By Ken McCoy • JumpStart Ministries • Charlotte, North Carolina
I wish I would have known what to look for.
The phone’s ringing woke me from a deep sleep. Jeannie answered it and mumbled, “Yes, he’s here,” and handed the phone to me. A quick glance at the clock told me that this call would be bad news. I was right.
One of the kids in our youth ministry had used a shotgun to end his life.
What happened in the next few hours and over the course of the next several weeks seems as though it all happened in a dream. I went to the home, not knowing what I could do to help. My youth ministry partner came too – together we consoled, prayed, and cried with the parents. Once the body had been taken away, we did the gruesome task of cleaning the bedroom.
The whole experience discombobulated me. I was in over my head, and I knew it.
I wasn’t the only one affected. The whole ministry felt out of whack. Kids, parents, board members, school personnel, and pastors had to come to grips with what had happened, what could have been done to prevent it, and what we would do to make sure it didn’t happen again.
Since you work with teenagers, you’ll encounter hurt kids and you will experience tragedy. I’m not sure you and I can be adequately prepared to handle any crises or situation – after all, we’re youth leaders, not social workers or counselors. We need resources we can turn to during those difficult times to keep from being too discombobulated.
Where to Turn
If you’re a youth leader, you WILL encounter crisis situations. When they happen, you’ll need to know where to turn. Here are some of the very best resources for youth leaders dealing with hurt kids and crisis situations. Keep this list handy for when you need to know where to turn.
GET HELP NOW
- If you are in crisis, need immediate help, or facing a potentially life-threatening emergency, call 911
- Critical Incident Response– This coalition of crisis responders coordinates specialized training and resources to help prepare youth workers and local Networks to meet needs when crises strike, such as a teenage suicide, fatal car accident, school shooting, or other trauma. Four levels of involvement and training can be found at youthworkers.net.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline– If you or someone you know is considering suicide, do not wait to get help. Take the concern seriously and call 800-273-TALKto talk to someone who cares. Go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
- The HopeLine– Longtime youth minister and well-known youth communicator Dawson McAllister offers help to teens struggling with critical life issues and who may be considering self-harm or suicide. Call 1-800-394-HOPE(4673) to talk with a Hope Coach, or communicate by chat or text. Point your web browser to thehopeline.com.
- Groundwire– Need to talk? Chat now with a spiritual coach. Coaches are available to listen and offer spiritual advice, encouragement, resources, and prayer. Get online with them at groundwire.net.
- To Write Love On Her Arms– TWLOHA is a movement dedicated to hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. Find help online at twloha.org.
- A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES– This is a nationally recognized treatment approach, professional network and educational resource base committed to helping you and others end to self-abusive behavior. Link to selfinjury.com.
- Teen Challenge– Faith-based help and healing for those facing drug addiction and life-controlling problems. Teen Challenge has centers located in 70 different countries. Their online presence is at teenchallengeusa.com.