Thursday, May 22, 2014

Unexpected Youth Group Blessings

I’m feeling hugely blessed tonight, and I’d like to tell you guys why.

But first, I’d like to start with youth group.

Yeah…youth group.

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know I grew up with a pretty conservative family in a pretty conservative church. I have five siblings, and we’ve all been homeschooled from preschool on.

We were taught biblical roles for male and female, encouraged to be housewives, and were given a lot of stories and parables advocating purity. All of our friends believed the same things we did, were part of the same church, and were schooled at home. We were family oriented, and taught to speak well and listen to the advice of adults. Foolishness was discouraged, and without parental guidance, so was youth group.

You do have to understand a little background here. My family was a part of the same church group and system of beliefs for my entire life—up until I was fifteen years old. We had also been part of it for ten years prior to my birth. Therefore, I grew up with this stuff (much of which is great, by the way), and pretty much didn’t know any different. One day, however, my family decided the Lord was leading us to a different church.

While we were church hopping, my mom and dad were going to allow us to try out the different youth groups. By ourselves.

That was an experience.

You can imagine my fifteen-year-old shock when I walked into a brand-new teen group and was pummeled with a sermon talking about guy’s lust and teen suicide.

Um.

What.

Out of thirty kids, only one was a fellow homeschooler. The girls had boyfriends, wore skinny jeans, put on makeup like a layer of concrete, and danced provocatively. The guys snuggled with their girls (yes, during study), couldn’t seem to locate a belt, screamed like monkeys… and you get the idea.

We also played some surprisingly physical youth group games.

Each youth group was worse than the last. One youth leader walked up to the front and began his teaching with the question, “How many of you know who Noah was?” Three people raised their hands. I’m not even kidding.

So this is secular church, eh?



         

The messages were never solid, and the kids blasphemed, cussed, flirted, and were far more interested in having a good time. None of them ever talked to us, either.

No wonder we don’t believe in youth group.

Let me tell you guys, God is really ironic. He has a great sense of humor.

You’ll never guess where I ended up.

After a year of church hopping, we found a place that was somewhat similar to our old church. For the first time, kids and teens welcomed us, and actually wanted to talk to us. Since we were homeschooled, all of our friendships surrounded the church, so this was huge.

We spent a couple of Sundays with those kids, and then…they invited us to youth group.

The first time I walked into their teens study, I was scared half to death.

The girl who walked up to me first used the word “butt” (oh, horrors), and wiggled her own backside when explaining how comfortable the seats were. My sister’s phone went off in the middle of prayer.

But the teen’s pastor taught the straight Bible. And, despite the shock, the kids were nice. We decided to go back.

Three years later, despite being allergic to the building, not actually staying at the church for Sunday service, traveling a great deal in the summertime, being technically too old, and not believing in youth group, I still attend.

It was scary at first, and sometimes there are minor things I disagree with, such as dancing and physical games. There were a few occasions where I questioned myself and seriously considered no longer attending, but I’m so glad I never completely went through with those notions.

The kids were different, but godly. And over time, within a ministry I am usually so against, God gave me one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received.

Guys, there’s nothing wrong with being conservative and reformed. There’s nothing wrong with teaching male and female roles, or inventing strategies that are designed to keep us unstained from the world, such as abstaining from youth group.

But see, the problem is… we were always taught those strategies.

When I took the plunge and decided to try something different than what I’d been taught, I was given a gift that’s become far more sweet and dear to me than any strategy.

In our little reformed world, we were given books. Leslie Ludy, Joshua Harris, Doug Phillips, etc. They taught us their strategies. Those aren’t necessarily wrong.

But when I was in a place where I was quite unsure of life, confused, and being bombarded with a lot of new theological ideas, our teens leader (who I’d been taught not to take mentorship from, lest he take the place of my parents), quietly began teaching me….the Bible.

I know what you’re thinking…

Yeah, Stephanie…You’re in a church. The Bible is kind of a regular occurrence…

Listen, pay attention. People will tell you they’re teaching the Bible. They’ll throw scriptures into their sermon and books in order to call it scriptural. They’ll talk about sin, gospel, right and wrong. But truthfully? A lot of people are teaching you fluff. They’re teaching false doctrine, rules, strategy, or “God loves you…that’s all you need to know.”

Can I tell you something? Yes, the Bible says “God so loved the world.” He does love the world. But you know what the Bible also says? It also says that if you’re not a believer, you’re God’s enemy. If you’re not pursuing righteousness, you are God’s enemy. You’re not just “okay” with having God’s love. You need more. You need salvation.

Yeah, it’s rough, but it’s the truth.

Whenever I came to my teens leader with a question, his default answer was always to ask me one back.

“What does the Bible say?”

So simple, yet so complex.

If I was skeptical, or came up with two different answers, he’d flip the pages of the Word and begin to read. He’d ask, “What do you think this means?” and allow me to answer.

Listen. He didn’t tell me what to think. He didn't tell me how to think. He didn’t pump me full of strategic, logical answers backed by one or two little verses. He didn’t pump me full of watery love fluff. The Bible came first.

Logic was backed by the Bible, not the other way around.

When he taught teens study, he always, always, always had us travel through the Bible. Verse by verse. I have learned so much from those studies.

Guys, they call them Bible studies—but how often do you use the Bible in your “Bible Study”? Answer yourself truthfully. How often?

Quietly and skillfully, through his messages and mentoring, a man I wasn’t supposed to listen to taught me how to think for myself and always go back to the Bible.

He taught me that I don’t have to use strategies. The only thing I need is the Bible. It answers everything.

That is one of the best gifts anyone has ever given to me.

Recently, I was talking to my teen’s leader about Heart Guarding Debunked, an article I wrote that pulls apart some of the ideas of the purity movement, looking at them Biblically. See, I was concerned. Joshua Harris did get some things wrong, and many people say that it’s because he’s young. He didn’t have enough experience when he wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

But who am I? I’m eighteen years old, and I’ve never been on a date. Who was Joshua Harris to talk about purity and dating? But who am I?

What if he’s wrong? But what if I’m wrong?

I brought this to my teens leader…and you know what he said?

“Stephanie, age doesn’t matter. Wisdom doesn’t matter. Strategy doesn’t matter. As long as you stick with the Bible, you can’t go wrong.”

At home, do you have a Bible? Then you have everything you need. You don’t need to find any strategy or book or ministry or idea. You don’t need people to tell you how to think. You don’t need people to fix your problems, or tell you how to fix the problem. All you need is the Bible.

Your Bible is not a supplement for your ideas.

Your ideas are a supplement for the Bible.

The Lord had a plan for me. When I chose to step out of the box of my strategies and preconceived ideas, He gifted me with something beautiful, and He’s asked me to share that gift with you.

Do you have a problem? Are you facing something today? Is someone pumping your head full of theology that you don’t understand? Are you wondering how to handle a situation? Debating how to treat that person you don’t like?

Crack open the pages. Go. Pick it up right now.

What does the Bible say?

2 comments:

  1. This is awesome! And so true! I was homeschooled too, and was practically raised eating and breathing the Bible. I followed every thing taught to us in church because I figured, "Hey, they're older and wiser, they must know what they're doing." But I wasn't really learning as much as I thought I was. When I accepted Salvation and gave everything to Jesus, I began to wonder about everything. I started reading the Bible looking for answers and that's when I actually found them. Going on seven years now and I'm still learning things. :) Isn't that so cool?

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