Last night changed my life. This statement might sound slightly overdramatic, but it’s true, the simplest and most unprepared of moments has completely altered how I view my life.
Yesterday I was in a strange mood, I overslept, I was caught in the rain, I forgot to pack in a lunch, a mess really. But amongst all that, a weird thread of negative thoughts weaved its’ way through my head, poisoning my self confidence, making me doubt everything, and once again allowing me to see myself as worthless. It was with this mindset that I went to youth last night.
I had planned a lesson on prayer with the theme Connecting With God earlier in the week and all it took was for me to relay the program that was already set out but then some obstacles fell in our way – a combination of bad weather, exams, the church being locked meant that we had a small turnout – only six kids arrived. This practically made the games we had planned for the night difficult to go through with but still we pushed on – playing Streets and Alley’s with eight people is hilarious.
The night culminated in us playing a game called Comfort Zone which had us sharing things that were outside of our comfort zone and those that were comfortable with it would move, sorta kinda like Fruit Basket. Through the game we learnt so much about each other, things we like, things we don’t like, our fears and that coupled with the general informalness of the night produced interesting conversations and the group getting to know each other so much better.
After that the members themselves expressed an interest in playing a game whereby they each admitted something truly honest about themselves – which stretched from shallow confessions to true, honest feelings that one wouldn’t usually admit to others. Within twenty minutes, leaders and members allowed themselves to become raw, open and risk others knowing about their deepest insecurities, and the acceptance that comes only with people you feel comfortable and honest with.
I have been a youth leader for seven years, and for the first time I felt that it was all worth something. For a while I feared that all these years, all the hours prepping, all the work that was put in was for nothing, what if all the witnessing and teaching meant absolutely nothing to the children that it was meant for? But last night changed everything for me.
After we were all left bare, everyone paired off and began to pray for each other. The program didn’t go as planned, everything set out to the minute, but it still ended in the same place, reinforcing the importance of prayer, giving the kids a chance to pray for each other and to see that everyone is struggling, everyone is hurting, everyone has made mistakes, and the healing power of confessing, of speaking, of leaning on people that you trust.
Last night I realised that I have no control of the outcome of this youth group, over how the message that I relay to the kids is received, on how the programs go, or what the plan is over any of our lives, God is pulling the strings and I have to allow him to do that. The advantage that I have is that I love these kids undeniably and I want to see them grow in Christ and to grow as people. These kids are hungering to feel welcome, to be in a place that makes feel comfortable flaws and all, and where they feel understood, respected and not belittled, as adults we cannot even fathom the amount of pressure, and displacement the millennial teenagers are forced to deal with and often we tend to discourage or brush them off instead of truly getting to the crux of their very real emotions. They are all distinct, they are struggling with something, they are all searching for meaning, for love, for acceptance. Last night taught me that even if you don’t have the flashy programs, even if you have done copious amounts of planning, as long as you create a space where the teenagers feel safe to be themselves, to speak about their struggles, and where they feel loved and accepted, your ministry will be a success – God will do the rest.