Responding to Crisis in a Teenager’s Life (1/2)

One of the most important roles a YTH leader will play is ‘place-sharing’. It is that unique ability to model empathy to the teenagers we work with. And to know what to do.

One of the most important roles a YTH leader will play is ‘place-sharing’. It is that unique ability to model empathy to the teenagers we work with. And to know what to do.

The education and discipleship of YTH leaders to deal with crisis in the adolescent life is a critical skill to be developed. When it comes to intervention and proximity, YTH leaders must recognize basic competencies that will allow them to intervene in the lives of teenagers when crisis enters their lives.

Hope Dealers

A term taken from the late 70's anti-drug culture, Hope Dealers is the perfect description for YTH leaders who work with Gen Z and their wildly out of control culture. I’m not sure if you have looked around at American life recently, but, this is not your grandmothers world anymore.

We often portray our lives as perfect castles and ornate palaces. Where Kings and Queens rule. Where princes and princesses play. But have we forgotten about the dragons and the Jesters? Our palaces may resemble a fairy tale on the outside, but, they look more like a nightmare on the inside. It’s not all about motes and steeples, and gardens and people.

In reality, we are really broken. I see it all the time in America. A machismo that says, "I'm okay, you're okay." Pop psychology that cannot deal with the reality of the wave of crisis or hardship or suffering in our lives.

God's View of Hardship

What we need as YTH leaders is a new perspective.

Our response to hardship is determined by our concept of time. One of the most helpful verses to me in the New Testament is in 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul said of suffering and inequity, “I see through a glass dimly, but then, face to face.” He was giving us perspective to help us through difficulty. Through minds that cannot comprehend the purposes of God. I love the words ‘but then’. Those words lead us to the future hope.

As YTH leaders we will have to respond often to a teenager who has been hit by all kinds of problems. Have you talked with a teenager lately? The stories of teens whose lives were torn apart by hardship, must be carefully put back together by skilled YTH leaders with necessary coping skills and a whole lot of hope.

We must all be ‘hope dealers’ to a generation who is buried by despair. Hope is something that I have used countless times in my ministry to young people. Just look at the kind of things that teenagers are growing up with in a world that is wildly out of control:

·       At-risk behaviors like self-harm, suicide, cutting, and bullying

·       The broken family

·       Complete Sexual Revolution

·       A Social Media delusion

·       Post-Christian society and the Coexist movement

·       Violence in our schools

·       A broken government and angry society

Given this environment in our society and the teen world, here are some practical responses to handling teens in crisis:

When we speak with a suicidal teen, we draw them to hope by communicating to them and getting them to talk. Ask questions that show them you really care about them. Ask about their family, their friends, their hobbies, or their work. You should turn the conversation to all of the great reasons they have to live. And finally get them talking about what makes them think that suicide is the answer.

The more they talk, the better. And this conversation will help you to extend their decision of harm and to see if they are willing to hang out with you the next day. Oftentimes this can not only delay the action, but, stop it altogether.

When I speak with a young girl who is cutting and doing self-harm, I draw her to hope by saying she is not the only one going through this. I love to tell the stories of other teens who were doing the same thing and they stopped. There is something about hearing that someone else has gone through, and is going through, the same thing you are. Hearing this is immediate encouragement and gets their focus off the problem and onto the solution.

And when a young girl realizes that somebody else got through the same thing, that will speak loudly to her and give her the courage to reconsider. Ask them about how they feel when they cut, or why they are harming themselves, and ultimately turn the conversation to talking it out and not doing something drastic.

When we speak to a teenage boy living with a grandparent because his home is torn apart by divorce, we have to find the positive in this situation. And there is plenty of positive. Trying to get a teenager to see that a relationship with their grandparents is rare. And that many young people never get this opportunity. Somehow you have to get the focus off the loss of a parent and to get them to think about the gain of grandparents who love them very much. Of course, nothing can replace a parent, but, grandma and grandpa are pretty close.

Another thing to do in this situation is to model to him our own family or another YTH leaders home so he can see a healthy functioning home. Invite him over to the home for dinner or to sit by your family in church. Seeing a healthy model of family first hand is a real hope that can stop the effects of dysfunction.

Let me give you one more.

In our work we will speak to teens who are in identity confusion and inundated with cultural and ideological deception. The struggle between the culture and the scripture is real. There is no two ways to look at sexual identity anymore. It is more like 30-35 ways to look at sexual identity. Gone are the days of binary terminology that defines human sexuality as male and female. It is all non-binary and multiple ways of defining human sexuality.

And what has to happen as YTH leaders in our conversations about sexuality with teenagers is a direct leading back to scripture. If we can get them to the Genesis and the Matthew intent of creation and understanding the original intent of God’s creation of humankind, we can show them the default that is so desperately needed in this generation’s view of human sexuality. The fidelity and abstinence of our sexual lives until marriage between a man and a woman.


When we speak to teens about the condition of their world and of society, we must speak to them of the counter-culture of Christianity. The emphasis must be placed on being producers and not consumers of culture. It is innate in Gen Z as aspiring writers and publishers and code-setters.

The role of YTH leaders is critical to teenage spiritual and social development. Our understanding of their world, and, our relationship to them is a powerful ‘place-sharing’ virtue. A virtue that could be the reset to God’s design for their life. But in order to do this, we must have a grasp on everything around them – media, entertainment, education, and government. And we must have the proximity and trust to be able to speak into their life.

Jeff Grenell