Isn't Time to Rescue the Loner Teen?
In school I distinctly remember being the last one picked for every single activity that I was a part of. They weren't being mean. I was the lanky, uncoordinated kid who always dropped the ball. I was the teen who couldn't get a date in his own high school. I clearly remember what it felt like to be laughed at by the girls. While all these things are painful memories, they pale in comparison to the inner hurt that which can grow up in the heart of a loner teen, a hurt that often leads to anger, then rage, then murder. Can they be reached? I believe they can be reached early. However, accomplishing this will take a concerted effort of prayer and a concrete, ongoing demonstration of the true love of Christ.
I so believe in the power of prayer that I would like to suggest that before beginning to reach out to loners, your church or youth group first begins to specifically pray for wisdom. Proverbs 4:7 says, "Wisdom is the principal thing!" When you begin by asking for wisdom everything else comes into line. The love you will need, the patience you will need, the kindness you will need, will all come from having the wisdom to ask for those things.
In order for youth groups trying to catch the burden for the "loner teens" I would encourage leaders to set the stage several weeks in a row. During the first week, break the teens up into small groups. One group could answer, "What would it be like to not have any friends?" Perhaps another group could answer What would it be like if I had no parents? , or simply, "What would it be like to feel totally and completely alone in this world?" Then have the entire group sit in a large circle and ones who wanted could read their letters out loud. Papers then could be posted on a wall.
On another night, discuss the pain of rejection and how it makes them feel inside. You may choose to discuss bullying the same night. You could create skits or play videos found on YouTube showing in a controlled way how a person feels deeply hurt when bullied and how that frequently leads to anger.
Then on a night when you want to have an awesome closing prayer meeting, ask your youth group if they can think of anyone in their school who fits the pattern of a "loner" student. Encourage them to be careful here and do not allow any jokes or making fun and do not name names. Try to be sure your youth group is feeling to a small degree what a "loner" feels like. If anyone in the room actually knows a loner type student in their school have them write the person's name privately on a piece of paper, fold it, and put in in something like a hat to be prayed over by everyone. This will give the Holy Spirit a point of contact and He will be able to touch hearts.
The next week when they come back, begin to ask for ideas to reach out to the loner students. Ask the younger teens to rather think of the shy kids or those who tend to be bullied by others. Challenge everyone's heart to avoid having cliques or groups that are exclusive. This is where we hope that not too much of the world has crept into the youth group. It's these exclusive groups that are huge in the world, and shovel out the most rejection and pain to the loner teens.
Teach your youth that the number one strategy that will work to reach a loner teen is developing genuine one on one friendships. Loners always have their antennas up because they unfortunately have learned through much practice how to spot a phony and probably especially a Christian phony! Explain to the teens that just asking if you can set with a loner at lunch, during an assembly, or on the bus is all that should be done for a generous amount of time at first. Trying to force them into a conversation will turn them off. Its ok to talk but pray that God will help you with the words.
Morgan Freeman playing the part of God in the comedy "Evan Almighty," teaches Steve Carell "The best way to change the world is one act of human kindness at a time."
Remind your youth that the loner s didn't become loners overnight. They have found what they believe is a safe place, being alone, where no one will be able to hurt them again. To have a new friend will seem risky to them so your youth must move slowly. They need to wait a long time before inviting them to youth group, praying for God's timing. God will lead you to that place. Your youth should understand that they will be a type of missionary and as such will be on a mission.
If youth groups will implement an outreach to these teens in the schools we will eventually hear testimonies of their salvation. Can you imagine being at a large youth conference when a young man named Josh steps to the podium? His photograph is flashed up on the big screen.
He says, " Here is a picture of me with the guns I was collecting because I was bitter and angry. I was a loner teen who was planning a school shooting. However, someone from Victory Church who attended my school reached out and became my friend. I ended up coming to youth group, and then to a retreat where I heard a testimony of a former gang member, and gave my life to Jesus Christ! Now instead of my heart being filled with hate, it's now filled with love for everyone!"