People are hurting. Yes, that’s exactly how I’m starting this blog post, because it’s a sad truth. Everywhere I look, I see students, parents, and other individuals suffering through times of crisis. Whether it be clinical depression or mourning the loss of a loved one or not getting into the school, club, or career they want, people are hurting.
Why would I open with such a depressing thought? Because you can help!
I truly believe that God’s people are uniquely positioned to help hurting people. Those of you who are youth workers are in even more strategic positions, as you are able to help in some incredibly important years of a child’s development.
But how do I help?
Several years ago, I had a middle school student experience the death of his grandfather. I was brand new to the church and barely knew the student and his family. However, I knew it was important to go to the funeral and be there for them. I felt incredibly awkward. I was dressed up, I didn’t know the area, and, again, I barely knew anyone. I am sure I didn’t say anything that made the situation better or calm them in any way. I was just there.
To this day, it is one of the things this student continues to bring to my attention. It isn’t because I did anything amazing, and it isn’t because he noticed how awkward I was. It’s because I was there in his time of need. I took time out of my schedule to be present when he needed me.
We need to be present!
Last year was a very difficult time for my family. I lost my last great-grandmother early in the year. Later that year, my wife lost her mother and then two of her grandparents back-to-back. To say we struggled would be an understatement. I was hurting, but I was really hurting for my wife in this incredibly hard time.
When we look back at all that now, two things stick out in my mind. There were people in whom we were disappointed, because we did not feel like they did anything. And there were other people who did so much by just being present and showing us that we were on their minds and in their prayers. Many of these were students and their families, who were so amazing during this time of pain! I cannot thank them enough for just being there for us!
The people that helped the most didn’t do anything outstanding. They just made themselves available and regularly checked in on us.
As ministers, we are often called to just be there for people who are hurting. Most of the time, we will not have the right words to say to make everything better. In fact, I doubt that will ever happen. Instead, we just need to be present.
Your volunteer teams also need to know this too. Students in their groups are going to experience crisis. They will probably call you and ask what to do, and you’ll have to coach them through some tough stuff. But above all, remind them they just need to be present in their time of need.
Last year, I went to DYM100 with Download Youth Ministry, and I had the privilege of hearing from Kay Warren. For those who do not know, Rick and Kay Warren experienced some extreme tragedy in recent years with the death of their son. Kay spoke from a broken heart as she shared. I could go on and on about what she said, but I will leave that to her. (Check out her blog and her books!) The one thing she stressed goes right along with what we have experienced with the power of presence.
It really hurts when tragedy strikes, and it’s even worse when hardly anyone responds. You can feel all alone, and depression can easily creep into your thoughts. Kay knows what this is like, and so do we, unfortunately. But we can all do our best to make sure others do not experience this.
As leaders, it’s incredibly important to model this for the people God entrusts to us. You will probably never have just the right thing to say, but you can be there in their time of need.
So, the next time you see a student, parent, family, neighbor, or anyone going through a hard time, let them know you care. Even if you are privately praying for them, let them know. Bring them some food. Send them a text-message every once in a while. Take them out for a night of fun. Remind them you are able to talk when they need to do so. Sit beside them. Hand them tissues as they cry. Go to the funerals, even if it is awkward. Keep checking in after the initial tragedy has passed. Just make sure you don’t forget them!
We serve a God who is the ultimate comfort — so much that His Spirit is often called “The Comforter.”
The Apostle Paul writes, 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”
Since we have been comforted by our God, we need to comfort others. And the simplest way is just to be there for those in need.
There is a power in your presence!