October 04, 2012

What Youth Group Taught Me-- And Didn't Teach Me: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Whoah. It's been a while. In honor of this weekend's opportunity for me to speak at a youth group for one of the first times since I was actually in youth group, I thought I'd write a blog. 

I "grew up" in church. I really grew up in youth group. It taught me a lot of things- some good, some bad. It also neglected to teach me some things. I am a firm believer in the Church (Big “C” Church), but my experience has taught me that the Church has very little to do with the building that a lot of Christians go to every Sunday, or Wednesday, or Saturday night. We-- Christians-- make up the Christian church, and if we take that lightly, we end up losing people to lies that look even better than the truth of what we are... a sick bride that lives for her own pleasures. Here are some of my own youth group lessons.

Youth group taught me that friendships are incredibly important. I made friends in youth ministry that have helped me through some really hard times, that attended my wedding, and that still pray for me any time I ask. These are all good things. What youth group didn't teach me is that youth group, or church, should never be the means to an end when the end we seek is solely friendship. Youth group taught me that fellowship is essential, but it didn't teach me that working out your salvation with fear and trembling is considerably more important than that fellowship, and that fellowship should flow out of fighting the battle shoulder to shoulder in word, thought, and deed.

Youth group taught me what it took to be a Godly college student. What it neglected to teach me, however, is what it takes to be a Godly woman. It taught me how to say no to sex before marriage, but it taught me nothing about sex within marriage, or marriage at all. It taught me about secret sin, but didn't really teach me how to combat it. It taught me how to defend my faith, but it didn't teach me how to cultivate it. The most beneficial times in youth group for me were when my leaders were much older than myself, and could tell me, “This is what God wants, and here is what it looks like.” I didn't know it at the time, but as a teen, I didn't need to be surrounded by leadership that was fun and enthusiastic as much as I needed to be surrounded by men and women of the faith that could lead me with level heads and compassionate hearts.

Youth group taught me that favoritism is prevalent in the world. This is not a good thing, because it was the people in the youth groups, and the people leading the youth groups that taught me this by their actions. I spent a lot of emotional energy trying to gain the attention of youth leaders-- any youth leaders, because I wanted someone to really see me and to help me see. A word to all youth leaders that are reading this-- Talk to the ones that no one talks to. Be the friend to the friendless, and if you don't have the heart to do so, pray that God would turn your heart toward it-- and then do it anyway. This is not bitterness speaking, this is a fair warning. If it hadn't been for one specific youth leader that would talk to me when no one else would, that would challenge me when I needed it most, and that trusted me to take sound advice when it was offered, I don't know where I would be. When I say this, I don't mean, “I would have been so sad and alone,” I literally mean, “I don't know if I'd still be here,” because longing for attention like that zaps all of your strength, and I probably would have given up. Don't play favorites. There are some really hurting kids out there, and they are usually the ones that won't just come out and tell you.

Youth group taught me that sincere music is a powerful spiritual weapon. It didn't teach me about a whole lot of other spiritual weapons, though. It didn't teach me about fasting, or meditating on scriptures, or serving other people. Most importantly, it didn't teach me that confession is not the same as repentance, and repentance is essential to having spiritual victory. I spent years of my life in a sin-confess-sin-confess cycle, lacking any sort of power over sin because I was never told that I could be free of what bound me.

I'm excited about speaking this weekend. I love that we've been invited to share in ministering to young hearts, but I wanted to take some time to reflect on what it was like for me when I was sitting there on Sunday morning, listening to the missionary guest speaker, and wondering how I could get from where I was as a broken, withdrawn 15 year-old to a passionate, sincere woman.

What are some of the good, bad, or ugly things that youth group taught you?

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