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Alienated youth can be turned to faith in Christ, Ross maintains

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Alienated youth like those in the “Trenchcoat Mafia” at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., can be reached for Christ, said Richard Ross.
Ross, a youth ministry specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, said April 21: “… knowing a student doesn’t really fit anywhere does reveal the touch point for the church.”
Two members of the black trenchcoat-clad school group — loners who gloried in Satanism, weaponry and Nazi lore, among other societal ills — have been identified as the killers in the nation’s deadliest school shooting spree April 20, which claimed 13 lives before they took their own lives by suicide.
“High school students today value relationships above everything,” Ross said. “The hurting ones may initially ignore our buildings, ceremonies and doctrine, but most will respond to someone who genuinely cares.
“When they experience the warmth of relationship with other Christian students, a youth leader or even a senior adult, they are much more likely to understand God’s offer of the ultimate relationship. In that relationship, damaged and even destructive hearts can be transformed.”
Ross added, “Too many Baptist churches are happy to see a new student visiting, as long as he is white, wears Tommy Hillfiger and was once state Bible drill champion. They are less than thrilled when the new ones smoke on the parking lot, have fishing tackle in their faces and clap loudly when they like something in worship.
“Almost weekly I am with youth ministers who know how to reach those students, but they get their hands slapped by leaders when they do so,” Ross said.
“A church youth group must provide a uniquely Christian subculture and we must not allow new students to wreck that. We need more parents and other adults to volunteer to provide gentle but firm structure around all students. With that structure in place, we need to aggressively seek out and bring in students who have been damaged by life.
“If we don’t, we can expect tragedies among students to continue,” Ross said.
LifeWay Christian Resources published a book last year dealing with violence in American schools. In the 1998 Broadman & Holman book, “Kids Who Kill: Confronting Our Culture of Violence,” Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee explored the crises of youth violence pervading the country.
With the March 1998 school shootings in Jonesboro, Ark., Huckabee’s state experienced firsthand the horror of youth murder. In fact, Huckabee was already writing the book when the shootings took place.
The book sketches out in broad terms the state of juvenile violence in America and examines the contributing factors of the nation’s cultural demoralization.
Recognizing that violence in schools and churches is a growing reality in the nation’s youth culture, LifeWay’s youth discipleship area began in the early 1990s thinking about ways to address the issue. In 1995, they began developing resources that would sensitize youth leaders to the violence around them and aid them in responding to it.
Currently they offer resources such as “Positive Impact: Teen Violence Intervention Kit,” which calls on youth to become peacemakers in their communities and offers them ways to do that.
LifeWay offers other small-group youth studies that address violence. Those
include: “Violence: A Sensitive Issue” and “Violence: The Desensitized
A large group youth discipleship study, “Tm 4 1 2: It’s Your Life” (based on the New Testament Book of Timothy), offers ethical discussion topics, some of which deal with violence. Those include: “What To Do About Violence,” “Revenge is Mine,” “If God Is Love, Why Do Bad Things Happen?” “Group Unity” and “Love Your Enemies?”
The resources can be ordered by calling 1-800-458-2772.
Broadman & Holman books may be ordered on-line at www.lifewaystores.com. To look at articles about youth violence published in LifeWay’s Church Administration Magazine last year, visit the LifeWay Christian Resources website at www.lifeway.com.