If you read this blog, then you likely know that I have a small group of 8th grade boys at 180. My group of boys changes from week to week based on who shows up. Sometimes I have a rather large group, sometimes its small. One thing that rarely changes is the fact that they think I’m strange. They mock my assortment of winter stocking hats, my Tony Hawk shoes, my t-shirts, and my hair line. I typically laugh at their comments because they are the same ones I’ve heard for the last 17 years… there truly is nothing new under the sun.

One of the reasons I believe they mock me is because they are insecure. They’re middle schoolers who are trying to figure out their identities and they live like chameleons always trying to fit in or hide.

This past week our lesson was on belonging. When the lesson started, the guys were all sitting on the opposite side of the room, as far from me as possible. I couldn’t get their attention because they didn’t want to talk about the Bible. So I changed gears and asked them a question about their middle school. I told them that next year my oldest daughter would be headed to middle school and asked them if they thought their school was a good option. At once they all spoke up and said, “NO WAY!” They then proceeded to tell me why I should never send my daughter to their school.

Because I valued their opinion, and gave them a voice, a strange thing happened. They all moved over to the couch I was sitting on, and sat right next to me. For the next half hour we chatted like old friends, laughed, and talked about what it means to belong. The conversation led naturally back to the point of the lesson, that we find our identity and belonging in Christ.

For the rest of the night, these four guys were like friends. We played games during free time, and chatted on the van ride home.

It is easy to approach the Bible lessons as teachers, but this past Thursday reminded me that we need to approach the lesson as fellow participants in the journey. When we hear their voices, they will be more open to hearing ours, and as we build better friendships with them, we have more opportunity to point them to Jesus.