When the mother of a lifelong friend died, we came to pay our respects. As sometimes happens, the post-service family visitation became an impromptu youth group reunion. Great hugs and greetings were exchanged as we reconnected with some of those people who’d been our compadres through retreats and youth choir rehearsals.
The next night several of us went to dinner. As we talked we were amazed to find that high school had been equally traumatizing for all of us. There were the groups we wanted to join who didn’t want us. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Anchor Club.) There were the cute boys who were dating some other girl. (Sorry guys, I’m not naming names.) We talked about how hard high school could be… and then we talked about what a wonderful safe haven our church youth group was.
We weren’t angels and I’m sure we had our cliques and upsets from time to time. But for a lot of us it was the place where we belonged. It was the place where we were accepted. It was a place where we found blessing. It was a needed place.
We needed it then but I suspect that we need it now as well. All of us. Those of us from those youth group days are no longer teenagers but we still live in a challenging world.
We all do.
It may be the employer, not the Anchor Club, who doesn’t want you. Or the cute guy who’s going after another girl may actually be your husband. Or you just feel like you’re pretty much drifting through life with no place, no connections, no community.
It’s one of the reasons that we need Christian community. One of our basic human needs is to be accepted, just as we are. Even when we don’t measure up. At its best Christian community provides that place. At its worst it becomes high school all over again.
What we do matters. The communities we create and nurture matter. They matter for the teenagers in our midst. And they matter for all of us who are not quite teens now.