Monday, November 22, 2010

    Let's Start Talking: Teens, Bullying and Suicide Pt. 6

    Part six of a mini series exploring the disturbing trend of teen bullying and its consequences.  You will find links to the rest of the series here.

    I recently used the discussion outline below with our youth group and we had an amazing conversation about bullying.  This is clearly an issue about which many youth are passionate.  Most interestingly, our youth seem to identify that at the heart of much bullying is the notion of "power."  We live in a culture that places a great deal of value on power -- economic power, political power, military power, celebrity power, religious power.  Our teens felt that many people bully as a way to demonstrate or seize power.  Others bully because they feel powerless in other areas of their lives (perhaps at the hands of an abusive parent).  Our youth also shared that they are often reluctant to denounce bullies because others might see them as weak -- this is the same reason teens often will not enlist the aid of adults in these situation.  All of this made for thought-provoking conversation as we are just about to enter a season in the Christian year when we tell the story of how Jesus comes into the world as a completely powerless little baby.  -- Brian

    Getting Ready: Open the discussion by asking youth to identify if they have ever been bullied and if they have ever been the bully [In our group, 95% of the youth admitted to being part of both demographics]. Break into small groups and brainstorm for 2 minutes about 1) What constitutes bullying -- what behaviors, attitudes, etc? and 2) Who in your school gets bullied? Next, let teams share and compile a list on a flip chart.[We spent a great deal of time compiling this list. Students shared that bullying happens through words, physical violence, and by electronic media, to name a few.  They identified that just about everyone in their schools are bullied in some form or another, though most if it falls upon youth who fit into some minority group.  They also identified some of their teachers as bullies who often reprimand students in front of the whole class or make them objects of derision when they answer a question incorrectly.]

    Ask: What have you heard recently about the incidents of bullying and teen suicide in the news? How much of a problem do you think this might be in your school? Watch the video below from the TV series "What Would You Do?" about gay bullying. Invite youth to share reactions to the video and to talk about what they might do in a similar circumstance. What is the Christian approach to the bullying/oppression of others? Is it simply to avoid being a bully, to befriend the victim or do we have a greater responsibility?

    Digging In: Break into two groups. One group will look at John 8: 1-11, the story of the Jesus saving a woman from being stoned to death. The other, Luke 19: 1-10, tells the story of Zacchaeus, a outcast who Jesus befriends. How might these texts be related to the issue of bullying?  Who is the bully in the text? [This is not immediately clear, particularly in the Zacchaeus text and made for great conversation].  What do these texts say about how we might respond to bullying? How do we see Jesus using or not using "power" in these passages? Also consider: What was Jesus own response to being bullied by the religious leaders and government? Join the two groups back together and have each report on their story and thoughts about how the story connects to the topic of bullying. Based on these stories, what might we argue is the Christ-like response when we encounter incidents of bullying?

    Reflecting: Why do you think bullying happens? What attitudes in your school, our town, culture contribute to the problem of bullying whether it is physical or emotional? Why do some feel powerless when bullied? How can we help the victims and the bullies? Who do we go to for help? How do we help create a different atmosphere in our schools/world?

    Closing: Work in teams of three to create a poster that would communicate to any that enter your youth room that you have a different view of God’s world than the view that just accepts that there will always be bullies and the bullied. Is there some action the youth or our whole group can take in the coming weeks related to this problem?


    Mike said...

    I am starting to feel more motivated to help educate what youth I can in order to do some small part against this. I've had to deal with bullies in one fashion or another most of my life and these articles are critical in assisting youth leaders help to educate their kids about these type of issues.

    Brian, I shot you an email about an idea along these lines as well.