In spite of all the chaos associated with leading the middle school youth group, I have grown to love these kids. After feeling initially terrified about how to interact with them (am I cool enough? Will they think I’m a geek? Will I be too strict?), I soon loosened up and actually got to know them. Much to my surprise, I discovered that they each have distinct personalities and interesting ways of viewing the world. When you get past all the farting and punching and spitting and throwing things and celebrity gossip, you find that they actually have opinions! I told Reece, “You know, you’d be surprised that there are actual human beings under there, if you look close enough.” And that, my friends, was my startling discovery about working with young teenagers. They are really just younger versions of adults. Or maybe we are older versions of thirteen-year-olds.
At the end of each meeting, before everyone goes home, we circle up in small groups for a brief time of discussion and prayer. This is the part where, in theory, you can break through all the fun and games and delve in to some serious theological conversations.
The other night it went like this:
Me: “Ok kids, time to pray. Does anyone have any prayer requests?”
Brittany: “My friend’s gramma is dying”
Me: “OK. We’ll pray for her.”
Kaitlynn: “One of our teachers commit suicide last week”
Me: Yikes! (Calmly, like I knew all about it) “OK, yeah, I heard about that. That’s real sad”
Kaitlynn: “Yeah, she was like involved in drugs and she was like really depressed because her husband left her”
All: (Excited chatter and sharing of bits of gossip. Kaitlynn knew WAY too much.)
Me: “Ok, Ok kids let’s focus.” (This phrase occurs quite a lot with me and the middle school kids) “Alright, we’ll pray for the teacher and the family. Anyone else? For prayer?”
Brendan: “We should pray that the cops catch the killer of the lady who was cut up into pieces and put into different garbage bags and thrown out of the car window onto the highway.”
Me: (Thinking) OMG! I just heard about this on the news during dinner. Apparently, so did Brendan. Why do these kids have to be exposed to so much horrible violence? Deep sigh. “Yes, we’ll pray for the killer to be found”
I paused for moment as the kids who hadn’t yet heard about this brutal crime got all worked up, trying to find out more details from Brendan. “You know, guys,” I interrupted, “I wish you didn’t have to even hear about things like that. It must make you feel scared sometimes.” They seemed unfazed.
We huddled up real close, and prayed for the gramma, and the teacher’s family, and, yes, for God to help the cops find the killer. Then I asked God to show these kids how much He loves them. I don’t know how or where or when, but please let these kids know God’s love. Everyone is quiet for a moment as I finish the prayer. I sense the peace of Christ piercing their hearts.
“Amen!” we all say, holding our hands tightly together. Then one of the boys farts and the kids break up into fits of laughter and disgust.
Image by Morguefile