Ministry Best Practices for Serving Young People Exposed to War (and other violence)

Nearly ten percent of children around the world are impacted by armed conflict. Estimates vary, but the total number of children touched by war and other types of similar violence is thought to be as high as 246 million worldwide. Historically, armed conflict has been thought of as war – usually between two nations or empires. Armed conflict, for our purposes, can also include a government against a segment or the entirety of its own people, two armed groups (neither of which is government sponsored) in conflict within a nation or in two or more different nations, prolonged and pervasive terrorism attacks and in some cases, urban areas with a high incidence of violent crimes.

In an armed conflict (which for brevity will be referred to as war henceforth), children often have different experiences than adults and can also have different reactions to the things that they see, hear or experience during a war. Young people do not have the skills, knowledge or life experience to process any trauma they experience in the same way as adults. They may not fully understand what has happened, have no idea how to begin processing their experiences and may not even fully be aware that they have experienced trauma. Since children are still growing, their experiences during a war can impact normal development and must be addressed quickly to avoid potentially serious developmental delays.

Unlike adults, where any healing from war experiences is likely permanent, young people move through various developmental stages and they will need to process their war experiences again in each stage. Children will need the help of adults navigating not only their initial traumatic responses to what they experienced during the course of a war and its aftermath, but also reprocessing the traumatic incidents experienced earlier in their lives with the new mental tools available in each of their subsequent developmental stages. As a result, ministering to children of war is a long term commitment lasting many years.

We have a new resource to help. Ministering to Children of War contains everything you need to begin effectively ministering to children who have experienced war, armed conflict, revolutions, terrorism or even live in areas with high instances of violent crime. It is available for free on our website thanks to our generous donors.

The children of Ukraine were the inspiration for this book. The information contained within, however, is dedicated to all of the children around the world who have experienced war, armed conflicts, terrorism and/or high rates of community violence. My prayer is that it will help them process and heal from their experiences so they can grow up to reach their full God-given potential.

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