On Facebook, I recently posted some off the cuff remarks on what I, as a youth leader, have the privilege to learn from the student with whom I work. See, the thing is that I often think I will impart the wisdom of the ages on these young minds. I will amaze them with all my Bible knowledge and life experience. My middle school girls (the primary group with which I work) are so lucky to have me.
Really and truly, I am so fortunate that God allows me to work with them. I often tell them I love having a front seat in seeing them grow into young women of God.
Because everyone in the world isn’t my Facebook friend, I thought I’d recap what I posted here and add a little meat to my top 10 list because it’s so easy to forget how much we get from the students who spend time with us.
Here are 10 ways my students pour laughter and encouragement into my life…
- They are always FIRST to like my Instagram photos…and they like each and every photo I post. Sometimes my own mom doesn’t even like my Facebook photos. (To be fair, she’s technologically inept and doesn’t always see my photos. In case you’re reading this, I love you, Mom!)
- Not only do they insist I *REALLY* am engaged to Captain America, they think I’m amazing enough to be engaged to someone LIKE Captain America. (Being engaged to Captain America started as a joke last May and since then has really taken off. My students, in particular think it’s great and often introduce me to their friends as Captain America’s fiancé.)
- If the Captain America thing doesn’t work out, they have back up guys for me to date and it hasn’t occurred to them that these guys might not be interested in me. Seriously, they see the rare single guy at church and automatically start planning our wedding. Sometimes I look at these guys, who are really good looking and think about how they’d never be interested in me. These girls don’t see that—they see *ME* and think I deserve the very best, even when I don’t. I love them so much for wanting that for me.
- They remind me that cynicism doesn’t have to be a reality; idealism can flourish. To them, almost every fun idea is a good idea, whether it’s running outside to check out the twin brothers who live next door (note to parents: we are discouraging this) or learning to crochet scarves or sledding down a snow mound during the Super Bowl party. They are ready for anything. I love when they’re told they can’t do something and they ask, “Why not?” It hasn’t occurred to them that certain things just aren’t possible. I am learning to ask myself the same question because why not?
- No matter WHAT the discussion happens to be, they can tell random stories that have nothing to do with the actual discussion. It’s a special skill. It really is. If you’ve ever talked to middle school girls, you know what I mean.
- They can’t remember to bring their Bibles to *BIBLE STUDY*….but they remember the words I say. As much as I think they aren’t listening to me because they’re staring blankly at the wall or laughing with a friend, they hear me. They remember when I tell them they can have a piece of candy for memorizing a Bible verse, that I love meat, and even that they are so dearly loved by God. Keep talking, fellow youth workers, they’re listening.
- Even if I think I’m the biggest loser in the world, they think I’m completely awesome. I was one of those kids that never fit in when I was in middle school. I could those are three of the roughest years of my life. High school was only slightly better. Yet these are the kids who know think I’m a role model. How on earth does that happen? I have no idea only to say it is by the grace of God. Plus, I think listening and showing an interest in the students probably helps a little.
- They still think playing WiiU is cool…especially when they team up against me on MarioKart. I consider it a fellowship and bonding activity. It’s always fun to win a game against an adult, right? Except I always crush them in MarioKart. Sorry, girls, I have a lot more practice driving than you! It’s fun to be able to “play,” which is something we adults neglect far too often.
- They raise their hands when they don’t interrupt each other. It’s a respect thing and it’s absolutely adorable. But yes, there are lots of random interruptions.
- Sometime they say the most astonishing things, I can’t believe they’re only teenagers. Last summer when I was running a high school girls small group, we were looking at Psalm 139. I asked the students, “If we are fearfully and wonderfully made, then why are some babies born with birth defects?” There was a long pause and one of the girls said, “He makes us how it pleases Him.” I had to take in her thought…and often times, I still have to take in her thought to remind myself, I have been created to please my Creator.
I could probably write an entire book on learning from middle and high school students, but I’m sure many have been written. Here are a few of my thoughts on some of my favorite people in the world. Thought it’s an often quoted verse for youth, I want to use it just the same. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for all believers in speech, in conduct, in faith, and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12
I’m so fortunate God blessed me with teenagers who set such a high example for me. My prayer is that I can be worthy of this calling.