We wrapped up VBS this week with a wonderful concert presented by the kids. I think this was the best program I’ve seen yet. I am not sure how many children asked Jesus into their hearts, but we ministered to an average of slightly less than 200 per night. This was also the first year that we rotated the kids through a lesson, crafts, theme-related movies, and concert practice; that was a boost for all involved. The kids’ attention spans and energy stayed high as they relocated themselves every 20 minutes, and the volunteer teachers only had to think and work in 20-minute blocks rather than trying to work with the same group and keep their attention and interest for 2-1/2 hours. As I type this, I realize that I’m probably making the kids all sound wild and rambunctious; even our 10-year-old son said that, though this was the best VBS by his standards, also, the kids were wild! In some good ways and some not-so-good, VBS has sure changed since I was a kid!
There is always a boys vs. girls competition for funds raised during the week. All the money goes towards missions. Last year, the girls lost, so the female leaders had to kiss a pig. This year, the boys lost, and so all the male leaders, including my superhero, got slimed. Please pray for him that he’ll return to help on next year (LOL).
One of the positives, at least on the surface, was the record(?) 88 volunteers that we got this year. On the surface, 88 volunteers for 200 kids sounds awesome, right? Our Children’s Pastor quickly came to the conclusion that a significant volunteer population was teenagers who came as “floaters.” A floater would normally be a person unassigned to a specific task, making him or her available to float about where needed. In the case of the teenagers, floater meant an unsupervised teen coming to hang out with friends in and around the VBS and the church parking lot.
In the last few months, we’ve very slowly allowed our teenager to spend a brief amount of time after church service with the kids in her Sunday School class. Generally, she’s with them about as long as it takes us to round everyone up and complete any outstanding ministry tasks, catch up with a few friends, etc. After one Sunday, she came to the car and decided that they might not be her crowd. The conversation on that given week was all the gritty details about one of those teen/young adult reality shows that has been discontinued, which then somehow led to a discussion about where each of them might go to college. Before our teen could answer, someone else said to her, tongue-in-cheek, “You’ll probably go to Harvard or somewhere, huh?” Oh, well. At least they give her credit for being smart. At any rate, watching them as an outsider, at that time and again this week, confirmed for her that she really is better off somewhere else.
Teenage development can be challenging; finding your own skin, and then trying to grow comfortable in it, is not the easiest of tasks. I have moments in my 40’s when I wonder if I’ve truly conquered that battle. When my cousins, also homeschoolers, came to visit on last week, we talked some about how kids who don’t fit into the norm develop coping mechanisms. His son’s mechanism is to keep quiet like a wise old owl; that way, his thoughts are not subject to ridicule. Our daughter’s mechanism is to spend time with people older than she. Of course, they don’t expect her to be mature and capable, and so at times treat her as if she’s a typical teen, much like the kids she stays away from.
Many parents make the decision to put their children back into traditional school environments at this age because of what they might miss. I won’t presume to judge anybody else’s decisions, but I am increasingly convinced that one of the many blessings of homeschooling is affording children the ability to complete this “skin thing” without the pressure to fit into someone else’s prescribed version of what they should be. So, with that in mind, our daughter has had a unique opportunity—to observe her peer group without striving to fit into that same peer group. And we’ve had a wonderful opportunity to talk about what it takes to let go of people and move on. Letting go and letting God, I believe is the term popularized in music. As much as our minds can grasp that we’re better off without some people, the heart longs for belonging, for inclusion, for welcoming. That becomes the place of trust in God, that He’ll bring the right people to us, friends that uplift and don’t tear down, friends that can handle your anointing and favor without jealousy or insecurity.
I minister to her as I minister to me. When people would leave my life, I would begin to second-guess myself: what did I do? What did I say? Why don’t they like me anymore? This was the worst thing I could do; it led to all kinds of self-destructive thoughts and patterns. It took many painful years to learn that people’s appearance, and disappearance, in my life had as much to do with them, and with God, as it had to do with me. Now, I don’t spend much time chasing people down when they leave; I pray and I trust God to reveal it in His time. Being an introvert, I don’t seek attention or crave for a boatload of friends. The few I have are as close as family to me. Our teenager, on the other hand, is much more social, or at least (typical of an oldest child), she can lean either way between the introvert who’s close to a few and satisfied, or the extrovert who frets over who spoke to her, who talked to someone else, who’s in who’s friendship circle, etc. I don’t think her struggle is in any way unique. I’m just thankful that she has space and time to work it out without negative influences—just me, just her dad, and most importantly, just God.
In six days, she and the rest of the missions team take the VBS on the road. I’m praying on a number of things—safety, salvation, deliverance, healing, resources, and many more. But I want most for God to invade our teen’s life, to take over, to reign supreme. Believe with me, please.