Jared spends over 9 hours by himself each day.
…And when he is with other people, he’s still in his own world. His case is not unique. There’s a growing number of isolated kids. The situation is so unhealthy. It can be changed. Here’s what’s going on and what we can do to end the isolation.
Systematic Abandonment Intensified
The epidemic is well documented by Chap Clark. Many kids feel abandoned and left to fend for themselves. For the longest while they were made to feel like a nuisance. They were dropped at every program there was. Now they don’t expect much more.
Doing our own screen thing.
Studies (see TIME) show that parents are spending as much time on screens as students. We may be working or doing our own thing. We have come to accept that don’t really have to share screens. It’s too complicated to agree on what to watch or play.
Put All Your Eggs in this Basket
I feel so strongly this year that we have to go after students. We have to go after the students who don’t seek attention. These are the ones who have quiet isolated lives. They don’t even know that in their soul they are longing for connection.
If you are going to dig in to make a difference in kids lives this year dig in this direction. Make sure that every student is connected to a leader who actually spends time with them. It doesn’t take much for a volunteer to contact 5 students every week. If your ministry runs any kind of small group then that leader should know what is going on with each student every week.
Much More Contacting
Whatever it takes to enter a student’s world, text, Instagram, face book, snap chat please make sure that your leaders are doing it frequently. Of course face to face is best but there are obstacles with church policies. We have to be creative. Here are a few ideas:
- Pick up a few students at their high school
- Arrange to eat lunch with them on campus
- Attend a sports event where they are playing or training
- Meet them at youth early before it starts
Get Parents in on this
We hit a home run when we can get families to spend face to face time with each other. It can be tricky. Here are a few thoughts I have.
- Home visit. Some youth workers visit every one of their students in their home once a year… Can you do this in 2017?
- Family event. I know an exceptional youth worker named Tim. He does out doors events for parents and their teens about 4 times a year. It is amazing to see parents and teens having fun together.
- Parents Night. Try Minute to win it with parents and teens.
- Take home bible studies. –A lot of churches do Same Page Initiatives where every one in the church studies the same thing for 6 weeks. Part of it is a home bible study. If it is short term and part of a church wide thing, families can get involved without feeling too awkward about it.
- Men’s or Women’s Activities –a good time for bonding when Dads and sons or Mom’s and daughter can do something together… -just remember to have someone for students without a mom or without a dad.
One to One Discipleship
This will require a parents permission, meeting in a public place, and probably not travelling alone together in a vehicle. Take the same precautions that a teen counselor would. There are some great resources for this and so many students can benefit a student. At the basis should be scripture, prayer, and letting the student do most of the talking. This kind of mentoring doesn’t have to go on forever but a period of about 6 weeks for fine tuning in their spiritual growth can be a great thing.
Don’t Let them Languish Alone
Donny was a friend of mine who dropped out of high school. He stayed home everyday and didn’t go out much. One day he showed up at school in a zombie like state. He was having a psychotic episode. Since then, I have always been worried about students who are shut in their own little world. They may be good kids who do their homework but no one knows the what is going on in their head or heart.
Please Get More People Doing More
As you can tell I am pretty passionate about this. I believe groups could invest more time in getting leaders to really care for youth personally. I believe kids would respond if they had a chance to share their thoughts and feelings with a caring adult.
If you don’t have any adult leaders then you may have to train peer leaders to take the time for students. I know that I am asking a lot but if you are going to invest in something this year, please ensure that every student is cared for personally and none of them fall through the cracks!