Recently, I’ve been spending some time thinking about being a senior and how we are oftentimes viewed in a youth group setting. I think people in the youth group can tend to look at the seniors (and adults) and assume we have it all together, know exactly what’s going on, don’t struggle with “normal” problems, and are perfect Christians along the way. That is, quite frankly, about as true as a Hallmark chick flick plot. Just because we’re a couple years older does not mean we’ve figured out the secret of life.
I remember as a freshman, I was so impressed with how cohesive the senior class was, and how well they worked together. Coming up on my own senior year, reality hit hard, and I was dismayed to find out people and plans don’t fit together as nicely as we’d like. I thought something must be wrong with me and with our class. It was in talking to my older brother that I learned his class (the senior class of my freshman year) had struggled to work together as well at the beginning. Wait, what? We don’t become some magical, mystical, infallible know-it-all once we turn 18?
We’re humans, too, and we really don’t know that much more than everybody else. I know for a fact I felt unprepared about 99.99% of the time (conservative estimate). I’m saying this because I believe youth group and high school should be a side-by-side relationship between grades, not a who’s-higher-on-the-totem-pole one.
So, what am I trying to say to incoming seniors?
None of us are perfect, so don’t put that pressure on yourself as you step into senior year. However, that’s not an excuse to mess around and never take things seriously. Part of the power of relationships is being vulnerable, open, and honest with each other. It’s okay to share your struggles with the people around you in youth group! Honestly, it helped me so much to hear about the trials the older kids were dealing with, things I struggled with myself. Don’t deny others the impact and power your testimony can have on their lives.
Leadership & Reaching Out
“Oooh, I’m a senior now, that means I have to talk to new people!”
This can be scary, considering many of us aren’t naturally inclined to talk to new kids and people we don’t know.
For me, I often held back from reaching out to others simply because I felt like I “didn’t have it all together.” Not like those seniors did. Now when I was senior, then I would know everything and be fully prepared to be a leader and an example. Until then, I was free to goof off as much as I pleased.
I vividly remember the beginning of junior year at the annual youth group canoe trip. We were singing around the campfire and my impending responsibility hit me with the force of a semi truck. I was going to have to start “shaping up” because people were going to start looking up to me.
Don’t deny others the impact and power your testimony can have on their lives.
I remember feeling downright terrified that night; I was insecure about a lot of things, speaking to new people being only one. The irony of it all was that people had always been watching me and looking to me as an example. I’m not trying to say that in a boastful way, because it’s true for everybody.
So, seeing as even seniors and adults don’t have it all together, what’s stopping us from reaching out to new people, the lonely, the outcasts, those people we just really don’t want to talk to? Throughout the first semester of senior year, I wrestled with the fact that I was only now stepping out of my comfort zone and my little circle of friends. I felt guilty whenever someone commended me on my leadership, thinking in the back of my head, “I wasn’t like that 6 months ago; it’s easier to lead when it’s expected of you, you’re a senior and know everybody.” It took some time before I was able to accept that the past is truly in the past. Would I have liked to have been less self-focused my first three years of high school/youth group? Absolutely! Could I change it? No, so move on.
However, my hope is that any freshmen, sophomores, or juniors would be able to learn from my mistakes, step out and be a leader no matter your age. This can be really hard, especially if you don’t feel like you fit in yourself. That’s okay! Christ didn’t call us to lead easy lives. Chances are that the people sitting by themselves feel waaay more awkward than you do. And who knows? You might make an awesome new friend. Don’t wait to step outside your comfort zone; leadership is not confined to any one specific age or demographic.
So, wrapping up my admittedly long-winded speech, here are three of my major takeaways from senior year:
- Be real: As stated above, be honest and open about your journey we call Life. We’re all growing, no matter our age.
- Be present: Make an effort to be involved as much as you can. I know we all have busy lives, but you will get out of this experience what you put in. Be an active force, not a passive one.
- Be a servant: Put the others before yourself. Sometimes that means submitting to someone else’s idea, doing what needs to be done but no one wants to do, or just asking how you can help.
Thank you everyone who has helped, taught, and changed me in my journey thus far (and actually read all of this). God bless, everybody!