Three Kids in a Van

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?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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One Response to Three Kids in a Van

  1. Michelle says:

    Loved this story. I love ministry trips. As a mother I never allow my teens to put their ear buds in… As a youth minister we have times that i call “no buds time”. Car trips are when I get the most out of my children/teens.
    Ten years ago is when we bought out last car, my oldest was dying for a video system, my husband too, I refused. I am so glad I stood firm and most of the time I just listen to the kids talking. I learn a lot. SometimesI interject just one little thought for them to ponder. AMAZING some of those thoughts are repeated back to me.

    I go bananas when I see parents driving a whole 2 miles and the videos are on… What a waste!