I have never been good at sports.
Gym class was always my least favorite, especially the days when we had to play basketball. Being the kid who was picked last for a team was not a cutesy way of suggesting someone was left out, but an actual concern of my daily life. My childhood wasn’t terrible because of it, but anything involving sports are certainly not my rosiest memories of days of yore.
Now I’m a youth leader at my church. The thing I forgot about middle and high school youth group is that it, at some point or another, always seems to involve some sort of athletic activities. Games involving throwing, dodging, ducking, dipping, diving, and catching are quite commonplace.
And, despite my additional years of life, my athletic ability has not increased accordingly.
If anything, it may have gotten worse.
Not being forced to participate in sports I don’t like anymore, when I do exercise, it’s activities I can do by myself, sometimes in the comfort of my own living room where not another living soul needs to see me. Basketball? Rollerblading backwards across a gym floor with a group of my peers? Wiffleball? No thanks.
But the funny thing about being a youth leader and not a student is that I’m no longer there for me. Yes, I’m there because I choose to be, but not with my own wants and needs specifically in mind.
I recently posted on Facebook that sometimes I think I get just as much, if not more, out of youth group than the students do.
While my athletic ability has not increased, my insecurity about it has not decreased nearly as much as I thought it might have. A bit, but certainly not entirely. It turns out the lessons we talk about with middle and high schoolers aren’t just relevant for them, but also for me.
Because some things never change. Like the fact that I am still kind of terrible at catching and throwing things or anything involving needing to get from one location to another with any sort of speed.
I am also, as I learned this past Saturday, terrible at climbing out of pits filled with foam blocks.
But it’s not about me. I might still feel insecure about my lack of athletic ability, but I’m not a youth leader to feel good about myself. If I feel a little insecure myself, but students feel comfortable and welcome, that’s what it takes. And in ways, it’s a good reminder of what middle and high school me often felt like, and what students might feel like too.
Maybe my own insecurity is exactly what helps me understand theirs.
Til next time…
p.s. Have you learned anything in your experience as a youth leader?