What being a youth leader has taught me

Well it has been nearly 6 (!!!) months since I decided to become a youth leader and it’s absolutely on of the best decisions of my life. I am very different than the person I was back then, and I’m proud of who I’m becoming. I wanted to make this post on some of the things I’ve learned since August.

I am trustworthy. The girls have said it. Kim has said it. My friends have said it. This is one of those things that I never believed about myself. I’ve always tried hard to be a good friend and listen, but I never considered me particularly trustworthy. I know I am now, though. All of the things the girls have shared with me wouldn’t have happened if they didn’t have trust in me. I’m so thankful because I wanted that so badly when I first started and i finally feel confident that I can.

I am worthy of love. The girls don’t have to love me and they certainly don’t have to love me. The thing is, they do. My heart swells every single time they say or do something that proves it. If these girls who had no force whatsoever to even like me feel this way, I can’t be as terrible as the negative thoughts say.

I can help others with my story. I was TERRIFIED to share my story with the girls. I remember all of the anxiety leading up to that day and how receptive they were, to my surprise. The small piece I told them about then is nothing compared to all of the other talks we’ve had since. Each time I share more about things I’ve gone through, we grow closer. They’ve even come out and told me that I inspire them because of my strength and that is purely amazing. It may be painful to think about but through my struggles I can help them overcome similar things.

I don’t have to be perfect. I remember my first few small groups. I wrote out everything I was supposed to say and practiced before. I always felt I had to look the part and spent way too long debating over what to wear. I never felt I could share my struggles because I had to be the perfect person to be a good leader. Boy was I wrong about all of it! Our best conversations have been ones where I either use only a few notes or just speak from the heart. I’ve babbled on and messed up words but they couldn’t care less. I don’t have to worry about what I look like anymore because they just want me to be myself, even if that means leading small group after bawling my eyes out at a session at camp. I have no shame in sharing my struggles now. The girls ask about how I’m doing and they want to know the truth, not sugar coated crap. They ask how I got through things in the past that are really messy and hard. They’ve told me that I seem so much more genuine and approachable since they know I’m not a perfect person. Instead of focusing on being perfect I my only goal now is to be the best youth leader I can.

I should have more confidence. C is constantly getting on me for this. Especially in the beginning I was second-guessing myself nearly every time I would do a lesson or share something personal with the girls. I was also focused on being perfect and that coupled with my lack of confidence made me anxious all the time. I would always ask them a thousand times whether they liked an activity or what I said. Each time they said yes, of course, but I wouldn’t buy it. After a lot of convincing from C in particular and Kim, I’ve gotten over this fear for the most part. I do have days when I have to sit and remind myself of all the ways they’ve shown I am doing a good job but it’s less frequent. I am a good youth leader and I can believe it (mostly).

I have a reason to live. Okay, technically four reasons ;). I wasn’t in a good place last summer when I took this on. I was in an even worse place before that. I still spent the first few weeks of being a youth leader wishing I was dead at times. Once I really started making an impact and loving doing it, everything changed. Those girls are the reason I fought and stayed out of FV. I know I would have ended up there again but always knowing I had to be there for the girls made me so much stronger. I couldn’t be there if I was really sick again. The drive to be their leader continues to push me to fight even on the worst days.

Sometimes the best thing is just listening. I’ve had every girl tell me so many different things. At times I have felt before that saying nothing doesn’t help, but listening is just what they need. I think by really honing in on what the girls are saying rather than continually adding comments I am able to better assess the situation and then give advice. The other thing I found is that getting it out rather than getting advice was what they were looking for.

I would do anything or those girls. ANYTHING. Any one of these girls could call me at 4 AM, while I’m struggling to finish a paper and exhausted beyond measure and I would STILL drop everything and find out what’s wrong. I love them something fierce. I hope they all see that and realize that there isn’t a thing they could say or do that would ever stop that.

God is using me in ways I never imagined. If someone would have come up to me this time last year and tell me I would be a youth leader, I would have laughed at them. I never thought I was a good enough person to have such an important role in girls’ lives. I was too broken and not a good enough Christian. I was too shy. I would never be liked by them. I couldn’t do it. All of these roadblocks I could make for myself have been proven false these past six months. God is amazing. He knew I was the right person for the girls and that I needed them too. I am beyond thankful and blessed that I am leading them in their faith and lives. I can’t wait to see what these next few years hold with them.

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