It seems like loneliness, anxiety, and depression are becoming hallmark issues in the lives of our students.
In every context I find myself, with every youth worker I talk to, these three issues seem to be at the top of the felt needs list among adolescents today.
I know that the reasons are varied, and the severity range is all over the board. But what if there was a ministry solution that was actually Good News to our students who are struggling with this trifecta?
With all the gazillions of ways for students to be connected, every one of them has proven to do the exact opposite. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, were opportunities to share life with others, but quickly transitioned into simply another venue for students to compete socially. Who has the most likes, favorites, comments. Who was or wasn’t tagged or cropped from a photo or status. And in just a matter of years, all of these social media applications have proven to be more about imprisoning our students and forcing their real selves into hiding.
Now, the best option students have to share their innermost thoughts is through this garbage app, YikYak; an anonymous, twitter style app that is based on proximity. It is heartbreaking to hear our students celebrate the shallow victory of getting a 100 uplikes, or whatever its called. Our students have trained themselves on social media to redefine intimacy and authenticity, and in the process are lonelier than ever before.
The Church really is good news:
Humans were created and designed for intimacy. Intimacy with God and intimacy with one another. Sin and rebellion caused shame to rule the day, and forced us to hide from God and from each other. This is how the entire world operates. But as Christians we are called to be on a totally different trajectory.
In Romans 12, Paul declares that we are the body of Christ. As Christians, we no longer need to compete with one another for status. We no longer need to throw other people off the bus to prove our own worth. Rather, we need to celebrate that we are all unique and special, valued in our own right. And as fellow Christians we not only all have value, but we actually belong to each other.
We celebrate with those who celebrate, we mourn with those who mourn and we are called to carry each other’s burdens. What a true testimony of God’s love and grace if our version of “witnessing” “being a city on a hill,” and “evangelism,” was no being an obnoxious mirror to our communities of they ways they don’t measure up, but if we were an empathetic embrace? If we modeled transparency, authenticity, and humility. If we didn’t count people’s sins against them, the same way God doesn’t count our sins against us? (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)
Our students are dying:
Our students are dying on the inside, and too many are actually taking their own lives in desperation. We, as the church, have the medicine this culture needs to cure loneliness, anxiety, and depression. But it will cost us our self righteousness and hypocrisy. It will cost us emotional space as we simply don’t tolerate or even forgive others, but that we model Christ’s love for us and be kind and compassionate, walking in the way of love!
May we be generous with ourselves and share them with others, so the world will know that we are made for intimacy, and the church is actually the best place to be truly known, loved, and cared for. (And if those aren’t the hallmarks of your ministry, then I think you might be missing the honor it is to truly share good news to students who desperately need it!