So I confess, I had this idealized image of what a Christmas party with my high school small group guys would be like: great fellowship, hilarious games, delicious food, and tons of gift cards from their parents (and a few thank you cards detailing the life change they’ve seen in their son since he joined this group.)

Well, our Christmas party didn’t exactly turn out that way this year.

Please suspend any judgment for what I’m about to tell you.

I brought six pizzas and two apple pies for the 19 guys, including two checking out our small group for the first time. They immediately buzzed through the pizzas—boxes were flying!

I had thought a white elephant gift exchange would be an awesome idea! And it was…at first…until about three gifts in, when it was obvious that a few of these boys had thought they were giving gifts at a bachelor party! Yikes!

After the gift exchange, things went from bad to worse. They were all really excited to play a “new card game” one of them had brought. I sent them into the next room to play, while I cleaned up the gift wrap and pizza boxes. 10 minutes later, I went to join them. As I sat down to be dealt in I saw that the words on the cards were really sleazy. I mean, really sleazy. They were playing a game called Cards Against Humanity. (Don’t ever play that game! If you haven’t heard of it, don’t even look it up!)

“We are NOT playing this game in our small group!” I yelled.

“Can we play just two more hands?” the kid dealing asked.

“No, We’re not playing this game anymore! We’re going in the next room and praying that God clean out your depraved minds!” 

We circled up and I prayed, “Father God help us not just pretend to be Christians but really follow you…”

I was furious when I was done praying.

Immediately, one boy shouted, “Let’s all go to my house and finish the game!” At that, the guys jumped up and ran out to the parking lot.

By the time I got out there, the guys were burning rubber and doing donuts around the lot. On the way out, one of the guys even flipped the bird to the security guard.

I went home that night feeling like the worst youth worker on the planet. I have been leading these guys, weekly, for the last 2½ years and I don’t see much “fruit of the spirit” in their lives. That night, I even got an email from our youth pastor telling me that the security guard at our church had filed a report detailing what had happened and sent it to him. Yikes! Just last week, I had been awarded a trophy for best small group leader!

I spent the next 4 weeks praying for my guys during Christmas break. 

This week, we had our first meeting of the year. And the guys were great! They apologized for the gift exchange, raunchy card game, and parking lot middle finger incident. One of the guys shared how he wants to be part of the leadership team for the whole High School Ministry. Another wants to help lead Bible studies for our Junior High students, and another set a goal to lead one of his friends to Christ this year. It was an amazing contrast between our Christmas party and this night. 

God always reminds me that any change that happens in the lives of these kids is done with His power and in His timing. I am really encouraged and excited to see what God has in store for us this year!