Because the Mothership stresses the importance of community, and because it attracts a large number of families with children, we have such things as a youth ministry committee whose job it is to plan and implement activities for the youth on campus. One of the things that they provide for the youth is a youth room, which is open for a couple of hours after school every weekday. There is a work study position for a student who wishes to be in charge of the youth room and staff it for the hours that it is open. This year, we convinced the administration to pay for another student to staff the youth room part time, just so that there are often two adults in the youth room.
I am one of the adults that staffs the youth room. I don't get paid for a full work study position because the funds were not there, and also because I have another job on campus which I enjoy and appreciate (most of the time). Because I only am supposed to work half of the hours that the other student does, he is always there when I am working. Yesterday, however, was an exception.
We have a long weekend this weekend, for reading and research days. Classes resume on Wednesday. So my co-worker and his family went back home, where he farms with his brother, so that he could help with the harvest. He asked if I would be around and available to staff the youth room Friday and Monday while he is gone. I said it wouldn't be a problem.
Now, the youth room is there for the youth on campus. In the past we've had non-seminary kids from the neighborhood come and participate in activities and hang out in the youth room. There are two young boys in particular who have been around and participated in some activities since I started seminary.
Now, the line has always been kind of hazy about including off-campus youth. Do we, as the seminary youth ministry committee, limit our ministry to children of students, and therefore exclude other interested youth? Or do we see what we are doing as ministry and outreach to the neighborhood youth? I don't know that we've ever made a decision one way or the other, but I think yesterday the decision was made for us.
The two young boys that keep coming to campus, Shane and Sam, have been coming everyday this year to hang out in the youth room. They know several of the seminary kids from school and they've begun feeling very comfortable around here. Yesterday was a bit chilly, and for a while I closed the youth room while we were all outside playing. Then, an on-campus child told me he was cold and wanted to go in. So I said that everyone else could keep playing but I was going to go open the youth room for those who were cold and wanted to go inside. A handful of youth followed me in, but before long most of the rest came in.
We have some older boys on campus who don't often use their better judgment. They also had three older non-seminary friends on campus hanging out with them. So, altogether, including Shane and Sam, there were about five non-seminary kids hanging out with us today. Two seminary youth, plus the three older non-seminary friends, and Shane went outside to play. They took this large, blue exercise ball along with them. We have made it clear to the seminary students and to the youth that we are NOT a daycare. Our responsibility is the youth room, and so if something happens with the youth, during youth room hours, but they are outside of the youth room, there is not much we can do about it.
Now, I saw none of this happen, I heard all about it later, so what I'm sharing now is second hand info. The kids outside decided to play "human bowling." You have a group of youth that are the pins. They stand together while the youth that is the ball holds this large exercise ball in front of him and runs at the group of pins. The intention is to charge into the group with the ball and knock everyone down. So the three non-seminary youth (Shane included) and one other seminary youth were the pins. The two older non-seminary boys were in front, Shane was pulled into the group in the middle, and there was a seminary youth in back. I guess Shane had said that he didn't want to do it, but he kept standing in this group. When the other seminary youth came running at them with the ball, the two older non-seminary youth stepped out of the way, and Shane was knocked to the ground. Whether he was embarassed or angry or legitimately hurt, I'm not sure, but he began to cry and came inside. He didn't come back into the youth room, but called for his brother Sam from the hallway. I just figured that it was time for them to leave, so I didn't pay much attention. Then Sam came back in and said that his brother was crying because the two seminary boys had been mean and hurt him.
I walked out into the hallway and spoke with Shane, trying to figure out what happened. He was able to sort of tell me what had happened, but mainly all I knew was that the large exercise ball was involved and he was knocked down. I told him that there really wasn't anything I could do, because it happened outside and I'm not in charge of what happens outside, but that I would go talk to the other boys. When I opened the door, I noticed that two of the non-seminary youth had already run away, so the only ones out there were the two seminary youth and one other non-sem youth. I stood in the doorway, holding the door opened and asked them to come over and explain what had happened. They began explaining, but Shane who was in the hallway and within hearing distance, began shouting and calling them liars and such. I told him that wasn't helping and asked him to stop it. He did, for about two minutes. So I stepped outside and talked with the boys. They told me the story that I relayed above. Shane had been involved in the game, knew how it worked, but then got mad when he got knocked down, so he came inside and tried to get the others in trouble.
I went back inside, repeated to Shane that since I did not see it and it happened outside, there was nothing I could really do about it. The only advice I had for him was that if he didn't like hanging out with seminary kids, then he probably shouldn't hang out at the seminary. Then I went back into the youth room.
During this time, Sam had called their mother and was talking on the phone with her. She wanted to talk to Shane, who was in the sniffly final stages of crying, so she could tell something was the matter. I guess, then, Shane and Sam walked home and their mother, determined to find out what happened, brought her boys and her older daughter back to campus and came into the youth room.
"Are you supervising?" She asked when she walked in and saw me.
"In here, yes." I answered. She made some sort of face and turned to her son.
"Okay, what happened?" He repeated his story which he had told me, and I still couldn't figure out most of it. Really, all I could understand (again) was something about the ball and him being knocked down.
That's when I made some comment to the mother about how it happened outside, and they all knew that if I was in the youth room and not leading activities outside, that I wasn't in charge outside and there wasn't much I could do.
"Well, we're finished here." She said, turning around to walk away. "Great Christian
activities you have going on here." and she walked back out to her van, taking her kids with her.
So every kid (and me included) were a bit taken aback by that exchange and there was some tension in the air after they left. I responded by cleaning the youth room and telling the kids just to forget about it and to continue having fun. One of the seminary youth who was involved in the incident said that he was going to run home quickly and get some quarters for pop. He went outside but then quickly came running back in and said that the woman and her kids were still in their van outside and that when he had gone out she stepped out of her van and yelled at him, saying if he laid another finger on her son she'd have her nephew come and beat him up.
So when he told me this I went running outside, but she had driven away by then. So he went home to get the quarters and told his parents about the whole exchange. They laughed about it, and just told him to stay away from the kids.
So that is what happened in the youth room yesterday. That is what fueled my decision to, unfortunately, recommend to the youth ministry committee that we don't allow non-seminary youth to hang out in the youth room. I think we need to realize that we are here as a ministry to the youth on campus and to minimize problems and concerns that we need to limit our ministry to that.
I have, however, had several parents tell me that if she comes back and says anything that they volunteer their services to have some words with her. She doesn't know who she's messing with!!!!