What then should be our response? Over these three months I am offering a three-part blog series. Last month we explored “What I Feel.”
This month: “WHAT I KNOW: Thoughts and reflections of a youth pastor in a post-traumatic world searching for resources to respond in a post-traumatic world.”
The popularity and Oscar recognition of the film, “American Sniper” has fascinated many but also brought into focus a deeper issue. We see the post-traumatic effects of war in Chris Kyle and we see the even more impactful effects on a fellow soldier who senselessly murders Mr. Kyle.
As youth leaders we have been engaging more and more with youth and families reeling from the experience of death, loss, and tragedy – locally and globally – in their lives. In recent months my own community has experienced two different circumstances causing youth to reflect on their own mortality and vulnerability. One 17 year old, just before Christmas, was diagnosed with a rare disease paralyzing her from the neck down and is now receiving treatment in a distant city. Another 17 year old recently died after contracting a strain of the flu.
While many of our youth did not know these two directly they are all recognizing it could have been them. They survived.
Where do we as youth leaders go for resources in times like these? I have some good news and bad news on that front:
1) GOOD NEWS: Our global connectedness to traumatic events all over the world has bumped up the conversation of how to respond. Counseling opportunities through the Red Cross and other local agencies are now more widely available. The emerging network Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster has indeed become more active prompting churches, schools and other community services to be ready when disaster and trauma hit.
2) BAD NEWS: For the youth leader in the church setting there are very few resources for helping youth and families navigate post-traumatic stress. My own research yielded just a few results.
What did I find? Here is a short list:
ARTICLE: “Dealing with Trauma” 1995 https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1995/05/dealing-with-trauma
TRAUMA RESOURCES through the Unitarian Universalist Church: www.traumaministry.org/resources
ARTICLE: “No More Drive-by Youth Ministry” http://www.urbanfaith.com/2011/10/no-more-drive-by-youth-ministry.html/, 2011
BOOK: “The Youthworker’s Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis” http://www.simplyyouthministry.com/resources-hurts---issues-the-youth-worker-s-guide-to-helping-teenagers-in-crisis.html, 2007
While this list is not exhaustive it exhibits the primary resources currently available and is a very minimal offering for what is actually needed on the field.
ICTG is strategically planning to make a significant contribution to this gap. In the coming months, we will offer more resources for the youth leader to use in pro-active and re-active ways. Currently on the “white board” for us are:
· A primer/book for the youth leader in understanding and responding to Post Traumatic stress in the context of the adolescent
· A Youth Ministry Resource Guide as part of our upcoming Resource Guide series
· Curriculum designed to aid youth leaders in step by step response
· Blogs and forums for those wanting to interact with “real-time” circumstances
· Coaching for youth ministries reeling from recent disasters and traumatic events
· Certification programs for youth ministers to expand their professional development
Questions for consideration
· What other hard copy or digital resources have you found?
· What is missing from our “white board” ideas above? What would be helpful to you?
Feel free to comment below!
Next month: “What I Do (or what should I do)” – Effectively and lovingly responding to youth experiencing trauma locally and globally.