So, I’ve been putting off writing this post because I really don’t want to face it head on. I’ve had difficulty processing the situation, and it’s hard to collect my thoughts enough to talk about it. It’s been a few weeks now since our youth group collaboration officially split. Two of the three churches (the original two) are still working together, but the third has split off. That church’s deacon board made the decision that they would no longer collaborate with us for the Wednesdays when we have lessons, though we could still do the fun nights together.
I can’t tell you how devastated the leaders and kids have felt. The leaders found out about it first, and let me tell you, it was difficult to wait to tell the kids and act like everything was okay in the meantime. It was only a week, but it’s hard to keep a brave face on when you see what you’ve been working for come crashing down around you. Amongst the leaders there were tears, questions, anger, incredulity, sadness. We all felt the decision was unfair and not right. The circumstances of this coming about had to do with hearsay, not going to the person you have a grievance with, gossip, selfishness, and giving in to keep the peace. A parent didn’t like something that she believes one of the leaders said, but instead of going to that person and talking it out, she chose to engage in gossip and emotional hysteria. Because she made the issue so emotionally charged, this brought in the loud opinion of a few other people. They generally engaged in riling up the church and spoiling youth group for the kids.
If at any time the supposedly offended party had decided to engage in normal conflict resolution, the whole issue could have been laid to rest with one simple conversation. For whatever reason, they chose not to do that, and it escalated to a church-wide issue.
The youth leaders had the unfortunate task of telling the kids that our group was splitting, after we were just starting to hit our stride and mesh well. It wasn’t what we wanted, it wasn’t what the teens wanted, but a group of people uninvolved in our group made the decision that what we were doing didn’t have value. That is so hurtful.
The teens were incredulous, some were angry, some asked about ways to combat the decision, some wanted to know more about the particulars of how it came about. We let them know that the decision was not made by any of us and that we opposed it, that we still valued them and what we were doing in youth group, that we wanted to continue relationships with all of them, that it was okay to have a variety of feelings and to express and work through them, that it would take time to heal.
Even so, we all felt the loss of what we had. At the time we didn’t know what it would be like to go back to the way we had done things before, with two separate youth groups. Now that it’s been a few weeks, the reality has set in. It sucks.
I’ve built relationships with and invested in teens from both groups. I care about them and feel responsible for them. I want to continue to invest their lives, but with some of them I’m denied that regular interaction on Wednesday nights.
Not only that, but we the leaders are feeling the loss of not being together. I can’t tell you how awesome it was to build relationships with these fellow workers who also cared about the teens. There was a sweet fellowship that I’ve experienced very rarely in the church. It hurts to have that forcibly torn apart. It feels like members of our family are missing.
To help keep an avenue open for connecting with both groups, I decided to start planning something every Saturday that the teens could take part in. Since I’m doing it myself, it isn’t officially offered by any church. It has really ended up being activities that my family is engaging in, and we are inviting interested teens to join us. Essentially, we’re opening up our family to them. So far we’ve watched a couple of movies together, played games, hosted a sledding day, and gone to an artist’s open house and ate out afterward. There have only been select teens who have joined us so far, but I’m encouraged by the way we are able to interact with them on a very natural and casual basis, and that they are essentially enveloped in our family during these times.
At first I felt a little disappointed that more of the teens didn’t choose to join us for these Saturday activities. I came to realize though, that people have to see value in what you offer, for them to take advantage of it. Some of the kids do see value in maintaining the relationship and continuing in fellowship, and some do not. That’s normal and it would be the exact same way with adults. Not everyone is going to value the same things that you do. So I’m happy for the relationships that we’ve been able to maintain and strengthen with these teens. The majority of the ones who have showed up are in the youth group that split from us, so I am also encouraged that we are still in relationship with them.
I don’t know what the future holds for our groups. There are many parents and kids who are angry that our group was spoiled by a small number of people who were upset and unwilling to deal with their unrest in a constructive and mature way. I hope that we will be able to join together again in the future, but in the meantime I will still look for ways to bridge that gap. We need to show these teens that relationships matter and that we can be united despite our denominational differences. There is a oneness in spirit amongst our group that transcends our physical meeting places. We long to be together, and I think that’s a witness to the Holy Spirit at work among and in us.
Please pray with me for unity for our group–both when we’re allowed to meet together, and when we’re separated by church politics. I pray that we would not lose that and that it would continue to strengthen and grow.