St. Patrick’s Youth Group adult leaders have been encouraging the young people who attend to have a go at leading different parts of the Youth Group. The Youth Group, which meets at Endmoor Village Hall every Tuesday during term-time, has five sections to it. We begin with a welcome, followed by games, a workshop of some kind, followed by reflection time and finally food together. The young people who attend are between Year 5 and Year 8 (9-13 years old). Currently, we have a core group of 7 young people at Youth Group, who attend five different schools. All of them are true individuals, bringing different gifts and qualities to the group. Despite their differences they are joined in their desire to encourage and support one another. I learn a lot from watching the dynamics between this diverse group of young people.
I enjoy popping in every month, to see the changes that have happened, as the group becomes tighter and friendships are cemented. On my visit in February I could see a change in confidence in everybody, as the leaders had encouraged ownership of different sections of the Youth Group. One young person ably led our welcome and encouraged their peers to honestly say how their week had been. The openness of the sharing was quite a thing to see. Some brought worries or concerns that they aired amongst the group. It clearly felt like a safe space for them. They were listened to and when appropriate advice was offered by fellow peers and the leaders,time was given to this act of listening and sharing. It felt essential, some might call sacred.
The night I joined them, I had arrived ready to lead a game but instead paused and asked if anyone else would like to lead this now well-known activity. An individual who is normally more hesitant offered. I asked if they wanted me to play the game too or help in leading. It was with pride I heard the response: ‘You play, I can lead it…’ They were confident and clear with their instructions. The young people were eager to help when their friend perhaps altered something, either playing along or gently reminding them of the next bit of the game.
I think all of us can learn from a group like this. Everyone can be themselves. Individuality is totally encouraged but respect for everyone is required. Patience has grown in this group as they have learnt the importance of listening to each other and truly hearing what each member is trying to say. Too often in the world we have become keener to correct or rebut, rather than listen to try and hear what a person means. It means wires can be crossed easily if we focus too much on how something is said rather than on the meaning. This group of young people, with their different backgrounds, is used to having to listen closely to one another. They are keen to give each other time and are at ease with one another to ask questions either to clarify a point or gently question a thought or perspective. I hope all of us can adopt this more gentle and easy forgiving tone when listening to each other.