Jamie Jean Schneider Domm
Digital Strategist for the North American Division.
Assistant Director of Women's Ministries for the North American Division
Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, bullies were confined to school hours and playgrounds. As a “funny” but quiet girl in a very small town, I found myself the subject of laughter and bullying more often than I care to remember. But I always knew that at the end of the day, I could go home. Home was my sanctuary, full of books that stretched my imagination to faraway lands, and loving parents who encouraged my “peculiarities.”
Times have changed. Kids are connected 24/7 and have the potential to have their entire lives recorded and documented online: the good, the bad, and the humiliating. They’re not only connected to their friends via texting, social media, and email; they are also reachable by their bullies, anywhere, anytime.
In my day, girls would whisper behind your back, write mean things on scraps of paper and stuff them into your locker, or just obviously exclude you. Yes, it hurt, but it also shaped my character, my compassion for others, and my sense of fairness. It drove me out of my small town to go to college, explore the world, and find a new life full of “funny girls” just like me. I don’t remember the nasty words spoken by mean-spirited children. In a strange way, I can thank my bullies for helping me become who I am today. But the digital world has ushered in a new type of bullying, one that is far more damaging than school yard pranks and being made to feel like you don’t belong.
Cyberbullies can make a self-conscious child or teenager’s life a living nightmare. They can be dogged constantly with mean, spiteful, malicious messages that tear apart their self-worth and identity—and everyone else can see it too. Children can easily begin struggling with suicidal thoughts caused by an endless barrage of insults sent to them right under your nose.
As a teen, I remember jumping into the lake where my family lived and my top came off; I ended up hiding under the deck until one of the neighbors was kind enough to fetch it for me. Everyone had a good laugh and teased me a bit, but by the next week it was over and forgotten. Fast forward to today: something similarly embarrassing happens but this time someone snaps a picture and texts it immediately to all of their friends and sends it out on Snapchat for others to take screenshots and share. In a matter of minutes, the moment is immortalized. This has happened many times—someone snaps an embarrassing picture on Friday, and by Monday the entire school knows. The victim is mocked, shamed, and humiliated again and again and again. It never ends, and the reach keeps expanding. The victim may feel the only way out is to take his or her own life.
What can we do? Morally, as Christians, we should have a no tolerance policy on bullying of any kind. As youth leaders, parents, and teachers, we need to recognize the signs and know how to handle these situations when they appear. Being part of a church does not make anyone immune, but together we can make it a safe place for our youth.
The North American Division is dedicated to preventing abuse of any kind. Consequently, it has launched the enditnownorthamerica.org campaign to provide education and resources to church leaders, educators, and members.
Erica Jones, Assistant Director of Women’s Ministries will now share some practical tips and resources for identifying and addressing cyberbullying.
As a parent or youth leader, one of the most important things you can do to protect your kids is to be aware of any significant changes to their mood and attitudes. Be aware of common warning signs:
Kids need to feel that they have a safe space to talk to a trusted adult. Ask them open-ended questions about school and friends. If you see a change, don’t ignore it or chalk it up to them being “moody teenagers.” Ask–don’t assume! Kids and teens want to know that someone cares enough to ask why they don’t seem themselves.
Additional resources on cyberbullying:
Assistant Director for the North American Division's Women's Ministries Department
Have you ever been told to “put your money where your mouth is”? The origin of this widely-known expression is unclear, but its intended meaning is not: when you value something, you put your resources behind it.
For years, we have been watching as a growing number of teens and young adults leave the Adventist Church, and we ask, “’why?” I’ve searched for the answer to this question and have found that one reason surfaces more than any other: they don’t think the church is relevant to them.
The leadership of the North American Division not only recognizes this problem, but has also committed to actively investing in new avenues to reach our young people with a message of hope and wholeness.
When asked to serve as the assistant director for Women’s Ministries, I understood my primary role would be to create resources for teen girls and young adult women. As I travel and meet some of the amazing young women in our division, I feel certain God is leading and opening hearts. As they’ve shared their personal struggles and questions of faith with me, however, I am convinced that unless we minister to our young people in a way that speaks to their everyday lives—and is relative to the real issues (and distractions) they are facing—and in a communication method they respond to—we will continue to see an exodus of this next generation.
Today’s youth are bombarded with thousands of messages every day. They spend an average of nine hours a day on social media. The Church cannot ignore this reality; not only must we have a voice on social media platforms, our voice must be clearer and more relevant than all of the others they are hearing.
When the media tells our girls they’re not thin enough or running with the right group of people, we must speak up and help them understand how beautiful they are in God’s eyes. When they struggle to see their own self-worth, we must speak up and remind them that they are daughters of the King.
Together with the NAD Education and Youth departments, Women’s Ministries has developed an online blog to facilitate conversation about real-life issues and to give our young women a place to ask tough questions anonymously. The Gorgeous2God blog serves to inspire and uplift teen girls while providing a Christian perspective on how to navigate the unique challenges they face.
We are often hesitant to open the door for difficult questions because we fear we may not have the answer. But I have found that young adults care less about us having the answers and more about feeling they have spiritual support and the ability to grow in a non-judgmental environment. They are looking for leaders who are consistent, committed, and compassionate. They wilt under criticism, but grow spiritually when they are mentored by a loving, mature Christian family.
If being a Seventh-day Adventist looks like nothing more than a list of “don’ts,” they’re not interested. They’re searching for a faith that is deeper than how they dress or what they eat—a faith that is relevant, engaging, and serves others in practical ways. As leaders, parents, and mentors, we have a critical role to play in encouraging them as they search, and showing compassion and understanding when they stumble.
Every young person needs a feeling of acceptance, belonging, and validation; this must be reinforced by offering opportunities for leadership. Our goal must be to convince them that they have a stake in the future of the Church. I am grateful to be a part of the North American Division family and to have been given an opportunity to serve the Church in a leadership capacity. I thank the leaders of this division for being willing not only to speak up, but to put resources behind what they value: our young people, the future of the Church.
Check out Gorgeous2God through these online platforms: