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      Lessons Learned From Stretch

      Friday night, we finished up three nights of Stretch.  I have volunteered at this event for several years, and it amazes me how I learn something or am reminded of something every year.  Here are some of the things that I learned/remembered:

      1.  Junior High or Middle School is an awkward stage of life.  At Stretch this year, I saw kids who danced, kids with green glasses, kids with short shorts, kids in wheelchairs, and kids with crazy hats.  I saw kids who thought they were cool and kids who weren’t so confident in themselves.  I saw all kinds of different kids.

      2.  Many young teenagers are crying out for attention.  They wear tight clothing.  They style their hair to get attention.  They act tough.  They want people to recognize them.

      3.  Young people today are very wasteful.  Maybe this is just the wasteful minority overshadowing the others, but I’m not so sure.  I can’t believe how many half full soda cans and half eaten cheeseburgers and candy wrappers and water bottles I found lying around.  Is this something learned at home or is this what happens when young kids have freedom (i.e. Lord of the Flies)?

      4.  Young teenagers need positive influences in their lives.  Hearing the disrespect from many of these kids, it was obvious that many lacked this influence.  Perhaps, it was just normal teenage rebellion, but I’m not so sure.

      5.  We have awesome volunteers at our church.  They helped pull off an “extreme” event for over 350 middle school students.  Wow!  I love these people.  It was so fun to talk with these volunteers and work with them in serving the middle school students.  I was inspiring to see them as they served.

      6.  Young teenagers feel misunderstood.  They need adults in their lives who can come alongside them.  They need to know that somebody cares.  They need someone who will listen to them.

      7.  We need to create events (like Stretch) that will attract people who are far from God.  These types of activities can serve as springboards to helping them find God and starting them on a growth path.

      8.  Our churches need to focus on this age group.  I am so thankful for April Tatta who leads the middle school ministry at our church.  She brings an energy and a passion to this area that is so often overlooked.  Kudos to April for leading such a great event!

      I can’t wait for Stretch 2012!

      How do you remember your middle school/junior high experience?