- (Photo: AP / Ed Andrieski)
- (Photo: AP / Chris Schneider)
People across the nation observed a moment of silence Monday at the exact time that gunshots broke out on the campus of Columbine High School in Colorado ten years earlier.
At 11:21 a.m. MT, prayers were offered for the teacher and 12 students who lost their lives in the infamous Columbine High School massacre of 1999 and for surviving friends and families. Some also went out to the shooters – Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold – who committed suicide after the horrific killing spree.
For Greg Stier, president of the youth ministry Dare 2 Share, 11:21 a.m. was a time to pray for revival for the youth of America – a number of whom may be not so different from the teenage killers who shocked the nation.
“I truly believe that right now there are disillusioned kids like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold on every one of the 67,000 high school and middle school campuses in America,” wrote Stier in his blog Monday. “Who knows what will flip the switch for them to act on those feelings of abandonment and resentment with the same scale of violence or even worse?”
On the day that Harris and Kleboid launched their assault in Columbine, Stier was at a nearby church promoting a Dare 2 Share conference titled “When all hell breaks loose,” which focused on spiritual warfare and evangelism based on Ephesians 6:10-20. At the time, Stier was lead pastor of his church and Dare 2 Share was mostly a side project.
After that day, Stier changed his whole life around, resigning as lead pastor so he could be devoted full time to Dare 2 Share.
“God used this tragedy as a clarion call for me to focus on one thing, mobilizing teenagers to reach their world for Christ,” the now prominent youth leader recalled.
Stier is among a number of experts who have been lobbying for greater outreach to students – faith-based, secular, or otherwise – in light to tragedies such as the Columbine incident and the more recent school massacre at Virginia Tech.
Like them, Stier believes the key solution doesn’t lie in stricter gun control and heightened campus security.
But unlike many, Stier doesn’t solely emphasize the need for educators, school psychologists, counselors, and social workers to intervene in the lives of students floundering academically, socially, or psychologically.
Instead, he emphasizes the need to reach youth through a less limited taskforce – other youth.
“What if Christian teenagers on every high school and middle school took the mission of Jesus as their very own? What if they reached and mobilized their friends with and for the gospel,” posed Stier.
“I can envision lonely teenagers being sat with, listened to and loved. I can see kids like Eric and Dylan believing in Jesus or, at the minimum, feeling genuinely cared about by some fellow classmates. And that, in and of itself, could be enough to stop the violence from taking place,” he asserted.
Past studies by The Barna Group have found teenagers to be among the most religiously active Americans and that half of teens attend a church-related service or activity in a typical week.
According to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, there are over 55 million students attending elementary and secondary schools in the United States.
The number of full-time-equivalent (FTE) elementary and secondary school teachers engaged in classroom instruction, meanwhile, was projected to be around 3.7 million in 2007.
Notably, the number of public school teachers has risen faster than the number of public school students over the past 10 years, resulting in declines in the pupil-teacher ratio. In the fall of 2007, there were a projected 15.4 public school pupils per teacher, compared with 16.8 public school pupils per teacher 10 years earlier.