Teaching to the Victim

Today was one of those days where I finished teaching Sunday School completely baffled at how grateful I am for the honor it is to share the grace of Jesus with students.
One of my dearest friends works for a sexual assault resource agency, and she and I have regular discussions about speaking to kids and relating to trauma with them.  One of the things her organization teaches their staff is to always treat a group they are addressing as if there is at least one victim present.  This helps them to be sensitive to how they share and convey information as well as present themselves (for they want to be approachable).
In a similar manner, the need for the regular presentation of the gospel to our kids cannot be overemphasized; for there could always be an unexpected struggle or trauma one of them is currently experiencing.
I’ve been to more than one sermon and far more than one lesson in churches where Jesus isn’t talked about.  In asking why this is so, I have often received the response that it is assumed the congregation/group ‘already knows the gospel’, therefore, other issues in Christianity are addressed.  I think we need to be seriously cautious about making these assumptions, and I don’t think there is a person alive who doesn’t regularly need the Word of Life (Jesus) offered to them.  As youth workers, we have the incredible honor of being able to do that, and my experience today was a sobering reminder.
After concluding the lesson, I sat down to talk with a new student* who hadn’t been to Sunday School before, as I noticed that he looked a little downcast.  He proceeded to show me his bandaged wrist and tell me a little about the debilitating depression which had led to him being sent home from boarding school just a few days prior.   He had attempted suicide and they ‘didn’t know what to do with him.’
There are few times when I have been as grateful to have just shared the gospel of Jesus with a group of people.  Five years ago, my teaching would have included much more of the ‘What it means to live as a Christian’ sorts of topics, and I’m not sure my lesson would have offered this kid anything of real Hope (which is found in Jesus alone).  Praise God, I believe He can and does use anything for His purposes and our good; therefore, He may have used whatever I taught.  But I never again want to overlook the opportunity to focus on sharing the reality of our Living God, Jesus.  We need the Word every day, and there are endless angles from which to approach the gospel.  This is not to say we never address the other issues of Christianity; but please, let us keep Jesus at the center.  He is our Hope- the Way, the Truth, the Life.  We can’t ever fully know where our kids are coming from.
*the details of this child have been changed to protect privacy

Liz Edrington serves as the Fellowship Groups and Young Adults Director at North Shore Fellowship in Chattanooga, TN. She received her M.A. in Counseling from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL, and she has worked with students in one form or another since 2002. She is an emeritus member of the Rooted steering committee, and she's the author of a 31-day devotional for teenagers called Anxiety: Finding the Better Story (P&R Publishing, 2023). Pickled things delight her, as does her snuggle beast, Bella the Dog.

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