Hi, my name is Tracie, and I am a youth group junkie. You may be wondering what exactly a youth group is…let me tell you, it’s a lot of fun. Most churches have organizations and clubs geared towards the teenagers to keep them engaged in the church. They usually meet one night a week for games, songs and usually a message about God. Sometimes there are weekend outings or a summer camp program. My church did it all and we had a blast.
I have to tell you right off the bat that my brother was the one who got me involved. We weren’t even going to the church at the time, but one of his friends from school asked him to go and he was having a lot of fun. So of course, his little sister wanted to get in on the act. I was six years younger; a month shy of being able to go officially. But my brother, being the nice guy that he is, asked the leaders if I could start early. They said yes and it started a 12-year commitment in the group. (A bunch of us became leaders after graduation.)
The first thing I went to was a Baltimore Blast soccer game. I was wandering around with some people at the store looking for a souvenir and got separated from the crowd. I was 11 years old in downtown Baltimore lost at the civic center. A kid named Jimmy found me and we made it back to the group. I don’t know if my brother remembers this, but I don’t remember him ratting me out to our parents (actually, he never ratted me out for anything…like I said, nice guy). Even with being lost, I loved the group and continued to go back.
We did so many things besides our weekly Wednesday night meeting. We went tubing down the river, skiing, amusement parks, concerts, camping and so many other things. Every winter in Ocean City, Maryland a bunch of churches got together for a convention. No parents, only the youth group leaders…well, maybe a few parents as chaperones. It was a really big deal. Looking back, I feel bad for the hotel. I worked in hotels for a long time, and I hate conventions; I can’t even begin to imagine a couple thousand kids running around causing trouble. Then one year we weren’t asked back and I never heard about the convention again. (No, I was not the reason we were not asked back, LOL.) Actually, they blamed our group, but as I recall, they mixed us up with another group on our floor.
Everywhere we went our youth pastor Gary would take photos and put them up on the bulletin board for all the parents to see. I hate having a serious picture taken of me, but I will certainly ham it up for the lens. At the end of the school year, we would have a big banquet with skits and at the end Gary would have a long slide show set to music of all the things we did that year. You could hear my mother gasp loudly whenever a picture of me came on the screen because I was always doing something goofy. Everyone else would just laugh. I am still the same way today.
After graduation I became a youth group leader. I wanted to pass on all the things I had to learned to the next set. We started off with the middle school bunch because they did not know us as being in group with them and it was an easy transition into leadership. They thought they could get away with so much stuff, but, having done it before them, we beat them at their own game. You couldn’t put anything over on us.
I look back on those days as one of best times of my life and I am still friends with some people from my teen years. I haven’t seen them in over 20 years, but just chatting with them on FB brings it all back. The Michael W. Smith song “Friends” was our unofficial theme song and every time I hear it, the slide show of memories floats through my mind. Sometimes, I will play the song again just to keep the memories playing in my head.
—This is actually a short synopsis of what will become a book I am working on by the same title. I have a lot of stories to tell, so stay tuned.—
***Question for the comments…were you ever part of a club as a teenager? Doesn’t need to be a church group, but an organized club. Did you like it? Hate it? What’s your best memory if you were part of it?
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