Another school shooting in Florida. Scattered youth suicides all over Northeastern Ohio. Threats in our state evacuate schools in many cities. We all are asking, “What can we do?” The truth is, for most people that question is more of a reflex, rhetorical question than a true plea. We have actually come to subconsciously accept the tragedies as normal; the world is out of control, and of course it will happen again. There’s a learned helplessness that comes with it, and we think WE can’t do anything. The government has to do it. They have to get rid of the NRA and guns and change policies.
The truth is, the only real answer can’t be legislated. The only way to truly rescue our children and turn the tide of violence and death is relational. Did you know that at every age, the number-one cause for suicide is loneliness? Translate that to the adolescent period, and isolation can become terminal pretty quickly. The government can’t solve the problem of loneliness. Who can?
We can. We can begin to invest in our young people. You can become a small group leader in your student ministry. You can volunteer in the children’s department, helping children know from the earliest years that they are valued, significant, and have a place to belong. You can become a vital part of the local schools where your children attend. You can volunteer in the little league teams in your community. You can make certain that you are THE positive influence in all those settings, letting children and young people have at least one person in the world that they know looks forward to seeing them. You can connect those outside the church with programs, events, and activities within your church, where they can have a growing support system for their lives.
Do you know the thing that every single school shooter had in common? They all were fatherless, had an absentee father, or a broken, estranged relationship with their dad. This huge vacuum of fathers, no healthy home life, and a lack of the basic emotional needs being met by significant adults is growing a pool of potential violence that is unspeakable. We have an enemy who wants to destroy us. He has come to seek, kill, and destroy all of us. Our children and students are especially vulnerable. We can volunteer to help mentor parents, assist single mothers, take on the needs of the fatherless and motherless. The ideas are limitless. It just requires a broken heart and a deep commitment to consistent investment.
Taking the time; taking the risk to get emotionally and personally involved is costly. No doubt. No one has an abundance of extra time and energy. No one feels wise enough or adequate for all the needs. Maybe that’s why we hope the government will do it. But we need to count the cost and then step up. We will either pay on one end or the other. We will pay because we refuse to invest and take the time. We will pay through the next years many times over with the despair, destruction, and death of our children. Or we can pay by taking the time and investing in children, students, and their families right now. We can love and teach and relate. We can show them the value they have. We can help their parents grow to be adequate and transformed. We can lead them to the God who created them, loves them best, and has a wonderful plan for their lives, and the power to work with them to bring it about.
This is why we say “the local church is the hope of the world, living and teaching Jesus Christ.” It truly is.