One of the (many) things I love about my church (how many blog posts have I started that way?!) is how we really embrace our children and youth. I think we do a good job of including them in church as individuals and not just as a part of their families. One of the ways we do this is through the youth-mentor program. When a youth turns twelve, together with their parents, they choose some adults in the church they want to be paired with. Then the youth-mentor coordinators take all that information and pair people up. The idea is that it gives youth another adult in the church to connect with. And this relationship lasts until the youth has graduated from high school (and beyond if they want!).
Here's the thing: while I think this program is great, I'm kind of scared of the teenage years. Give me a child who is a toddler, a young child, heading into pre-teens and I shine. I am fun! I am confident! I am awesome! This is why I was a nanny for so many years. (Exception: When it comes to my own kids I am often frustrated and question my every decision. I think that's the definition of "parenting.") When it comes to teens though, I feel I am on slightly shaky ground. I really dread the teenage years with my kids. I think every adult has their "boggy ground age" with kids and my age is definitely the teen years. I keep repeating to myself the mantra a friend shared with me that "you grow up with your kids" so that by the time they are teenagers you (mostly) know how to handle them. (About ten years ago, a group of us was sitting around and talking about our favourite stages of being with kids. We determined that between the four of us we could successfully raise children as long as they didn't mind moving around to different adults as they reached different ages! Now I just need to remember who was excited about the teen years. Ha ha ha!!!)
However, I was a youth mentor before to an amazing youth named Vanessa. While Vanessa was in Grades 7 & 8 we hung out and had a lot of fun together. Then Dave and I moved to Edmonton, but Vanessa and I stayed in touch while I was gone. We moved back to KW last spring on a Saturday and that Sunday I was honoured to stand up and be Vanessa's advocate as she was baptized and became a member at our church. I still stay in touch with Vanessa even though she is at university (how is she old enough for that already?!?!) and I really enjoy spending time with her.
This year I was asked to be a mentor for another girl who is just starting Grade 7. (This youth is also amazing, by the way!) Last night we went out for our first meeting. We talked, laughed, walked and ate frozen yogurt. And we invented The Ice Cream Project. We have decided that we are going to eat at as many ice cream places in KW (and surrounding area) as we can and then we are going to rate them. So at some point in the future, we will have determined where we can find the absolute best ice cream/frozen yogurt in our area and then we will declare the official ice cream/frozen yogurt place of our mentoring relationship. I think it's going to be fun. And tasty. And I'm really looking forward to it and to spending more time with my youth. (Sometimes I think of my youth as "my mentee" but that just sounds weird so mostly I refer to them as "my youth," which also sounds weird.) We are also going to do other things like volunteering the nursery and going rock climbing but The Ice Cream Project is the one we're really excited about :)
How does your church/community of faith include youth and, if you have one, what is your "boggy ground age"?