"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought" (Rom. 8:26, NRSV)
Sooner or later every youth leader must help a teenager through a tragedy. Perhaps a friend is killed or overdoses on drugs. A parent might die of cancer. There are times when larger tragedies—such as school shootings, car crashes or violence—galvanize an entire community or congregation. Regardless, youth leaders can find themselves tossed into this tide of grief and anxiety, awash in a media frenzy and hundreds of questions. These are the times when youth leaders must draw strength from God rather than trying to be God. A youth leader can learn quickly that his or her presence with the suffering is far more important than providing cliché answers or Bible lessons on suffering.
Tragedy can arrive in many forms, and savvy youth leaders know God is the One who provides the healing. Our task is to help people find their hope in God. A few practical tips can help, also:First, be willing to embrace your own pain.
It is acceptable to weep with those who weep, to mourn with those who mourn. Be open, honest and available.Second, be prepared to help a teenager or a family in practical ways.
Be prepared to help over the long haul. A meal can help in time of grief, but so can running errands, mowing a yard or providing childcare so a family can rest and recoup from an enormous loss.Finally, remember tragic anniversaries.
Come around again a year later to talk with and comfort your teens who have lost friends and family. Remembering helps ;and as time passes, often our words and prayers have a much deeper resonance and meaning to those who grieve. Often, people have become lonely in their grief and are more willing to talk about their needs when they are not reeling from the shock of the tragedy.
Furthermore, don't forget to care for your own spirit. Tragedy also can impact us in ways we don't realize; and if we have been grieving, too, we must renew and refresh our own spirits if we are to minister to others effectively. Jesus withdrew from the crowds to pray, and we can take our example from Him. Every youth leader needs refreshment from time to time, and we need to make certain we practice what we preach!