An important step in helping youth deal with trauma is to be a listener like Jesus.
One day while Jesus was addressing a crowd, a synagogue leader named Jairus begged the young rabbi for help. Although he had status in the Jewish community, he unashamedly pleaded with Jesus to heal his daughter. Jesus agreed to go with Jairus and the crowd decided to go as well. The spontaneous parade plodded along until Jesus brought the procession to a screeching halt. While dozens of people pressed in on him on every side, he turned around and asked who touched him. The disciples were incredulous because there were people everywhere. It was soon learned that a woman who suffered for 12 years with a bleeding condition touched Jesus’ garment with the hope of being healed. Jesus stopped when he felt the power leave him, and he would not stop looking until he found who touched him in faith. We pick up the story in Mark:
Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” (Mark 55:33-34)
Why did Jesus stop to find the woman? Why did Christ need to meet her and hear her story? One reason is her story was a testimony of Christ’s power to those in Capernaum with Jesus, and to those who would hear the tale. Additionally, I believe the woman’s bleeding condition was only the most obvious condition that needed healing. For the previous 12 years the woman had suffered. She spent all her money on doctors and the emotional strain must have been tremendous. In fact, it must have been traumatizing. Therefore, Jesus’ healing, to be complete, had to address her emotional wellness.
In a recently released study by The Barna Group and Impact 360 Institute called “Gen Z Volume 2: Caring for Young Souls and Cultivating Resilience,” the researchers found that 82% in Gen Z (those between the ages of 6 and 24) reported experiencing a traumatic event. This is compared to 61% of adults who reported having at least one traumatic event, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The significant trauma Gen Z is experiencing requires those who care for them to intentionally help them develop resiliency.
In many communities, issues related to mental health are often stigmatized. We often do not talk about the importance of mental health in our congregations. However, if we want Gen Z to live and share the gospel, they need to develop the mental and emotional resources to cope with their life experiences. The most powerful positive influence on children and youth is a loving, authentic relationship. Adults who truly listen and selflessly share life with Gen Z can help them build their resiliency. What specifically can adults do? The Barna study suggests four strategies for families and those who care for Gen Z:
- Make mental health a discussable topic.
- Understand the things that trigger Gen Z.
- Help Gen Z develop critical thinking skills and a Christian worldview.
- Focus on Monday through Saturday spiritual well-being.
We will go into greater detail about these strategies in subsequent articles. I will also stipulate that some young people will need to see a professional counselor, and we should be ready and willing to help Gen Zers find the help they need. For now, I encourage you to pray for God to help you be a listener like Jesus. Jesus made time to listen to the woman’s story, because he knew that some healing would come just in the telling. As a parent, I understand to the temptation to tell young people what they should do and feel. Listening leaves too much to chance! However, Jesus’ example and current research agrees that listening is the best place to start, and sometimes it is enough.
Dishon Mills, U.S. Generations Ministry Coordinator