This post, written by Doug Ranck, originally was published on March 28, 2017, on the ICTG blog.
The date had been on the books for months. The idea had originated months before the date was set. When reaching out to train a bunch of “busy” youth workers one must be very strategic to capture their attention, invite their ownership, sell them on the need for investing their prized funds and time in worthy training.
Kate Wiebe, ICTG’s Executive Director, and I had many thoughts on creating training for our local youth leaders to offer some basic equipping in post-trauma response. We bounced around dates; we brainstormed on content and flow.
Mid-autumn I was invited to Spring Arbor University to lead training for youth leaders around Southern Michigan. One of my modules focused on trauma response. With the expert help of Kate and the Powerpoint help of Communications Coordinator Isabel Sterne, we created a concise but meaty presentation.
With this training as our foundation, Kate and I prepared a longer training for the youth leaders and pastors in the Santa Barbara, California area. On the first week of March, we were pleased to spend time with youth and children’s workers from nine different churches. There was plenty of time for presentation, questions, and practical application. Feedback was positive, and leaders responded with clarity toward their next steps.
Within a week and a half, there were two separate deaths of high school seniors, just eighteen years of age, from our local area. One was killed on a railroad track not heeding the repeated horn blowing of a train and another after falling sixty feet from a seaside bluff. The cause of these deaths is still not confirmed, but the events shook our community no matter how we would term them. An overflowing school auditorium packed to remember the life of one while hundreds came to a candlelight vigil for the other. Schools and teachers offered counseling and consolation.
Now, however, there were some new team players. Buoyed by training and some basic tools youth leaders began responding as we sent out the word to our network about the tragic deaths. One youth leader initiated a text group so we might keep each other in prayer and be updated on ways we could collaborate. Another youth leader got permission for the church to open its doors for those who would like to come for spiritual counseling and prayer. Others reported they had spent time debriefing with their groups on Sundays and mid-week meetings. Others offered to be available to anybody who would need to talk or just need the presence of another.
At the risk of sounding cliché, it’s not if but when. There will be trauma on individual and corporate levels. As we are prepared when the time comes we will not find ourselves like deer in headlights but like a professional musician or athlete who has prepared well through practice, strategic thinking, repetition, and focus. In the chaos of the emotion, we may feel uncertainty, but our preparation will have served to provide an external non-anxious presence giving hope and a measure of confidence to those who feel the shock, loss, and pain of an event for which they could not have predicted nor prepared.
I live in earthquake country. We are told to prepare yet, so few do. On the day we realize the power of moving earth, the lack of power and limited transportation options we will wish we heeded the wisdom of preparation. The same is true of trauma. There is power in preparation for trauma. Just ask us.
If you are looking for further resources and training with your youth and children’s ministries, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would love to help you prepare.
You can help ICTG host more training events, like the Trauma Response & Youth Ministry Training (described above), by donating today.
From 2012-2020, this blog space explored expanding understanding and best practices for leadership and congregational care.