We used the youth office because Project Home was in the youth rooms (and so full -wowee… It’s so good to see the church being used so well, although sad that there is a need for emergency shelter.). There were teachers, social workers, and experienced parents… all of which made the conversation rich and wise.
Participants imagined their way back into different stages of their teen years and we talked about how these compare to typical teen development. We explored Positive Youth Development, which identifies the relational “nutrients” young people need to grow instead of looking for pathology and risk. This assets-model identifies important roles not just parents, but also non-parent adults, the community, and our congregation in the lives of youth and children.
As they sifted through childhood memories, we were humbled by the power adults have over children… for good or for bad. Every moment is an opportunity to encourage, mentor, or be an example of kindness. We lit a candle for each good memory and symbolically threw the others in the trash. We listed the verbs involved and marveled humbly at our power of choice to support young people.
There was loud laughter as we split into small groups to role play dilemmas with youth. Each skit showed reflexive, negative ways of responding to youth, followed by a constructive, relationship-building version.
People found the remembering exercises and the role plays most moving. “This may help me remember everything that’s going on with my son,” one said,…”how complex everything is that he’s going through.”
Another noted that it’s good to stop and remember “my child is not an adult, even though I might treat them like they are sometimes.” Another said she was reminded of how differently she saw events as a teen from how she sees them now. Youth are not children, but they truly are not adults either.
We felt a glow of appreciation and awareness as we closed. I know everyone will bring it to their encounters with youth – so beautiful! We wrote in a large heart some of the gifts they bring to young people in their lives. These included patience, humor, appreciation, acceptance, positivity, curiosity, joy in being with them, a feeling of “getting” them, experience, and enthusiasm.
Such beauty! And it is amazing to consider that this is just one of thousands of scenes that will play out in our congregation this year. Last week was the water service, with shimmering music, inspiring stories, and so many hopeful faces. This coming week, the youth will come together for classes and groups. As we begin again together, may blessings abound for all of us – children, youth, and adults.