Youth ministry expert offers help for ‘Hurt’ youths

by Joe Bollig
joe.bollig@theleaven.org

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The book “Hurt 2.0” by Chap Clark was one of the best things Deacon Dana Nearmyer ever read.

But it also made him angry — at least at first.

“I found the book incredibly infuriating, because it challenged what I was doing as a parent,” said Deacon Nearmyer, secretary of the archdiocesan evangelization division. “I had to rethink a number of my parental practices, and I thought I had raised really high-functioning, good kids.”

Parents, teachers, religious educators, pastors, youth ministers and others who work with and care about adolescents will now have the opportunity to learn from Clark in person at two mid-January presentations in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

The first presentation will be held from 7-8:30 p.m. on Jan. 18 at St. James Academy, 24505 Prairie Star Pkwy., Lenexa. This free event is open to the public. No RSVP is necessary.

The second presentation will be held on the morning of Jan. 19. Although this presentation is primarily for archdiocesan leaders and ministers, others will be admitted if space is available. This, too, is free, but requires an RSVP to Annie Clement either online at: youthadmin@archkck.org, or by calling (913) 647-0373.

“Hurt 2.0” is an update of the first “Hurt” book Clark published in 2004.

Today, Clark is associate provost for strategic projects and professor and chair of the youth, family and culture department in the School of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California.

In the early 2000s, Clark became a substitute teacher at a Los Angeles high school as part of a research project on the state of contemporary adolescence. What he discovered was shocking, which led to the writing of “Hurt.”

But why a revision? Clark states his reason in the preface of “Hurt 2.0”:

“In the first edition, I barely realized the implications of what ‘Hurt’ had discovered and presented. The reason for ‘Hurt 2.0’ is that those who control and define the systems and structures charged with nurturing and training up our young (and especially those who have the power associated with them) are either ignorant of how destructive life is for today’s adolescents or unwilling to take the wide array of indicators seriously.”

Deacon Nearmyer considered the findings Clark put in his book so profound that he made it the basis of a class he teaches as an adjunct professor at Benedictine College in Atchison.

A significant number of adolescents experience deep depression and alienation, said Deacon Nearmyer. Who they are would surprise parents and other adults.

“I’ve worked with hundreds and know of thousands of teenagers who externally are extremely successful, but fight terrible depression and even suicidal tendencies — that would not consider themselves successful even though they have amazing GPAs, incredible academic and sports accomplishments, and are seemingly incredibly popular,” said Nearmyer.

Parents and other adults may not understand how much the situation has changed since their youth.

“There are two things,” said Clark, that have led to this. “One is the rise of social complexity, and the second is the lack of social capital — meaning, there are not enough adults present in their lives to help them navigate the complexity.”

Parents think they’re helping their kids by giving them opportunities, but giving opportunities is not the same as giving them “us,” said Clark. Kids desperately want and need engagement with caring adults, especially their parents. When they don’t get it, they retreat to a sort of “world beneath.”

Although the topic is serious, Clark will approach it with gentleness and humor. It will be honest, but without judgment. The point of the presentations is to help parents and adults see their adolescents with new eyes and equip them with the tools to help them navigate through the troubled waters of emerging adulthood.

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