Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders How to Handle Your Teens in Crisis

How to Handle Your Teens in Crisis

I usually do not pick up my phone on Friday nights, but this time was different. It was a coworker explaining to me that there was a teen in crisis and I should lean in. I was reluctant at first, not because it was an “Off Night” but because the situation was intimidating.

If your ministry is effective, it’s going to deal with a lot of painful situations. You will lose teenagers to death, you will discover dark stories and people will rely on you for hope. It is difficult and can be intimidating; however, your presence can be a blessing.  

What you need to do is make sure it doesn’t take over your life. That’s where the pushback to getting in the mess will be. First, if you feel intimidated or overwhelmed, that’s OK. What you need to do is respond to the crisis by …

SETTING UP A SYSTEM: One of the hardships in youth ministry is the need to be available 24/7. On top of that, each crisis is unique. This is why youth ministry is messy. It deals with real lives and a lot of emotion. To take it all on, you need a system of …

• How You May Be Reached: Is it a phone call, a direct message on Twitter or shoot you an email? Do they contact someone else? What’s the most direct manner someone can get ahold of you. Communicate this to parents, teens, volunteers and especially coworkers.

• When You May Be Reached: Whether or not you are married, being available 24/7 is impossible. Make sure you have clear office hours and how they can contact you then. During off hours, make sure you tell people the best ways to reach you. When people are aware of your boundaries, they’ll know how to cross them in a time of crisis.

• Who Else Can Be Reached: This is where small group leaders are important. My volunteers know better when and how to interrupt me. If a parent or teen needs someone, they have a better shot of reaching their teenager’s leader. If it’s a real crisis, your volunteers can then bring you in to help them take that next step.

• Where to Go: After you touch base with a person in crisis, there needs to be a next step. What they should do depends on the situation. What you need to do is build up a catalog of resources. Build a list of counselors, literature, groups and organizations. Develop an action plan, even if it’s just to touch base with the family on a later date. Know where to go.

When you build a system to help hurting teens and your families, you alleviate a lot of the burden. You no longer have to think on your feet or go into a situation alone. Granted, you might not be addressing family crises every week, but when you are prepared you can plan for the best outcome.

How do you serve teens and families in crisis?  

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Chris graduated from Xavier University in 2003 with a BA in Communications: Electronic Media. He moved to Baltimore in the fall of 2003 where he served as a Jesuit Volunteer for a year. During that time, he was a Case Manager at Chase Brexton, met my wife Kate and felt God's calling to Student Ministry. In the summer of 2004, heI was hired by the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Maryland as a Middle School Youth Minister. Today he oversees grades 5-12 as the Director of Student Ministry.