This Sunday will be the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. Most of the youth of today were preschoolers or primary-age when the attacks occurred. Their memories of the event are less first-hand and more an amalgam of all the things they have seen, heard, and read in the years since.
How should we talk with our teens about 9-11? The truth is, it will be different for each group. As you are the expert when it comes to your ministry and your teens, ultimately you are best able to discern how to challenge them to be thoughtful and honest in their discussion of an event that continues to affect the politics, economics, and social conditions of the United States.
Below are a few suggestions to help you in your planning. These are just the beginnings of ideas. Hopefully, something here will click and help you develop the right path for your group:
- Discuss "Where was God on 9-11?" This question has almost become a theological chestnut at this point but, honestly, can your theology answer the question in such a way that you'd be willing to share your convictions with a person whose loved one died in the planes or was burned to death in the twin towers? This is a tough question worth wrestling with as your teens discern their own understanding of who and how God is in the world. This response may be typical but leaves the door widen open to simply throw up our hands and do nothing in the face of an inexplicable God. Why not share it with your teens and let them discuss it?
- Watch stories of 9-11 Kids - Help your teens see the effects of that day on the children of 9-11 victims, many of whom are their same-aged peers. You can find a few possible videos here, here, and and one of a series of videos interviews with children of 9-11 victims here.
- View a portion of the documentary "Beyond Belief." This film details how two 9-11 widows opted not to respond with anger or a call for revenge but rather reached out to help other widows in Afghanistan -- women whose own husbands were casualties of the U.S. war in that country. (available from Netflix and for purchase or download).
- Debate: Violence versus God's Love - Those that died on September 11 were not the only victims. Thousands more died in the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, including U.S. soldiers and approximately 100,000 civilians in Iraq alone. Challenge your youth to consider if violence and war was the best response to September 11th. What other options could have been considered? What was the Christian response? Do we trust more in violence and might or in the love of God to heal the world?
- Share Emotions Through Art - Help your youth brainstorm their thoughts and emotions about 9-11 and turn those feelings into an artistic expression, perhaps around the themes of forgiveness, peace, justice, mercy, reconciliation, and community. Their creations could be a vision of a better more hopeful world for the next generation of children.
- Invite Others to Share Their Stories - Invite young adults and older adults to come and share their stories of that day -- where they were when they heard the news, what impact it had on them, and how they think the world has changed since then.
- Pray - Adapt any of the prayer stations ideas on this blog and simply develop a quiet, thoughtful and maybe even silent hour of prayer, encouraging your teens to focus on the needs of the world.
- Do something About It - Share with your youth about the "Jesus, Bombs, and Ice Cream" event being organized by Shane Claiborne. Invite their responses -- they might even be inspired to create an event of their own.
- Need More Ideas? Check out this article from Youthworker Journal.
Other thoughts? How will you talk with your teens about 9-11 this week?