While helping with youth ministry at my own church, conversations turned to the crucial needs dramatized inthebuzzy Netflix series, 13 REASONS WHY. All the youth found it dark. Some thought it could trigger suicidal thoughts. Others felt it was a thought provoking story.
Our surprise. As a result, our church staff put together a night for parent conversations. The first email went out. Immediate responses from parents started pouring in, expressing their thanks and their desire for help in knowing how to approach the issues highlighted in this series.
The door is opened. The issues are not new. The need may even be the same, but the awareness and concern is certainly heightened. Parents want to know how to talk with their kids about life, hope, and love - the very things our churches embody. Youth want to know how to talk to each other.
What follows are a few tools. Other information and educational resources about suicide are easy to find on the web. Many schools have already sent parents information and links.
A crucial Peer Ministry Leadership skill is to equip youth with ways to connect with "Inn Keepers." In the Good Samaritan Story in Luke 10, the Inn Keeper only gets a short mention. During a discussion with youth, one girl pointed out that the Samaritan only took the victim to the Inn Keeper. The Inn Keeper did all the long term care for the victim. The girl was right.She wondered, "Why isn't the story called the THE GOOD INN KEEPER?"
I love that the Inn Keeper is included in this story. This is good news for all of us. One of our most important caring skills is to help people find Inn Keepers. These are the people to whom youth can guide their friends. It is relieiving to know that our job is not always to fix, solve, or constantly be with someone. Our job is often to help people find a knowledgeable, sometimes professional, Inn Keeper.
Naming Inn Keepers
With your youth a list of go-to adults and resource people.
- Who are your go-to Inn Keepers?
- Whom have you learned to trust and confide in?
- Who do you know that is knowledgeable and wise about an issue that concerns you?
- What issues are you willing to talk about with, or introduce friends to talk about with, ...
- Pastors / church staff?
- Peers? Friends?
- Other adults you know? Wise sages? Relatives? Other parents?
- Teachers, counselors, coaches, and other school staff?
- Medical personnel, nurses, doctors?
- Calling / texting help lines.
- If you hear, "Don't get involved," or "Just give it time; it will take care of itself," or, "They are only trying to get attention," move on. Find someone who will help. Many adults don't know what to do.
- Youth are most likely to go to the people who have earned their relational trust and confidence. Titles and credentials hold less meaning for youth.
Equip youth with contacts
- Give youth the hotline numbers to carry with them for referrals!
- Never second guess if it is okay to contact the following. It is always okay!
- Call 2-1-1, or ext 741741 for the nation wide FIRST CALL FOR HELP supported by United Way.
- 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
- 9-1-1 emergency line may be needed when you need and immediateresponse for help.
- Add other local hotlines and help services.
2. FREE Youth Discussion Guides
Two powerful discussion guides used at our "Youth ARE Leading" conference are linked here. Create an opening[I'M NOT SURE WHAT THIS MEANS? from, and closing]. See the prayer ideas below.
We suggest printing on card stock, taping them into a set of three, standing them on the floor , adding a candle, dimming the lights, gathering in close. Think campfire-ype discussions! Let youth talk, using the prompts on the card to lead them where they need to go. Point out that the discussion prompts are not numbered. Start whereever your eyes land.
<LINK> SUICIDE AND FRIENDS
3. Parent YOUTH DISCUSSIONS
Mount Calvary Lutheran put the following discussions together for parents and youth to talk together. You have permission to use for your own church's parents.
Questions about Suicide and Depression
13 Reasons Why Discussion
4. PEER MINISTRY LEADERSHIP an essential!
13 Reasons Why has quickly augmented the need for PEER MINISTRY LEADERSHIP.
Empowering youth with the skills to care, welcome, and affirm is not just another programmatic option; it is an essential! These are the skills that empower youth to actively live their faith by caring for friends every day, rather than merely knowing things about faith.
Let us help you either begin or reenergize Peer Ministry Leadership in your church!
5. SAMPLE LETTER TO SEND TO YOUTH
You have either seen or are hearing people talk about 13 REASONS WHY. My purpose is not to judge the show. I have heard good reasons to watch it and good arguments about why it is not worthy of viewers. Talk to your parents and trust their wisdom.
What our church needs from you, and trusts you for, is to continue to care for your peers. We believe you are the front lines of our youth ministry. You know more youth. You are more aware of the feelings, stresses, joys, sorrows, and situations. You are often the first listeners, guides, and helpers for your friends. We value and appreciate your everyday ministry!
Please continue to be attentive. 13 Reasons Why and all the talk about it may amplify feelings, fears, and possibilities of unhealthy behaviors.
When people share suicidal thoughts, or you sense hints of suicidal behaviors, get help! Suicide prevention needs good listeners like you. It is also needs mental healthprofessionals . It's always a bit scary to make connections, but don't hesitate. It is better to have a friend a bit mad at you for getting help, than to have a dead friend. You may be the best bridge to living life with hope and promise.
- Always express your own desire for life and hope.
- Suicide is never a good option. There are always better ones.
- People don't want to die; they only want the hurting to stop. Assure them that it can!
- Our church is here to help you help others. Let's talk!
- Parents care deeply and want to help. Ask!
- You may know and trust other wise adults.
- Trust that you can go to or call your school's counselors.
- Remember, doctors and nurses want to help.
- Talk to each other! Talking with trusted friends is far better than stuffing or ignoring feelings!
In addition keep these numbers.
- Call 2-1-1, or text 741741 for the nationwide FIRST CALL FOR HELP supported by United Way.
- 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline..
- 9-1-1 emergency line may be needed when you need help immediately.
Note: If you hear, "Don't get involved," or "Just give it time. It will take care of itself," or, "They are only trying to get attention," move on. Find someone who will help. Some adults don't know what to do. Keep looking for the one who knows how to help.
INVITE! Come join us for some important discussions about faith and life, about helping friends, about knowing how to listen and care for your friends when suicide is being considered. (YOUR INFORMATION!)
In pairs or small groups, try one of the following.
Dear God, here are our 13 Reasons Why...
... we live with with your hope!
... these 13 people uplift and enhance my life!
...Our youth ministry / church embodies hope!
Dear God, our Youth Ministry embodies hope!
Here are 13 Reasons Why...
- "We love because Christ first loved us" (I John 4:19)
- Walk in, you belong! You are always welcome!
- We work at making our culture a caring, welcoming, and affirming place!
- Your uniqueness and our differences are a positive thing. We are all better together!
- This is a place to "Come out of the traffic," step away from stresses.
- We don't "should" on people, telling you what you have to be, do, or believe.
- It is okay to question, wonder, ponder, even doubt! These are considered good things!
- We leave our masks at the door! You don't have to pretend to be anything but yourself.
- We believe God is about love, grace, peace, and hope.
- We love humor and fun, but never make fun of or put down others.
- We do not discriminate, ever, for any reason!
- We talk openly about faith and life.
- This is a place that offers forgiveness. We make mistakes. We admit them and forgive them.
PEER MINISTRY LEADERSHIP
13 Reasons Why...
- We offer lifelong relational skills to care for friends.
- We teach youth how to become deeper listeners.
- We develop leaders who care, welcome, and affirm others.
- PML is an education of the heart. We teach compassion.
- We learn to love, because Christ first loved us.
- We change inward "Youth groups" into outward "Youth ministries".
- We help youth know when to find "Inn Keepers," the adults who can help.
- We help youth to have the courage to walk in, while others are walking out on their friends
- We help ministries grow with a core of relational leadership youth and adults.
- PML skills are used at school, on the team, in the choir, at work, every day, everywhere and in every relationship.
- We help participants be more observant and more aware of concerns around them.
- We pray for others.
- We help youth know how to guide the concerning choices, changes, and challenges that face youth.
A GROUP OF YOUTH SHARED -- Our 13 reasons why we have hope:
3. Communities (our youth ministry)
11. Appreciating the journey
(Bonus #14. breakfast!)
FAITH AND LIFE! 13 Reasons Why...
- I am gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. (Exodus 34:6).
- It is my desire that neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)
- My hope is in you. (Psalms 39:7)
- Prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. (I Peter 1:13)
- For whatever was written in former days was written for your instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures you might have hope. (Romans 15:4)
- For surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
- Having been justified by Christ's grace, you might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:7)
- You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel, (Colossians 1:5)
- Realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, (Hebrews 6:11)
- Surely there is a future and our hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 23:18)
- Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. (I Peter 1:13)
- Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
- And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:13)
A Letter found in LIFE, LOSS and GRIEF
Curriculum <LINK> ask for a preview!
Dear Child of Mine,
I want you to know that your future is bright and that your hope should be strong so I wrote you this letter to let you know that I am gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. (Exodus 34:6). It is my desire that neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us. (Romans 8:39) For surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
Surely there is a future and our hope will not be cut off. (Proverbs 23:18) Realize the full assurance of hope to the very end, (Hebrews 6:11) the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel, (Colossians 1:5) for whatever was written in former days was written for your instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures you might have hope. (Romans 15:4) Having been justified by Christ's grace, you might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:7)
Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. (I Peter 1:13) Love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27) Do justice, and... love kindness, and... walk humbly with me. (Micah 6:8) For the needy shall not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor perish forever. (Psalms 9:18) Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth. (Psalms 46:10) In your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands for you an accounting for the hope that is in you. (I Peter 3:15) Endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (Romans 5:4) Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:12)
And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13:13) May grace give you eternal comfort and good hope. (2 Thessalonians 2:16) I will never leave you or forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5) My hope is in you. (Psalms 39:7)
Faith, hope and love, - God