Everybody's freaking out.
School districts are closing. Large events are cancelling. Heck, even Disney World is temporarily shut down!
And teenagers are especially freaking out (I know because I have two of them). Social media is fueling a hysteria with "news" that predicts everything from millions of people dying to the shut down of the government to a potential zombie apocalypse.
Obviously the Cornavirus is a real threat and people need to take precautions, but fearmongering is the word of the day. And this is especially true among Generation Z who often have no filter to discern between fake news, real news and flat out crazy.
So how do we help teenagers deal with the threat of the Coronavirus? How do we help them wrestle their fears to the ground? Here are 4 action steps that you, as a youth leader or parent, can take right away.
1. Talk about it.
It's probably not the time to do business as usual. At Dare 2 Share we have a training philosophy called ALTernative teaching. It stands for: Ask, Listen, Teach.
Ask teens how they are feeling about the pandemic. Ask them to be open about their thoughts and fears.
Listen to what they are saying. Listen deeply and try to fully understand and empathize with how they are feeling.
Then Teach what God's Word has to say.
Maybe it's time for a Corona-series. You could do a Faith Not Fear series. Heck, years ago, I wrote a book called Outbreak...Creating a Contagious Youth Ministry Through Viral Evangelism. You could order a copy of that and do a series on viral evangelism.
Whatever series you do, talk about this pandemic. Tackle it head on. Help these teens process their fears and emotions and then temper and shape their view through the power of the Word of God.
2. Unpack key Bible verses that strengthen their faith and weaken their fears.
The promises of the Bible come together to forge a "shield of faith" for our teens to hide behind when Satan shoots his fiery lies toward their souls. And the Word of God is the "sword of the Spirit" that they can use to fight back when the Devil attacks.
Here are a few verses to consider unpacking with your teens:
"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." Hebrews 2:14,15
Jesus died to break Satan's power (the power of death) and to free us from the fear of death! As believers in Jesus we don't need to be afraid to die!
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?" John 14:1,2
Jesus reminds us to trust in him and to refuse to let our hearts be troubled. He's building a home for us in heaven someday.
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body." Philippians 1:21-24
Paul wasn't afraid of death. He knew that heaven was better by far. But he also knew that God had more for him to do on earth! Our teens, like Paul, have a mission to accomplish, so they must be focused on it!
Unpack these verses and others like them with your teenagers. Maybe even pick a few passages that you all memorize together. This will help strengthen their faith and weaken their fears.
3. Encourage them to walk in wisdom.
"A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences." Proverbs 22:3
There's an old Civil War saying that goes, "Trust God and keep your powder dry." Basically it means trust the Lord and use your head.
In the same way we must remind our teenagers to wash their hands well, to keep away from sick people and to stay home if they are feeling Corona-type symptoms. Walking by faith doesn't mean we run ahead like fools.
Trust the Lord and wash your hands.
4. Train your teens to reach their terrified friends.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile." Romans 1:16
The word "gospel" means "good news." And in our current situation of fear and terror swirling around the Coronavirus pandemic, people needs some good news...especially teenagers!
Romans 1:16 describes the Gospel as "the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes...." The word "salvation" comes from the Greek word, "soteria" which means "to rescue from peril or danger."
When your teenagers share the Gospel with their friends they are seeking to rescue them from something far more hideous than the Coronavirus. They are rescuing them from sin, along with its earthly and eternal consequences. They are bringing them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, from being obsessed with the Coronavirus to being possessed by Christ!
I believe we have a short window of opportunity to empower our teenagers to share Christ with their terrified friends. The more the fear grows in our society regarding this pandemic, the bigger that opportunity gets. So help your teenagers to take advantage of that opportunity to give their friends hope in the midst of this terror-fest.
Arm your teenagers with the Life in 6 Words app and have them start sharing the hope of Jesus with their friends right away. You see, the Gospel, like I wrote in my book Outbreak, will spread like a holy contagion under the right circumstances. In the early church it spread from Jerusalem to Rome in less than 30 years...without Instagram, without airplanes, without www.theapostlepaul.com.
The circumstances are right and ripe for another viral spread of the Gospel. Train your teenagers to use the Life in 6 Words app and unleash them to proclaim Jesus' message of life in a culture worried sick about death.
Ain't no virus gonna hold us down! We are going to spread the contagion of Christ through an epidemic of evangelism! And our teenagers can lead the way!