These words shocked me! Especially since they came from one of the nations leading anti-bullying experts. This expert had more letters after their name and more research hours than I have been alive, but I respectfully and totally disagree with them.
There is hope! There are solutions and answers for schools, for families, for parents, and for students who are dealing with the epidemic of bullying. Yes, it’s an epidemic. And yes, it’s always been around, but today’s generation of students is dealing with a new strain of bullying. An extremely lethal and toxic strain that is much greater than the playground bullies I dealt with 25 years ago. It’s a strain that is so vindictive and so powerful that students are taking their own lives to escape the pain.
Just last week a 15 year old girl from Canada took her life because of the pain from being bullied. In September, a middle school boy committed suicide in his own school to escape the pain from bullying. High school students in West Branch, MI elected a girl to the homecoming court as a joke. On top of that, 160,000 students stay home from school every day for fear of being bullied. Yes, it’s an epidemic.
It’s easy to see why the PhD expert thought that hope was out of the equation.
But, there is HOPE and we as youth workers have the opportunity to offer and show students and their parents how to receive and live in that hope. Unfortunately, the PHD expert had not experienced the hope that comes from living a life fully devoted to Jesus. His words, His life, His Death, His Resurrection, His promise, His love…this is our HOPE.
I’ve been working with students since 1994. I was a youth pastor for many years and now I direct a non-profit organization that exists to help students and parents end bullying. I tell you all that because I am passionate about helping students succeed in their relationships, end bullying and experience the hope of Jesus.
I am also committed and passionate about inspiring the local Church to do something about this bullying epidemic. I believe that the ‘local church is the hope of the world’ and I know that the local church and youth workers can bring Hope to their communities. But, how can you bring hope to your local schools? Here are some suggestions.
Practical ways to bring Hope
Live an Inclusionary Life. It starts with you and me living in a way that authentically includes others. As youth workers and leaders in our communities, we must model this. We must be the ones to model hope and model a life that seeks to include. I bet there are students in your ministry, adults in your church and even fellow youth workers in your area that you could start including in your life. Change isn’t going to come if we’re not willing to live out the solution.
Teach your students about the effects of bullying. Spend time during your messages to address bullying and the way it affects students and their schools. Give them the reality of the damage bullying causes someone’s self-image and how it can force someone to live in self-isolation. Paint a transparent picture of how the pain from bullying can push someone to harm themselves or to think about taking their own life. Encourage your students with the words of Jesus to be the change and to bring hope to their schools.
Implore your Pastor to talk about bullying. It’s my opinion that Church leaders don’t talk about or address bullying nearly enough. Ask your Pastor to speak about bullying and to encourage the parents in your church to teach their kids to respect each other. Give your Pastor the tools they will need to educate your Church about bullying and be ready to talk to parents and students who need help.
Develop a culture and climate of pure acceptance. Do everything you can to make your weekly gatherings and small groups as accepting and welcoming as they can be. Of course not everyone is always going to feel accepted, but be diligent in working to create an accepting climate.
Offer practical help to your local schools. Too often Church leaders think there isn’t much they can do to help their local schools and that just isn’t the case. If your building is close to a school, offer the school free use of your church building. Raise money or school supplies or technology for your school. Sponsor an anti-bulling assembly and offer it to your local school. My non-profit (www.livenowleadership.com) leads school assemblies and we’ve had Churches sponsor assemblies for schools in their area. If you would like more information on how to sponsor an assembly, please email me at Jason@livenowleadership.com.
Encourage Parents how to teach their kids to respect others. I am convinced the majority of parents aren’t teaching their kids how to respect others. We must give the parents of our students the tools and the encouragement they need to teach their kids how to have healthy relationships.
There is Hope! We know the hope and we can offer it through our actions, through our words and through our support to our communities. The time is now for the Church and for youth workers to bring it.
Jason Raitz loves to use the power of story to encourage and inspire students. He served local churches for 18 years as a youth pastor, family pastor and teaching pastor. In 2012 he left his position to start a non-profit organization called Live Now Leadership to partner with schools to help them end bullying. He’s been married for 15 years, has 4 kids and is the world’s biggest Hootie and the Blowfish fan.