Rooted Resources for Parents and Youth Pastors: School Shootings and Grief

When we went to look at what we have on the blog to help youth pastors and parents care for teenagers in the wake of yet another school shooting, it was truly disheartening to see how many times we have had to address this issue. We pray that the hope of the gospel brings comfort and peace even as we are confronted with the horror of more children and teachers lost in the places where they should be safest.

A Narrative of Death and Life in the Age of School Shootings by Kendal Conner. “Death, by its very existence, is a curse. It is an ever-present reminder to humanity that sin has broken God’s intended design and it serves as a signpost of what is to be restored. We are told in the Scriptures that death is not merely a fact of life, but an enemy to it (1 Cor. 15:26). This is why we cannot let our students, or ourselves, ever get to the point of accepting school shootings as normal or commonplace.”

Helping Students Grieve A Loss by Chelsea Kingston Erickson. “My previous church was closely affected by the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. On the Monday after the tragedy, school hadn’t yet reopened for our Newtown Middle and High School students, so I invited the girls to meet at church for pizza. A group of ten or so students talked for two straight hours, processing the trauma they had experienced in lockdown at school and the deep sense of loss they felt as they grieved for neighbors and friends in town. While I certainly seized some opportunities to minister the hope of Jesus through words that day, I mostly listened. Being present with those young women in their pain set the tone for the months and years of conversations that would follow as they continued to grieve.”

Teaching Kids What “Thoughts and Prayers” Really Means by Anna Meade Harris. “We, as Christian parents and youth leaders, must teach our children that the Christian who truly thinks and fervently prays will often be led to act.”

Teaching Teens a Theology of Suffering in a Time of School Shootings by Kendal Conner. “With a proper theology of suffering, our students can come alongside their peers to offer hope to others who mourn with them, knowing that the world is not how God intended it. Our students can place their hope in a structure that will not fail and has actual power to bring evil to an end – the coming kingdom of God.”

Truth for Back to School: Ministering to Anxious Students in an Age of School Shootings by Bradley Blaylock. “When our students are anxious, we can encourage them to stay connected to close friends and family, and to stay connected to the Lord in prayer. While anxiety wants to isolate them from community, we can remind our students that the Lord of the universe opened up to his friends and his Heavenly Father instead of collapsing within himself.”

The Terrorist Attack in Manchester and Talking to Our Youth by Jeffrey Heine. “Our youth should also know that it is okay to be scared. They do not need to be consumed by fear (and we need to be clear with instructing them on best practices of safety and thoughtful behavior), but that doesn’t mean they won’t sometimes feel fear. We need to remember that we don’t get to tell people how to feel, especially our own kids. If they are willing to share how they feel, we must listen to them describe it and acknowledge that how they feel is valid. This week, teenagers were viciously murdered leaving a concert that your child might’ve been saving up babysitting money to attend. Evil is real. There is an enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). Our teens have reason to be afraid.”

This is America: Student Ministry in a Time of Childish Gambino and School Shootings by Kendal Conner. “But our hope does not lie in whether or not America is broken from the bondage of suffering, but our hope is that Christ’s bride, the church, will be. Not even the gates of hell will prevail against Christ’s church. Our students need to know that restoration is coming; and that redemption is already here.”

Why We Must Encourage Our Students to Mourn by Ben Beswick. “Our inability to mourn properly in the Church unintentionally communicates a lack of empathy over loss and an unwillingness to patiently mourn alongside those who are still hurting. Without realizing it, this only furthers the unbiblical model of mourning presented to our students through social media and sets up an inevitably difficult situation when a student faces a tragedy that hits closer to home. When that time comes, this common model will leave them feeling overwhelmed by their sense of loss, ashamed of their inability to reclaim their joy in Christ, and hesitant to seek comfort from their peers or youth pastor, assuming that they too will have already moved on.”

Please see also:

How to Talk to Your Kids About Mass Shootings by Josh Weidmann, TGC. “Mass shootings ignite much-needed discussion about gun laws, public safety, and how to better protect our society. But we’re better served spending our time talking with our children about the root issue behind why someone would want to kill innocent people.”

Advancing Grace-Driven Youth Ministry

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