James Lawrence, lovingly known as Jimmy Larry by Trietsch youth, is our Director of Youth Ministries. He decided to bring Life Groups to the youth program and has been humbled by the experience. Read his story.
When we started youth Life Groups, I wasn't sure what would happen. Would they take it seriously? Could one question each week keep the attention of a group of teenagers?
I took over as Youth Director of our Trietsch Youth Group last year, and I was excited to step up and try something new. Life Groups were meant to be an adult ministry program, but when I heard about them I knew I wanted to try it with our youth. I wanted our kids to have the same spiritual connection in step with the rest of the church.
Like I said, I wasn't sure what would happen. Our teenagers have opened up and supported each other in such a profound way; I didn't expect it. As an adult leader, I knew that I, and the rest of my volunteers, could only have a minimal day-to-day impact. We offer as much love and support as we can, but we're not with the youth at school or at home. I want the youth to feel like they can support each other since they spend more time together than with any youth leader.
The Life Group has not only impacted the youth participating in it, but the entire youth program. I've seen fewer cliques and more deep connections across our activities. Youth have had deep conversations about problems with their parents or struggles at school or fear of the future, and their peers respond with, "I've been through that before. I get it." Or, "I’ve never had that happen before. I'm so sorry."
It's been awesome to see them transform from consumers of church who feed off the adult leaders to leaders of their own student community. After I throw out, "How is your life with God?" each week the youth take over and lead the conversation.
Because of youth Life Groups, our youth program is growing, youth are stepping up in leadership to head up more Life Groups that will start over the summer and fall, and our kids are getting up early on Saturdays to serve together at Bed Start. They're doing life together. I've grown in my relationship with God through them.
I'm also in a Life Group of adults, and as I've met with them each week I've realized the youth have taught me to embrace my emotions. I've always been hesitant to live into my gut feelings. I'm driven by logic. Any time I feel an emotion I ask myself, "Is what I'm feeling valid?" And I try to rationalize myself out of anything emotional.
The youth have taught me to live for the moment and embrace what I'm feeling.
I've also learned that the human experience is not restricted by age. I might have been through a trial that someone older than me hasn't experienced yet. Some of these kids have been through life events that I've never experienced. These kids have wisdom. I'm constantly learning from them. They teach me what it means to be supportive, caring and authentically present.
Sometimes all of us, adults and youth, get apprehensive about church settings or joining something new because we fear acceptance, fear our presence won't be recognized or that we won't have anything to add as value. If there's something I've learned in this last semester, it's that our youth value every person who walks through the door. Everyone that shows up has a unique perspective. Each youth recognizes that they see God in themselves and in each other.
It applies to adults, too. You can offer peace to someone who wouldn't get it otherwise or someone could offer peace to you in a way you didn't expect. We're all just going through life together.