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Jonathan's Resource Ezine

Weekly Resources, Ideas and Articles from The Source for Youth Ministry
Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In This Issue

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Featured Article: Advice from a Columbine Youth Pastor-How Youth Workers Should Respond to the Virginia Tech Shooting

RESPONDING TO THE VIRGINIA TECH SHOOTING
Advice from a Columbine Youth Pastor
April 17, 2007

Jonathan McKee interviews Lane Palmer about how we should respond to the Virginia Tech Shooting. Lane not only has a background in counseling and youth ministry... Lane was a youth pastor in Littleton, CO near Columbine High School during the tragedy on April 20, 1999. Over 30 of his students were on campus during that shooting, including one survivor who was in the library.

It's sad, but America is almost getting used to school shootings. It's practically an annual occurrence-the only question that remains is "where?" and "when?"

Just Sunday I remember thinking about the upcoming anniversary of Columbine, April 20th. I hoped that no one would use the date as a channel for something catastrophic, but my hopes were in vain.

Cho Seung-Hui, a 23 year-old South Korean resident alien went on a shooting rampage yesterday, April 16th,at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, killing 32 people and himself. America grieves and is searching for answers.

But how are America's teenagers reacting?

I inquired about the incident with a bunch of kids today and browsed hundreds of MySpace pages, searching for conversations from high school or jr. high students.

Nothing.

They had a lot to say about relationships, how "school sucks" ... even their favorite burger at McDonalds. But nothing about this event.

Do they care?

And should youth workers address this horrific event with their youth groups this week?

Looking for answers, I turned to my good friend Lane who not only has a background in counseling and youth ministry... he's been through this before. Lane went through the aftershocks of Columbine with his Littleton youth group in 1999.

TALKING WITH LANE

Jonathan: Lane, thanks for taking time with us on such short notice.

Lane: Thanks for letting me share. I hope that in some way our conversation will be helpful for youth leaders as they help their students process this horrific tragedy.

Jonathan: Lane, before you went to work for Dare 2 Share, you were a youth pastor in Littleton, CO near Columbine High School. Over 30 of your students were on campus during the 1999 shooting- one was in the library. What kind of affect does this traumatic event have on a high school kid who witnesses something like this in his or her school?

Lane: While it's hard to nail down an exact effect that Columbine had on my students, there are some common threads that generally describe the changes I saw eight years ago. First of all, there was a definite loss of innocence and the perception of safety. Students woke up that morning as well insulated and secure teens, and went home that night in shock, fear, and post traumatic stress. Picture a kid from the suburbs getting thrown into a battle situation- only the battleground isn't foreign soil- it's his/her own backyard.

I think a secondary impact was a re-evaluation of what's really important in life. Whereas before the shootings surface things like 'which party am I going to?' and 'when can I buy that sweet ride?' were at the forefront of their mind, and after the tragedy real issues like 'where am I going when I die?' and 'how can I make my life count' rose to the surface.


Jonathan: We've seen a lot of school shootings in the last decade alone. We know it must be traumatic for those close to the incident. How do you think kids across the country- those removed from the incident- respond when they hear about another school shooting on the news?

Lane: Unfortunately I think there is an element of the old 'familiarity breeds contempt' with many students. As we know, teens are already very 'me' focused already, so oftentimes after the initial reaction wears off, it goes back to business as usual. Sort of the ' oh, that's too bad...hey check out my new lip ring!' thing. Part of this comes from most teens inability to process tragedy in general- and especially large scale devastation like Columbine, 9/11, and Virginia Tech. That's why I believe it's key that we as youth leaders be proactive in bringing up these issues and events to help teens develop a broader worldview and help them work though what's going on beneath the i-Pod and Myspace veneer.

Jonathan: What were your thoughts when you heard about this Virginia Tech shooting?

Lane: To be honest, it was very surreal. I drive by Columbine High School every day, and I was just thinking about the 8th anniversary this Friday when a Fox news alert popped up with the heart-wrenching details unfolding at Virginia Tech. My first thoughts were mental images of what was happening and desperate prayers that the evil would be immediately stopped. Of course as the day went on we all learned of the downward spiral of tragedy that occurred- which I'm sure for all of us turned our thoughts towards the victims' families and prayers on their behalf.

Jonathan: What do you think that youth workers across the country should do this week at their youth groups. You mentioned that we should be proactive about addressing this issues? If so, to what extent?

Lane: Yes, I believe it is vitally important that we help our teens walk through events like these for many reasons. Some youth leaders might be hesitant to talk with their groups about the recent tragedy for fear that it will only intensify the stress and fear already imbedded in their emotions. The fact is, the opposite is true. The excess of various emotions that were released over the past few days need a healthy outlet, otherwise they will work their way out in negative ways.

One thing that helped me with our students was to help them put labels on what they are experiencing (stress, fear, sadness, etc.), then talk about ways to address each individual one. For example, if they are feeling sadness, ask them what has helped them in the past with those feelings. If they are anxious, walk them through the whole concept of how God is still in control, so we need not be anxious about the future (i.e. Matthew 6:25-34). This could happen on a corporate and individual level.

I think the other key issue here is the chance we have to bring up the important issues in life. When events like this occur, we have a golden opportunity to help teens evaluate their spiritual condition. As well, many times you'll see a lot of new faces in your group after events like these, because students are looking for answers. Again- what a great opening for evangelism.


Jonathan: So what kind of youth group would you run this week?

Lane: I would dispense with the fun and games at the beginning (if that's your typical model), then spend some time recapping what happened. I would then have a block of time for students to ask questions, share feelings, basically just let them 'emote'. After that, have a dedicated time of prayer for the victim's families, the school, etc. If you're comfortable, pray for the families by name- which creates a very powerful connection. You could also have them write letters of encouragement, then end with a time of worship to reinforce the fact that God is always in control.

Jonathan: Those are great ideas. Are there resources also available that could help youth workers deal with this situation appropriately?

Lane: One of the best I've seen is a book called The Youth Worker's Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis by Rich Van Pelt. There are great principles that can be applied to a variety of difficult situations for students who are struggling. I would also make sure I had a list of a few professional counselors for teens who are having a hard time getting past this situation.

Jonathan: That's great advice Lane. Thanks again for taking the time to share your insight with us. That's very helpful.

Lane: Glad to help.

CLICK HERE FOR EVEN MORE DISCUSSION RESOURCES
ON OUR MOVIE CLIP DISCUSSIONS PAGE-
SCROLL DOWN TO THE TOPIC "WHEN LIFE STINKS"
(I recommend the discussions provided for
the movies "Signs" and "Lord of the Rings")



Michigan Reaching Out to the Unchurched Teenager Training: Last Week to Register at the $10 Early Bird Rate for the April 28th Detroit Workshop

Looking for an affordable training for you and your volunteers? Check out this Saturday training seminar from THE SOURCE coming soon to Detroit

THIS IS THE LAST WEEK TO REGISTER
AT THE $10 EARLY BIRD RATE!
(by 4/21)

Detroit, MI

April 28th, Jonathan is doing a Saturday workshop (9AM to 3PM) for youth workers within driving distance of Detroit, MI. If you're a youth worker, paid or a volunteer, this is for you!

Here's the details for this Michigan training:

WHEN:
    Saturday, April 28, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
WHERE: COST:
    Two choices:
    • $15 at the door
    • $10 early bird rate if registered by April 21st
TO REGISTER:
WOULD YOU LIKE THIS TRAINING IN YOUR CITY?
CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION ON HOW TO
BRING THIS TRAINING TO YOUR AREA



Jonathan Coming to Phoenix, AZ Area This June: Jonathan is coming to Phoenix this June and is available to speak for less than half of his normal cost

Jonathan will already be in Phoenix this June and available to speak June 10, 11 or 12th. If you are interested in bringing
Jonathan in for a speaking or training event,
email us at speaking@TheSource4YM.com
and let us know what you're looking for.


SPEAKING
Jonathan is booked to speak at camps, conferences and events across the U.S. CLICK HERE to see what others are saying about this dynamic speaker.



TRAINING
Jonathan McKee's youth ministry and evangelism training ranges from 90 to 180 minute sessions like he does at the Y.S. National Youth Worker Conventions every year to the all day workshops like his Reaching Out to the Unchurched training he does nationally. Jonathan is the author of numerous youth ministry books including DO THEY RUN WHEN THEY SEE YOU COMING? and the upcoming YS book GETTING STUDENTS TO SHOW UP. He trains youth workers, equipping them to not only reach beyond the church walls, but to disciple them into the church.

BOOKING JONATHAN FOR THIS SPECIAL DEAL
Normally THE SOURCE charges $1,000 plus travel for Jonathan to come out and speak for one day, or $1500 plus travel for a weekend. All money goes to THE SOURCE and the free resources we provide.

Since Jonathan will already be in Phoenix for these three days, you won't have to pay any travel costs. In addition, THE SOURCE will be charging only half the normal honorarium.

If you are interested in bringing
Jonathan in for a speaking or training event,
email us at speaking@TheSource4YM.com
and let us know what you're looking for.




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