Ah, youth group—simpler times of weird teenage sexual tension, games, and emotional highs at camp. If you’re reading this, here are 10 ways to absolutely know for certain you were a youth group kid:
1. You Have Done a Trust Fall At Camp
As for me and my house, we have fallen into the arms of strangers only to completely fall down on top of each other. That’s right, the trust fall, or “ol faithful” as some youth pastors call it, is a great way to show what trust and faith means, unless students are mean and let the fat kid fall. (I was that kid who fell. I promise I’m over it or I wouldn’t be making jokes about it now.)
2. You Sat Next to Someone So You Could “Hold Their Hand” During Prayer Time
“I JUST HELD HANDS WITH ERIN AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!” Said my internal thoughts as a 17 year old husky boi with a bad haircut and low self-esteem, because I sat next to my crush during prayer circle time. Would I ever profess my love to her? Absolutely not. I’d settle for prayer time and her occasionally interlocking fingers with me sometimes when we prayed.
3. You Have Done an Eating Challenge
The Gallon Challenge™, Ketchup Chugging, or The Happy Meal Smoothie—all games to ensure 10/10 students will throw up everywhere. And the crazy part of this is we all did at least one of these growing up, knowing we would yak anyway.
4. You Feel Remnants of Shame from Something You Did as a Teen
Did you struggle with sin? Congratulations! You’re a person! Did anyone ever beat you up emotionally because of it? I’m sorry you have dealt with spiritual abuse of some kind! Unfortunately, this happens at many youth groups (especially during the 90s and early 2000s, or my youth group era). Even though it’s been 15+ years, you may still feel guilty about something you did as a teen.
5. An Adult Once Gave You Terrible “Biblical” Advice
Leaders sometimes mean well, but sometimes they give advice that’s just STRAIGHT UP unbiblical. Once I had a youth group leader say “God never gives us more than we can handle” to comfort me when I was dealing with severe sickness and depression. Hate to break it to you, but this is literally nowhere in the Bible. For proof, read the book of Job or Ecclesiastes.
6. You Played a Game That is a Lawsuit Waiting to Happen
Chubby Bunny, a make-shift Slip-N-Slide, Peanut Butter Wrestling (yes, really), or any other wild assortment of youth group games can potentially be straight-up dangerous and lead to death. We’ve all played at least one. And we all somehow survived to tell the tales.
7. You Have Ever Been Told Extremely Generalized Statements About “Being a Man/Woman”
I once was told “men don’t like to talk about their feelings” and thought something was wrong with me for 3+ years, because as a man I’m a pretty emotional guy and often know what’s going on with myself internally, and like to listen to records and be “in my feelings”. People in youth ministry sometimes does this as a way to help students, but it can often alienate a chunk of the population.
8. You Were Told Not to Watch or Listen to Something Because of Its Content
I remember being told not to listen to Jay Z because he was in the illuminati and his music worshipped the devil. It was a wild time, and I wonder if I can get an encore (do you want more) of what others were told what you should and shouldn’t listen to / watch in the comments. (Also anyone else from the 90s/2000s remember the “Do you like [insert band here]? Then you should listen to [CCM replacement that is ripping off the secular band’s music].”? Wild.)
9. You Cried Going to Camp
Was there swell-y piano music and a fog machine when you cried? You also went to church camp and cried at the altar call. Most of us have done it (especially us sensitive boiz) and it’s ok. God still loves you even though you unknowingly fell for emotional manipulation.
10. You Have Fond Memories with Friends
As strange and weird that youth group could be sometimes, youth group was a blast. We loved each other, we played games, and we talked about God. Overall, it was a good time.
To end this, with as much crap I just gave youth group, I want it to be known that I currently work in youth ministry. As much weird stuff I dealt with and had to unpack, unlearn, and untangle from my faith as an adult, I can genuinely say that I wouldn’t love God today without the fun, crazy, and sometimes just overall weird experiences I had going to youth group. While I hope to do better being a leader in ministry in certain regards, I know that there will be times I fail and don’t do things well. If you’re reading this and you’re one of those people who I didn’t knock it out of the park for, I am sorry. All I know is, sometimes God uses crooked sticks to make straight lines.
Evan enjoys a good cup of coffee, youth ministry, performing stand-up comedy, long walks on the beach with his fiancée, running, reading, and the arts. You can contact Evan by falcon, carrier pigeon, or messaging him on social media so that he may possibly give you either his email address or cell phone number.