Helping Teens Heal After A Natural Disaster

When you pass through waters, I will be with you; through rivers, you shall not be swept away. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, nor will flames consume you.                                                      – Isaiah 43:2

Natural disasters have been occurring in various parts of the country over the past couple of months. Hurricane Harvey struck Texas with record flooding in his wake. Hurricane Irma pounded Florida with historic winds and flooding all over the state. Record breaking wild fires have charred large areas of Montana, California, Colorado, and other western states. This has left millions of people suffering and wondering, where is God in all of this destruction?

God answers us in the Scripture from Isaiah, “I will be with you.” He is with us personally and in the response of His people to such disasters.

How are we to share this response as youth ministers? What can we do? Here are three responses that can help in such situations.

Exercise patience.

Realize that it will take the teens and everyone in your Church family time to heal and recover from such a horrible natural disaster. Remember that several of them have lost a lot (possibly everything) during the disaster and are working to literally rebuild their lives. Give yourself and everyone this time. Do not rush to “get on with normal programming” before the appropriate time. Plan your calendar wisely so your teens know that regular youth events will return very soon and that they have these events to look forward to!

Give teens the opportunity to pray and process what has happened.

Host a night of praise and worship with a brief, consoling talk about God’s love in these situations. If your pastor or a priest at your Church is available, have a time of adoration. Do give the teens small group time with their core team leader to process what has happened.

Serve others.

Give the teens an opportunity to serve others in their community during this time of rebuilding and healing. Does your Church have a Social Concerns or St. Vincent de Paul office? Ask the director if you and the teens can offer a couple of hours of service at the distribution center. Does your Church have a chapter of Habitat for Humanity? Ask them if you and the teens can help clean and rebuild homes damaged by the disaster. Getting involved helps the teens see that they are not alone after the hurricane or wildfire has passed and recovery has begun. It also gives them the opportunity to socialize and possibly recognize gifts they may not realize they have. Give them the opportunity to process their service event at a pizza party afterward!

These are just three ways you can assist your teens and Church family after a natural disaster. Prayer, working together, and giving each other time to heal go a long way to building a stronger community during this time. May the God of all comfort bless all of those affected by the hurricanes or wildfires with the peace that only He can give.

Melissa Hagen

Melissa Hagen holds a Master’s Degree in Theology and a Master’s Degree in Counseling from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. She has served in religious education and youth ministry for over ten years at both the middle school and high school levels.
A convert to Catholicism as a young adolescent from a Baptist and Methodist background, Ms. Hagen has always enjoyed passing on the riches of the Catholic faith with young people. She is currently very active preparing teens for the Sacrament of Confirmation as a member of her Church’s Confirmation Core Team. When she is not busy serving teens, she enjoys watching movies and spending time with her awesome family!

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