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Youth Ministries That Nurture Resiliency In Vulnerable Youth


Young people are living in a world that seems hell-bent on breaking those who try to navigate it successfully. Likewise, the church in America has a tendency to break people as well, especially its young. If our students, children, and community youth are going to move out of adolescence into functional adulthood they will need to be resilient.

So, what exactly is resilience? Resilience is the ability to ‘bounce back’ after a tough situation or difficult time and then get back to feeling just about as good as you felt before. It’s also the ability to adapt to difficult circumstances that you can’t change, and keep on thriving.

Rick Little and the fine folks over at the Positive Youth Development Movement have identified the 7 Cs: Essential Building Blocks of Resilience. They say “Young people live up or down to expectations we set for them. They need adults who believe in them unconditionally and hold them to the high expectations of being compassionate, generous, and creative.”

Competence: When we notice what young people are doing right and give them opportunities to develop important skills, they feel competent. We undermine competence when we don’t allow young people to recover themselves after a fall.

Confidence: Young people need confidence to be able to navigate the world, think outside the box, and recover from challenges.

Connection: Connections with other people, schools, and communities offer young people the security that allows them to stand on their own and develop creative solutions.

Character: Young people need a clear sense of right and wrong and a commitment to integrity.

Contribution: Young people who contribute to the well-being of others will receive gratitude rather than condemnation. They will learn that contributing feels good and may therefore more easily turn to others, and do so without shame.

Coping: Young people who possess a variety of healthy coping strategies will be less likely to turn to dangerous quick fixes when stressed.

Control: Young people who understand privileges and respect are earned through demonstrated responsibility will learn to make wise choices and feel a sense of control.

carl-jung

This is a great grid to think through when creating programs, purchasing curriculum, and planning events. Can our efforts increase resilience in the most vulnerable youth? I think they can but it will take thoughtful intentionality.

  • What if our we created more opportunities for students to lead (in big church)? Would that increase their competence to have their leadership validated and nurtured by other leaders?
  • What if we taught a series on confidence (I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me)? Sound familiar? Are we driving this truth deep into the hearts of young people? I’m not talking about the notion that I can achieve but more the notion that I can overcome.
  • What if we continued to beat the drum of integrity and character but laced it with grace so when they fail they are able to get back on track without having to avoid the shame monster?
  • What if we did more than just allow our kids to babysit for the Women’s Fellowship Coffee? What if we actually gave our students meaningful work in the church and community? What if they led teams with adults? What if they helped plan services? What if they researched their community needs and church leaders valued their work so much that it might actually alter they mission?
  • What if we offered more than shallow platitudes to manage the hurt and pain they experience as they navigate life? What if we deliberately included emotional and social intelligence in all our teaching and small group curriculum? What if we actually modeled self-control and appropriate vulnerability of emotions? What if we taught coping skills to kids in our youth group?
  • What if we allowed teens the power of choice? What if we allowed them to make wrong choices and were there to help them process the consequences of those choices? What if we encouraged rebellion (minor rebellion) and autonomy instead of conformity? What if we didn’t overindulge youth so they develop a sense of entitlement and instead taught them the value of work and earning respect?

I wish I had learned many of these lessons growing up. More than that, I wish I had been surrounded by a great herd of adults that walked alongside me while I learned these lessons, encouraging me, walking beside me, challenging me by raising the bar, modeling resilience, and not giving up on me when I screwed up. I imagine that sounds a little like heaven to a vulnerable teenager and that’s the point, isn’t it?

National Eating Disorder Awareness Week


For more information on and help for eating disorders please visit the following:

 

National Eating Disorders

National Institute of Mental Health

Something Fishy

Conversations on the Fringe

Mercy Ministries

Suicide Prevention


Almost inevitably, family members and friends are drawn into the painful world of suicide.  In light of the numerous cases of suicide over the last month we think it would be helpful to give some guidelines for families and friends of those who struggle with suicidal ideation. 

If a family member or friend is acutely suicidal, it may be necessary to take away their credit cards, car keys, and checkbooks and to be supportive but firm in getting them to an emergency room or walk-in clinic.  If the person is violent, it may be necessary to call the police.  These are difficult things to do but often essential.

The National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association, a national patient-run advocacy and support group based in Chicago, makes the following specific recommendations to family members and friends who believe someone they know is in danger of committing suicide:

  • Take your friend or family seriously.
  • Stay calm, but don’t underreact.
  • Involve other people.  Don’t try to handle the crisis alone or jeopardize your own health or safety.  Call 911 in necessary.
  • Contact the person’s psychiatrist, therapist, crisis intervention team, doctor, or others who are trained to help.
  • Express concern.  Give concrete examples of what leads you to believe your friend (or family member) is close to suicide.
  • Listen attentively.  Maitain eye contact.  Use body language such as moving close to the person or holding his or her hand, if it is appropriate.
  • Ask direct questions.  Find out if your friend (or family member) has a specific plan for suicide.  Determine, if you can, what methode of suicide he or she is thinking about.
  • Acknowledge the person’s feelings.  Be empathetic, not judgmental.  Do not relieve the person of responsibility for his or her actions.
  • Reassure.  Stress that suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.  Provide hope.  Remind your friend or family member that there is help and things will get better.
  • Do not promise confidentiality.  You may need to speak to your loved one’s doctor in order to protect the person.  Don’t make promises that would endanger your loved one’s life.
  • If possible, don’t leave the person alone until you are sure they are in the hands of competent professionals.

There are several excellent advocacy and research organizations, many of which have patient and family support groups with suicide prevention and mental illness. 

If you or someone you love is suicidal, we recommend contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 800-273-8255. Additional crisis and suicide hotlines are available in the category below, Crises and Suicide.

AIDS

AIDS Hotline
(800) FOR-AIDS

American Social Health Association: Sexually Transmitted Disease Hotline
(800) 227-8922

CDC AIDS Information
(800) 232-4636

AIDS Info: Treatment, Prevention and Research
(800) HIV-0440

National AIDS Hotline
(800) 342-AIDS

ALCOHOL

Alcohol Hotline
(800) 331-2900

Al-Anon for Families of Alcoholics
(800) 344-2666

Alcohol and Drug Helpline
(800) 821-4357

Alcohol Treatment Referral Hotline
(800) 252-6465

Alcohol & Drug Abuse Hotline
(800) 729-6686

Families Anonymous
(800) 736-9805

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Hopeline
(800) 622-2255

CHILD ABUSE

Child Help USA National Child Abuse Hotline
(800) 422-4453

Covenant House
(800) 999-9999

CRISIS AND SUICIDE

Girls & Boys Town National Hotline
(800) 448-3000

International Suicide Hotlines

National Hopeline Network
(800) SUICIDE

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
(800) 273-TALK (8255)

National Youth Crisis Hotline
(800) 442-HOPE (4673)

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

National Domestic Violence Hotline
(800) 799-7233

National US Child Abuse Hotline
(800) 422-4453

MEDICAL

American Association of Poison Control Centers
(800) 222-1222

America Social Health: STD Hotline
(800) 227-8922

OTHER

Shoplifters Anonymous
(800) 848-9595

Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention
(800) 931-2237

Teen Help Adolescent Resources
(800) 840-5704

PREGNANCY

Planned Parenthood Hotline
(800) 230-PLAN (230-7526)

RAPE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN)
(800) 656-HOPE

National Domestic Violence/Child Abuse/ Sexual Abuse
(800) 799-7233

Abuse Victim Hotline
(866) 662-4535

RUNNING AWAY

National Runaway Switchboard
(800) 231-6946

National Hotline for Missing & Exploited Children
(800) 843-5678

Child Find of America
(800) 426-5678

SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Poison Control
(800) 222-1222

National Institute on Drug Abuse Hotline
(800) 662-4357

Cocaine Anonymous
(800) 347-8998

National Help Line for Substance Abuse
(800) 262-2463

The Trinity Of Depression


Beck (1963, 1964) noted the way depressed patients interpreted their current life experiences.  The depressed person tended to distort their experiences; they misinterpreted specific, irrelevant events in terms of personal failure, deprivation, or rejection; they tended to greatly exaggerate or overgeneralize any event that bore any semblance of negative information about themselves; they also tended to obsess over making indiscriminate, negative predictions of the future.  It is important to note that the depressed person’s cognitions reflect a systematic bias against oneself.  Because of this overemphasis of negative data to the relative exclusion of positive data, the label “cognitive distortion” is most appropriate when describing the thinking of depressed persons.

When an individual suffers from cognitive distortions they develop other idiosyncratic negative thematic content not observed in those of nondepressed persons.  This is referred to as the Triad of Depression.

A negative view of self.  The depressed individual shows a marked tendency to view himself/herself as deficient, inadequate, unworthy, and to attribute their unpleasant experiences to a physical, mental, or moral defect in himself/herself.  Furthermore, they regard themselves as undesirable and worthless because of their presumed defects and tends to reject himself/herself (and to believe others will reject him/her) because of it.

A negative view of the world. His/Her interactions with the environment are interpreted as representing defeat, deprivation, or disparagement.  He/She views the world as making exorbitant demands on him/her and presenting obstacles which interfere with the achievement of his/her life goals.

A negative view of the future. The future is seen from a negative perspective and revolves around a series of negative expectations.  The depressed person anticipates that his/her current problems and experiences will continue indefinitely and that he/she will increasingly burden significant others in his/her life.

I can name countless students who present in our ministries like this every day.  What are we doing, teaching, and modeling that would challenge the negative views of themselves, their world, or their future?  The triad exists when there is no hope.  Are we telling a story that communicates that there is hope for our personal redemption (through Christ), reconciliation in our relationship (with the Father), and a guiding, sustaining presence when times get dark (by the Spirit)?

How Thin Is Thin Enough?


Our friends over at Fuller Youth Institute published a great post today about the messages we are sending our young girls.

They referred to an article in the Huffington Post about photos of models that have been touched up to make the model look thinner.

As a father of three young girls I’m concerned that when they see the touched up photos they compare and contrast themselves to a fictional image.  We have got to continue to pull back the curtain on these tricks of the trade or our girls will kill themselves striving for something that is impossible.

Now I know this may sound fanatical but we work first hand with young girls who suffer from image distortions and eating disorders.  It’s no wonder they struggle so much when confronted with images such as this.

Here’s a great song by Jonny Diaz called “More Beautiful You” that speaks to this same issue:

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