Many moons ago I was a skeptic of church youth groups. I belonged to one when I was a preteen/teen and things did not go well. I never really fit in. There were a lot of different reasons for it but when you have unpleasant memories, you tend to make other decisions based on those memories.
Not to mention I just thought God made the family and dog gone it, we were going to do everything as a family. Enter in a Wednesday night worship service with a youth choir that my oldest would potentially be a part of the following year. Those teenage kids were singing their hearts out and for many of them you could just tell in their young faces they were praising Jesus with their voices. I really was blown away. Not just that, but when you watched them, all of them, they were just really great friends. And interacted so well with each other.
So, the following year, when NG entered middle school we allowed her to attend youth choir. Just an hour, once a week. That year she did her very first bike trip and sang a solo and friendships started to blossom. Hearts started to grow. Including mine. For those kids.
That following year, we allowed her, ocassionally, to go to the youth gathering which was right after the youth choir. Hubby would go up or I would hang around. We saw the kids and how they interacted. They included all walks of life. The older kids in the group would encourage everyone to participate in whatever they were doing. I liked what I saw.
The following year both girls were attending youth choir and youth group every. single. Sunday. This year they are participating in almost everything the youth kids do. We have watched first hand these kids grow, move on, and invest in each other, in their church and in their community. NG will be with some of the same kids almost every day for a whole month with camp training, VBS, out of town choir and then working at camp.
At first that would have terrified me. And it still does a little bit because my first born baby is growing up. But, all I have seen from her is growth and a desire to do the things that she knows God wants her to do. She cares for people, she realizes that she has a responsibility to be a good example. She makes mistakes but she is a little bit quicker to own them. She is beginning to understand that pretty much whatever she does affects some one, some how.
We, as parents, could have done most of it. Given life experiences. But, it has been such a blessing to have it reinforced by peers, other adults who travel and teach them, by older kids willing to invest their time and talents.
My babies are gone for the next week. And I know they have a ton of growing to do (don't we all) but I also know they will came back just a little bit changed. And most of it for the better . . .