Monday, January 23, 2012

Quit Planning and Go With It

Note: This is a very long post, which might not be very interesting.  However, I am feeling grateful for the evening, and wanted to record the details, more as a reminder for myself of how good God is.  I don't mind if you don't want to read this whole thing :)

Youth Group is always fun, and rarely what I expect.  This week, poor weather was going to keep most of the kids away, so I had mentally resigned the evening a "wash" according to the lesson, and instead an opportunity for some additional fellowship in a smaller group.

However, more kids showed up than expected, so we went ahead with the plans for the evening.  (The kids in attendance sent regular text updates, including pictures, to those stuck at home- I take this as a sign that they are glad to be at Youth Group, especially when the texts are accompanied by phrases like- "Ha! ______ is going to be so jealous that they are not here!" And yes, I know that the grammar of the previous sentence is poor.  What can I say, it came from the mouth of a teenager...)

We completed the T3: Teen Timeline in December, so this semester, I am expanding on it with a theme of "Who Do You Want To Be?"  Each meeting brings a topic (like forgiveness), a figure from the Bible, and a Saint.  This allows us to continue to talk about God's plan of salvation as laid out in T3, but puts more of an application spin on it, focusing on growing into Godly men and women.

Topic this week: Integrity.  People to look to as examples: Ruth and St. Therese.
The lesson is discussion based, using excerpts from the T3 videos as well as the Who Cares About the Saints DVD.  At the end of the night, I send the kids home with a sheet reviewing some of the big concepts, as well as additional things to look up, questions to reflect on, and things to pray for.  I don't kid myself that many of those sheets end up in the trash or under a bed, but I also am an advocate of putting resources in people's hands, even if you don't know when or if they will use them.  If one kid reads one part of a handout and it makes them think, then they are worth giving out.

Here is a link to the sheet I made about integrity, Ruth, and Therese. Feel free to use or pass on.

Then the evening got interesting.  Being that it was Jan. 22nd (the 39th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade), I moved the discussion to how a person of integrity treats everyone with equal respect- the unborn, the elderly, the annoying classmate, the disabled, etc.  I didn't want to beat them over the head with the topic, so had just planned it as a little addendum.  However, they took off with it.  They were all talking over each other, asking intelligent questions, and wanting to know more about the Church's teachings about people with disabilities, about prenatal testing, about "pulling the plug," etc.  So we talked.  Usually the last 30 minutes or more are spent playing a game, and the kids guard that time pretty seriously.  Tonight, no one looked at the clock.

Then, I asked them some questions specifically related to the rights of the unborn.  And I was able to pull out our newest parish resource, of which I am ecstatic about.  Have you seen The Touch of Life Fetal Models?  They are incredible, soft, touchable models of babies at 12, 20, 26, and 30 weeks gestation that are the correct form, size, and weight.  Seeing does not do them justice, you have to hold them.

I pulled these out, and the kids went nuts.  The babies spurred more questions, and comments, and text messages to the home-bound youth group crowd.  They thought they were incredibly cool.  It was so cute how they passed them to each other and held them, like they were real babies.  (I mean, look at how they are even supporting their heads in the picture below!)  They mentioned several times feeling the need to wrap them in a blanket so they wouldn't get cold.  At one point, they decided that it would be great if everyone could carry these around in their pockets and pull them out to start conversations with people about the sanctity of life (we've got some future pro-life advocates here). 

Before I could get too proud, they then realized that the babies DO FIT in your pockets.  So they put the three 12 week babies (the size of your thumb) in one girl's sweatshirt, poking their sweet little heads out, and said she was "carrying" triplets. One of the boys held the 30 week baby and said, "Take a picture!  I'm a dad!"  They then decided that pregnant women should be able to carry real babies like a kangaroo does, and pull them out at different stages of development to show people.  Then they tried it themselves in various hoodie pockets.  And hoods.

And then we stopped having stimulating, theological conversations, and they just had some fun.  And then I kicked them out because there were parents waiting in the parking lot.

Tonight was a good example of why you should not set expectations for a ministry event.  You should pray more than you prepare, and show up ready to go where the Spirit leads.  It was a lesson that I needed to be taught again, because this was all Him working tonight, and not me.

"Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground." ~Psalm 143:10