Prone to learn: 5 lessons from a weekend with 7th grade boys

I’ve written before about my current stint as a 7th grade boys Sunday school teacher at my church. Today, I present to you the second installment in this ongoing series.

While most of my involvement with the student ministry is confined to Sunday mornings, I signed up to work our Surge Weekend this past Friday through Sunday. It’s been a while since I’ve done a weekend church retreat event with my youth group, and that was from the perspective of an attendee–not student ministry staff. I told friends that these students were the tool that God was using for my sanctification, but I really had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Surge Weekend 2014

The low point over the three days was having to ask a student to move and sit by me during one of the sessions because the "chatting" was just a wee bit distracting for the students around him. I officially became THAT chaperone, and I secretly wondered what they would write about me in the bathroom stalls. Do kids still do that?

But lest you think that this whole blog post is a rant, please know that the weekend was actually rather enjoyable and successful. I call it successful because no one was hurt, no one cried, and we returned the same number of students that we left with. But as one of three chaperones against 11 strong-willed 7th grade boys, that’s about as much success as I can claim.

As I look back over the weekend, there are a few highlights that come to mind…

“Please put your phone away.”
“Gentlemen, if you don’t wake up and get up, you don’t eat.”
“Where’s Travis*?”
“Yes, you have to wear shoes.”
“Please put your phone away.”
“Have you brushed your teeth?”
“Where’s Travis?”
“Please stop pinning him to the pew.”
“You want to go to the bathroom now? What exactly were you doing during the 15 minute break that ended 2 minutes ago?”
“Seriously…where’s Travis?”

*–Names have been changed to protect the absent-minded.

For the uninitiated, I thought I would pass along some tips I learned in the trenches. If you ever find yourself responsible for the lives of 11 middle school boys over the course of a weekend, please refer to this cheat sheet as much as possible. It’s my gift to you…

1. If something can be a distraction, it WILL be a distraction. I’ve never seen people so eager to explore the wonders of the pew rack in front of them. Pens, pencils, and tithing envelopes have never seemed so enticing. I saw one of them reading a hymnal voluntarily, and I’m fairly confident one of them may have chewed on his name tag, though I can’t be too sure.

2. The latest app du jour seems to be some iPhone game called Flappy Birds. Even after a full weekend with the younguns, I still have no idea what this is.

3. Some of these students could negotiate themselves out of a hostage situation. Seriously, I’ve never encountered a group so quick to bargain at the first sign of a request.

4. NEVER bring out chicken nuggets in the middle of a devotion time. That discussion will be off the rails faster than Amtrak. You want a heartfelt discussion about grace? Good luck, because the only things they have on their mind are the baked and breaded “chicken” chunks.

5. Despite the less-than-stellar sleep schedule, policing bathroom breaks, and a disproportionate amount of carbs over the course of the weekend, it’s possible to endure a fair bit of discomfort when students from your group are making decisions to commit their lives to Christ. It’s great to be a part of a ministry like that.

If you’re the parent of one of our students from this past weekend, thanks for entrusting your students with us. I pray that it was as much of a weekend of growth for them as it was for me.

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3 thoughts on “Prone to learn: 5 lessons from a weekend with 7th grade boys

  1. Oh boy, you were THAT chaperone! You may not find your name scribbled on a bathroom stall, but it’s safe to say you probably got instagramed or made your way ’round the Snap Chat circuit.

    This post is awesome!

  2. Pingback: Prone to reflect: A year on the list | Prone to wander

  3. Pingback: Prone to mourn: When greatness falls | Prone to wander

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