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Monday, June 20, 2005
Maturity is overrated anyway.
I helped a cousin move from her apartment to her new house yesterday and despite the fact that I feel like I'm in pretty good shape for a 32-year-old guy, I can still feel some muscles that aren't always used in my usual regiment of excericse bike, cross-training and swimming laps this morning. It just means one thing--I am looking forward to getting to the pool this afternoon to work out the aches and pains in my muscles.

I'm also looking forward to it so I can work out some frustration I'm having. Some of you may remember that I posted last September about a woman at church who I locked horns with over the youth being in the sanctuary unattended. Well, needless to say, we've crossed paths again.

In the past couple of months, I've taken over teaching the senior high Sunday School class. The first couple of months, we've done a series of lessons reviewing some of the basic Bible stories, which went over OK at first, but the teens started to lose enthusiasm for it after the first month and a half or so. So, for the summer, I decided to go in a new direction. While browsing at the bookstore, I found a book called The Gospel According to The Simpsons. I picked it up and the companion study book, took them home and thought that this might be a good, interesting way to look at Scripture in a new way that the youth might find interesting, fun and relevant.

Let me also say this--I read and studied the book before I brought it our youth director as an idea for Sunday School. So, it's not like I just thought--cool title and went with it. I did my homework.

And you know, after just one lesson of the new material, I think we've got a solid hit on our hands. I announced to them weeks ago that we'd be doing this material and I also sent home notes to parents in case there were objections. In this note, I listed the material, the author of the material as well as my home and cell phone numbers and an e-mail address to contact me if you anyone should have any questions, objections or wanted to review the material before hand. As of this posting, I haven't heard a peep of objection from anyone.

Yesterday as we started the study, one girl informed me that her parents didn't want her to participate. She left and as some of the youth started to make fun of her as she left, I took a teaching moment and said, "No, don't. She's obeying her parents and we shouldn't make fun of her because her parents make a choice like this. They may have some very good reasons for choosing this and we should respect them." But, that left me with about a dozen senior high youth who settled in and enjoyed the study. We started off reading Scripture, watching an episode and then discussing the Biblical principal that was highlighted in the story.

I have to admit, we had some good discussion going and good participation. More so, I've had requests from some of the eighth grade youth to want to jump up and join the class now becuase they're enthusiastic to take part in the study. I left feeling a bit bad that we'd had to alienate one person, but feeling good that maybe, just maybe we'd reached some of the youth in an interesting, relevant way. I promised them at least five more weeks of the study and was kind of hoping this might be a catalyst for them to invite a friend or win back some of the youth who don't come to Sunday School thinking it's dull or boring.

Which that bubble burst last night. My dad is on the staff parish relations committee. And it seems that my Bible Study has raised an eyebrow at the church--that of my long time nemesis, Mary Ellen Rogers. Basically, she came into the meeting with her husband, screaming about that all the senior high youth do in Sunday School is sit around and watch The Simpsons. I know that she feels I am not a suitable teacher, lacking the "maturity" to teach the senior high youth. Basically, I am not fit to teach Sunday School to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

As you can tell, this is not the first time we've crossed paths. At first, when she started complaining about me, I shrugged it off as--well, if I'm annoying her, I must be doing something right. See, a lot of the church leadership--both the clergy and the lay people--come under her criticism. As my Granny used to say, "She wouldn't be happy if you hung her with a new rope." So, to be in the group was kind of a badge of honor, at first.

Now, it's just becoming a pain in my rear. She complains that her two daughters aren't made to feel welcome when they come to Sunday School. Well, I took over teaching this class just before Easter and the only time they've shown up for Sunday School was on Easter. And I treated them like I do anyone else in the class. I try not to play favorites and to give everyone a chance to participate. I know that at this age, some are more willing to particpate than others and that some are just here because their parents are making them be there. So, you have to be sensitive to those situations.

Also, in my defense, I sent home several notices about this study. Again, I included my contact info, so for someone to stand up and go, "Oh, I had no idea," just annoys me. This is not some subversive thing I came up with to get out of teaching Sunday School. Instead, I saw it as an opportunity to reach some young people in a new way. I know that this study will appeal to some but not others, hence why it's a short term thing.

And the thing that gets me is--if you've got a problem with me, come and talk to me. Have the f****** courage to come up to my face and say it to me. Or call me on the phone. Or e-mail me. Hell, I gave out my contact information, so why not pick up the damn phone and call me. Have the guts to confront me face to face instead of running to the SPR, who really has no jurisdiction in this matter other than my dad is head of it, and tell them that I am teaching an "unGodly" class and that it's not in the Book of Discipline. I seriously wonder if maybe sitting around and reading the Book of Discipline to them is what she feels would reach them.

Honestly, I'm a good Methodist and I appreciate the Book of Discipline. But it's not something I grab off the bookshelf and read for pleasure. It can be a bit cut and dried at times.

So, now I'm sort of at a crossroads. I enjoy teaching the youth and it's been rewarding, but this constant barrage of criticism at me--a volunteer leader, mind you--is getting a bit old. To the point that it's dragging in my family members as well and making their lives at church a bit unbearable. So, I'm struggling with a decision here.

I mean, I don't want to be Sunday School nazi and say--it's my way cause I'm the teacher. But I also don't want to be a patsy and just lay down. Also, I don't want to just sit there and take it, but I also know that giving into the tempation to tell certain people off only means they win and I only reinforce their view of myself as not "mature" enough to teach Sunday School or have any type of leadership role in the church. The thing I hate most is that my dad gets knocked around with this crap. Part of it is that belittles me as an adult--as if running to my parent and telling them to stop me will make me change in some way. Like I'm a three-year old making too much noise during a service and it's up to Mommy and Daddy to keep me in line.

Last time I checked, I was 32-years old. I just wish some people would wake up and realize that...

posted by Michael Hickerson at 6/20/2005 07:31:00 AM | |
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