When Kids Hurt is excellent. If you’ve read Chap’s book Hurt or Hurt 2.0 you won’t necessarily find anything new. All the research is still the same, and even where it is updated it is largely the same: the shared experience of adolescence is hurt, pain, abandonment. I loved Hurt when I read it, and I like When Kids Hurt even more. The reason I like this book more than the original (if you will) is that the tone of this book is different. When many folks read Hurt they came away feeling discouraged. They had had their eyes opened to the pain of adolescents but they didn’t know the way forward. The criticism has been heard loud and clear by Chap and Steve, and so When Kids Hurt not only has a very different tone throughout the entire book which I think will help folks greatly, it also includes a great chapter on what adults can do to help adolescents. Spoiler warning: it involves authentic relationships. In fact, this final chapter really makes the book as far as I am concerned. I’d highly recommend this to anyone doing youth ministry.
I’ve been in youth ministry for more than a decade now, and my experiences line up exactly with what Chap describes in his book. Adolescents share a deep experience of systemic abandonment. They hurt. Sometimes they find ways to hide their hurt from their parents, from their friends, even from themselves. Some think that if they can just purchase the next song, the next video game, the next outfit, the next pair of shoes, the next car, the next phone, the next hit, everything will be OK. Others acknowledge their pain, loss, and suffering but only to a select group. As adults it’s sometimes too easy to think that our kids are “good kids” (by which we mean they get good grades, don’t do drugs(at least that we know about), don’t get into trouble, and are generally rule-abiding young citizens). It may be true that our kids are good kids, but that doesn’t insulate them from a society that abandons them to a ferocious, broken world.
As much as this post serves as an endorsement of Clark and Rabey’s book, it serves as more of an endorsement to be there for students. As Jesus stands with and for each of us in our own suffering, let us stand with and for young people in the midst of their pain and abandonment. Pick up a copy of When Kids Hurt, read it, and don’t be discouraged but act on it, providing an authentic presence in the midst of the lives of the adolescents around you.