in this somehow. And I truly don’t know what to say. I only know one thing… that in all and through all Jesus Christ is STILL Lord.” His words are ringing in my soul today.

There’s a lot more help online

Discipleship Ministries has a video focused on engaging unchurched in the community during times of tragedy. It was developed during the Hurricane in Houston last year, but can apply to a range of tragedies.

Original post HERE