Our communities have come face-to-face with the tragedy of youth violence.
School shootings, gang activities, hate crimes and statistics that affirm the reality of youth suicide and self-injury are leading society to examine its role in shaping and confronting youth violence toward the youth themselves and others.
To counteract this trend, youth and adults need to be encouraged to be proactive in affirming and supporting children, right from the start. In addition, our congregations are uniquely equipped to reach the heart of human needs that can result in violence.
Anger is the primary emotion used to manage experiences that challenge our perspectives, dreams or ideals.
Like a flashing yellow light, anger prompts us to identify the conflict and find an appropriate resolution. Without effective coping skills and reality checks, anger will remain, covering the pain of insecurity, alienation, disillusionment, disregard or ongoing conflict.
When anger is left unresolved, it intensifies and may be projected inward or outward to find an expression beyond reason.
How can your congregation help?
- Prayerfully consider ways you can give children, youth and families a sense of identity in your faith community as well as nurturing a lifestyle that reflects Christian values.
- Honor and uphold the individuality and cultural diversity that exists in your faith community.
- Address symptoms of disinterest and disconnection among youth.
- Let Ephesians 4:14-19 inspire you to share God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness in real and relevant ways.
- Address real-life issues in sermons, devotions and Bible studies. Give people of all ages opportunities to consider personal and biblical examples of God’s presence and guidance through tough times.
- Discuss topics of violence in youth and adult study groups. Consider ways to address situations that might precipitate violence.
- Encourage mentoring relationships and cross-generational friendships that help members and specific peer groups increase their sensitivity to others. Equip them to go beyond cliché conversation or token acts of kindness to respond in honest, appropriate ways.
- Provide ready access and referrals to community crisis organizations, as well as opportunities for individual and small-group support and recovery.
- Recognize the strengths and challenges of children and youth in your congregation and community and identify practical ways to embrace them.
- Promote opportunities for outdoor ministry among your congregation’s youth.
- Partner with other congregations and community groups to provide a safe and nurturing place for young people to “hang out,” do homework and find support with peers and compassionate adults. More ideas can be found at the ELCA Youth Ministry Web site.
- Begin a day-by-day prayer ministry with and for specific children and youth related to your congregation.
- Stock your congregation’s library with resources that help nurture youth.