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I Promise. They ARE Listening.

About six months ago I had this idea to put a fire under a group of apathetic students. I started teaching about injustice in the world and how God handles it. We discussed our responsibility alongside his work and from this, “Passion Projects” were born. It started with each student finding an injustice or social justice issue they could get behind. Then each one presented their “passion” to the rest of the group. From there they could choose to stick with their passion or join another person in furthering theirs.

The goal was to bring change and awareness to a way that people are forgotten or even wronged in this world. We discussed global issues, but then made the decision to put a movement together for local causes. They came up with branding, statistics and research to help others understand the need, a mission, vision and values, fundraising efforts and then eventually will put it all into action. The goal was to create a movement that would keep going beyond their involvement.

Sounds pretty awesome doesn’t it?

It was, but it felt like a failure much of the time. Each week we would tackle another chunk of what they needed to do to move their cause along. Each week they would stare at me, while I forced them to engage. There were days a few students even fell asleep while I was talking. About half way through the process I gave an impassioned speech about the importance of learning to take something from start to finish. My rally cry was, “You will finish what you started!” About a week later I asked my co-leader if we should scrap the whole project. I would ask them , “Tell me why should I support your cause?” I would get vibrant answers like, “Because you should care.” or “Homelessness is bad.” I wanted to run my head through a brick wall.

Until last week.

The next step on our journey was what I called an “Injustice Fair.” Each group had to create a trifold that presented their mission, vision, values, statistics about their cause, what we can do to help, and create a logo to back their branding. I wanted them to discuss why Christ would care about this issue as well. I was amazed at what started to come together. My most belligerent group was the one that was feeding the homeless. One of the members, May, wrote up a poignant story of how her Aunt and cousins had been homeless. She saw how it affected her family and wanted to make sure other children didn’t have to go through that. May had NEVER told me this. I asked her, “Where was this two months ago when I kept asking you why you cared about the homeless?” “Miss, I just don’t like to talk,” she told me. This is not true of May, but I think it was her way of saying, “This is really personal, and I didn’t know how to get it out before now.” I nearly cried as I saw each board take shape and the care the groups were putting into sharing about their cause, and attempting to get others involved.

Here is what I was reminded of (again):


I  wondered on more than one occasion if we should give up on this silly idea. I can’t make a student care. Yet, once again I was reminded that I shouldn’t look at the outward slouch in the shoulders or snarky attitude. They were taking it all in and caring. The Lord is allowing it to move into their hearts.
They are being changed. They just sometimes don’t act like it.

We can never fully know the way the Lord is working on their hearts. In our eyes it seems like they are disinterested and disconnected. This is not always true.
We have to fight the apathy.

It would have been easier to readjust and scrap the project. There are times when we need to be discerning and do just that. Yet, I also saw how few of my students hadn’t ever had the expectation that they need to FINISH something (anything). There was more than one life lesson at play here, and we had to move beyond what I saw with my eyes to get to the end goal.  This was transformational.

We will never know the lasting impact.

It’s funny how the activities, talks and group times that I think will be most impactful, rarely are. Instead, it is usually my hair-brained ideas that appear to malfunction that actually make a difference. It is usually the moments we think aren’t working that are impacting a life. Keep being who you are and keep moving forward. You have no idea how doing what you do will change a life.
You may have a crazy idea that the Lord put on your heart to try with your students. I highly suggest you give it a try, and then follow it through. It will probably seem to be falling apart, but at the same time be that thing that your students talk about forever. I remembered a lesson this week I have taught others and I can’t say it enough: They are paying attention, even when it seems like they aren’t.

What are some stories you have about times that you discovered your students are listening when you thought they weren’t?

– Leneita

2 thoughts on “I Promise. They ARE Listening.

  1. Sue Mosher

    I was leading a devotional one night and just mentioned in passing about JOY standing for Jesus, Others, and Yourself in that order (that’s what brings you true joy). One of the guys was always fiddling with something, seemingly never listening. His mother told me later that, that night, he had come home and told her about this neat thing he learned in youth group about JOY. I was blown away.

    I have been in youth ministry for 33 years now. I am still learning everyday. There have been many changes to keep up with over the years, but one thing I’ve learned is to be careful what I say and do because you never know what someone else will remember, long after you’ve forgotten it.

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I Promise. They ARE Listening.

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