When I think back to my times in church, my first and most precious memories are my times spent with the kids in my youth class. The 3-5 services a week made church seem more like a job than enjoyable. The pressure to run the soundboard and produce copies of the services that met the Pastor’s approval made services more stressful than a time to hear from God. The kids would run around the church, goofing off, to the consequence of a lot of disapproving looks from the deacons and other church leaders, which ultimately fell on me. After everything, it was still worth it to close the door every Sunday morning and open up the Bible to them.
My goal was to take all the stories and questions they had ever had and take them off the shelf. I wanted them to see the Bible as a book of stories about people as real as them and their friends. I wanted to make them think about the deeper parts of each story in the Bible, the human side: the questions the characters must have had and the doubts and fears they experienced. From the pages of the Bible I would pull the characters out and use my imagination to make them come alive for those kids. I thrived on their curiosity once they got into it. By being direct and open to discussion with all of their questions, not just Bible lessons, my classroom became a place for them to work through things at school, home, and church. As part of their journey, church and Biblical teachings became intertwined in their decisions and plans, as a place to be open up to God’s plan through discussion with other followers of God. We talked and laughed and cried about so many topics but they began to listen in ways I never even hoped I’d reach.. It became clear as they returned each Sunday with questions about the lesson from the previous week that they had read their Bibles between classes, in both personal study and by paying attention.
Whenever the adult service would gather for questions and answers, I encouraged them to be as comfortable with the adults as they were in Sunday School class. Eventually my class was the main source of questions for those services. Many of the lessons involved games, to put fun and practice into the association while they learned. We got together at bonfires, games, or anything else I could do to make sure they were active and engaged in the church regularly. In a matter of months, I took the teenager population from sleeping during the sermon to taking notes for questions later. It meant the world to me to see them grow in Christ. I had found my focus. I loved teaching them. They made studying my Bible fun and challenging. I couldn’t just talk about Solomon and his temple, I had to know the measurements and value of the thing, cause they would ask me anything and everything. Youth Ministry was my calling. After so much fighting, God had brought me there to give me hope in my faith again.