I hereby admit that I have been a hypocrite.

That last sentence rhymed. Heehee. Anyway…

That’s right, open confessions on this blog. A month ago, I was a hypocrite.

You must be able to tell that I am very passionate about the limitations our culture imposes on kids and youth. After all, this blog is all about tearing down that irritating standard. Yet, I am guilty of assuming that kids have no interest in important things.

You see, a month ago, I was planning out a Bible study lesson plan for my church’s two week summer camp. We had already decided as a team of councilors that we were going to scrap the original lesson plan because it was too watered down. Of course, I was all gung-ho about giving the councilors my society-oppression-children-rock speech: “You know, this is ridiculous! Kids are capable of so much more than this lesson plan is allowing. At this age [I was planning the fifth and sixth grade Bible study], they’re ready to digest some really serious stuff. We need to give the campers a Bible study that will really challenge them to reevaluate their relationships with God!” Blah blah blah blah yuckety-yuck yuck.

So, we started from the ground up. I was going to plan out their new Bible study, aiming to make it challenging yet still interactive.

Camp started, and I was very nervous on our first day. I mean, thank God, I knew all but one of my group members pretty well. As we got to know each other a little better during the first Bible study session, we chose our group name as we decorated our “get-to-know-me” profiles. In the end, we settled on #TheAdorableOriginalSquirrels…yep, that’s what we went with. Some wanted the Originals, and some wanted the Squirrels. I suppose this was the compromise! It still makes me laugh.

While we were chatting that first day, I was attempting to see who I was working with. Would they open up to me or shut down all together? After all, confronting them with the topic of salvation and the importance of a two-way relationship with God was pretty intense for them to digest, right? Looking back, I think making that assumption was my first mistake.

Thankfully, I felt like the first week went alright. Not stellar, but alright. They answered my questions when I looked them in the eye, and participated in the activities when I handed them paper and glue sticks. Still, I left the small school we rented for camp slightly dejected. I wasn’t getting the outward spark I had hoped for. I guessed that since I couldn’t SEE a drastic change in their faces, there was none. Strike two on my part.

It was the second week that blew my mind. The following Monday, we used what we had talked about in week one and put it into application by doing a practice Quiet Time. Using  what I call the “quiet time formula” and a guide to Bible reading, we dispersed throughout our classroom. The passage we all read was 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, commonly called the Love Chapter. I asked periodically who needed more time to read their Bible and meditate, and every single time, hands went up. I had concluded the night before they would be done as soon as they could be, with as little effort as possible. After half an hour, we needed to move on, and I had to ask two kids to finish their Bible reflections at home.

As we gathered around the desks, I peeked at their papers. I was shocked to see that every single person had completely filled up their pages with their thoughts, and handwriting was spilling outside the lines and onto the margins. As we talked about how they felt when reading the passage, the things coming out of their mouths shocked me even more. The wisdom and insight they got from a very common passage was incredible. They spoke about loving their enemies even though it was hard, and how God’s love and justice would never give up on them. These were thoughts I assumed to be well beyond their years.

This trend continued throughout the rest of the week at camp. Every day, I walked out of our classroom floored by my own ignorance. I had come to camp with a fistful of paper, ready to convince them that they needed Jesus. But they already knew that. These fifth and sixth grade preteens were so ready to soak up knowledge and to speak their minds. I just didn’t give them the opportunity, then assumed they weren’t ready. It showed me that with all of my talk about empowering young minds, I had a lot to learn. God showed me that He has bigger plans for my Squirrels than anyone could imagine.

On the last day of camp, I received a text from a friend who’s younger sibling was in #TheAdorableOriginalSquirrels. As I read it, my jaw dropped, followed by a huge smile that spread across my face. “Thank you guys so much for all your work on the Bible study! [Name] was just telling me how happy he was with the Bible study, and he said it helped him a lot in his relationship with God!”

I will once again say, shame on me. I interpreted quiet listening as a lack of depth or willingness to speak. I wanted to teach, but it was my new friends who taught me. That sounds cliche, I know. How VERY cheesy! I mean it though, really. I pray that God will open my eyes when I see someone younger than me. I hope that next year, I come to camp with an open heart, ready to learn.

Next year, I’m leaving my fistful of papers at home.