There are certain days that stay stuck in our head. It’s always something out-of-the-ordinary that drives the memories so deep into our heads that we just can’t forget. It could be an exciting event like your wedding or the birth of a child. Or, it could be some kind of tragedy that shakes us up so much that our attention is focused on nothing else but what just happened. . . things like JFK, MLK, Challenger, and 9/11.
Today marks 17 years since two teenage boys walked into their Colorado High School and enacted a plan that left death, injury, and carnage in its wake. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had just finished speaking to an English Class at Lancaster Bible College. I made the short drive down to Lancaster’s McCaskey High School where I was going to speak to a group of students in an after-school program. I remember pulling into my parking spot in front of the school and throwing my car into park. The news was running and an anchor muttered a couple of short sentences about reports of a school shooting near Denver and reports of a couple of people injured. I shut my car down and went into the school. When I came back out, the news was reporting a much different story. I went home, turned on the television, and stayed there for most of the night.
Last Sunday morning, our Pastor began preaching through the book of Job. He reminded us of this truth: “We suffer sometimes because we’re part of a broken world.” Columbine screamed brokenness. In the aftermath of the mayhem our culture focused on discussions that looked for answers. I believe that these are the kinds of things we should be talking about all the time. When we see the ways in which human depravity can and does exercise itself individually and corporately, we need to talk about and enlist a three-fold strategy, which is something we focus on at CPYU.
First, we must be prophetic. We must study, know, and proclaim God’s Word in response to the realities that exist. In other words, we must tell the truth in response to the cultural expression of brokenness.
Second, we must be preventive. If an expression of brokenness is sweeping through the culture, we must do everything we can to stop it.
And third, we must be redemptive. Whenever and wherever brokenness rears its ugly and shalom-destroying head we must do all we can to minister to those effected and to make things right.
After Columbine or any crisis for that matter, we are called to jump into redemptive response mode. My good friend Rich Van Pelt – no stranger to those of you in youth ministry – has years of experience, loads of wisdom, and plenty of advice on how to respond when crisis hits. Rich has served in crisis response globally, including in the Denver area post-Columbine. He’s a treasure to those of us who know and love kids.
Today, on the 17th anniversary of the national tragedy that woke us up to some of the deep deep brokenness that exists in youth culture, Columbine High School is closed. Here at CPYU we’re releasing a discussion with Rich – “When Crisis Hits” – on the latest episode of our podcast, “Youth Culture Matters.” I invite you to give it a listen here.