As a professional who works with a high risk population (individuals with an opiate use disorder) I am faced with the reality of suicide ideation/thoughts on a daily basis. As a community member that works with youth at risk I regularly hear suicidal talk. As a father of a young man with a mental illness I have been impacted by suicidal threat. I cannot seem to escape the dark subject of death by self murder. As a result I have made it a part of my life work to educate the public as much as I can and to build networks of communities to come alongside those who struggle with their dark passengers of hopelessness and helplessness.
Researchers have spent many years studying specific factors related those who are vulnerable to the allure of suicide, risk factors as well as protective factors. If the church is to come alongside those who suffer so much that they are considering taking their own lives, we must understand the complexities that lead an individual to those crossroads.
Mental Health/Substance Abuse
One national survey reports that 82% of people with suicidal thoughts had a mental health disorder. The same survey reports that 94% of individuals had made a plan to commit suicide, and 88% had a previous suicide attempt in the last year.
There are five mental health disorders that increase the risk of suicide; Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), bipolar disorder, major depression, schizophrenic, and anorexia with major depressive disorder being the most common among those who attempt suicide.
Stressful Life Events
- Sexual orientation
- Childhood sexual abuse
- Domestic violence
- Interpersonal conflict
- Social isolation
- Owning weapons (particularly firearms)
- Lower class
- Economic recession
- Chronic pain
- PTSD (combat trauma)
- Strong social support
- Engagement in faith communities
- Spiritual disciplines
- Moral conflict about suicide
- Having a sense of purpose/meaning
- Emotional regulation skills
- Coping skills/problem solving skills
- Having people who will miss us
- Internal perseverance
- A sense of responsibility
Talking about suicide will not “plant” the idea in someone’s head. The idea is likely already there and speaking about it validates the struggle of the individual suffering. It removes the shame and stigma surrounding it.
- Can you identify any of the risk factors in the young people you love?
- How can our ministries, families, and communities upon the basic understanding of risk and protective factors to support those in our care?
- What is the next step for your ministry, family, or community towards increasing protective factors and reducing risk factors? How will you go about doing this? Who will you ask for help? What barriers stand in your way? What resources/assets do you already have available?
I came across this article from the Search Institute that is an update on their research of developmental relationships. The Search Institute adopted the term developmental relationships to describe the broader conception of relationships that are defined by the close connection between a young person and an adult or peer that powerfully and positively shapes the young person’s identity and helps the young person develop a thriving mindset. A thriving mindset is one that is focused on more than just surviving and is flourishing, thriving.
The Search Institute has created a Developmental Relationship Framework that is based on qualitative and quantitative research regarding developmental assets and focuses on making a positive impact in young people’s lives. I can’t help but think of the possible impact this research has on how we build relationships with youth in our homes, ministries, and communities as it relates to spiritual formation. There are 20 identified actions that make a relationship developmental. They are organized into the framework listed below:
Express CARE: Show that you like me and want the best for me.
- Be present – pay attention when you are with me.
- Be warm – let me know that you like being with me and express positive feelings toward me.
- Invest – Commit time and energy to doing things for and with me.
- Show interest – Make it a priority to understand who I am and what I care about.
- Be dependable – Be someone I can count on and trust.
CHALLENGE Growth: Insist that I try to continuously improve.
- Inspire – Help me see future possibilities for myself.
- Expect – Make it clear that you want me to live up to my potential.
- Stretch – Recognize my thoughts and abilities while also pushing me to strengthen them.
- Limit – Hold me accountable for appropriate boundaries and rules.
Provide SUPPORT: Help me complete tasks and achieve goals.
- Encourage – Praise my efforts and achievements
- Guide – Provide practical assistance and feedback to help me learn.
- Model – Be an example I can learn from and admire.
- Advocate – Stand up for me when I need it.
Share POWER: Hear my voice and let me share in making decisions.
- Respect – Take me seriously and treat me fairly.
- Give voice – Ask for and listen to my opinions and consider them when you make decisions.
- Respond – Understand and adjust to my needs, interests, and abilities.
- Collaborate – Work with me to accomplish goals and solve problems.
Expand POSSIBILITIES: Expand my horizons and connect me to opportunities.
- Explore – Expose me to new ideas, experiences, and places.
- Connect – Introduce me to people who can help me grow,
- Navigate – Help me work through barriers that could stop me from achieving my goals.
Spend some time with other adults and youth to flesh out these ideas. Here are some questions to get you started. Hopefully they will lead to other questions and solutions.
Beyond just understanding the concepts of developmental relationships how can we create space for and strengthen these necessary relationships in our homes, ministries, and communities?
How can we identify systems that support or stand in the way of the building of developmental relationships?
What methods and activities can we create the help new or existing relationships move towards a developmental relationship?
How can we collaboratively work with other youth oriented entities to build developmental relationships?
Visit http://search-institute.org for more information on developmental assets and developmental relationships.
Fringe workshops equip youth workers, parents, and students to understand the unique problems facing adolescents in today’s culture. These workshops will help the participants better understand the many issues related to the adolescent journey and enable them to provide the best care possible. Ultimately, we desire to provide a customized learning experience for those in attendance, based on your unique context. We have four NEW training opportunities for 2015/2016. Our schedule is filling up quickly so email us to nail down the training of your choice.
See our complete training list here.
Rates of depression and self injury continue to climb among adolescents every year. Abuse and trauma seem to be standard experiences for many youth today. As a youth worker it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of pain and suffering your students face. This workshop will help you understand the best practices for walking alongside the teens in your community and how to be a catalyst for healing in their lives.
This parenting workshop is similar to the Helping Hurting Kids workshop but it aims to help the parents trying to navigate the complexity of their kids struggles. The goal of this program is to give parents information on subjects like adolescent depression, self-injury, suicide, anxiety, eating disorder, abuse, and other challenging issues. Parents will also walk away with a plan for getting the help their family needs as they begin the journey towards freedom and healing.
The workshop focuses on developing the habit of Active Listening. Listening well can be one of the most effective things you can do for a teen struggling to figure out life. How well you listen will have a major impact on the quality of your relationships with those you serve and care about. Listening well will also have an impact on how you manage conflict among your team/organization and provide you with a concrete tool to push through barriers and achieve your goals.
Kids growing up today are living in a world that is fundamentally different than the one their parents grew up in. This poses challenges to even the most adept adult. In this workshop you will discover the systemic cultural changes that are creating a whole new developmental experience for our kids as they attempt to find out their true identity and place of belonging. Join us as we explore the developmental and spiritual challenges of raising adolescents in contemporary society. This is a one day workshop for parents and/or youth workers.
A juvenile offender’s home environment is often not helpful for encouraging adherence to pro-social behaviors. Ministry partners would benefit greatly by seeking to understand the family dynamics of the individual you are trying to impact. Negative family dynamics take many forms. The juvenile offender may be the scapegoat for family problems, making his or her return to the home counterproductive. Also, other family members may be actively using drugs or involved in criminal activities.
Domestic violence and child abuse situations present additional issues, including the personal safety of family members. Training on handling abuse situations, including sign of abuse and mandated reporting laws in each state should be required of all who serve in ministry to youth.
Other areas of support that will require attention are basic needs such as education/vocational support, housing, substance abuse treatment, identity development, financial concerns, and peer social networks.
Youth ministries and the church as a whole are equipped to address all these concerns and more when they are connected to the community, invested in families, and are willing to take Spirit led risks to do ministry outside the box.
What ways have your ministries been creative in meeting the needs of juvenile offenders who are trying to turn their lives around?
Anyone who has worked with you learned very quickly that unless the young person wants to change they very likely won’t change. At best you might get some shallow compliance with whatever expectations we have for them but the change is not real and is short lived. This awareness is a key factor when working and ministering to juvenile offenders. Our efforts are likely to be ineffective until the individual accepts the need for real transformation to occur.
A juvenile offender’s motivation to participate in programs perceived to be trying to “change” the individual will be seen as not trustworthy and they will be skeptical that our intentions are good. Too often this population is motivated by fear of consequences (i.e., jail, sanction, threats, loss, etc.) and not compelled by grace and love. In reality, both are needed to bring about transformation. It was God’s wrath and subsequent grace that compels us in our own transformation, empowered by the indwelling Spirit.
Motivation for help changes over time, and offenders can often cycle through predictable stages of change during their engagement with our programs. The Stages of Change was developed by Prochaska to describe the various stages of motivation, and includes the following:
- Precontemplation (unaware of problems – denial)
- Contemplation (awareness of problems)
- Preparation (decision point)
- Action (active behavior change)
- Maintenance (ongoing preventative behaviors)
Juvenile offenders who are in the precontemplative stage of change have little awareness of the problems they are facing and have little intention of changing their behavior. Awareness of problems grow in later stages often leading to intrinsic motivation to change, However, due to the high rate of recidivism and environmental and pro-criminal influence the young person may not move in a linear manner through the various stages, often returning to an earlier stage before eventually seeing a more permanent change in attitude and behavior.
So what does this mean for us serving juvenile offenders in ministry settings? It means that sometimes our expectations are not realistic for the stage of change that the youth is in. If we were able to recognize there level of motivation and meet them where they’re at we may be able to influence them towards the next stage. Imagine this, on a scale from 0 – 5, zero = criminal behavior and 5 = pro-social/God-honoring behavior, do we not expect the young person to jump from 0 – 5 immediately? How realistic is that? In reality most people change like this, 0 – 1 – 2 – 1 – 2 – 3 – 3 – 2 – 4 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 5 – 5 – 4 – 5 – 5 – 5 – 5…You get the point.
Meeting a young person where they are at means having a long view. It means that for the moment, we may find ourselves tolerating certain attitudes, language, and behaviors until real change can occur. This allows grace to have its way in the heart of the offender.
Take a moment and think of the student your working with and try to determine what stage of change they might be in. Now ask yourself if you need to adjust your strategies to meet him/her where they’re at.
Evaluating your ministries role in addressing recidivism among juvenile offenders is of critical importance to those attempting to reintegrate into the community. Characteristics and environmental factors used to estimate the likelihood of future criminal behavior are called “risk factors”.
Once these risk factors are identified, research leads us to believe that structured and concentrated strategies can help individuals who have offended previously. Researchers have identified several potential interventions based on these following risk factors:
- Developing and nurturing life management, problem solving, and self-leadership skills
- Developing networks with or relationships and bonding with pro-social and anti-criminal peers and with pro-social and anti-criminal mentors
- Enhancing closer family feelings and communication
- Improving and strengthening positive family systems to promote accountability
- Managing and changing anti-social thoughts, attitudes, and feelings.
What a tremendous opportunity for the church to step up and be the incarnate Christ to a population of people who are largely discarded as useless and of no value, irredeemable.
What ministries exist in your church that addresses the needs above?
What ministries need to be created to address the above needs?
I’m looking forward to heading out west to join thousands of other youth workers for a time of rest and training. These are some of the best people I’ve ever met in ministry. Working under hard conditions, with a lack of resources and support, in the trenches every day. Their work is tireless and often thankless. But they press on, believing that the Jesus they serve will show up in the lives of the kids and ministries.
I’m privileged to be facilitating a workshop on working with juvenile criminal offenders. Here’s a quick look at what we will cover during this workshop:
- We will explore how God has wired us and what He wired us for as well as the intrinsic longings He placed in us to direct our behaviors.
- We will learn about the pro-social vs. pro-criminal spectrum and how one becomes a criminal and disengages morally.
- We will also discuss the criminogenic needs individuals have and how recidivism occurs when those needs aren’t addressed.
- We will explore what developmental assets are and how they are related to criminality and how we as a church can participate in increasing the numbers of assets young people have.
- We will explore how to develop a community network to address the various needs an individual has, such as; employment, housing, mental health, etc.
- We will discuss mentoring and family ministry strategies that are proven to reduce recidivism and provide hope for individuals coming out of a criminal lifestyle and moving into a Kingdom lifestyle.
If you’re unable to attend the conference you can purchase MP3s from the website on any of the sessions offered. I’ll post a link to this workshop here after the conference.
Been having a lot of discussion about class, race, and religious privilege recently. Remembered this post written a couple years ago and was struck by it’s relevance to these conversations.
Originally posted on Conversations on the Fringe:
There’s no denying that there are a handful of Evangelical churches that largely shape and control the American Christian culture. You can probably think of a handful of them right off the top of your head. Those churches have contributed much to the Kingdom and this post is not an attempt to argue whether their success is God-driven or marketing-driven. Regardless, many necessary issues/concerns have been addressed by churches like this and they honored and glorified God in the process.
The focus of this post is the danger of having too much dominance over a culture and how the systems that govern many of these churches may be contributing to a larger problem that will impact our faith for a long time to come.
When any group rises to the top it is often accompanied by a sense of privilege. It’s the “Good Ol’ Boys Club” mentality. And, it often happens without its…
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This song has embedded itself in my mind over the last few weeks and I can’t seem to shake it out of my head. So, I thought I’d just share it with everyone else. My simple wish is that this song gives you hope when the road seems long.