I’m not really sure you can classify Rock Island as a youth group. Do a cluster of young people meet in a group at Rock island? Yes. Are we a traditional youth group? No.
Typically, for sake of time and explanation, anytime someone asks Ron or myself what we do or where we work we will explain that we work at Rock Island, a youth center, in downtown Oklahoma City with kids from the neighborhood. Generally we shy away from the term “youth group” because we don’t function like most youth groups people are accustomed to. We don’t meet on Sundays and Wednesdays. We don’t meet at set times (even though we have set times just for some form of organization) each time we get together. We don’t meet, eat, sing, listen to a devotional thought, hangout and then go back home. Nothing wrong with that, that’s how I grew up doing youth group, but that’s not what youth group looks like at Rock Island.
Here’s what “youth group” looks like at Rock Island this summer. Meet 4, sometimes 5, times per week. Carry boxes of food for families that come for assistance for a few hours a day. Mow some lawns in the neighborhood. Play some video games. Have a weekly Bible study (currently in Luke 19). Paint some houses. Pickup donations from other churches in the Okc and Edmond areas. Eat lunch together, EVERYDAY! Go swimming. Watch movies at Rock Island. Workout in the gym. Play basketball. Move families and their furniture, appliance, beds and clothing to new homes. Work in the prayer room at Cross and Crown and pray for people (some of the students translate for other volunteers also, big help!). Unload 15,000 lbs of food cans, produce and drinks at Cross and Crown.
My point is Rock Island does “youth group” a little differently then most, differently then what I was brought up doing. We didn’t originally plan it this way but that’s the nature of where we work and the youth we are in relationship with on a daily basis. Ron and I have learned that in order to actually have an influence in these kids lives, we have to know them, we have to learn about them and we have to be in their business. And, we are. The best way we know how to do that is to spend as much time with them as possible and get into their lives as much as possible. Do Ron and I want to strangle some of the kids sometimes because we are with them constantly on a daily basis? Yessir, but that’s part of the plan. Not strangling them but being with them long enough that they can be real with us and not hold back or put up a front.
This summer has definitely been a great time of relationship building and learning for everyone involved at Rock Island. We’ll see what the rest of the summer has to offer.