Two things I learned at youth group this Sunday
This week was an unusual week for me at youth group. I wasn’t in charge of anything. I wasn’t leading the teaching, anchoring the whole session or even organising a game.
All I had to do was chat with the Year-9s when it came time to split into smaller groups. Still, I was challenged by a couple of things.
1. Church-family events are powerful
Usually, when the youth group meets, it is out of the whole service. However, this Sunday, there were baptisms in the main service, so at 11 o’clock, we all trouped back into church to hear the testimonies of the people being baptised before seeing them actually go under the water. We were so close to the pool that some of us were definitely in the splash zone. We do full immersion, and that is certainly a sight that leaves an impression, but this time, the baptisms were followed by an explanation of what baptism is and why people get baptised. This, together with the powerful testimonies and the baptisms themselves, had a massive impact on the young people.
It was a bit of a faff getting the whole group into church, sitting down and then back to the youth room afterwards, and we had to rejig our programme to accommodate it. But if we hadn’t, then we would have missed the chance to help the young people feel part of the church family for this event, and they wouldn’t have heard the life-changing stories of what God has done.
2. Choosing what behaviour to address and what to ignore is difficult
At the moment, we’re struggling with the behaviour of some of the Year 7, 8 and 9 boys in the group. They are great when you talk to them individually, but as a group, they’re rowdy, rude and difficult to manage. While we in our small groups, my Year-9 group were engaging quite well, apart from one lad, who sat with his face turned away from the group and refused to look at us when I asked him to. It was one of those times when you don’t quite know what to do. He was being disrespectful, but if he wasn’t going to listen to me, there was very little I could do. In the end, as he wasn’t being disruptive, I decided to ignore it and the other young people carried on with the discussion.
Should I have made more of it? Probably not. At the end of the group, I told him of my frustration that he had refused to take part, and that it wasn’t acceptable. But I also said that if anything was wrong, he could come and talk to any of the team. Seeing the young people only for an hour or so each week means that we don’t know what is going on in their lives, particularly if they are uncommunicative 14-year-old lads. There are always underlying reasons for difficult behaviour and we can’t let the behaviour itself get in the way of us caring for the young person.
Alex Taylor is part of the Children’s and Youth Team for the Diocese of London.