It’s always interesting to see what youth workers do with “travel time” on trips. I’ve seen ministries be very proactive about using a bus ride to build relationships with kids, one kid at a time. I’ve seen other ministries that haven’t even thought about it.
A few weeks ago “Deborah” found herself driving a van on a high school missions project for a week during spring break. Deborah is very gregarious and not afraid to ask kids about their faith. Every time teenagers found themselves riding shotgun next to Deborah, she asked, “So, tell me your faith story.”
Deborah had some great conversations with students during the week, but pretty soon word got around that “shotgun” next to Deborah meant “talking about Jesus.” As it turned out, by the end of the week, most of the students found seats in other vans, leaving just three random teenagers remaining: an awkward freshman boy, a popular cheerleader in her senior year, and a quiet recluse who was rarely seen without her headphones.
The freshman boy sat up front and within five minutes Deborah asked, “Tell me your faith story.”
The boy began to share a little about his life. It wasn’t long before he was talking about the way others teased him and the bullying he had been experiencing already during his freshman year. Choked up, he shared some of the specifics of the cruelties that were daily occurrences for this young man.
Wiping a tear from his cheek he confessed, “I’ve never felt so alone in my entire life. I wish I just had one friend.”
Deborah looked in the rear view mirror. The girl in the headphones was looking out the window, apparently killing her ears with loud music. The cheerleader, however, was noticeably listening to every word, dabbing her eyes with Kleenex, trying to keep her mascara from running.
The cheerleader spoke up. “Me too.”
The boy up front was startled by her voice. He didn’t even realize she was listening. “What?”
“I feel the exact same way,” she continued. “Every day. I’m surrounded by a bunch of fakes. They’re empty, and so am I. I’ve never felt so alone. I hate my life.”
The girl in the headphones grabbed a pillow from the back seat and began to fluff it up on the empty seat next to her. “Me too,” she quickly interjected, then turned over, lay on the pillow and closed her eyes.
Three completely different teenagers from three completely different social circles, all connecting for a brief moment when given a chance to share their story. A true “Breakfast Club” moment.
I love hearing stories from youth workers like this. It gives us a glimpse into the crack into the armor of today’s teenagers. It provides a peek at what Jesus’ ministry probably looked like, just hanging out with the lost.
What about you?
Are you putting yourselves in situations where kids can talk freely with you?
Are you asking questions that get teenagers talking?
Do you listen instead of lecturing?