This post was started a few weeks ago...
I went to Youth Group last night. I sat around the fire pit and talked with people. I ran after the dodge balls that flew past the group. I gave and received hugs. I sat in the back on the ugly and uncomfortable seating and listened to the youth volunteer speak. I listened to God say "It's not about where you are going, it's about who you are going there with." I stayed afterwards and talked with a couple of others and was one of the last to leave.
I also watched the group. The youth knew what was happening. They had the routine down. They went with the flow. They did what they were asked. They laughed, they played, they listened, they prayed, they interacted with their friends...sometimes with the others.
I watched the leaders. They engaged the youth, they joined in the fun, they talked to each other and then they left.
I watched my friend, the Youth Pastor. I knew he had put hours in beforehand setting things up. I saw the weariness on his face. I saw him enter into the game, letting go and playing for a few seconds, the tiredness on his face easing. I saw him specifically go sit next to kids just to talk. I saw him sit next to the one kid who needs just a little bit more attention while the volunteer youth worker was speaking. I watched him head outside, as the group ended, to sit around the fire, talk with kids and greet parents as all his volunteers stayed inside...talking with each other.
Just the night before I had sat and listened for awhile as he shared the burdens on his heart. I heard my own story in his words. I heard the weariness, the frustration, the disillusionment with church people, the burden of too much on his plate. I heard it all and understood. I see the signs and I pray, oh how I pray, that God reveals the path ahead of Youth Pastor friend soon...and selfishly hope that path doesn't lead him away.
Sitting in the back, joining the group for the first time, being in a youth group setting for the first time since I left my own two years ago (wow, that seems so long ago!), knowing the back story, I made a decision. I made a decision not be the typical volunteer leader who comes just before group starts and leaves just after it's over. I may have worked all day, commuted up to 3 hours round-trip and have to get up early the next morning to do it all over again. I may show up just before group starts just because I can't get there any sooner but I will be one of the last to leave. I will be the volunteer who hangs out and listens to Youth Pastor when he needs to download the nights events. I will be tired at work the next day but that doesn't matter. The spiritual and emotional health of Youth Pastor friend is more important.
It's been a few weeks since I started attending youth group. I'm slowly finding my way and I think that God may have put the desire to volunteer on my heart, not for the benefit of the teens, but to be an encourager and supporter of the volunteers. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely some teens that need some one on one attention I will gladly give...but a couple of the volunteers, they may actually be the people I am at youth group for. It's a new road, a new journey, a new tale to tell.