For months now, we've been building relationships with a new group of teenagers. It takes time to develop trust, respect, open communication, and a sense of unconditional love with a portion of the population who have been burned by friends and hurt by family and abandoned by leaders in the past--or at the very least are feeling extremely insecure with themselves and precariously enter whole-heartedly into relationships. Youth ministry is a delicate position, with each decision serving as a potential foundation for your connection with these students.
It feels slow-going at times, but then there are moments like these--
a) I decide to plan a last minute girls night, complete with wedding video watching. No big schedule, just hang out girly time. Two of my beloved girls showed up an hour before the "start time" of the evening and it was not the least bit inhibiting. Together we made strawberry shortcakes. I taught them how to "cut in" butter and how to hull and macerate strawberries. We decided to grill hotdogs (with Kevin's help), then commented our way through my wedding dvd. They got Kevin to play piano and then coerced the two of us into playing a few duets. It was nearly 9pm before I realized it and never once "hoped" they would leave. (Besides, they know I love them enough to kick them out when necessary. :D)
b) Monday afternoon, we met in Tim Horton's with 8 students for our weekly "book club"--discussing CS Lewis's The Four Loves. After sugary beverages, deep thoughts, and funny stories were shared, everyone parted ways. I walked home with 2 of the girls to get our car so I could drive them to their respective homes. As I approached our humble house with these girls, I opened the front door to discover Kevin on the couch along with one of our high school guys--working on geometry homework. A moment later, as I was finishing a quick "tour" of the house with the girls, our front door creaked open again and another student (not in book club, nor "scheduled" to visit), popped in to get a list of summer activities.
This was a beautiful moment, defining the "open door" policy at the Eccles's house.
I am thankful.