I volunteered (or was I voluntold?) to chaperone at the Youth Group lock-in...an all-night-long party.
On its face, being locked into a church with 50 (yes, 50) teenagers, and staying up all night (translation: do not sleep under any circumstances) to ensure their safety and welfare, sounded a lot like torture.
But I did it anyway.
(This is where I admit that sometimes I volunteer to do things I don't want to do, because deep down, I still struggle with the misconception that I must earn God's favor. For the record, that's a bunch of bunk.)
My attitude wasn't great when I agreed to volunteer a few weeks ago (I might have whined), but as the day approached, my excitement grew...
Not about the stay-up-all-night part, but about the getting-to-know-the-kids part.
So I ordered a quad latte and showed up.
Those teenagers, they taught me a lot while I didn't sleep...
- They're magicians. 17 pizzas disappeared in a matter of minutes.
- They are 50 different stories...interesting, funny, sad, inspiring, hopeful stories.
- Many kids are seeking family (they may not put it that way), because they don't have a stable one. They're looking for a place to belong...to be accepted.
- It's so cool to see 50 kids paying attention...listening intently to the message.
- It's utter JOY to know students were impacted by the message...that it begged more conversation.
- Even shy/insecure/quiet kids will stand up in front of 49 of their peers and SING! (I would NEVER have done that at their age.)
- They're BRAVE. (See #6.)
- They're supportive of each other. They cheer for each other. (See #6 & #7)
- They're HILARIOUS. Oh man. So many kinds of hilarious. One kid took it upon himself to hide water bottles in the most clever places all over the church. Why? Because all night long, every time we found one above a doorframe or in a high windowsill, we laughed. Genius.
- They like to talk to adults (to older adults with gray hair even). Did I, when I was their age? I don't think I did. I don't actually remember adults reaching out to talk to me (it was a different time). And, since I'm on the subject, teens are FUN to talk to. They're interesting, open, curious and kind. They answered my questions...and truth be told, I can be nosy.
- They want someone to be interested in them. (See #10.)
- Some kids do not need caffeine...period...cartwheels at 3am, running at full speed through the church at 4am...I'd like a teaspoon of what they're having, please.
- There are EXCELLENT student leaders in the TGW youth group.
- It is VERY satisfying to be included in their world...in their games.
- It is even MORE satisfying to be sneeringly accused of murder and killed as a result of their utter disdain of your deception while playing their game.
- But it is the MOST satisfying to get away with murder(s), after playing many rounds of Mafia BEFORE being killed.
- It's fun to watch kids include each other, get to know each other and enjoy each other's company hour after hour.
- Sitting makes one tired. Standing or walking or talking helps one stay awake (caffeine at 3:30am doesn't hurt either).
- The dedication of the youth staff is inspiring. They care deeply about the kids. They love them utterly. TGW youth are so very blessed!
- It is BEAUTIFUL to watch kids (who haven't slept) happily clean a great big church after having messy fun all night.
- Laughter makes time go by faster. It was the fastest awake-all-night of my life
- I take great pride in the fact that I did not so much "power nap" for 5 minutes, yet young whippersnappers curled up as early as 1am because they just couldn't stay awake...you snooze you lose. ;)
- My "wall" is 5am. Good to know because I would do this again. I'd stay up all night all over again. They're so worth it.
I don't write this for any other reason than to encourage you. If you have the opportunity, volunteer with youth. I realize it might not be for everyone, but I think it might be for more of us than we think!
The biggest thing I learned is that you don't have to be "cool" or "up on all the things" to be a youth volunteer (I've never been accused of being cool). You just have to step out of your comfort zone and open up your heart...or agree to do something you don't think you want to do...and see what happens.
Those kids nudged their way into my heart as I yawned through the night and I couldn't be happier about that. They are the future of the church, the future of our country and they are about to be adults, deciding if God - if God's people, are worthy to associate with in the future. Knowing we care about them will go a long way in helping them decide!