Confessions of a Youth Group Kid

BuzzFeed offers 33 ways you know you were a youth group kid and a lot of them look very familiar (though some of the specific examples in my case would be older). Jessica Bluemke picks out her favorites, including this one:


That’s way too new for me. Back in my day (yes, I actually used that line; shut up and get off my lawn), it would be this one:


And this one:

15. You went on a mission trip to Mexico, Guatemala, Haiti, Ghana, Nicaragua, Uganda, or Venezuela.

Appalachia, actually. Harlan County, Kentucky. Made out with a girl there for the first time (not a local, a girl from the other youth group that was there with us). And I distinctly remember hearing both Ozzy Osbourne and Simon and Garfunkel on that trip.

Jessica asks for youth group stories and I have a good one. When I was 14 or 15, the youth group had a newspaper drive and I was there helping. Someone brought in paper bags stuffed with porno magazines and that’s how I got my first one. Hid it in my room until I went to college, after which my stepmother found it, clutched her pearls tightly and demanded that my dad burn it in the backyard.

My big memory of that church and that youth group was that the shining star of the group was a kid named Bob Overlander. All the parents in the church loved Bob because he was an inveterate suck up. He could turn on the “I’m just such a good boy” charm like no other. He was also a raging asshole and a hypocrite who was having sex with at least two girls at school. My stepmother actually called me a few years ago to tell me that he had died (they still lived in the same town and it was in the paper), thinking that perhaps I would care. I didn’t.

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  • I had that Petra album and even saw them in concert way back when.

  • carlie

    *fist bump on the Petra*

    Although yes, Jesus Freak was indeed the best album I had ever heard. 😀

    And our mission trips were also more local and therefore cheap.

    Those are definitely skewed towards people who were teens in the mid-late 90s, but there are some threads that are timeless. Lock-ins, heh.

  • Your post brings back memories and apparently we lived in somewhat similar worlds. The first time I rounded second base was at a bible camp where some of the older kids also introduced me to Quiet Riot and Black Sabbath.

  • Wes

    It pains me to admit it, but I had an Audio Adrenaline album that I actually listened to for a brief period around the age 13, before I learned what actual music sounded like.

    But it didn’t take me long to realize that “praise music” is horseshit. Even at that tender young age I couldn’t help but notice that Christian youth group culture is deliberately a watered down, sanitized version of the culture of the outside world. That is, the very same culture that they never tired of telling us was evil and corrupt.

  • I am very lucky to have missed all this. It all seems so… Jesus Camp.

  • Michael Heath

    I guess I’m fortunate enough to be old enough that the fundie/evangelical youth group culture of the early- to mid-1970s had us listening to the same music everyone else did. There was no cottage industry of Christian music yet.

    This period was a pivotal moment when it came to Christians reacting to rock music since the older congregants were still claiming saxophones were instruments of the devil, where rock music elicited nothing coherent accompanied by a lot of spittle. However church services then increasingly had groups with guitars playing sans drums where rhythm came from an upright acoustic bass, which was attendant to the sexual revolution having an enormous impact on the younger and middle-aged adult congregants. I.e., ramptant adultery, all dressing like peacocks where the men wore longish hair – after claiming long hair was a sin against nature just a few short years earlier.

  • Glenn E Ross

    I stayed in the youth group for several years after knowing I was no longer a believer, because as an adolescent horn-dog the youth group outings gave me plenty of time in the dark with a group of repressed adolescent females easily swayed from the path of righteousness with the preacher’s daughter being the most willing and aggressive participant.

  • Michael Heath “…saxophones were instruments of the devil…”

    They are. All the brass instruments are. And the bigger they are, the more devil’s in them. Tell everyone! Tubas cause Katrina!

  • glenn19

    I went on a mission trip to Harlan County KY in college. Ran into a group from a Catholic church from Chicago and spent half the first night with one of the girls from that group doing things that would have gotten me kicked out of my evangelical college.

  • frog

    Modusoperandi: While saxophones are generally made of brass, they are technically woodwind instruments.

    Augh! The unholy spawn of different categories of instrument! No wonder the devil’s in them!

  • sceptinurse

    In my case it was Larry Norman (mid 70’s). Although since I was a youth group sponsor when my children were in high school I got to hear all the others as well.

  • In 6th grade I was way into learning about Greek mythology, and my youth group, TLC (tender love in Christ) was way into spreading stories about devil worshipers who live in the woods, sacrifice cats, and rape women to produce demonic spawn. These two things converged when I was drawing in my sketch book on the bus on the way back from a fall retreat, and one of my fellow campers noticed the image of Pan I was drawing. I was immediately reported to the youth group leader, who gave me a stern lecture and threatened to evict me from the youth group for drawing pictures of Satan. My explanation fazed her not at all.

    I couldn’t tell if that was why it was so important to me to write a pro-creationism, anti-evolution article for an issue of the youth group newsletter. But I know I wrote one, after taking a poll of my fellow members and finding that they were overwhelmingly creationist. Really wish it had been kept, because I’d love to know more of what it said. But my mother, who kept everything I drew and almost everything I wrote, didn’t seem to hang onto that. Hmmm.

  • jnorris

    Harlan County KY sounds like the Devil’s Playground. I’ might visit there one day during youth group season.

  • Rip Steakface

    I turn 18 on Friday. I know I cannot be a youth group kid (aside from the fact I’ve never been to a youth group) because my favorite album of all time is The Sound of Perseverance by Death. Am I cool now?

  • glenn19 “Ran into a group from a Catholic church from Chicago and spent half the first night with one of the girls from that group doing things that would have gotten me kicked out of my evangelical college.”

    You spent the night believing in literal transubstantiation? Accepted the Theory of Evolution? Prayed intercession of saints? What? Don’t leave us hanging!


    frog “Modusoperandi: While saxophones are generally made of brass, they are technically woodwind instruments. Augh! The unholy spawn of different categories of instrument! No wonder the devil’s in them!”

    Now do you see what gay marriage leads to?

  • carlie

    It all seems so… Jesus Camp.

    It took me a couple of years to build up the courage to watch Jesus Camp, I had to do it totally alone, and I still had to stop the dvd a few times while watching to get my shit back together. So… yes. Yes, it is.

  • beergoggles

    The first time I heard Jars of Clay was at a gay nightclub. Took months to hunt that song down and buy it. To this day I still have that song on my playlist. Junior Vasquez did amazing things to milquetoast songs that would just get my body going and Flood (Junior Vasquez Remix) was just such a song. Just what one could expect from a guy who could sell millions of copies of a voicemail message.