A Lesson for Youth Workers

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James 2:1-7

1 My brothers, hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ without showing favoritism. 2 For suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring, dressed in fine clothes, and a poor man dressed in dirty clothes also comes in. 3 If you look with favor on the man wearing the fine clothes so that you say, “Sit here in a good place,” and yet you say to the poor man, “Stand over there,” or, “Sit here on the floor by my footstool,” 4haven’t you discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5 Listen, my dear brothers: Didn’t God choose the poor in this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that He has promised to those who love Him? 6 Yet you dishonored that poor man. Don’t the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7 Don’t they blaspheme the noble name that you bear?

I was thinking last night about being a kid when I read this.  It struck a chord with me.  I still feel conflicted and uncertain as to how I feel, but I figured this is as great a place as any to talk it out.  I grew up in a church going household, and I hardly remember a time that church and church activities were not in my life.  This isn’t to say that I was always in a relationship with God though.

I remember a very short time when I felt like someone was finally caring, and paying attention to me.  I felt great.  I had a very difficult time when I remembered how as soon as that attention left, I was…

Broken.

The people who seemed to care just disappeared.  I can’t blame them, at least I don’t now.  They had to take care of themselves.  At the ripe age of something like 12, sadly, I needed them.  It wasn’t very far after that happening that I just felt dead spiritually, in fact, it was the time when I questioned the existence of anything past here and now and this realm for the first time.

Soon my mom got involved again and I was back to being a “churched kid”, basically what many refer to the kids that don’t matter as much because they know about Jesus and therefore they are really there to help teach those “unchurched kids”.  I don’t blame anyone who feels like this, occasionally I still find myself thinking about certain people in those terms, i.e. “churched” and “unchurched”.  I blame the “churched kid” in me.

What was lost?  Why does this matter?

I was terribly immature.

Insecure.

Angry.

Hurt.

Left out.

I was so desperate for attention that I’d cry for no reason.  I’d make up things to be upset about.  I was not equipped at that age to cope with those who appear to be in need being shown “favoritism”.  The more that I was ignored, the more I questioned everyone, everything.  The more that I questioned everything, the more I pulled into myself and refused to be close to people.  The more I hid myself, the more that my attitude grew poor and anger fueled me.  I had this sick desire to prove myself while also just wanting to be loved and cared for in anyway that wasn’t superficial or compulsory.

Church wasn’t the only place, which I think made things even worse.  I wasn’t doing so poorly in school that my teachers would go out of their way to show me attention.  I also wasn’t doing so spectacular that my teachers would go out of their way to give me attention.

Mediocrity seems to be no one’s friend.

Or at least, no one wants to be friends with mediocre.

And I was mediocre.

Lost.  But not lost enough to warrant attention.

Knowledgeable.  But not in the way where people wanted to hear much of what I had to say.

It isn’t easy, because sometimes I think it’s easier to show attention to those who we feel need it based on superficial things.  Whether it be that they are the prized church kid or they are someone who comes in from the street, youth are fragile – almost all of them.

Shockingly, even if they act tough, strong, and like they don’t care.

They all have something going on in their life that is difficult, even if it is merely hormones that are completely altering their way of functioning.

Even though I grew up “churched”, my life didn’t change until I took over and I started being the one who decided to rely on myself and to rely on God.  What a shame it took so long to really rely on God though when I’d grown up in an environment that is supposed to have such a good influence.

I don’t hate church, don’t get me wrong, but there has to be more awareness for reaching out to youth regardless of the way they represent themselves, how they were presumably raised, and regardless of the boxes and ideals we assume they fit into.

All youth, regardless of their upbringing, need someone willing to lend a helping hand.

All youth, regardless of their upbringing, need to be taught how to rely on God.

In case you all are wondering, I grew up “churched” my whole life, sure.  I also never comprehended true salvation until I was sixteen and subsequently found Jesus.

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One Response to A Lesson for Youth Workers

  1. Victoria / Justice Pirate says:

    It is good to know what you went through because I wonder what my youth kids might be going through sometimes. I didn’t really get attention from youth leaders, but the little bits that I did receive was always a good feeling and is what encouraged me to want to be one myself. I am glad that you were able to find God and rely on Him through all of your “churched” time and “unchurched” time. Thanks for giving me a reminder to try to be more involved in the kids’ lives.

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