No, this isn’t an article about guns. Or metal detectors. Or the failings of our mental health system, schools or parents. It’s about what you, a caring, loving Christian can do to make a real difference in the serious and sometimes deadly problems facing young people today.
Because it’s not just the danger of getting killed by a classmate. It’s an unbelievably high and growing suicide rate. It’s a staggering drug and alcohol addiction rate. It’s about young people in severe emotional pain without the coping skills to handle their pain in healthy ways.
You may or may not be able to change laws and policies, but you can intervene in the ways below. It may seem impossibly small at first. Perhaps you are only able to change the life of one child. What though, if that one child were the one who would have become the next school shooter or were headed to a life of addiction? If every Christian steps up, our results are multiplied by millions. Millions of children and teens who will be getting more of the emotional and spiritual support they have needed, but haven’t received.
So what can you as one person do to change everything for a young person and hopefully our world?
- If you are a parent, spend a large quantity of quality time interacting with your kids in meaningful ways. Put the devices down! The NY Post had an article a couple of days ago about infants dying from neglect because parents were so addicted to their devices they forgot to feed and care for their kids. Your kids need you to actively listen to them. They need your godly advice. They need you to proactively teach them things like godly conflict resolution. Your kids are an amazing gift from God, but also a HUGE responsibility. Rise to the challenge and give your kids strong faith foundations, godly coping skills and more.
- Mentor a child. You don’t have to be a parent to have a huge positive influence on the life of a child or teen. Be that adult who listens and supports what godly parents are teaching their kids or be the godly, adult voice in the life of a child who isn’t receiving the guidance they need at home. There are so many stories of lives (and eternities) being changed by mentors who cared enough to really invest in the life of a young person.
- Foster a child. The need for foster parents in this country has gone through the roof in the last few years in part because of the opioid crisis. Older kids and teens often end up in group homes or on the streets because there are no foster homes willing to take them. You can help heal them from the trauma of their childhood thus far and point them to ways to live the rich, full, Christian life God has planned for them.
- Use your platform with kids and teens to teach them godly conflict resolution and other crucial Christian Life Skills. Are you a teacher, coach, Scout leader, Bible class teacher, faith-based tutor? You may not be allowed to mention God by name, but you can teach the godly conflict management skills taught in the Bible. You can also teach young people about grace, forgiveness, stress management and more. Of course, the more you can point them directly to God and His Words, the more effective you can be, but do as much as you can within the boundaries you have to respect.
- Have regular caring interactions with young people. You can help quite a few young people by making sure you consistently show interest in what is going on in their lives. Have coffee with them. Go to their school activities. Have your kids’ friends hang out at your house. Volunteer in programs working with kids and teens. Call them by name. Ask about things you know are important to them. Get to know them well enough that you can tell if they are having problems by merely looking at them. Ask if they want to talk about anything. Listen to anything they care to share. Give godly advice.
- Help young people and their parents find the help they need for serious problems. Educate yourself. What programs are available in your area to help struggling parents and their kids? Who are some Christian counselors you trust to help? Where are the places that can help with special areas of need? Then share that information with those who need it. Offer to go with them if necessary. Help them find someone to cover costs if they can’t afford the help.
- Be the parent who helps other parents. Listen to younger parents and ask if they would like some advice when you can tell they are struggling. Offer to teach parenting classes, if that is your gift. Help connect parents with resources like Parenting Like Hannah or Focus on the Family.
- Challenge your church to provide Children’s and Youth Ministry curricula and programs that are really helping kids and teens build strong faith foundations and reach their godly potential. Everyone thinks their curricula or ministry is great. As someone who travels around and sees quite a bit, I can almost promise you it’s not accomplishing what you think it is. Ask questions. Use our free Teach One Reach One tools. Advocate for the young people in your church. They don’t need ministries that are focused more on entertaining them than helping them learn what God wants them to learn about how to live full, rich, Christian lives.
- Put pressure on parents, churches and the various industries involved to stop producing, promoting and allowing young people to be exposed to violent content. Okay, I admit this is a bit borderline advocacy, but those of us who have read the research are heartbroken with frustration. Study after study for decades has shown exposure to violent content causes those viewing it to be more aggressive and violent themselves – especially males. Some violent video games were first designed to train soldiers how to be lethal killers. Philippians 4:8 is in the Bible for a reason. What your mind spends time processing is what it can become. Kids and teens don’t need to watch ANY violent television shows and movies or play games with any violence. You will be fighting a huge uphill battle with this one, but dramatically cutting the amount of violent content available to young people will help de-escalate violent tendencies quickly.
Don’t wring your hands in worry. Don’t spend your time asking questions on social media. Spend your time and energy on the activities above and convince your friends and family members to do the same. The more Christians who step up to these challenges, the larger the impact we can have on the problem. It won’t be easy. It may be the most exhausting thing you have ever done. It may test your faith in ways you have never been tested before. You can make a difference though. You just need to start.