the BLACKBOARD: Dealing with Tragedy

Last Wednesday morning I got a call from a good friend saying that a former student that I (and many others) ministered to had died tragically.  It was very sad to hear this news.  Unfortunately, to say that I was shocked to hear this news would be a lie, but tragic non-the-less and his passing will have and is having a big affect on a lot of other people.  This young man had so much to offer and give others yet another life will go down unfilled with untapped potential.  That is what makes this very sad.  He could have (and should have) been someone who would be able to share his story to others and drawn them to Christ…it would’ve been a great story.

My last interaction with him was a brief one.  I talked to him a few months ago as he called me to see if I wanted to hang out with him and some friends.  I regrettably said “I couldn’t” and that we’d get together soon since he was back in town.  That never happened.  And now I’m kicking myself for missing an opportunity.  But I’m also kicking myself for not doing enough with him.

I have heard so many times when someone young dies the comments I wrote above, he was a “great young man”, that he had “so much to offer”, and that he was from a “great family”.  Although those are all true for my friend (and many others who die unexpectedly), I can’t help but think, “why didn’t I push him more?” and “why did I let him be taken away by the wolves” of sinful desires?  “Why didn’t I pursue him more?”  Why, why, why?

I believe these are all natural reflections we think about when someone we know passes away, but what do you do when the tragedy hits?  How do you respond as a minister to youth and young adults?

A few things I did do was reach out to the family, let them know that I was had heard and that I am available if any of them needed to talk.  I also reached out to some of his close friends that I know and let them know I’m free to talk and process things with them.  Finally, I’m planning on attending the memorial service tomorrow night and will stick around if any one wants to talk and process more.

Had I been the only “godly” person this young man had encountered, I’d probably try to do more, but God did provide so many godly people in his life who can speak to the numerous friends this man had in his life.

Have you ever had to deal with a student tragedy before?  What did you do? How did you respond?   TAKE A MINUTE and post a comment on so that others may get some good thoughts if/when they encounter a tragedy with someone they ministered to.

Tom Pounder

A father of 4, Tom is the Online Campus Pastor as well as Social Media Director at New Life Christian Church in Chantilly, VA. He blogs, vlogs, periscopes and podcasts regularly about student and online ministry stuff. Check out his work at and on iTunes (search YMSidekick).

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