To Steven’s new small group leader or youth pastor,
You’ve probably heard success stories about a kid who just showed up one day, awkward as all get out and uncomfortably inappropriate. Then a leader comes along and takes this boy under his wing and mentors him through the thick and thin, even getting him to head up prayer time. Well, Steven’s story is probably a really good example of one of these.
At least for the first half of that, not so much the 2nd.
I have hesitated writing this to you because I really want you to have your own experience with him. However, I wish somebody would have told me a little bit about his personality ahead of time, so hopefully by sharing this with you it will be a completely opposite story than mine. You see, the first time I met Steven was when he was in 7th grade. We were on our way to a weekend retreat, all piled up on the charter bus and he had asked to sit next to me. For the next hour and a half he told me his life story about being adopted, having his older brother yanked away, and hearing him justify the type of physical and verbal abuse he endured before getting adopted.
It’s the kind of story that is painful to hear, and as of writing this letter this story does not yet have a good ending.
Steven became an awkward presence within the group. He was the boy slightly underdeveloped both physically and mentally. So this became a distraction because he had an extremely hard time focusing. At times, when some of the boys would start getting into deep conversations, he would blurt out something completely inappropriate and break the mood of the group. It was funny in the beginning, but as the boys grew older and more mature, he did not. The guys noticed this, and his antics became very old, very fast. When he wouldn’t get the attention he wanted, he would resort to physical distractions, and even kicked me in the shins one time.
As time went on, I would continue to ask God for more patience and what I could do to help Steven fit better within the group. Or better yet try to get one or two of the regular guys to help give him the type of attention he needed. He is special, and he deserved the kind of extra attention nobody in the group had experience giving. I didn’t reach out to his parents, I didn’t ask other leaders, and I didn’t seek out for more help.
I want to apologize for completely failing him as a small group leader.
It wasn’t until I sat down to tell you about Steven, that I realized how much more I could have actually done, without trying to do it on my own. Now that he will be moving, it is too late. Hopefully you won’t make the same mistake I did and try to take him on without the patience and experience required. God has revealed to me my strengths, and maybe it took a Steven to realize what my weaknesses are.
Steven is in need of some serious love and patience that I trust God will provide, for the next 4 years and beyond.
Letter 5 in the Hand Off series.
(names changed to protect identities)