Last week's list of “33 Ways You Know You Were a Youth Group Kid” from Buzz Feed generated quite a response in my world.
As someone who was a youth group kid in the 90s, I absolutely relate to many – if not most - of the things on this list. As was the intent of the post, I laughed when I read it and I forwarded it to others who I'm sure roared as well.
Shortly after I did that, though, I saw a fellow youth worker apologize to the youth group kids she's scarred in the ways mentioned on this list.
As a youth worker, that got me thinking. I know that in the future, some of my methods, strategies, and songs will surely be laughable. There's no way around that in a rapidly changing culture. I also know – or at least hope – that my kids will continue to laugh over some of the memories, trips, and genuinely funny experiences they had in youth group. But I also hope for more than that.
15 years from now, I hope my youth group kids from today
1. Don't just know the hand motions to cheesy youth group songs like “Lord I Lift Your Name on High”. Instead, I hope they have a soundtrack in their heads of hymns, contemporary Christian music, and secular songs that embody Jesus, enabling them to find hope in their daily lives.
2. Never felt as though they had to Kiss Dating Goodbye. Instead, I hope that our discussions on sex and relationships equipped them to commit to someone in a healthy, mutually satisfying, God-honoring relationship free of guilt and shame.
3. Don't feel compelled to thoughtlessly elevate Christian music like Jars of Clay, Steven Curtis Chapman, and DC Talk above all else. Instead, I hope that through our conversations, they learned to think critically and recognize and affirm that if Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, then all truth is God's, regardless of where it's found.
4. No longer use the word “backslide” in relationship to their faith journey. Instead, I hope that after experiencing failure and the resulting grace while in youth group, theirs will be a faith rooted in freedom and grace and focused on Jesus, not sin.
5. Don't get whatever they want – from Family Christian bookstore or anywhere else. Instead, I hope that our honest and frank discussions on money and stewardship made them wise consumers who never thoughtlessly buy, but instead budget, plan, and give within their means.
6. Actually love the sinner, in word and deed.
7.Don't just embellish their prayers. Instead, I hope they're able to connect with God through a variety of prayer methods, without fearing others will judge how they pray or what they say.
8. Actively still support the missionaries with whom they served on mission trips in Mexico, Guatemala, Haiti, Ghana, Nicaragua, Uganda, or Venezuela, both financially and through prayer.
9. Have stopped randomly marking up their Bibles and instead have started living out the commands of Jesus found in them.
10. Still share their testimony – just not the same one they shared in high school. Instead, I hope they're still so connected to God and aware of his ongoing presence in their lives that they cannot help but share how he's at work with others.
11. Know that the question, “How far is too far?” isn't very important at all. Instead, I hope they're governed by far more pressing matters like, “How am I loving God?” “How I am loving others?” and “How am I doing justice?”
12. Still sponsor a kid, not because it's cool and hip, but because it's good and just.
13. Know Jesus is more than fashion statement. Regardless of whether or not they wear a WWJD bracelet or shirt, I hope that Jesus is important enough in their lives that their faith in him influences every aspect of it.