Why We Do It

Ah Ha MomentLast week was our group’s Fall-Kickoff-Palooza-Extravaganza-Par-tay… WE didn’t actually call it that, but I’m sure your group held a similar event. It’s the week at the beginning of the year where we officially launch the fall season, invite new people to come, and help everyone get to know each other. We did the usual — BBQ, volleyball, tons of games/prizes, and a bonfire. It was fun. 
And exhausting.
I worry about every detail when planning the event, scramble to get things ready (thankfully, we have a TERRIFIC team of adult leaders in place who all help coordinate those details), and don’t really relax until the party’s in full swing and I can mingle and chat with the kids. Even then, everything’s just a blur until the night’s over, the trash has been picked up (it’s unbelievable how many cans of soda 50 teenagers can consume in 3 hours), and I can drive home.
Three guys needed a ride home that night, so we piled into my car after stuffing the trunk with leftover supplies and took off. I caught up with the guy sitting in the front seat while half-eavesdropping/listening to the conversation in the backseat. It went something like this:
Kid A: “Man, I love GYG!” (GYG’s the name of our youth group)
Kid B: “I know, me too.”
Kid A: “I feel like I can really be myself here. I don’t feel like that at school.”
Kid B: “I know what you mean. No one talks to me at school. But my friends are here. I feel like I can be me, too.”
It wasn’t much-just a simple conversation between two teens. But you had to be there to hear the genuine feelings these kids expressed. Neither is an athlete or a member of the social elite. Just a couple of guys who are great people, but kind of shy and maybe don’t have a ton of friends. Yet they feel welcomed at youth group. They feel as if it’s a place they can open up, really be themselves, and fit in. 
That’s huge. Especially for teens.
One of the things we focus on the most in our group is loving the youth and making them feel welcome. Most of the kids that come don’t go to church or aren’t from Christian families. They come in, often because a friend or leader invites them, a little nervous and freaked out. But when they see that love (the love of Christ) present and real every week they come, change begins to happen in their own lives.
Listening to the brief backseat conversation was an incredible confirmation for me. “Yes! This is why I do this!”
Marko Oestreicher blogged about a moment like this the other week: Encouraging an Old Youth Pastor’s Heart. His was a bit more profound (two of his former students just launched a church), but, hey, he’s been doing it longer than I have.
Have you experienced one of those “Ah-Ha!” moments that remind you why you’re a youth worker? What happened? What was that like and how did it encourage you to keep on keeping on? 
Share your story below.
(Image via Flickr.)