Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Summer of 2008, Ligonier, PA - Part 5

I grew up in a Presbyterian Church, going to Sunday School every week, with a pastor practicing good, exegetical preaching. I think, in terms of theology, I had a pretty good education, although theology isn't everything. In high school, NavYouth taught me a lot, but the Christian Fellowship that met weekly at my High School is what forced me to quickly learn how to lead Bible Studies. Looking back, I can see that Joy, who led the fellowship until I was in 11th grade, would pick topics and then find related verses, and attempted to teach me to do the same, but when John, Ariell and I took over, we consciously. yet with stated reasons, switched to picking a book of the Bible and going through it, learning what it had to say. Then I went to college, and InterVarsity taught me more about how to lead a Small Group Bible Study, again by examining a passage and seeing what it has to say, though IV calls it the Inductive method. But how much of this taught me how to lead kids, ages 9-12, in Bible Study?

I started out the summer with a core belief: Kids are stupid. This isn't true, and I knew it then, though less than I do now, but it was sort of a useful thing to start out with, in terms of expectations and view of discipline. On the other hand, it was also a discouraging thought; how could kids do any sort of Bible Study that I don't think is a dumb waste of time? We can talk about how that's arrogant later. I was wrong about kids, and I was wrong about the Bible Studies.

During training, the Executive Director's wife, Sandy Meyers, came in and talked us through the Bible Studies that they'd already written for us to do with the kids: A series of various stories and passages illustrating the life of the apostle Peter, tying his redemption to the redemption of the world. They did a really good job writing them, but my previous experience inclined me to not follow their questions exactly, which worked out pretty well. But being able to rephrase questions isn't everything, and Bible Study was not without its challenges.

Most kids don't like sitting down and reading and listening and thinking and talking. This isn't really all that bad, I can't fault them for wanting to run around or throw pinecones or stare into the distance, but it can be a little frustrating. This is what I expected kids to be like, really, yet there were plenty of surprises.

One time, in discussing the fact that we all sin, I said "Nobody's perfect". As soon as I did, several of the boys launched into a Hannah Montana song featuring that line. Another time, one of the kids asked "What if God hadn't made Eve?" and another said "Then being gay would be okay!" Some of the higher-ups at Camp had definitely suggested that sometimes it helps if kids act out a Bible story. This did not go well.

I feel like this is a very undirected and messy post that doesn't communicate quite what I want. Let me give it one more shot:

There is something absolutely incredible in hearing 12 year old guys make the connection between Luke 5 and John 21, or to hear them try and dig through the layers of meaning in Peter's epistles. There is something incredibly frustrating in telling kids about Jesus only to realize they're not paying attention. Even more so is watching a kid go through his week at Camp only caring about himself, hurting those around him in a struggle for dominance, or watching a kid stop and think about how his place as de facto leader of his friends impacts some of them. I say witnessing those is a better experience because you haven't lost the connection of the Gospel, but instead of words, it's deeds. One week, after we were given the job of explicitly preaching the gospel to our cabins instead of the Camp Executive Director doing it, because the threat of a tornado had messed up the entire evening's schedule, and after it seemed like they didn't listen at all, one of the Wilderness Staff, Matt, said that all we could do was pray that they heard something true about Jesus tonight and that someday it helps. Frankly, that's how it is with all of Camp.