It was 5:48 pm on a Sunday and we were 12 minutes away from starting our high school worship program when we received a call from a student in our ministry. His brother, who was also active in our youth ministry, had just taken his own life. As a youth minister, I have received many calls, but this one, in particular, is filed into an unfortunate category titled, “Nightmare.” It was horrible. The entire thing. Horrible. While I have not fully processed this unforgettable moment, I have recognized some essential keys worth remembering while walking with teens and families through some of life’s most difficult moments…
1. Be With Them.
We need to Show Up. Be Ready. Be Available. Be Present. Be present because presence is crucial. In crisis situations what we say might not ever be as important as where we choose to stand. We need to stand with those who are hurting, so they can know that they are not alone. Our message is not just that we are with them, but more importantly that God is with them, too. Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted.”
2. Be For Them.
Presence is essential…and next steps are, too. Crisis situations always bring about deep and transparent questions…questions that we often do not have answers to. The best way we can help is by understanding that we are not a student’s only source of help or hope. It is our role to love them like Jesus, not be their Messiah. Quite possibly the best way we can be for someone hurting is by helping them identify their next steps in finding healing and peace. There are resources beyond ourselves in the church, the community, etc. that can help those who are hurting.
3. Be With and For Them, Before it is Too Late.
This experience has reminded me of what is truly important in youth ministry.. You see, the teen who called us about his brother genuinely did not know what to do in a moment like that. I mean, what teenage boy does?! He was scared and who could blame him? In this moment, when he did not know what to do, he did know who to call. He called his small group leader. Our ministries must drive teens towards a healthy, Christ-centered small group community. Teens receive all of the good, bad, and ugly life has to offer, and when they do, the best place for them to be is where they know that they are not alone in their pursuit of Jesus. We must make an emphasis on small groups, so teens see that they are not alone and that they have the power of the church in their corner before it’s too late.