This past Sunday, in addition to playing the washboard in church, which was a whole different story of awesome, I arrived early to find that I was supposed to do the Children’s message and had forgotten, so I had to quick come up with something. We were talking about change, how we change as Christians, how we are called to make change in the world, and how it happens one day at a time. So, obviously, I decided to talk about my beard with the kids. At the second service, I only had two little boys come down to the chancel to listen to the children’s message, probably 4 & 6 years old. They were probably guests or new members, I didn’t recognize them or their parents, and so I am sure this was a difficult experience – coming to the front of a a full church, by themselves, to meet this goofy, tattooed, barely dressed up guy. So I started explaining to them and the congregation, who was avidly eavesdropping, that I was growing my beard out, trying to leave it uncut for a whole year and that it’s taken 10 months to get to this point. Then I said that hair is always growing, even now and then I leaned toward to two boys and asked, “Can you see it growing?” The boys looked…and looked…and looked. Both shook their heads ‘no’, and because I enjoy awkward moments a bit too much, I pushed it, “No? Look again. Can you see it growing?” The congregation was chuckling and the older boy stared hard with a twisted face to try to see the slightest sign of change, but not seeing it shook another emphatic ‘no’. His young brother, on the hand, said confidently, “Yes, I see it!” while nodding vigorously. Whether it was being put on the spot or the congregation’s eyes on him, either way – I had convinced a boy that he could see my beard growing. Since then, I have been drunk with power
.Seriously though, as a soon-to-be-father, I have been thinking a lot about this. The power adults have over kids is astounding! Part of me wants to teach my kids something crazy like that birds reverse age and grow younger over time, but then the rest of me is terrified because I just know somehow that will come up on a college essay and I will be the reason my child doesn’t go to Harvard. How do parents deal with this responsibility? It’s something I am thinking a lot about.
With my Jr. High youth group, I am constantly leading them astray. I am their religious teacher, so I teach them solid theology, but anything else is fair game in my book. I play this sort of mental game, where I tell them something like that twins each have half a brain, because the embryo split and each retained half – this is a real-life example, I have a set of twins, one right handed and the other left, and I explained that it was because of their half-brainedness – and if they repeat it to someone else as fact, I win. If they don’t and just tell someone their youth minister is a big weirdo, they win (or really, it’s more of a draw because I kind of am). It’s a lot of fun and keeps me on my feet mentally, trying to tie just enough logic to something so wildly absurd that they may just believe it.
On the opposite side, my Sr. High youth often come to me with the most ridiculous notions about the world that with them I spend most of the time telling them the truth that there’s no time for made-up facts. On more than one occasion, a teenager has told me that the pastor gets a lot of tips and must be rich, because of all the money in the offering plate. In their minds, the offering is obviously for the pastor, like tipping a chatty waitress who just told you the key to being a good Christian. The developing mind is a strange, gullible thing that makes bridges in the most unlikely of places. Part of me wants to believe that my kid will be wise and witty, smart enough to call me on every silly answer I give and witty enough to roll with it, but the rest of me knows that if I’m not careful, my kids will go to school thinking wind is just tree farts or that all dogs are born knowing German, then tell their whole class and land me in a parent-teacher conference with the school’s counselor present. It all just seems to be a lot of pressure.
As this is just a glimpse into my recent thoughts with no real conclusion or point, here’s a mini-story to send us on our way:
At youth group one of the teens shouted to the rest of the group wildly, “Who loves youth group?!”, to which all but one of teens present jumped to their feet and waved their hands. When they all noticed the one girl who had remained seated and quiet, they began to question her loudly, demanding to know what was wrong with youth group and her for not loving it, to which she exclaimed, “Ooooh! I thought you said Youtube!”
…so apparently my youth group is more appealing to teens than Youtube.