Recently I volunteered to be a small group leader for second-graders at a Vacation Bible School. These six young people were all seven years old and I learned so much from them over the course of the week. What was really interesting to me was when you look at the kids and meet with them on a regular basis you begin to pick up clues. You begin to see things parents can’t see. I thought about how RobAnne and I raised our children. When the kids are in a group setting, you experience them in a different way. When you’re in a chaotic, heavy-stimulation setting it’s just so different. You can see the kids so much clearer.
I saw one child who was very angry, with a lack of self-confidence. He’d probably been hurt a little bit, and was maybe not the best athlete, but a good kid; smart, but angry. Almost defiantly angry. There was another child I worked with that was obviously broken; bad social skills, a tough time relating to other kids his age, and difficulty doing the crafts. He’d been hearing words all his life that he’s not good enough, smart enough, that there’s something wrong with him. He was broken. Then, there were other kids who had vision. They knew exactly where they wanted to go and they were clear about it. There were others who had a softness about them. You could tell they’d been nurtured and grown up in an environment of love and care and acceptance. You don’t need a PhD in psychology to figure this out—you can see it and feel it.
What’s hard for a small group leader is that each one of those students need a different approach to the same lesson. I gained a real appreciation for teachers who can figure out how to reach a lot of students who all have different needs and different learning styles. It was interesting to watch as these students almost lived out the words spoken over them. I said to one of the students, “How does your family like each other?” His response was “We don’t. We’re not together very often.” This was a seven-year-old. Another student responded, “I love it when we eat together. I love it when my mom listens to my stories.” This reminded me how important the next generation is. How important it is they grow up in an environment that loves and cares for them. I’m thankful for the opportunity I had to be a VBS small group leader.