By Michael Sue Shumake-Keller
A Difficult Truth
The phenomena of bullying and violence are terrible realities that are too much in the lives of our young people today. Our St. Louis Caucus of Black Methodist for Church Renewal decided to advocate for our youth and do something about it. We established an “Anti-Bullying Project” to help equip young people and their parents with Christian-based skills to help them confront and prevent bullying and end violence among their peers.
What Did We Do?
Our Caucus formed a partnership with Epworth Children & Family Services’s Progressive Youth Connection (PYC). This program supplies Masters Level Violence Prevention Specialists who teach character education and violence prevention lessons to children aged 5-18. Students receive lessons about healthy coping skills, empathy, good communications skills, anger management and more.
During these sessions the children were able to learn to recognize when they were experiencing bullying, how to avoid being a bystander, peer pressure, activities into actions and learned to identify their inner feelings before acting upon them. The children were able to participate in interactive mini-workshops. They also learned to help those that are being bullied at their schools and the difference between being a tattle-teller and a reporter. They learned what it means to bully others themselves.
Research has shown that once children are given these skills, they become the most effective factor in preventing and stopping acts of bullying and violence among their peers.
We started with church summer camps in order to develop program models which can be transported to other churches. Christ Community, Normandy, Wellspring and Asbury churches in St. Louis incorporated these lessons into it’s summer curriculum. Salem in Ladue added PYC sessions to their Tuesday evening “Salem Nights” in September.
We also included a parent session at each site (with incentives to attend in some neighborhoods) to help them assist their children with these issues. Our Anti-Bullying team introduced the PYC program this spring to Fairview Primary School in the Jennings School District. As a result, Fairview has now contracted for 40 training sessions during their 2016-17 school year.