I’ve experienced a lot of youth groups. I’ve had my favorites and my not-so-favorites. I’ve learned new things from each one I’e attended, whether it be philosophical or something I learned from people watching. I don’t have nearly the wisdom to write about this subject, but I think I might have an interesting perspective.
I grew up in church and a christian home. I’ve always been the church girl, goody two shoes, or whatever you want to call me. I’ve been able to go behind the scenes of youth ministries and been closer to people then I have have before. I’ve changed roles a lot, but always consistently held the role of the churchie.
In doing this, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to be, well frankly, me.
I wouldn’t say I’m sure who that is yet, but I think I’m now beginning to be able to learn and test the waters for who I’m becoming. That’s where youth ministry plays such a key role. I’ve always been told “God’s got great plans for you, Ali.” or “You’re really strong in your faith.” or “You’re going down the right path, and you seem to have unwavering faith.”. I used to love these complements that generally came from the people I was closest to in youth ministry. While sure, these are all good things, I don’t think I deserved them. I’m not pulling the self conscious card here, but I genuinely think, I was who youth ministry wanted me to be.
The faithful, narrow path, in love with God, girl who might have been...a little fake.
That’s the thing though, youth ministry shouldn’t shove me into a mold of what this ideal teen needs to look like to make it through life still believing and not making mistakes. I should be able to live life just like I would if I weren’t being watched. I shouldn’t feel the need to come as close to this mold as I can, while sacrificing my curiosity. Heaven knows, I would test the waters as soon as I was out of high school. I’ve seen this curiosity played out in so many ways, wether is be:
The girl who got pregnant.
The person who got drunk.
The people who start cussing.
The person who started doing drugs.
The teens who are suicidal.
This will happen in any youth group, but what I need, and what I think teens need, is someone who lets them talk about this openly. Someone who will tell them to call them if they need a ride after they got drunk, or a place to stay. It isn’t about always telling them it’s bad, bad, bad. It’s about letting them be curious, and leading them in a way where they OBVIOUSLY know it may not be a good choice, but they feel free to be who they are, and ask questions. I completely acknowledge this isn’t easy and doesn’t work for everybody. But, teens will be teens. We’re curious, we need someone to let go of our hand and instead be only a phone call away. We know you care about us, we’re learning though. We still need to be able to be curious and be free enough to experience God through forgiveness and mercy if thats what we choose.
But that’s just me.