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Young people learn team building through faith, fellowship and fun

By Dee Ellison

Special to the Salisbury Post

Recently about 25 youth and 10 adults from local churches and the community experienced a day of team building hosted by At The Cross Ministries Third Annual “Youth Stand for Christ” day.

I’m always thinking about ways we can engage our youth and, let’s face it, many of them are not found in the pews and chairs at church. Many come because Momma or Daddy or someone else made them come and then when they come it is hard to engage them.

I think that we can do better because we are created with wonderful abilities on the inside of us. I also think that it is our purpose as adults to teach, lead, inspire and provide direction to our youth. We’ve got to be involved.

Our event was hosted at the Salisbury YMCA this, and the idea came about as some friends and I discussed what we could do different with the youth.

God to me has a sense of humor, because on my heart he planted a review of my own experience over the past several years traveling with my great-grands, grands and youth from my church. I go because I want them to know that I support their extra-curricular activities, and when they are on different teams I cheer for both sides, surprising those around me.

Like many of you, we’ve made our way with lawn chairs, blankets, straw hats and caps to the place where we could yell loud for our own and of course for the team. We comfort them in loss and high five them when we zero in on the outstanding game they had.

My experience taught me that “sometimes in life we lose” and I began to examine how we support and encourage them in these instances. So the team-building event was born as my friends and I traveled and talked about the possibilities

The event was for 9-16 year olds. Activities included a water sport, basketball, wall climbing and a movie. We wanted to mix it up a bit so it would be a little different than what they had anticipated and in some cases had experienced.

We wanted to see how they would react when the teams believed that they would win and then the rules of the games changed or unexpected changes happened on their teams. Isn’t that just the way life is? Change happens. We have to deal with it.

The adults were charged with listening and reporting back after the changes occurred. What amazed me was that even though there was enough blame to go around as usual, this group had someone on the team who stepped up to take the load on their shoulders and not complain.

After each activity they shared their take on the activities. We tried to include some tools in the debriefing so that they might have them in their tool bags in the future.

As hard as it is sometimes to keep youth engaged, at the end of the day we all learned some lessons- especially, “We do lose sometimes and that’s OK.” Yes, I understand competition, I understand how it feels when you lose and when you win, but I understand more that we have to set some expectations and life lessons into play that will carry our youth further than the t-ball game or their first organized activity.

Be careful as adults, coaches, family and volunteers what we say to them- What we plant tends to stay with them in life and sometimes for a lifetime.

Teach the value of winning and losing together as a team but to always give your very best.

Operate with a spirit of compassion, realizing that for some it took a lot of courage to get out there and compete to an audience filled with experts.

Be grateful that they choose to use their God-given abilities and participate instead of being on the sidelines complaining and missing opportunities to experience a larger diverse world (people, faith, fellowship, sports, music, leadership).

Who knows what the next time, or the next opportunity will bring? Perhaps youth who are inspired to try different things, become encouragers and motivators to others to do better and to do their best.

As Jesus choose his disciples they were all doing something different than what He had in mind and that is a life lesson for all of us. After all, that is what Christ desires of us  — to give our best, be fair, help someone along the way because together “We Can.”

There is an abundance of diverse activities that we can provide for our youth to experience. Some dream of becoming a football or basketball star, but perhaps there is an Arnold Palmer, Serena Williams, Michael Phelps, Simone Biles, and Katie Ledecky on the inside of them; we will never know until we become encouragers that there are all types of success possibilities for them; they just have to try.

Thanks for your support and to each person and organization who made this opportunity possible — especially our youth, who were awesome and inspired us to keep investing in them. Looking forward to Part 2 in summer 2017.

Dee Ellison leads At The Cross Ministries in Salisbury.

 

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