The Struggle Is Real!
by Rob Brower • Editor, interlinc • Franklin, Tennessee
As parents to a couple of teenagers (and a soon-to-be pre-teen), my wife and I can assure you that the struggle is all too real.
Prior to COVID-19, our students weren’t perfect but at least they were holding their own among their peers while taking several advanced classes. We witnessed a sharp downward spiral over the last two years in which our kids lost focus, motivation, and sleep. They were missing assignments, classes, and their friends.
Nothing we did seemed to help.
The wake-up call came when in the midst of a tear-filled conversation, our daughter admitted that she had been having suicidal ideations. Enough was enough. We took her to the local Emergency Room and she was eventually seen by the only child psychologist on staff (who was splitting her time serving two hospitals). They kept her overnight for observation and the next day her treatment began.
There was a wait involved with getting her in to see any sort of Mental Health Specialist. Eventually, we got her in to see counselors, therapists, and after quite a while, even a child psychiatrist.
With proper diagnoses, therapy, and medication, she was on her way to healing and returning to a “normal” life. We are excited that (although a year late) she did finally graduate as a part of the Class of 2022!
As a Youth Pastor, I’ve counseled and walked with several families who were dealing with struggling students. But I must say, everything changes when it’s one of your own.
While recent events may have shed more light on their reality, hurting and troubled kids in the world of Youth Ministry is nothing new. The mental health struggles of teenagers are on the rise and we don’t anticipate this issue resolving itself any time soon.
If you haven’t already, get to know the mental health professionals in your area. Learn how to recognize signs of trauma and distress, understand when you are beyond your counseling limits and know how to refer families for further help.
Keep a healthy dialogue going with your students. Remind them that it’s okay to not be okay and that asking for help is not a bad thing. Continue to pray for them by name and, above all, be there.
When their world seems to be falling apart, we can remind them of who Jesus is, and how much He loves them by meeting them where they’re at, and loving on them as He would.
Youth Leaders Only, in its 37th year, helps youthworkers in thousands of churches be aware of the music their students are listening to, use all forms of music in their ministries, and equip their students to make wise choices about the music & media they have in their earbuds 9 hours every day. A membership costs less than the price of a pizza each month! The theme of the current YLO is “Troubled Kids/Hurting Kids: Youth Ministry & The Mental Health Crisis”. Click here to get it!
We also know that students aren’t the only ones struggling.
Anxiety and depression have taken their toll on many youthworkers as well. As any flight attendant will tell you, when the oxygen masks drop, put yours on first before helping children. Remember to take care of yourself physically, spiritually, and emotionally so that you can continue to take care of those placed in your care.
Whether or not they are your biological kids, I encourage you to take a close look into the resources that Team interlinc has been working on so hard for this edition of YLO: Troubled Kids/Hurting Kids: Youth Ministry & The Mental Health Crisis.
We know that the music our kids listen to has an impact on their thoughts, attitudes, and moods. As more and more Christian artists recognize the need to address mental health issues, and are even opening up about their own struggles- it’s imperative that we assert influence over the 9 hours of entertainment media our kids are ingesting EVERYDAY! You’ll appreciate the music-based Bible Studies and Re:Tuned Discussion Guides designed to help you communicate the relevance and importance of Christ-honoring music choices.
This issue of YLO also contains seven Feature Articles written by Team interlinc authors and speakers like Reggie Dabbs, Ben Bennett, Planetshakers Youth Pastor, Andy Harrison, and veteran youthworkers that are sure to educate, equip, and encourage you as you dive into the messy world of hurting kids.
We are so blessed to be in the fight with you and pray that God will strengthen you that you might not grow weary and lose heart.
Taking it one day at a time,