It has been a day filled with emotion, hurt, fear, drama, anxiety, worry, and chaos. The world of safety and security has been toppled upside-down for so many middle schoolers in the Madison, AL area. I heard from our secretary around 2pm today that the shooting had occurred at Discovery Middle. My phone started blowin-up with calls and text messages from concerned parents and students. Another youth pastor in the area called me and said he could get us into the schools (which were on lockdown) to minister to the kids. We went out there, got on campus, past the perimeter police, but then they wouldn’t let us in the doors.
We had several students from our church in the school during the time of the shooting. A student was in the same hallway as the shooting, a student had just left the hallway right before the shooting, and several others were still in the building. Some of our students knew the victim. Some of our students knew the shooter. One had lunch with him. One had a class with him. To say the least from this huge tragedy, our students are dealing with fear, anxiety, hurt, sadness, worry, vulnerability, doubt, and confusion. A youth pastor’s question is always, “How do we counsel them?”
1. Whenever I counsel a student, I always make sure to listen. I want to hear what they’re thinking, what they’re feeling, what they’ve experienced, what their fears are, what they want to see changed, and what they think the problem is. I ask them many questions. I probe. In all honesty, I’ve learned not to dodge the whole situation. Instead, I talk all about it. I ask about it. I try to understand what exactly happened. How it happened. When it happened. What others don’t know. What’s the real inside story.
2. I always want to answer their questions and concerns with a biblical-theological worldview that will help reshape their thinking. God is sovereign and in control at all times, but yet He is also always good and loving. We don’t always understand how tragedy can happen when God is in control, loving, and good. Sin is always at work. Satan wants to destroy lives. The Word of God is what God uses to calm our fears, to shape our thinking, to help us hope in Christ, and to trust God more than ever. Lastly, the gospel is seen as more important than ever. We see the urgency to spread the gospel and save lives so that we can minimize sin and the control of Satan as well as maximize the glory of Christ wherever the powerful of the gospel is present!
3. Some Scriptures I often point to in these times are those like 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. It’s perfectly biblical and good for our students to grieve when having experienced tragedy and loss. This release of emotion is a God-given method to deal with such terrible experiences. But we want to make sure our students don’t grieve like the rest of the world because Christians grieve with an understanding of hope, confidence, trust, and total divine security. We constantly point our students to Christ…His person and work. Jesus is the Son of God, God the Son, God-man, Lord, King, Master, Savior. Jesus is in complete control as everything is under His feet. But also Jesus has died for sin, He has overcome, He has conquered death and the grave, He has risen from the dead and poured out His Spirit on His people so that we have hope one day to resurrect with Him! A second Scripture is 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 because it speaks of God being our comforter in terrible trials. We must turn our personal trials into public ministry. Just as God comforts us when we are going through extreme trials, He calls us to minister to others towards the same hope that He has called us to.
4. I pray with them. I pray with my arm around them in such a way to encourage them that we trust God for what He’s allowed to happen, I pray that God will completely continue to keep control of the situation. I pray that the students will be able to rest and sleep well. I pray that God will use His Word in their lives to keep their focus on Christ. I pray that they’ll grow in the image of Christ through the situation. And I pray that they’ll be able to minister to other for the cause of Christ.
5. I always make myself available. They know they can call, text, facebook, etc.
Those are just a few simple thoughts of how I’ve learned to minister through crazy crisis like what happened today.