13 Reasons Why and Youth Group

The Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why has been getting a lot of attention lately.  I’m watching it because I know a lot of teens are watching it.  The basis of the show is Hannah, a teenage girl commits suicide and sends tapes to other students explaining why she did it and their role in causing it.  It addresses a lot of issues like drugs, social media, bullying, body image, and parent involvement.  It’s a hard but worthwhile watch for parents of teens and could be a good conversation starter.  I would not recommend it for teens to watch on their own.

As I watch this show I can’t help but wonder how this story would have been different if Hannah would have been part of a church’s youth group.  Youth groups are known for pizza, crazy games, Bible studies, and fun trips.  Those are all important activities for youth groups but they are not the foundation.  Students who attend youth groups are actually being reminded of the important truth that they are not alone.  They are also building relationships with other teens and caring adults.

Over and over again in the show Hannah talks about how invisible or lonely she feels.  She searches for a friend or a group to belong too and has no luck finding it.  It breaks my heart that there are students like her who are looking and can’t find a place to belong or even be seen.

To those students and to Hannah here is what I would say.  You are not alone.  You are important.  God loves you and created you for a purpose.  You have talents, gifts, and passions that the world deserves to see.  It’s hard being a teenager but you don’t have to do it alone.  God is with you and for you and so am I.  Many adults are there for you.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to me or other adults.  Sometimes we may seem clueless but we do care and we want nothing but the best for you.  Reach out because you are worth it and loved more than you realize.

I’ve said many of those words to teenagers before in different ways and places.  I’ve sit with teens as they experienced the death of a loved one for the first time.  I’ve talked with teens who are facing very grown up issues like pregnancy, drugs, or self-harm.  Those moments happened because of the moments I had spent eating pizza, playing games, or going on fun trips with those teens because those were the moments where our relationship was built.  During those activities teens saw that I and others really cared for them.

The greatest gift adults can give teens is truly taking the time to know them, listen to them, experience life with them, and to love them.  The more time you invest in a teen before they face a major issue the more likely they are to come to you when they need help.  Take sometime today to pray for the teens you know, take them out for coffee or ice cream, love them, and invest in a relationship with them.

If someone you know is thinking about suicide please share this number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).