Viral. Epidemic. Contagion. Crisis. These are all words we hear whenever (which is just about every day) a news story pops up about either teen mental health trends or another heartbreaking story about a kid who has buckled or is buckling under the weight of anxiety, stress, depression, self-injury, or any number of other mental health issues. Both data and anecdotal evidence offer proof that the mental health of our kids as a demographic group is in decline.
I recently listened to New York Times reporter Matt Ritchel discuss his two years of investigating and reporting on the teen mental health crisis. He chatted with Dave Davies on NPR’s Fresh Air Podcast. It’s an episode I highly recommend if you want to get an understanding of how mental health issues are trending among our children and teens. (I’ve embedded the podcast episode below).
Certainly our families, churches, and youth ministries are experiencing greater and greater incidence of teens struggling with mental health. The beauty of the Gospel is that hope, healing, and perspective are offered on these issues. All too often we forget that the place to go first is to the Lord, His design, and His Word. Instead, we jump into the secular mental health community, physicians, and medication as a first resort. While these things can and are helpful in many cases, we cannot push the Gospel aside and therefore forfeit opportunities and responsibility to minister to those who are hurting. We all know that today’s children and teens are growing up in an increasingly post-Christian world filled with confusing cultural change, despair, relational pressures, identity options, and a host of other difficult challenges. For so many young people, these burdens lead to crushing anxiety and hopelessness. It is in this very place that the Gospel of grace meets them – satisfying the deepest needs of their hearts through union with Jesus Christ.
It’s this reality that has prompted us here at CPYU to combine efforts with our friends at Reformed Youth Ministries to put together a youth ministry training event, The Northeast Youth Ministry Summit (NYSM), from March 6 to 9 in Ligonier, Pennsylvania. Youth workers from around the country are already registering for NYSM, where we will be coming together around the theme of “Biblical Hope for Anxious Hearts.”As youth ministry leaders, our high calling and privilege is to walk with middle and high school students as we communicate God’s Word in ways that God uses to draw them to Himself and live all of life to His glory. Our presence and voice play a powerful role in students’ lives, offering hope and healing. Together, we desire to hear our students echo these words from the writer of Hebrews: “We have this hope!”
NYMS is bringing together a strong lineup of experienced youth ministry trainers, practitioners, counselors, and experts on youth culture who are eager to equip and encourage you with practical ministry strategies, cultural awareness, tools, wisdom, and knowledge that will increase your ministry skills and help you more effectively bring the biblical message of hope to young people and their families. To see the full-lineup of speakers and topics, visit the NYSM information and registration page. While I’ll be highlighting more speakers in coming days, I want to highlight how we will begin and our days at NYSM.
Counselor and author Julie Lowe will be training us in our morning plenary sessions. She will offer up a very practical and hope-filled biblically-faithful approach to anxiety. . . both that of our kids and perhaps even your anxiety as well. She will be speaking on “Anticipatory Anxiety: Trusting God in the Midst of Uncertainty,” and “Walking With Those Who Struggle.”
Our evening assembly will feature a time of worship, followed by a series of talks from my friend and pastor, Dr. Chris Walker. Over the course of three nights, Chris will be leading us into the Scriptures to find “The Presence of God In the Midst of the Storm,” to learn to trust “The Promises of God when Circumstances Overwhelm,” and to find “The Peace of God in the Face of Anxiety.” Chris’s messages will not only be personally encouraging and helpful, but they will equip you to map out your own teaching in your youth ministry.
In between all of this our days will feature 28 different breakout seminars on a variety of topics related to our Summit theme, along with a variety of other seminars. You can find a full list and lineup here.
Whether you are a rookie youth worker or a seasoned veteran, we invite you (and your team!) to be equipped, connected and encouraged at the Northeast Youth Ministry Summit. This new four day ministry training event will be held at Ligonier Camp and Conference Center nestled in the beautiful Laurel Highlands of southwestern Pennsylvania. The Summit is co-sponsored by the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and Reformed Youth Ministries (with over 80 years of combined experience training youth workers).