I love research and new findings on ministry, family, and students. I love to read about it, ponder it, and figure out ways to put it into practice. (Yeah, I just threw the word “ponder”. I’m so 1887). But sometimes, God needs to push me around a little and remind of some core truths. Yesterday, we went on a day trip with our senior high youth group, and He did that. Here is just some of what I saw and heard during the day.
1. Teenagers like fun. Earth shattering stuff, I know. But sometimes it’s so easy to forget that fun needs to be an end to itself, and not always a tool we leverage as leaders to “get somewhere” with the kids. Fun can be the somewhere, the destination. I am well versed in the “attractional vs. missional” debate. It’s a worthwhile discussion. Sometimes. Even so, there are times that we need to back off and just let our students have fun, together. Laughing in a safe place where Jesus is the link that holds us together IS theology. We really can’t afford to forget that, and too often we do.
2. Students want adults with them. Yesterday, we went and played laser tag and went bowling. That’s it. Really. But, I watched our leaders run around the laser tag arena, and laugh with, and at, students. When we would break up into teams, the kids were grabbing adults and physically pulling them onto their teams. Literally. They wanted the adults who love them every week. In a student’s world, they vote with their presence. When they want you physically present, it’s their vote FOR YOU, as a leader. It’s beautiful. When they would pull me in, I felt loved. It’s great. Our side of it is that we have to set up opportunities for them to vote. We need chances to spend time with little to no structure, where they can experience the joy of “being”, and do it together with us as leaders. I fear too often, in our attempt to maximize every second, we let this value slide. I do.
3. Leaders who take risks, win. As the day passed, everyone got tired. Some of my leaders were more proactive in pursuing kids than others were. Don’t get me wrong, they all did great. But by the evening of our 8 hour run, some were beginning to be less pro-active. I get that. But those who pushed and kept going, hit the paydirt. It was towards the end that kids opened up and really began to let the adults in. Those who physically went and sat with students, who invested in them, got a little deeper conversation, a little more open heart, than those leaders who stayed back. My encouragement is to stay focused, and keep making yourself available. It pays off.
4. New kids want in. We had a couple of new students jump in for the day. Our students did a great job of giving them the opportunity to be a part of the whole. They reached out and opened the door to these newer students. The new kids took it and ran, embedding themselves in more and more as the day moved on. As I spent time talking to our “guests”, they loved it. You could see it in them, hear it in them, and watch the transformation. They were looking for somewhere to belong, and found it in a way they wouldn’t have on a regular youth group night. Our group is excellent at making room for new students. We work hard at it every week. But this event made room and lit a path that we could never have accomplished in two hours of structured time. It was fun to see.
5. I love students. The days like this one are good for my soul. Amid all of the planning, transportation, injuries, and hassle; a day like this is good for me. It’s a chance to back down a notch and love on kids. I’m an administrator/leader/teacher. It’s just hard for me to step back at a weekly event. It was good to sit in a private bowling suite with 35 kids for two hours. I love our students so very, very much.
Just some thoughts that hit me. As unoriginal as they are, I’d love to hear your feedback. What do you agree with? Disagree with? What have you been learning as a leader? I’ve got some more I’ll share tomorrow.