“Whether or not you plan for it, current events will affect your students.”
As I write this, I am like many people in America and the world who are reflecting on the Nov. 8 election. Whether you expected the result or not, we’ve all had to take a moment to process what happened.
If many of us are confused as adults, imagine how confusing it must be for teenagers.
In the past several days, we have seen professional commentators—and those who aren’t professional—give their thoughts and advice. There have been so many things said, even if I wanted to list them all, I wouldn’t know where to start.
With all of the voices we hear as adults, just imagine how our students are affected; they too need an outlet where they can reflect upon and discuss their experience.
Now, I believe that as the church, we are bipartisan and as such should not “take sides”—but that doesn’t mean our students feel the same way. After working with youth for 15-plus years, I have learned that whether or not you plan for it, current events will affect your students.
So how can we make sure we stay relevant and Christ-centered following this election? Here are some thoughts.
1. Students are thinking about the election. Acknowledge it.
The morning after the election, as I walked into a chapel service for middle school students, I could hear their comments. I could also see the sleepy faces of the students who had been up all night with their parents watching the election results and listening to all of the commentary.
As leaders we must realize that major events like this are important to our students, and so we must find a way to address them. That Wednesday morning, I spoke to the middle schoolers on Isaiah 12:2: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”
2. Students need space to process the election and share their thoughts.
Not only is it critical for us to acknowledge that our students are thinking about the election results, but we must also give them space to process it.
That morning, I allowed for a brief—I mean really brief—time of reflection on the election. I say “brief” because I didn’t want students to run the discussion, especially because we were trying to lead them and leave them with God’s Word.
However, it’s so important that students are given an opportunity to share their thoughts in responsible ways with a responsible adults around, adults who aren’t going to try and sway them one way or another. Remember, your students have a voice and need to be heard in a space that will help them to grow.
3. Students need you to bring the conversation back to Christ.
After we acknowledged the election and allowed our students to process it, it was time to bring it all back to Christ.
There will always be current events that will “interrupt” your planned lesson, series or theme, as the election did mine in this chapel. However, we always need to bring the conversation back to Christ. In Isaiah 12:2, the focus is not only that God is in control, but God is also everything that we need when we need it. As youth ministry leaders, we need to ensure that our students always have an opportunity to see that God is greater than everything, and there is nothing God cannot help them through.
Whether you use these three thoughts our not, please know I will be praying for you as you move forward to minister to your students after this election season.
Russell St. Bernard (@PastorRuss09) is the youth minister at Reid Temple AME Church’s north campus in Glenn Dale, Maryland, and the founder of After the Music Stops, a full-service youth ministry resource company dedicated to assisting leaders and parents as they serve their students.