Creating Safe Spaces

Brad M. Griffin | Nov 7, 2011

Quiet, lonely suffering. Its part of the adolescent experience for most teenagers.

But for some, sometimes, it becomes overwhelming. Last week the New York Times featured the rise of school wellness programs and centers. These initiatives often develop in partnership with local public service providers (like Department of Children, Youth, and Families offices) and schools to bring new layers of mental, emotional, and physical care to campus for kids who are hurting.

The article also reports these assessment findings of such programs:

In a 2010 district survey of students who had participated in wellness programs, 81 percent reported coming to school more often as a result; 69 percent reported academic improvement. Ninety percent said there was an adult in the Wellness Center who cared about them.

We all know that school can be a challenging context for teenagers to be real about the pain they are experiencing, whether that pain is related to abuse at home, bullying at school or online, or symptoms of depression. Thankfully some students are finding these wellness centers helpful.

But this raises questions for us in ministry, too. Are our churches safe places for students to share struggles and doubts? Are our youth ministries safe harbors for real pain to surface above the water long enough to be seen, heard, and known? Would 90% of students who actually have enough courage to come to our church say there were adults who care about them there?

What have you seen to be effective in creating these kinds of desperately-needed safe spaces?

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and the series Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God and Faith. Brad and his family live in Southern California.


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