I recently finished a Netflix series many of your kids (or you) may have been watching at some point over the last few months. If you aren’t familiar, the entire show is about a high school girl named Hannah who committed suicide and left behind 13 tapes, or reasons, why. But it’s bigger than that.
Part of my job is to lead our student ministry and I can’t bear to think that this show is their reality. I’m really not much older than some of them (so I think) and yet the time I spent in high school seemed a little easier than the struggles depicted in 13 Reasons Why. Sure we can say it’s a TV show, and those are all actors, and people who commit suicide likely have a mental illness, and it’s a personal decision, but that dismisses nothing.
This show is being aired in your homes and accurately depicts the bullying, body shaming, betrayal, and incidences of rape that happen in your student’s school whether you choose to admit it or not and are often never spoken of out of fear. The show is real. Are we paying attention? Do we let things go because a kid is just “being emotional?” Do too many of us think “that’ll never happen to _______?” It’s 2017 and we’re playing a whole new ball game.
Why it’s Important
I put on Hannah’s glasses and looked at the students I work with. Boyfriend/girlfriend problems, drugs, family trials…it gets personal pretty quick. If these are the things my students go through and it led a student, even in a fictional setting, to end her life, it could happen to any of the young people I or you encounter on any given day. My charge to you is that we start paying attention – and I mean really paying attention – to the young people around us and showing up the best ways we can for them to know someone is rooting for them.
I am overjoyed that we get the opportunity to walk alongside students not just on their faith journey, but as they live their lives in a pool of assumptions. As grades, jobs, college applications, and relationships cloud their vision, I’m thankful for the leaders who, week after week, show up and invite them into circles to talk about what it looks like to keep pushing on as life throws punches and pursuing God for all. It is my prayer that I’m never tasked with leading a young person’s funeral in the event her or she ends his or her own life. We have to work to avoid that place.
Part of me gravitates toward the opinion that for us to try to stop every child’s inclination to end their life is unrealistic. Then I realize who I worship and why. It’s not unrealistic and I’ll argue that all day long. It’s who we, among other people, should be. We have to stop being lazy about Church. The moment we realize we escape death because of the selfless acts of Jesus, who cared enough to show up when he knew he was going to give his entire life, is the moment we realize the text, the phone call, or the appearance at a dreaded strings concert is worth it. My expectation of the people I lead, and the leaders they grow, is for us to never be a mediocre church. I don’t ever want be accused of not trying. Will we always be successful? No. But you won’t get to say we didn’t try.
I have big dreams for the next generation and I firmly believe it’s up to us to make them the people who continue to work for this world. After all, someone’s influence made you who you are. If we surround our emerging adults with our time and teach them the love of God, we can expect a great reward. Let’s do this together. Let’s impact the next generation of church leaders and save a life in the process.