I was talking with a church member who also happens to be one of the greatest student caregivers I know, when she asked me how I respond to the most dreaded moment in this history of parents, college ministries and even youth ministries. How do we respond when a young woman sits us down and tells us, "I'm pregnant!"
The first time this happened to me was when I was in college, my sister came to visit me in the dorm and she was very upset. I was at a Christian school at the time, however I received permission to take her back to my room so we could have a private conversation. She was scared, and rightly so, because she wasn't even out of high school, she was the daughter of a preacher (and the sister of a bible major at a reputable institution) and she new that this was the END OF THE WORLD. I did what any person should do when faced with a scenario of fear, chaos, and complete loss of control over our futures - I sat on the couch with my sister's head in my chest and we cried together. I always find this to be a great first step in beginning to walk with someone through what they believe to be the "worst possible thing that could happen."
So, being a campus minister, I have to be realistic about what we know regarding sexual activity in college. What we know is 90% of college students have had sex by the time they graduate, and I also know that if you're going to work with youth and young adults you need to get ready for this dreaded moment, because it is coming. At least 5 times so far, I have been one of the first people told about an unexpected pregnancy. When someone comes to YOU, they are doing it for a reason...they trust you to HELP.
So, here are three things to avoid when talking to someone in that dreaded moment:
1. Lecturing about sex and consequences - There is a time for such things, but not now. I don't mean to be crude, but obviously they know about sex and they are currently experiencing the consequences. Lecturing about how severe the consequences will be, talking about the pain of childbirth, how terrible life will be (or how much they will need to grow up) are all reason to terminate a pregnancy - and the last thing we want as Christians is to terminate life, or provide them with enough reasons to call it quits. If you have children, you know that it is life changing no matter when it comes.
2. Freak Out - They already think it is the end of the world, so they don't need you to confirm it. Be calm, and convey to them that together, you and the person (or couple) will figure things out; that this is going to be a journey that you and they walk together. Convey that you are thankful they trust you and value your relationship enough to share this news with you.
3. Get mad at the other party (or the guy) - Again, there are some things that are not that helpful, and you must consider that in some instances that young man already knows, is currently freaking out, and needs help too...and there is some chance that the reason this couple is currently in this situation is because they really love each other. Please note that we are not talking about cases of rape here, but getting mad at the other party might push the young person away.
So here are some things that you SHOULD do when facing that dreaded moment:
1. Listen - If we are not lecturing, then we are listening for how they feel about this situation, how they feel about each other as a couple or the other person. We are listening for any rash plans they have about abortion, adoption, or moving away (who knows, but you need to be ready for anything). Plus, as you begin to really listen for how they are processing this, then you can gently and patiently help in a calm and truly wise way.
2. In that Moment, Convey God's love - This situation is not bigger that the God I serve, and no sin is beyond his grace (except that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit) and so you need to convey your love for them and God's continued love and presence on this "doomsday." There are hard conversations coming, and yes even the mention of sin is appropriate, but in a way that draws them closer to God who can (I've seen it) even work an unexpected pregnancy out for good. Our response might be the first steps to working it out for good.
3. Commit to Really Helping - Whether it is going with them to tell their parents, being their child birthing coach, setting them up with an adoption agency, you are there and you are not going away. I know for a fact that there are single young women who did not terminate a pregnancy because they knew that they would not be alone in preparing, having, and raising a child.
4. Be in their corner and the baby's corner - Give out your phone number, provide them with "What to expect when you're expecting" and other books and resources, have them over for dinner, pop by for a visit, and raise your kids together sharing stories and play dates.
I hope this helps. As God's representative in times of chaos we need to trust in a God that is bigger than the sins we take part in, we need to ask to be strengthened in the Holy Spirit as we talk and walk alongside young people, and in the end we know that Jesus' salvation can be seen when we live out the consequences of our actions and find grace and mercy within our reoriented lives.
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.