Creflo Dollar - You Matter
You know, every day, over 5.000 teenagers in the United States, that's the size of some high schools, attempt to commit suicide, motivated to find relief from rejection, bullying, anxiety, and stress. Today we're joined by a man who has made it his personal mission for the past 25 years to minister to and save the lives of vulnerable and at-risk youth. His goal is to reach teens and young adults who are suffering from loneliness and alienation during one of the most confusing and difficult times growing up. All too often, we wait to talk about these tough issues until after that person is gone. We ask, "What could we have done"? But today, we're getting ahead of this. If you are a parent, teacher, guardian, aunt, or uncle, you can't afford to miss a minute of this show. I'm Creflo Dollar, and this is "Your World".
Creflo: Dean Sikes, through the organization You Matter, offers a unique approach to tackling life's tough issues head on, especially when dealing with teen suicide, self-esteem, and bullying. Traveling around the globe, Dean works to provide every youth he encounters with a sense of purpose and belonging. Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome Dean Sikes to "Your World" today.
Creflo: There he is.
Dean Sikes: Hey, my man. How are you, sir? Good to see you.
Creflo: Well, welcome to "Your World". This is where we have the opportunity to be organically unique in how we express just really how we feel about things. And I thought about you and what you do, and I wanna start off with this question, Dean. What was the trigger that got you involved in the ministry and the efforts you're pursuing, as far as it is helpin' probably millions now of teens?
Dean: Well, you know, I grew up in church, and I wouldn't have known God from Adam. I had religion, but I didn't have relationship. Everything society says makes you successful we had some of it, but there's a space in every heart that can only be filled by the space of who Jesus is. And I, at 21 years old, Pastor, I just said, "God, I don't even think you're real. I feel stupid talkin' to the wind, but if I'm wrong, prove it". Two weeks later, sitting in my office, I hear the audible voice of God, "Call Mom". I dialed 344-7443. The phone rings seven times, eight times. She answers the phone, and when she says, "Hello," I knew something's wrong. In that moment, she was attempting suicide. And driving up Interstate 75 to my parents' home, I talked to this God I did not know. And I didn't talk to him in a language that was very spiritual. It was just real. And when I got there, to my mom and dad's home, from the outside in, everything looked fine. From the inside out, my mom was dying. I see millions of teenagers. From the outside in, they appear to have it all together. From the inside out, they're in their own little wars. I got her to a hospital that day, and the doctor, as he threw me against the wall, rushed her into the emergency room, shaking his head like, "There's no hope". Forty-two minutes later, a doctor walks out of the ER, says to my dad a sentence I will never forget: "There is no medical reason to tell you this. It is a, quote, "miracle of God. Your wife is alive". And I heard "miracle of God," and I froze. And in that hospital corridor, I had an encounter with Jesus that it was as if the warmest oil at the top of my head went to the soles of my feet and he said to me, "I've got somethin' I want you to do". I said, "Yes, sir". He said, "I want you to go speak". "Okay". He said, "Teenagers, and here's the message, two words: 'You matter.'"
Creflo: I don't know if people really understand the significance of gaining the understanding of teen suicide, depression, all the things that they go through. I don't know if they even know the seriousness of it. Could you explain that, in our country alone, how serious this issue is and how much of an issue it has become today?
Dean: Yes, sir. You know, let's put it in a visual. In an arena that seats 12.000, that arena would fill up every two and half days with teenagers who, in the previous 60 hours, had bought the lie that their death is a better choice than their life. Every day in America, on average, 5.240 teenagers attempt suicide. Now, those are just the ones who attempt. It is a staggering, I mean, if you were to go with me on the road, we've actually, and this is kinda sad to report this, but it's the truth. We've actually had schools say to us, "Don't come right now because you were here two years ago, and what happened when you left and all that was uncorked, we weren't prepared, and we just don't wanna". Here were their words: "We just don't wanna deal with that right now". And I'm like, "You don't wanna deal with this"? I mean, I just got a phone call in our office just a couple days ago where a 15-year-old young man went into the men's restroom in a high school and ended his life. A week later, a 14-year-old. A week later, a 12-year-old.
Dean: They... hopeless.
Creflo: That's big, isn't it? Yeah.
Dean: The totality of our ministry is based on two words: eradicating hopelessness. Because if you are not hopeful, how can you have a vision? Hope's always in the future. We understand that faith is now, but if you don't have that vision for your future, and so, you show me a young person who is living life day-to-day, bouncing between social media platforms, looking at, you know? If you're still counting your likes, somethin's wrong. If a person is still looking at, "Well, do they like me? Did they"? How many people would? We have friends. I don't know those people. I'm thankful they're followin' what we're doin', but they're not what we call true, intimate, covenantal relationships.
Creflo: I don't call 'em "friends". I mean, you don't even these people.
Dean: No, you don't know them. And so, in talking with teenagers who, you know, bullying's still a big deal. Social media is meant to kind of express yourself, but it so isolates it. And when the enemy isolates, a person tends to hear the wrong voice, which leads to a wrong choice.
Creflo: So when you look at it, Dean, what would be the enemies that you could lay out to hope? And where do you see social media and how it plays a part in what you're dealing with? Because if we see an increase in the numbers over the years, has social media played a part into this? And what are some of these enemies in this day and time that's causin' these kids to not be hopeful about their lives?
Dean: Because, in a large part, when a teenager wakes up in the mornin', they're not thinking ten years down the road. They're thinking ten minutes. You know, "Is someone gonna make fun of me today because of what I'm wearing or how I look? And if I post this picture this weekend, or I don't get invited to this party this weekend"? And the challenging thing is, and this is what I tell teenagers in high school, is this. If you sat here today and suicide is a real option for you, it's built in threes. A person will think about it, talk about it. If not stopped, they will attempt it. So if a person's already talking, they're 2/3 of the way there. So what is it that the enemy knows about your future that he's so petrified you're gonna get there he's tryin' to talk you out of ever arrival? And so, in dealing with young people, it's getting them to understand, you know, "Why is social media so important to you"? Well, it's one thing, self-esteem. It's value, it's where they find their value. And I tell parents this, and this is an important moment for a parent to understand. If all you ever hear from your young person is, "Everything's great," you better start digging.
Creflo: 'Cause it's not, is it?
Dean: No, no, sir. And I also share with parents, if you're a safe place to hear not-so-good news, you're doing your job really well.
Creflo: As parents, this paradigm shift, this new atmosphere of social media, where people are chiming in with their advice on how you should do what you do and so forth and so on, how do we lay out a plan for parents to be able to, in a godly and yet an effective manner, where they're able to parent their children to not have to deal with some of these things that you're having to deal with?
Dean: Well, Proverbs says in The Living Bible, "Open communication permits progress". For my wife and I, this is when I knew that we had a challenge in our own home with our three teenagers. When I was downstairs in our family room, Laurie was in our kitchen, all three of our kids were upstairs, and we were texting each other. I'm like, "No, no, no, time out. This isn't gonna work". We put the phones down. And so, Laurie, my wife, is a big advocate in, "That table is there for a reason. Everyone come to the table, and let's just leave our phones over here, and let's just do something unusual. Let's just talk. Let's just engage in conversation". And we used to play this game with our kids, and we still do it to a degree. We don't call it the high-low game anymore, but, "Hey, what was your high today? What was your low today? What caused that low to be there today? What caused that high? What was goin' on in your world today that that was your moment"? And we've learned, as a family and as a ministry, the power of worship. I've learned this, that when we pray, we enter into God's presence. When we worship, God enters into our presence. And there's something spectacular that happens when you have a family together. And, you know, maybe you're watching today and you don't believe in that, well, why don't you give it a shot? Because here's what young people are drawn to: real. They wanna know that you truly care about their lives, that their lives really do matter. Job 33:4 is very simple. It says this: "The Spirit of God made you and the breath of the Almighty gave you life". That's what we tell teenagers. "That's where you came from".
Creflo: The issue of validation has become a very serious issue, and I don't think just amongst teenagers. I think in, you know, the general public. You see it with the Hollywood stars. You see it in fashion. You see it in almost everything. People are no longer doing things because they're doing it out of their heart to wanna do it. Because if you're real sincere about doing what you do, you will never need any validation for what you're doing. How do we handle that, and compare and contrast with those issues that are happening in the white community and the black community and the Hispanic community? Because you have different issues. You have different problems. You have, you know, different surroundings. What has been your experience so far when you see those differences?
Dean: And they're very demonstrative. I mean, it is clearly different in wherever we go, and God sends us into all different cultures, all different backgrounds of people. And I've learned that if I go into, like, a Native American Indian reservation, I was just there, and I ministered. I got through speaking and the principal said, "You're not through, are you"? I went, "Well, yes, sir, I am through". He said, "Oh, you have totally forgotten where you are. You're in a nation within a nation. Go back out there and do whatever God tells you to do". Two hundred and seventy-two teenagers got born again. Now, at the end of that altar call, the Lord says, "Talk to them specifically about suicide, specifically the last 24 hours". I said, "If you're here today, and the Jesus I just introduced you to just spoke to me and that said you're here, suicide's a real issue in your life. You had planned your suicide for today or tomorrow morning, raise your hand". Twenty-seven teenagers raised their hands. So, you know, when I go into an African American school, they look at me like, "Okay, what's up? Why are you here? What are you gonna say to me"? There's a school I'm thinking of specifically in Texas, and the administration and I there have a phenomenal relationship. And they called us, "Come on, it's time to come back". And I walk in, and all of these young people are sittin' there. And, you know, it's louder usually. It's more rambunctious. And I walk in kinda dressed like this, and they're like, "Who is this guy"? But I got a microphone in this hand and a bottle of water in this hand, and I go, "Can we just talk"? And a lot of times, they'll say some things. They'll laugh, you know? It's a big public school. There's a lot of kids there. But you know what? When they realize this, "Hey, this guy cares. He's not here to do anything except talk with us". And then when I go into a white school, call it what it is, you know, a lot of times I deal with the attitude of, "I've heard it all before. I don't know what you're gonna say that I haven't already heard," and it's an attitude. And so we just come against that real quick and go, "You know what? I'm a product of where you are sitting right now. But the God I serve loves you no matter what color your skin is, no matter what your background is, no matter where you're going in your life. There's a plan for your life, and God has never made a mistake. When he made you, he didn't go, 'Oops, Jesus, get over here. You won't believe what I just did.'"
Creflo: But this issue of value, I believe it starts in the home. I believe it should go from the home to the schools. It bothers me because I do see that a lot of the problems with kids right now is a fight to value themselves. And how can we accomplish, you know, doin' something to come up with some strategy to help this issue of value along the line?
Dean: It begins, I believe, like you said, at the home. Parents, begin to spend time with your kids. Tell 'em what's good about them. You're not gonna create a monster. Begin to love them into their purpose. That's the number one. A book I wrote a long time ago called "Discover Your Destiny," you wrote the lead endorsement for me on the book. That book has helped so many teenagers realize, "My life does matter because there's something God put on the earth inside of me to do for him". And so what we're striving diligently to do in our ministry is to simply say to young people, "It's not about performance. Anything God's ever gonna do for you, he's already done. This is about connecting to that, connecting to what's he done? And find your purpose in him. Realize that God has got such a dynamic plan for your life".
Creflo: You know, these parents, how willing are parents to come and get the training they need to be parents? 'Cause you and I both know, and if we're gonna take it back to the home and say to the parents that "you play a part here," that you're gonna find a lot of parents that say, "I don't know how to play this game".
Dean: They're totally void of understanding. All they're after is time. If you saw how many teenagers came to me at assemblies afterwards and go, you know, "If my dad or mom would just spend some time with me. I don't care about the money or the car I'm drivin'. I just would love to spend some time with 'em. I don't even know them". And so, a generation or two of teenagers have grown up not knowing really their origin, their lineage, what their family's all about. And they grow up and then suddenly, they're on their own, and what do they do? They repopulate that which they grew up a part of.
Creflo: Mm-hmm, and this cycle creates.
Dean: The cycle continues.
Creflo: You know, listen to this. This is pretty simple. You're tryin' to figure out, "Well, you know, I have a kid and they're goin' through some things, but I don't know what to do". Here it is, time, time. And that may mean you have to schedule the time to give that time that's so, so, so very important. I want you to think about that. We're gonna take a break, and we'll be right back, but I want you to think about that this is doable. You can spend time. You can show up at games. You can schedule 15, 20 minutes to talk about your ups, your downs of the day, talk about your family, your parents, what you had to go through. I think the engagement takes place when you are willing to share your most valuable asset. It's your time. And I think when you're willing to share that most valuable asset, you also transfer that value over to that child that you're sharing it with. We'll be right back with Dean, and we'll finish this in just a moment.
Creflo: Welcome, welcome back, welcome back. I want us to use these final minutes for you to really lay out a plan for us.
Creflo: What are the signs that, as parents, that we need to be aware of in order to be prepared to deal with that situation?
Dean: Watch friend groups change. Watch temperaments change. Watch mood swings change. If you've got a young person in your family that's always full of energy, always goin', always doing, and all of a sudden they just kinda, they're not doing that anymore. They're quiet, their friends have changed. They're in their room all the time. I mean, noticeable things. I mean, again, this is not rocket science. This is just being engaged as a family and as a parent. Look for things that just don't seem normal. Now, I believe, we believe in the power of prayer. I mean, we pray all the time. And I'll ask the Lord to show me, you know, 'cause our lives are pretty busy and pretty fast paced. "Lord, if there's anything goin' on that I'm missin', just reveal it to me". And the Holy Spirit does. I mean, things like, "Go upstairs and", Or, "Take Ellie on a date today". And, "Okay, what are gonna talk about"? "That's not important right now. Just show her you got some time". So just be available to be observant. That's a big deal, big deal, observing what's going on in your own family. If you see grades drop, look out, you know? If, suddenly, you've got a young man in your world and he's dating someone and suddenly she's not around anymore and now there's six or seven other girls around. I mean, something's just changing. And so I've seen, in talking with so many teenagers, again, goin' back to a simple point of time, where they've said to me, "Well, I've tried to tell my parents. They just don't listen. They're just not listening". God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.
Creflo: So we should be listening twice as much as talking. So, we have a person right now who's watching this broadcast, both a teenager who's maybe tuning in and he's got his plans to go ahead and off himself, or we have a parent right now who's watching. The very things you just said, they recognize, "Oh, my goodness, there's a situation here". What do they do now?
Dean: To the parent first, I'm a big believer in Christian counseling, big believer in that. Go talk with your young person, and if you don't know what to say, take them to your youth pastor. If that doesn't work, go to your senior pastor. I mean, there are people out there that are anointed and called by God, and they're equipped to deal with this. If you're in an emergency situation, 911 obviously is the quickest thing here. But if you have someone in your life, a young person, who really is showing the signs, or maybe they even have the guts to tell ya, "Hey, I'm really havin', I'm fighting this battle," don't, don't, under any circumstances, do not ignore that. That is danger zone number one. If you're a young person, because this is where I live. This is where God's anointed me to reach. Don't buy the lie. And that's all it is. It's a lie because God has a plan so specifically uniquely defined for you that no one else could ever do it. You're the only one that can do this. And maybe you don't see anybody doing the one thing that you think you're called to do. Here's the thought of the day. Maybe you're the one person we're all waiting for to go do it. So put the gun down. Put the knife down. Put the pills down. I could tell you, Pastor, I could tell you so many stories from so many teenagers who have bravely walked up to us. I had a young man the other day in a school say to me, "I got a shotgun, put two bullets in it, pulled the trigger three times. I got a pistol, five rounds in it, pulled the trigger six times. I overdosed, they rushed me to the hospital. They pumped my stomach". And he looked at me as only a 17-year-old kid could and he goes, "Do you think God's got a plan for my life"? both: Yeah.
Dean: Let's go with, "Yeah," a simple, "Yes".
Dean: And he's like, "I do too". I go, "Yes, of course he does. You're still here. I mean, look where you are". And that doesn't mean go out there and try something stupid just to go, "Well, I'mma prove 'stupid's' a real word. Let's see if this really doesn't work". No, God loves you so much that Jesus would have come just for you, if you were the only one.
Creflo: Yeah, and he did.
Dean: And he did, thank you.
Creflo: Yeah, he did. He came just for you. And I am to the point now where I believe with all of my heart that our personal time with the Lord Jesus Christ is paramount. What is this about if it's not about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ? What is this about? Is it about who's got the biggest image? Is it about who can pray the loudest? If it's not about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, what are we doing?
Dean: We're wasting a lot of time.
Creflo: Exactly, and so I believe that if we go back to the very purpose of salvation, and I believe this, I believe the very purpose of salvation is so that we can have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul said, "With everything that I've ever done and encountered, here's what I want more than anything, to know him, to know him". So, I wanna encourage you to come to that place where you can develop a deep relationship with him, and all these other things, it becomes the byproduct. Jump in the water, you get wet. You don't ever have to be concerned about gettin' wet when you in the water. So, likewise, if you'll have a personal relationship with Jesus, allow that relationship to flourish and become intimate, then all these other things will be added unto you. Don't you guys appreciate our guest today? I thank God for what you said, man. Thank you so much. You know, we owe it to our children to listen to them when they are crying out for our help. And right now in this country we're surrounded by the silent cries of our youth. Take time out to do more than just talk to the children in your life. Take time to listen. Know the warning signs. And if you know someone who you think is at risk, let them know that they aren't alone, and encourage them to seek the help that they need. I wanna thank my guest, Dean Sikes, for sharing his insights with us today.