Last May, at the end of the school year, we began a new, yearly tradition by holding a massive event called “De-Stress Fest.”   Now with the beginning of the new school year, we marked the first time we launched another new youth tradition called “Loved.”   “Loved” began on September 8th.

The new school year brought several rough starts, so Pastor Tim and I decided that the youth needed a gigantic reminder that they are loved–to start the year with love!  A mom and dad can tell their youth every day, “I love you. You are beautiful/handsome.”  But once their teen walks through their school doors,  those words are lost and forgotten. So what if parents say it, Pastor says it, and their Youth Pastor says it? In a really long, in-depth dive into their personality, each of us wrote a love letter of appreciation to them. Each youth then received a total of 3 handwritten love letters that they read aloud with their parents. Parents and Pastor were instructed to go beyond “you’re pretty/handsome, talented, smart.” Since this was the first launch, we made sure to surprise the youth with the event. The purpose of the event was to permanently instill on their hearts and in their minds that they are always unconditionally loved, not just by God, but by at least 3 people too. We touched on all the learning styles: youth read it (visual), physically read it aloud (kinesthetic), heard their parents read some parts (verbal), then we met back in the sanctuary to debrief (logical) and share our takeaways (social). The end result–the youth heard and felt loved in every way possible!

Our youth group is full of straight A honor roll, compassionate athletes (GOOD KIDS) who become distraught by the slightest flaw. Pastor Tim helped me understand that the youth may be feeling “perfectionistic shame.” This is the kind of shame that could be responsible for Durango’s exorbitant number of suicide deaths under the age of 25. September 8th–14th is National Suicide Prevention Week. Last year, the Durango Herald wrote a tremendous article called, “Creating Connections: Solutions to youth suicide in La Plata County.”   I strongly encourage our church members to read it. Since 2016, Durango has had more deaths by suicide than the whole state of Colorado. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to do something about it!!!

I had to keep this first  “Loved” event pretty quiet because, well, for the most part,  I’m terrible at keeping secrets. So if I told our church community what was going on, I’d end up telling the youth too!

However, now I implore YOU to carry out the “Love” tradition as well. Start with your own family, friends,our  church community, and if you have free time, especially the youth. The purpose is keep our family and community healthy and happy. Don’t let someone go another day without knowing that they are “Loved.”