If you showed up to my church on any Sunday around 5 you would be met with the smell and sound of 6-10 preteens/teenagers. You would hear them yelling about some youtube video they watched recently or how many subscribers they have on their own videos. Occasionally someone will talk about classes or their family. This was what I came into on my first Sunday helping with youth at Avondale UMC.
There is almost nothing as nerve-wracking as walking into a room full of adolescents. They can be judgmental, moody, and loud. It is like being in high school again, and let me tell you, that is not an experience I would care to repeat. Working with these kids has done more for me than I think I have done for them. They have taught me to be fearless in my pursuit for myself, to talk loudly, and to question everything.
Adolescents are very self-absorbed. They are constantly trying to find out who they are and are very against others telling them pretty much anything. Now I am not saying, “put yourself before everyone or God.” I am saying that you should pick up the craft you don’t look at very often, spend the couple of dollars on that coffee you want, and take some time for yourself, even if you have to say no to someone else. Teenagers have no problem letting you know when they don’t want to do something. Try it–maybe be a little more eloquent than your 13-year-old self–but it may surprise you how much you say “yes” to what you don’t like.
I feel like there comes a point in an adult life when it is no longer acceptable to ask questions or talk loudly in almost any setting. We are given the idea that functional adults talk in a civilized monotone. That is not the case with my youth. They are loud. They yell, they voice their opinions, and they question everything. I love the nights when I can see them think about God, and all the questions come gushing out like a waterfall. Sometimes the questions are hard: “Why did my dad die if God loves me?” And sometimes they are funny: “Was Jesus praying to himself the whole time?” Sometimes I have the answer, but a lot of the time I am learning with them, and that is okay.
I never wanted to work with youth. I didn’t think they would like me, and I sure didn’t think that I would become as attached to them as I have. God has a way of taking the thing that you think you can never do and helping you to overcome that fear.
GMF US-2, Class of 2015-2017
Avondale United Methodist Church