Tuesday, March 30, 2010

D-Town and my thoughts on youth programs in the U.S.

I'm way behind, but about a month ago was the spring retreat for the youth at my church, and it's called D-town. I work with a group of freshman girls, which is never boring and usually fun. :) D-town is a new level of craziness.
They set the tone with crazy hyped up fun from from the very beginning as everyone is arriving:
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The weekend talks were about David's penitant prayer in Psalm 51. The leader and teacher, Mike, is a simple and clear teacher, and I really appreciate that about him. He's not just a crazy leader, he sort of takes the craziness down a notch and speaks truth from scripture. 

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On the other hand, the youth leader team has a number of crazy leaders that are fantastic actors, which means a consistent theme in all youth programs is ongoing crazy random skits. I'll be honest. Some are gut-busting funny, even for an adult. Others fall flat.

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The ongoing skit below features one of the leaders as a creepy photographer named Ross Boggs whose slogan is, "I take pictures of you when you're not looking." Hah... yes... that's another ongoing theme... bordering on innapropriate humor in the skits. That's probably what makes them so funny...

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This particular year a new skit that played out through the weekend featured these two as eccentric cops who arrive on segweys to keep the peace. The first day as they came zipping up the aisle and we all turned to watch them, one of the leaders totally wiped out on his segway right in front of me and my girls. I mean, it was almost a full flip and he was completely down. It was pretty funny.... once we figured out he was okay.

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There's a lot of kids in this program, hundreds and hundreds of them. They fill up the room and it gets hot really fast! There's also a mad dash for good seats with your group:
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AND there's a Saturday photo scavenger funt followed by a fun evening with live music and bounce houses and snacks and free time. The live music this year was Jillian Edwards. It was pretty funny to watch the seats around her area fill with junior and senior guys... who were clearly there just because this was their style of music..... riiiiight....

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I always have mixed feelings about evangelical youth programs. I grew up in them and I know how they work. The emphasis on LOUD music, crazy skits and high energy programs is designed to catch and keep a teen's attention. I understand that and I don't believe it's wrong. I just often wonder when the hype becomes a distraction from learning to simply worship quietly. If teens learn to identify spirituality with high energy youth retreats and emotional worship sessions, what happens to that faith when they reach the daily grind of adulthood? Quite frankly, often personal faith is missed because the emphasis is on the program, and thus the statistics of teens that are raised in church and never come back once they get out of college is very high.

BUT... here's what I love about the program I work with. I could skip the retreats, the Sunday evening meetings, and all the craziness. I think they are sort of extras that help hold things together, but the center and most important part of it all is that all the kids are divided into small groups of about 10, and paired with two leaders. My co-leader and I meet weekly with my girls, and each month we meet in a different girl's home. This means I get to hear what is going on in their lives on a weekly level, and they get to know two older Christian women. We get to know their parents and homes, they get to see what it's like to walk through the stages of life ahead of them. We pray, we talk, we laugh, we study, and sometimes we cry. It's messy, as all relationships are, and these teens deal with far more than you initially realize. I consider it a privalege to be given an intimate insight into their lives. Here we are at D-town:

From 2010

And here we are during the photo scavenger hunt, in which we dressed one of our girls as Spiderman and went to the Galleria mall:
From 2010

We walked into the kids play area and she got MOBBED. It was hysterical to watch:
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They took pictures with her, followed her when she walked away, and in general were fascinated by her. I heard one little boy tell his mom, "Mom, that's not the REAL Spiderman, is it?"

From 2010

Good times.
From 2010

From 2010


cclarebear said...

ohhhhh that looks like fun!

ps any kid should know that the real spiderman would at least wear socks. pfffft.

mamaayanna said...

Lots of youth in your church!! looks like a fun weekend