What I Learned From Day 1 of a Middle School Work Camp

It was a hot steamy day, which meant a hot steamy bus ride home.  Girls, boys, doesn’t matter deodorant is something yet to be discovered by some of these students…but that’s okay I survived.  We spent the day working at The Samaritan Women a transitional living facility for women.  The facility is located on a farm in Baltimore City where women will receive vocational training in the culinary arts on top of horticulture.  What the students did was clear the land, pull weeds, plant crops, move wood chips, etc.  After 6 hours of manual labor in the sun, the students, the chaperones, the other youth ministers and myself were wiped.  Even though I’m exhausted there is still much to reflect on, such as:
…when I attempted to motivate a group of 8th grade guys to rake and hoe weeds so that we could later plant peas.  The boys were not motivated and you couldn’t blame them, it was hot (I’m sure this is the 5th time I’ve mentioned that), so when we took our 5th water break in 1 hour we started talking about video games, which turned into a discussion about the end of the world, which turned into a discussion about heaven and hell.  I didn’t force it, but the conversation seemed to flow as if door after door of opportunity kept opening up.  It never felt awkward and the more we traveled into the discussion the more they leaned in, the more they became interested.
What I learned from that experience is that some of the best Christ centered discussions we can have with our teens can take outside the small group or classroom.  And the reason I feel this way is because those conversations are unexpected, everyone is caught off guard, which means our reaction and their reactions are genuine and honest.  And that’s what we want right?  Genuine and honest discussions with our teens.  It starts by listening to what is on their hearts and their minds, allowing it to bring up questions that tie into our faith (and don’t worry God always gives us an opportunity to talk about Him) and the pointing them deeper into the discussion by asking them questions and sharing your own story.  It’s a simple strategy but one that I’ve found that works.

Feel free to leave your comments or share your insight on what has worked for you.