Type “teenagers” into Google, then spend 30 minutes browsing the links. I did this the other day and was confronted (over and over) by one overriding reality—Gen Z teenagers are suffering from more depression, anxiety, and stress than ever before. EVER before.
Back to back to back to back school shootings are stoking the crisis. Politicians and commentators, fed up with the “passive” response to these repeated acts of violence, are now pushing back against widespread complacency by urging us to “save our thoughts and prayers.” The implication: Thoughts and prayers do nothing to change the situation.
We all want gun violence to end. And while the derogatory “save your thoughts and prayers” strikes a nerve in me, I get the heart behind it. We’re sick and tired of the rhetoric—we want action on this critical issue.
In Acts 3, Peter and John capture the essence of “save your thoughts and prayers.” They’re on their way to the Temple and meet a lame man at the gate—he’s begging for money. Peter and John don’t have any. But they can see what the man really needs. So they call the man to rise up and walk, in the name of Jesus. Peter takes the man by the hand to help him up, and he leaps to his feet, instantly healed.
We’re surrounded by teenagers who are hurting, broken, and afraid. Passivity can’t be our response. Peter and John offered concrete help to the lame man—extending their “thoughts and prayers” to him, then walking on by into the Temple, would’ve been cowardly. Likewise, our teenagers need more from us. A few questions that will get the ball rolling…
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]We’re surrounded by teenagers who are hurting, broken, and afraid. Passivity can’t be our response.[/tweet_box]
1. How well do you know the real needs of teenagers in your ministry?
2. Does your ministry essentially prioritize performance and entertainment over helping teenager discover the power of Jesus’ love in their life?
3. What are you doing to equip parents to help their kids manage their stress, anxiety, and depression? (By the way, this is a major focus of Group’s Youth Ministry Local Training 35-city tour this fall—go to youthministrylocaltraining.com for more info.)
4. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the strength of your faith, relative to Jesus’ right-now ability to heal the brokenness of this generation?
5. How might you need to reinvent your youth ministry, based on the epidemic of anxiety, depression, and suicide that plagues today’s teenagers?
Our teenagers desperately need more than placebo “thoughts and prayers”—they need bold fighters who will dive deep into their mess, take them by the end, and help them to leap to their feet in the name of Jesus.
This article originally appeared in the ‘Reinventing Youth Ministry’ special edition of Group Magazine. Click here to request your FREE copy.