Violent hazing initiations of new members have occurred throughout history. Still, TV news viewers were shocked in May by a video of youth beating junior members of a Northbrook, Ill., girls' sports team.
Lyle Griner, national peer ministry director for the Youth and Family Institute, Minneapolis, says that although congregations and communities tend to react after such an incident with speakers and workshops to attack the problem, it's better to be proactive. "Lots of times hazing is a tradition that gets passed along but then gets out of hand," he says. "It's the same reason why kids join gangs. They're looking for a place to belong.
"We need to maintain four areas that come out of psychology but are incredibly biblical: hope, purpose, uniqueness and belonging. That's really the baptismal promise." To help, Griner says congregations can use peer ministry programs and retreats like "Enhancing My Friends' Self-Worth" (see www.peerministry.org/materials/).
"[Youth are] looking for meaning and purpose, to be involved and know they have a place," he said. "I think the church is a great place to do that. But the church must recognize the strength young people have and give them more opportunities for service."
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