Saturday, January 20, 2007

Missing the point

I have been hanging out with a new high school friend, we'll just call him "Bob."
This past week, I had a vanful of kids to take home, we dropped off everyone else and continued on to Bob's house. Over the course of the next 15 minutes "Bob" proceeded to tell me a little bit more about himself, in his own, words, "sometimes I act up, I get hyper and jump around." In more clinical terms, my guess is he has some undiagnosed ADHD and impulsivity stuff going on. He also told me how poorly he had been treated in previous youth group settings. The implication was that his behavior was not bad enough to require disciplinary actions but inappropriate enough to make him stand out.
I assumed he meant the poor treatment was from the the other kids. But as I listened, I realized it was his previous leaders who were making him feel left-out, unwanted and not worthy. Things like this: In a room of twenty people, teams of eight were being made, "Bob" didn't get put on a team. Everyone has to be odd man out sometimes, but listening to "Bob," this was a regular occurrence. On another occasion, volunteers were requested to share their musical talents. Despite "Bob's" volunteering he was once again overlooked. Time and again "Bob" was made to feel like he wasn't good enough or didn't fit the right mold. I don't know the programs or youth leaders he referred to but I am embarassed and ashamed for them.
Maybe I am overly senstive to stuff like this because I have had to watch my own child struggle socially but this stuff should not happen. A kid like "Bob" might need more coaching or guidance or redirection than your average kid but that doesn't make it okay to dismiss him or make him feel like a second class citizen. As leaders, no never mind as leaders, as eveyday people, trying to follow Christ, our goal should be to erase the margins to which people like "Bob" get relegated not push them furhter away. Jesus spent his public ministry going to the people who got overlooked and left out and drew them in. The woman at the well, Zaccheaus the tax collector, the woman caught in adultery, the demoniac, the hemorrhaging woman, lepers, invalids, the aged, the sick, children,they didn't fit the mold and Jesus went to them. We should do likewise. To do otherwise is definitely missing the point.



Anonymous said...

I also agree with you. I have a kid in my group is a little high strung. His interests are not the same of the other kids so he sticks out. I make sure he is included and made to feel welcome. Everyone is welcome in God's kingdom.


CampHillGirl said...

You are completely right, Tom. Jesus targeted the marginalized people. Unfortunately, youth ministry often seems to attract young, hip leaders who probably unintentionally play into the who's-cool game, while older, more mature leaders could avoid it. I really appreciated my youth group leaders in high school, a married couple in their 40s, who were really fun and easy to be with but not really hip or anything. But were they as good at relating to cool kids? I don't know.