Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday, November 07, 2011 - , 7 comments

Ah, the Youth

In church vernacular, at least in the United Methodist Church, "Youth" refers to a specific age demographic 6th or 7th grade through 12th grade young people. It has never been the demographic I've related to very well.

I'm an only child. I have no children. And let me be perfectly honest here, I HATED jr & sr high school. Even when I was a Youth, I never felt that I understood the Youth.

So, perhaps it's not surprising that I have not been drawn to Youth ministry since I joined the church (c. 1997). Adult ministry has been more my game.

Now, when I accepted my church staff position in Lifespan Ministries, I realized that I would be working with the Youth. After all, Youth is a period in the lifespan. What I didn't realize is that their previous Youth group had ceased to exist over the summer, and that I would have to rebuild one from scratch.

Thankfully, I worked some with Youth at my internship the summer before last. I was able to work out some of my stage fright, and I was actually pretty successful. (Meaning that despite my expectations, 6th graders kept returning to my Sunday School class and Youth returned and even increased night after night for Vaction Bible School.) But that didn't make me any kind of expert. I was working within an existing successful Youth program.

I guess the point of all this is to say since I started here about a month and a half ago, I have been working almost exclusively with the Youth and Youth projects. I have been in a state of constant prayer, research, and study. It's been rough going some of the time, but things are headed in the right direction.

I still feel like I have no clue about how well I'm relating to the Youth, but something happened Saturday night that gives me some hope.

I received a text from one of my Youth girls confirming Sunday's event. A little while later her mom sent me a message that it was her daughter's very first text.

Is it weird that I started to tear up a little bit? I figure these days, a first text is a very important moment in a young girl's life, and she sent it to me. Maybe I can do this. I needed the encouragement. Thank you God!


I'd bet that if you created a poll your vote would have been the only questionable one, as the rest of us were positive you'd succeed.

(I'd be happy to share ideas for you and your God Squad if you're ever stumped. Kids are kids, no matter the denomination!)

Joy: Are you kidding! I'd be so grateful for any ideas you were willing to share. I have always admired how you are with kids. Please, email me. :)

Kids can be challenging for sure. They know how to find your weak spots and show no mercy. LOL! As someone who has had a houseful of "youth" for the last 18 years and spent many hours volunteering in classrooms, I can tell you the number one thing kids want (that a surprising number of adults fail to give them) is respect. Treat them as you would any fellow human being and, more than likely, they'll respond in kind. :) But you probably figured that out during your internship. :)

It sounds like you're on the right track, though! I bet you'll do a great job!

Lisa: I don't know about all that figuring out during my internship. I was mostly in panic mode. But yes, I do treat Youth like fellow human beings. (What a concept! lol) But it's not for some special reason. It's because I don't know how else to relate to sentient life forms. If that's a good thing, it's a bonus. :)

I don't have a lot of experience dealing with preteens or teens, not as an adult. I can tell you though, from my limited experience, that the moment you try to "relate" to them, you've lost them.

So I think your approach is a fine one, no matter how you came to it. Talk to them like people, using your own language rather than theirs, and I suspect you'll be fine.

Travis: By "relate", I mean have any understanding of them whatsoever. lol If I don't at least try, we'll all be in big trouble. But yes, I'm trying to do it in the way that you've said. :)

You'd be surprised how many adults treat kids and teens as sub-human. They're all full of lectures and scolding and shaming and my-way-or-the-highway. They would never think of talking to adults the way they talk to kids--the adults would punch their lights out. LOL! So you're definitely a step ahead of the game if you're already treating them like human beings. LOL!

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