After church on Sunday I noticed a couple of our high schoolers outside the church. I went out to talk with them and as I approached, two of the boys were lining up like they were going to race. They didn’t see me coming up from behind so I lined up next to them and as soon as one said “Go!” we were off. I raced with them and surprised them both by keeping up and by showing up. We smiled and threw a couple high fives around. It was a big deal because one of those boys is a kid I’ve been working to get more involved at church. His family doesn’t always come to church and he doesn’t always show a lot of interest either. And, it was a big deal because of our interaction earlier in the week.
At our youth night last Wednesday, Brad was in my small group. In fact, I had both Brad and Jackie in my group–two kids I’ve been working hard to get to our youth night. I was glad to see both of them, but I wasn’t so sure I wanted both of them in my small group. Either one of them could be “difficult.” It was Jackie I had to get stern with first. She was there with a friend and the two of them were carrying on with their own conversation just as loud as ever while the rest of the group was trying to listen to me. I called her out–and I got the glare. You know, it’s that look teens reserve for teachers, parents and other authority figures when they cap their frustration and force it out through their eyes. Jackie–whom I’ve been trying to get here for so many weeks–was not happy with me. Great–not. Then, not two minutes later it was Brad laughing at something on his cell phone. I asked him to put his phone away. He turned it over in his hand and looked at me. I couldn’t believe it. Really? “No, I want you to put it away.” He put the phone away, but I got the glare. Wonderful–two of the kids I’ve been reaching out to during the past few weeks are here tonight and I’ve had to call them both out.
I knew I did what I had to do. Next I did what I didn’t have to do. As we wrapped up the night I found each of them individually and told them I was glad they were here. I told Brad, “I care about you, bro. I’m glad you’re here tonight. I’m gonna call you out when you’re not doing what I ask, OK? I want you to know I still love you, man. We cool?” I got a nod and an “OK.” Which is something of a lengthy conversation in my relationship with Brad. I found Jackie and said, “I love you and I’m glad you’re here. When you’re doing something that distracts the group I’m gonna call you on it. I want you to know I’m not mad at you. I still love you and I want you to keep coming here.” Her response was on par with Brad’s.
I didn’t know if that would be enough, but I knew if I wanted to see either of the kids come back here I needed to go out of my way to keep the door open. They were both out of line. Neither one of them had a legitimate reason to get mad at me. But, if they left church upset with me that might be enough reason for them to not come back.
But, they did come back. They were both here on Sunday. I saw Jackie and she said, “I’m not mad at you anymore, Pastor Matt.” I raised my hand to give her five and she stared at me for a moment. “We’re not that close,” she said and walked away laughing and smiling. I took it as a good sign. I saw Brad outside and raced with him down the sidewalk. Maybe I’ve been chasing these kids, but it was good to know I’m welcome to run with them now.
Published November 2012