Thanks to Dr. Andrew Zirschky of the Center for Youth Ministry Training for sharing this thoughtful reflection on lament and teens. We’ve turned it into a Great Idea with some contemplative practices to flesh out Zirschky’s offering.

In the wake of countless articles about teen mental health and spiritual angst, Dr. Andrew Zirschky contends that for adolescents, ‘lament can be a powerful tool for processing their emotions and finding healing and hope’.

With a one-sentence nod to the Biblical foundations of lament, Zirschky asserts that, “Lament is both a pleading to understand what we can never understand (‘Why, Oh Lord?’), and an expression of our deep desire to feel a sense of God’s action (‘How Long, Oh Lord?’)… when we lament we find our whole and true selves connected with God amid our pain.”

He also discusses how lament ‘challenges the dominant cultural narratives’ in both society and church – narratives of ‘hiding our pain’ and dwelling only in ‘positivity and happiness’.

Read the full post here.

Lament can be a powerful spiritual practice for all ages, particularly teens. Because it contradicts the cultural norms of endless positivity, it can be tricky to introduce and implement.


  • share an ’emotion wheel’ – encourage digging into emotions to truly identify what youth are feeling (find printable options here and here)
  • allow moments of silence to hold one another’s ‘lows’
    • acknowledging their weight and the importance of voicing them creates space for deeper sharing


  • what TV show or movie are your teens watching, right now, that includes lament
    • if none, wonder why they aren’t seeing any
    • explore scenes of lament: how does it feel? what does it look like? how is it expressed? who is free to express it; who isn’t?
  • highlight particular Bible stories full of lament and/or texts expressing lament or about lament
  • how do biblical characters manage grief, fear, doubt, etc.?
  • what particular Psalms/other texts might youth turn to to help them express their laments/doubts/griefs?
  • how does God feel about or receive or respond to human lament?


  • following study times, create (lengthy) opportunities to journal
  • encourage writing, drawing, doodling; poems, song lyrics, visual art
  • revisit the emotions wheel (here and here)
    • expand awareness and vocabulary
    • say as much of and as clearly whatever it is they need to get out


  • holding in/onto our grief, despair, guilt, etc., leads to physical dis-ease and embodied trauma
  • create opportunities to ‘move through lament’: walking, running, dancing can help us move the guilt through our bodies and release it
  • Specific practice
    • create a lament playlist (this, thisthis, this, or this; for instance)
    • create a large, open space
    • invite folx to walk, run, or move around the space (everyone in the same direction, faster on the outside, slower on the interior)
    • play at least a half-hour of music and move through lament


  • youth event worship that is wholly lament
    • built along stages of grief
    • time for one-on-one confessional-style grief sharing
    • singing
    • movement
    • prayer petitions spoken aloud naming/asking God’s intercession in reasons for grief/lament
  • build intergenerational lament opportunities in worship
    • let youth see their adults and elders expressing similar feelings and experiences of grief, despair, etc.
  • allow generations to hold one another
    • acknowledge both shared and different experiences and expressions of lament
  • find resources for lament in worship here