I remember being a recent college graduate on my internship at a church in a very affluent area. A large majority of our students went to private schools, came from solid homes, and seemed like just genuinely nice kids. These were the kind of kids I was proud to let other people know belonged to my youth group. I remember sitting and talking to other Youth Leaders and hearing their stories of students using drugs and alcohol and the entire time I would be thinking to myself, “Praise God I don’t have that in my youth group.” And then came “The Day.” I refer to this day with great importance because it signified a shift in my mindset in ministry. A student who was heavily involved in the group popped into the office. He came in and sat down and asked if I had a few minutes to talk. Sitting at my desk, I figured he was coming in to discuss which of the numerous avenues to success post-high school he should take, or maybe share a funny story about something that happened that day in school, or maybe just wanted to kill some time before heading to hang out with his friends. I quickly realized this talk was going to be much heavier. The golden child needed to seek advice because he had been abusing alcohol for over a year and was now using drugs. Nobody knew about it yet, but he was now in too deep to hide it much longer. “The Day” was important because it showed me that if this student could fall, any student could fall. Through the help and support of parents, family, counselors, friends, and most importantly, our God, that student was able to get the help that he needed and was able to win that battle. Unfortunately, not all of our students are that lucky.
That is where we need to start in dealing with the problems of drug and alcohol use in the lives of our students. We need to realize that this is not a “Christian/Non-Christian” issue, it’s not a “Poor/Rich” issue, and it’s not a “West Coast or East Coast or Mid-West or South” issue. What we are talking about is an issue that affects all youth in some way, shape, or form. If you do not approach the topic knowing it could take a hold of any of your students, you are going to have a tough time with it. I made that mistake myself.