Trauma-Responsive Discipleship

I will never forget our first dorm worship. Our girl’s dean, Jackie De Groot, moved and spoke with authentic love and joy unlike anyone I had ever met. She was eager to teach us beautiful Scripture promises in song and spoke of Jesus as her best friend and relentless companion.

De Groot challenged us to join her in adopting her habit of waking up at 4 a.m. every morning to spend sweet time with Jesus. She instructed us to prayerfully read and meditate on the Word and the story of Jesus as penned in The Desire of Ages. As De Groot had promised, Jesus did begin to reveal Himself and His healing love to me during our early morning encounters.

Though I’d been raised in an Adventist ministry home, as a 17-year-old pastor's kid, I had only experienced Jesus as a religion, but not as a transformational relationship. Years later, I understood De Groot was much more than a dorm dean. She was a mission-focused, Spirit-directed disciple-maker.  

Fast-forward a few decades, we are living in a rapidly changing world. People of all ages — but especially our youth and young adults — are experiencing unprecedented declines in mental health. 

Ninety-one percent of Gen Z adults reported experiencing at least one physical or emotional symptom due to stress, such as feeling depressed or sad — 58% — or lacking interest, motivation or energy — 55%. Only half of all Gen Zers feel like they do not do enough to manage their stress. 

Teen depression and suicide rates have been on an increasing trajectory since 2011 and continue to rise. Scholars believe that Gen Z will suffer the largest mental health and identity disaster in decades due to the anxiety and depression caused by increasing time spent on social media platforms such as Instagram, which can be damaging to the identity development process through facilitating constant social comparison. Additionally, while we are categorically more connected than ever, there is evidence to suggest that meaningful, in-person relationships are suffering greatly.1

These cultural realities and mental health statistics can be discouraging. However, I believe this is an unprecedented opportunity for trauma-responsive discipleship. As we adults choose to collaborate with God and His heavenly agencies and become increasingly aware, our children are observing if and how our relationship with Jesus plays a pivotal role in mitigating the stress and worries that life’s challenges present. 

Our kids, youth and young adults are desperately longing for peace and joyAs we disciple them into a relationship with the only fountain of sustainable life, they will find the strength and peace to move beyond their debilitating mental health symptoms and the courage to accept mental health support without shame. 

Jesus continues to invite all. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me ... Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matt. 11:28–30).…

Featured in: July/August 2023


Carolann De León

North Pacific Union Hispanic, family ministries and ministerial associate director