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6 Ways To Help Students Understand Current Events

Kristin Hemingway
February 6th, 2020

I am a tried and true 80’s baby. I am from the land of playing outside until the street lights came on, calling your friends on their home phone, dial up internet, and the slow news cycle. While there are admitted advantages to living in a technologically advanced society, that 24 hour news cycle doesn’t always seem to be one of them. When we can be constantly updated through first hand accounts on social media, alerts from both local and international news networks, or a quick google search, it is definitely much harder to protect our kids from the barrage of information, especially the negative information, that is coming at all of us. This makes the questions that we have to ask ourselves much different than the parents and the youth leaders of the past.

It’s no longer about how we can shield and protect them from what is going on in the world. The fact is, unless you live under a rock with no technology and never leave your home, in our technology driven world your kids will encounter information about your local community and our global one that can be hard to process and understand. This means that the new question we should be asking isn’t how do we hide it, but how do we help them process through it. Below you will find a few tips to help you be prepared to do so. 

Stay Up-To-Date Yourself

If you’re anything at all like me, you avoid the news like the plague. It can sometimes become a real struggle to stay in the know when it seems like most, if not all, of what’s being reported is negative. However, it’s hard to help kids process through what’s going on in the world, if we don’t know ourselves. As youth leaders, it is imperative to be familiar with the events that are impacting your local community, the schools that your students attend and the neighborhoods that they live in, along with what’s happening nationally and globally. We are better prepared to have a conversation when we have at least a general idea of what’s going on. You can easily do this by signing up for local, national and global news highlights to come to your inbox or breaking news alerts that come to your phone. This helps you to navigate the information in a way and at a pace that you can handle.

Dig Deeper

If there is a topic that you KNOW is going to be a hot topic in your youth ministry, get ahead of it by digging deeper than the surface details. Try to engage as many resources as possible to receive as full of a picture as possible so that you are ready to arm your students with solid information, not just popular opinion. Offer them resources to learn more and share the info with their parents so that they can keep the conversations going at home. Be open to learning something new and even changing your thought process. 

Create A Brave Space

You often hear people talking about having safe spaces for their students to share and discuss information, but the reality is that what makes each of us feel safe may not be the same thing. As a result, we run the risk of having an environment that it super safe for one type of student, but completely closed off to another. This is where a brave space comes in. A brave space means that you are free to bring up a topic or share your thought on a particular current event, even if they are not popular. And, you can be certain, that you will be heard and respected, even if people won’t necessarily agree with you. 

Don’t Be Afraid To Say, “I Don’t Know.”

With each passing day, our society is faced with situations and circumstances that we NEVER saw coming. Things we could not have even imagined in our wildest dreams. And it seems to be coming at us faster and faster with each news cycle. As a result, regardless of how well informed we try to be, there are going to be plenty of times where we just honestly don’t know, and we have to be okay with saying that. It’s a great reminder that it is not our job as youth leaders to be all knowing, but we are tasked with being honest. “I don’t know” is one of the most honest answers that we can give. It is also a great opportunity to invite them into deeper relationship by committing to searching for information and answers together. Students understand and respect that we don’t know everything, and they are encouraged when we invite them into the role of co-conspirator as we search for the answers to the hard questions together. 

Invite in the Experts

If you have access to someone, or a community of people, that have first hand knowledge of the current events that the students in your ministry are most curious about or most impacted by, invite them to come in and share their expertise. It’s a conversation game changer when you have those at the forefront of the discussion in the room. It also helps to make stories less abstract for your kids. It’s not just something that is effecting those people over there, but someone right here that I can see and touch and talk to. 

Invite Parents Into the Conversation

When you are dealing with hot topics, it’s imperative to invite parents into the conversation. This can be done in many ways. You can literally invite them to sit in on the discussion. You can send an email heads ups so that they know what conversations are coming up in the youth ministry. You can send a follow-up email to give the highlights of what was discussed and offer them a few questions to use to keep the conversation going at home. You can host a separate parent discussion so that they can become more informed and ask their own questions in a separate, but equally necessary brave space. 

All of these steps are simple, but they are not necessarily easy. It can actually be quite challenging to navigate today’s most pressing news stories in a way that honors the ministry that you serve in, the children and families attached to your ministry, and most importantly, the God that you serve. Hopefully, these tips, coupled with prayer and a community of support, will help you navigate the hardest conversations in a way that brings understanding to all and glory to God. 

Kristin Hemingway

Kristin D. Hemingway is a 16-year youth advocate and ministry veteran that hails from Detroit, MI. She currently resides in Atlanta, GA where she is a nonprofit professional, youth leader, and highly sought after curriculum developer, trainer, and speaker.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.