“Crisis” seems like a strong word, doesn’t it? When we youth specialists urge others to reckon with the evidence that adolescents are in crisis, aren’t we over-reaching a bit? Certainly there must be plenty of young people whose normal journey through their teen years doesn’t warrant such a label.
It depends on what domain we’re talking about.
Not every kid needs to think carefully every day about when and which route they will take to school because their own safety is at risk. Only one in five live in poverty, after all. Though drug and alcohol use is high, those who are dangerously dependent on them comprise just 8% of teens between 14 and 17 years old.
If we reserve the label “crisis” for headline-grabbing statistics it is probably true that it shouldn’t be applied to most kids. But headlines are not written by dads and moms in anguish. When most families simply don’t work like they were made to…when teens are floundering and flailing as they try to figure out who they are and what they will do with their lives…when spirituality is a preference rather than a quest for life-centering truth…the word “crisis” fits.
Last week’s events in Boston has had me thinking about the trajectory of a 19 year old bomber. His high school friends and teachers cannot imagine that he committed the atrocities he is being accused of. When did his “crisis” begin?
Here’s what I know. When YFC adults come alongside kids we love them and listen deeply to them. YFC student leaders do the same. We discover where they’re coming from and engage them in conversations about Jesus. Something amazing happens when our relationships are safe enough for such an exchange. We hear about their crises, the life-disrupting challenges that they can’t seem to overcome. And we stand with them, urging them to trust Jesus whose triumph over death through the agony of the cross proves HIS GREAT LOVE for them.
There will be plenty of pundit-talking in the days ahead about solutions that work. We who live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ have something to offer at this moment in time: ourselves. We can jump into authentic relationships with kids while others are commissioning task forces to study the problem. Christ’s love urges us on. His hope is as certain as his resurrection from the dead. “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT)