This Tragedy Is Not Unto Death: Strength-Based Youth Development and Trauma-Informed Care for Church-Connected Youth

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In observing the practice of youth ministry in the church, I have come to recognize the huge disparity between the needs of church-connected youth and what traditional communities of faith have offered them in the way of safe spaces. These are spaces where they can process the thoughts, feelings and behaviors associated with the many trauma experiences they are dealing or have dealt with.

Historically, the church has obsessed over teaching youth default Christian moralisms, while generally ignoring and failing to address the precipitating factors that inform their decision making. But, how can we expect young people to make good choices when their options are limited, and our “solutions” do not consider the challenges they experience on a daily basis? A model of youth ministry that does not seriously deal with the issue of trauma will never be enough to meet the needs of today’s youth.

This means that in order for church-connected youth to thrive, our approach to ministry must be one that is trauma-informed, strength-based and healing centered. That is to say, if faith-based practitioners engaged in the work of religion and spirituality intend to be effective in meeting the urgent contemporary social and personal needs of church-connected youth, then our approach must be one that engages suffering and trauma rather than ignoring its existence.

In this paper, I engage the scholarship of experts in the areas of positive youth development and trauma informed care, religion and ethics, and theology and spirituality. I subsequently explore the intersection between trauma, adolescent spirituality and the relational-developmental systems theory of positive youth development offering ways in which integrating “best practices” from each space can lead to effective ministry that is strength-based, trauma-informed and healing centered.





North, Shakeema Nicole (2020). This Tragedy Is Not Unto Death: Strength-Based Youth Development and Trauma-Informed Care for Church-Connected Youth. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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