What I’ve Learned About Teaching Teens From Chase // Part Two

Published on November 7, 2016 by John Woods  

It began for me at a conversation over breakfast. Chase’s parents had okayed he and I meeting for breakfast, so we sat down at the table, ordered our orange juices (fresh squeezed), and began to talk. We talked about all sorts of things, and I found myself using my go-to line with students, “Tell me more about that.” Every time I said it, I was sure Chase was going to catch on and laugh and my lack of originality, but instead, he eagerly continued sharing. It was only toward the end of the conversation that I changed my question, seeing that time was soon to run out. “Anything big been on your mind lately?” And what followed were questions upon questions about doubts, scripture, faith, sin, and redemption. “Then why would God…,” he’d say. “I just don’t get…,” he’d confess. I soon learned that Chase was wanting to go deeper in his faith, but lacked the life experience to know that other perspectives even existed. He could still believe, even if it was from a different angle than he had before.

I now am careful in my interactions with students, whether in front of the choir or one on one, to share the phrase, “Some others have a different view on this.” It may not be much, but those who are ready often approach to learn more. I’ve never regretted it.

Chase is a senior in high school now, and has a sometimes limping but stubbornly growing faith. Even in the midst of some mistakes, and some misunderstandings, Chase has continued to push forward. I remember a conversation we had where I said, “Wow, Chase. You should write some of this stuff down.” And then, I promptly forgot about it. Then I arrived at staff retreat, the sometimes feared, forced interaction experience that extroverts like me love. We stayed at a lovely golf course and met in a common room each day. On the last morning we were instructed to leave our phones behind and spend one hour with God. And so, as everyone put their phones away and headed out the door, I put mine in my pocket so I’d have something to do in case I got bored with God. Sitting at the top of hole 5, I didn’t have much to say to the Creator of the universe, and I didn’t hear much coming through, either. Then, God sent me a text message. Well, actually, it was Chase who out of the blue, shared a poem he had just written. “I am the star breather. I am the burden easer. I am the LORD most high. I am God of a babies cry. I am creator of Sun and sky. I am forgiver of those who lie. I am the ruler of heavenly hosts. I am the one who plans for you, the most. I am He, who spewed out each star. I am the friend who is never too far. I am the one who gave His son too. I am the master, who created you.”

I now am intentional to tell students that their faith inspires and motivates me, and that we need each other to follow Christ well.

Another text showed up, “When can we do coffee?” So, I showed up to the coffee shop down from the church and he was already there. After a little “How’s school?” kind of conversation, I stumbled onto another question that was really just filler. “How was DNOW?” (DNOW in our tradition is a weekend of music, Bible Study, and social service projects for middle and high schoolers. It’s also, for what it’s worth, where I learned to toilet paper someone’s house when I was a student.) Chase’s answer was almost immediate. “Great. There are three things I feel like God really told me.” He was soon sharing practical, every-day ways he was going to trust Christ more fully. No one had to tell him what to do; he knew on his own and just needed a chance to articulate it.

I now am more consistent in using small groups in my choir rehearsals to answer the question, in groups, “What does this lyric mean for you tomorrow at 10:30am?” Oh, that we all could internalize ways of following Christ more fully as well as Chase.