Trauma-informed care and focus on mental health in youth ministry


The Church has been a central component in the lives of youth for generations, and for good reason. As research shows, a young person's faith can be a protective factor against negative behaviors and outcomes. However, despite one's faith and the church, trauma-informed care is often not emphasized enough or even talked about within the church.

A Real Trauma-Informed Story

After feeding the hungry, walking on water, healing the sick, raising the dead, and then dying on the cross. Jesus did one thing that always seemed strange to me. Days after the crucifixion, His resurrected body still had scars.

Why didn’t Jesus heal his own scars?

Scars are reminders that pain has occurred at some point in our lives and this pain could still be ongoing. Something or someone has been mistreated.  What do you think Jesus was trying to teach us about scars by modeling for us that even He did not erase them from his body.

Well, if we’re honest most places just teach us to cover up our scars. Hide them under jobs, and accomplishments, or deny them altogether, but the internal damage is still there. This is especially true for many youth living within or coming from urban communities.

God is the only one who goes into the pain and trauma we've experienced and instead of covering up the scars, he begins a process of transformation. God wants to use your connection with youth as the means of sharing your scars - telling them that you see their scars and to say, ‘I have some too!’ And that is how Jesus is with us all as well!

Jesus and his own real, physical suffering is a trauma-informed care consideration that is rarely discussed within the Church, the youth ministries within it, and even Christianity as a whole. Trauma-informed care (TIC) is not often an explicit topic, but it has become increasingly common in our society to acknowledge trauma. Thankfully, mental health is a hot-button discussion, and for good reason. As a society, and soon, as the church. Trauma is more than just something soldiers go through. You may have unaddressed trauma yourself. it's very common and absolutely astonishing that it is not addressed as much as it should be, considering Jesus, his death, and the events that followed, which are rooted in trauma, are essential to our faith as believers in his Gospel.

The Need For Trauma-informed Discussions in youth ministry

There is a great need for trauma-informed care and mental health discussions in the Church and the current and future models of youth ministry. With trauma-informed care, trauma is not only acknowledged as an experience, but trauma can inform all decisions one can make. In trauma-informed care, those who have been traumatized are those who set the path of how to best help those involved. As urban youth workers, many of you have experienced your own trauma, and we have to sit through that, reckon with and try and learn how God is using it to transform us and those around us. You have a chance to use your experiences, your story as a means to help your young people see how God is using their scars to transform them.

Let's not forget though, the trauma experienced by your young people is different than yours. Trauma can be defined as any event, pattern of events, or stressors in the past that can overpower one's ability to cope and, without intervention, disrupt the fabric of their development. The trauma young people experience in the urban context often comes in many forms: abuse, neglect, toxic community, etc., but how each experiences trauma and subsequent mental health is very unique. But UYWI has the training and resources for you to address your own trauma so that you can learn to do trauma-informed care with your young people. It's called SCARS and you can access this FREE resource here.

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