Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Well, that was fun

NOT!

It depends on who you talk to on whether or not the Youth Lock-In on Friday night was a success. If you define success as "no major fights or broken bones" then, yeah, I guess it was a success. If, on the other hand, you define success as having a planned, coordinated activity designed to bring new, possibly unchurched youth in and introduce them to the Youth Ministry and ultimately to the gospel...well, time will tell, but on the surface, I'd have to say we fell somewhat short.

The plan was to start at 7:00 and have scheduled activities until midnight, with movies and games (including pool, ping pong, foosball, air hockey, PS2, and a variety of board games) after that. The theme of the lock-in was a lock-up, with youth assigned to one of four "cell blocks" and a name tag with their name, number (for door prizes) and an acronym of the crime they had committed (so they could have fun guessing what they were in for). Each cell block had time in the "yard" (outside) for recreation, time in group therapy for team building, and time in the shop to make license plates (well, not really, but we did make stuff with duct tape). Each activity had a Bible verse associated with it, and at the end of all the activities was a "parole" hearing where you were released for good behavior after reciting the verses. The movies scheduled were "Holes" and "Ernest goes to Jail" - both appropriate for the theme.

Sounds good on paper, doesn't it. The only problem was that we had to do this with real kids.

Like the four boys who showed up early, signed their I-will-abide-by-the-rules card without even looking at it and then began asking when they could play the instruments (drums, guitars & bass guitar). "We're not doing that tonight, guys," the Youth Minister says. At which point they slouched sullenly over to a corner to plot their strategy.

Or the girl who shows up and asks, "Is there a band?" "No," I tell her. "Do you know if there are any other lock-ins?" she asks. After giving the same answer, she gets back in her car just as another guy pulls up. They get out and talk about it for at least fifteen minutes before deciding that this was the place after all.

Or the guy who shows up wearing his CD player and headphones, and who leaves them on anytime instructions are given.

Or the guy who forgets that he has his grandpa's 5" pocket knife in his pocket and then tells me, "I think I lost it when we were outside." Great. It's only lost on the preschooler's playground. And it's only midnight. A couple of fruitless searches with a flashlight and I decided to wait until daylight. (Found it and kept it until right before time to go)

Or the group of girls who had obviously never seen the inside of a church before. "Can we turn on the radio?" "Well, how about a CD? I've got a mix in my car." "Is it Contemporary Christian?" "No." So they proceed to sing the show tunes from their last school play - which from all indications was a little bit on the bawdy side.

The regular Youth kids (as in the ones who actually come regularly on Sunday) in attendance: 4. Total number of youth: 25. And there was very little interaction between the two groups. The church kids were intimidated by the antics of the others and the non-church kids were there to hang out with their friends. There was one girl who attends every so often that was the common link between the two groups.

The four band boys were in cell block A. They refused to take part in any of the scheduled activities. "That's gay," is a direct quote. The Youth Minister, instead of asking them to pick up the phone and call for their rides, negotiated by giving them everything they wanted. "You don't have to participate and you can play the instruments once we have free time if you promise to not make trouble," or something very similar to that. He did make them say the verses first, though, and something may have accidentally soaked in, but if it's ok with you I won't hold my breath waiting to see.

That capitulation set the tone for the rest of the evening.

On the whole, though, most of the kids were ok. There were about five or six that kept pushing the envelope, egging each other on to more and more outrageous behavior. You don't always need to go to the zoo to see wild animals. I kept wondering why some of them had even bothered to come as determined as they were to NOT do anything that could be considered uplifting, wholesome, or even cooperative.

We never did find out who made the hang-up call to 911. The police woman was not amused.

As a rule, about 1/3 of the food and drinks were wasted, either spilled or thrown or left to ruin.

Thirsty? Open a coke, take a drink or two, set it down, walk away. Repeat until all the cokes have been opened.

Hungry? Grab a handful of chips, throw some on the floor or at a friend, toss the rest in the air and eat whatever falls in your mouth. Make sure to crush the chips before you pull your hand out of the bag so the next guy only gets small crumbs. If that's too crude, just fill a plate with food and leave it lying around. Repeat until all the food's gone.

And when we asked them to help with a little of the clean up, the worst offenders were the most indignant. I am convinced that left to their own devices, their houses would be filthy in less than three days and condemned by the Health Department within a month.

And as frustrating and disappointing (as in - they act more like three year olds than teenagers) as the night was, what saddens me is that these kids didn't get this way overnight. Their parents are the ones who allow them to act without consequences. From the limited interaction I saw between some of the parents and the kids, I have no doubt which of the two is in charge. It breaks my heart to think of the potential these kids have and that for some of them a cell block may be an all too real future.

Believe it or not, from what I understand, this year's lock-in was much better than last year's.

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