A few months back I spoke at a church that looked like most of the churches I speak at—think modern, worship service, a big crowd, suburban. I hate to write this, but the congregation looked like they could have been from my hometown (Orange County, CA)… they looked predominately white, upper, middle class.

That was until I went to lunch with one of the pastors (who oversees missions… and lives it out too). We didn’t go alone, we dined with several people from the congregation. When he took me to the airport, I said, “That was a really enjoyable bunch of people! It felt like I didn’t even see those people while I was speaking today.” He said, “They have quite the story–I wish I had more time to tell you about them.” When I got home, I had the following email from this pastor.

Today’s lunch in the Kingdom included:

The heroin addict with the new baby.

The mom pregnant by her daughter’s ex boyfriend.

The transgender hoping to become a man.

The single mom still trying to find her value in dysfunctional relationships since her boyfriend committed suicide in front of her.

The formerly homeless kid from the projects of St Louis desperately trying to be part of a family.

The mom using her story of pain, love and redemption to change how Christians view gays.

The kids adopted from Kenya, South Africa, Ethiopia, and Foster Care and the families trying to love them through their difficult pasts.

The single girl with chronic health issues getting licensed for foster care.

The girl from a non-Christian family of wealth who would rather serve Jesus: a lesson she learned at youth group when she was invited at 13 after her dad died suddenly.

The thirty year old mom who adopted a 15 year old Sudanese refugee who needed a family and is now the captain of his high school football team.

The Christians of privilege who count it a blessing to be able to love the incredible cast of characters God has placed in our lives.

The pastor from California who brought a powerful message that touched each and everyone of them. Thank you!

I didn’t see all those people from stage. I saw “same-ol-same-ol”… my bad. Seriously, my bad.

This experience got me thinking about youth ministry and the youth groups that we’re responsible to oversee. Here are some questions that I wrote down for an upcoming leader training:

1. What are the stories that are being written in the young lives in our youth group that we (as adult leaders) don’t know?

2. Are we spending so much time preparing to teach them… that we don’t really know them?

3. Are we so “busy” with the “doing” of youth ministry that we’re not investing into the very lives and connected to the stories that are sitting in our groups?

4. Do we really know the hurts, needs, and longing of our audience?

5. Are we helping them see, know and draw close to Jesus?

This eclectic lunch bunch got me thinking about crowds/congregations/groups. There’s so much more than meets the eye. Consider giving that a second thought next time you go to youth group. I know I will.