The “Bad” Kids

March 15, 2024


I had the bad kids. Yeah, my small group was made up of all the students no one else wanted to deal with. I welcomed the challenge to lead this group even though JB, the poster child for bad behavior, was in the group. Little did I know, we would experience a small group time that I wouldn’t have believed if I hadn’t been there.

JB had gotten in trouble in school a lot. He had been getting in trouble since middle school. I knew he had a reputation for fighting and being a negative influence. I’ve even had to show him tough love on more than one occasion because of his bad behavior. There was even a period of time that I had to ask him to discontinue coming to our Monday night meetings for a while. That time away ended up being longer than I expected because he had gotten in more trouble and had to spend time at the juvenile detention center. JB had only been back with us for a couple of weeks and during our final small group of the school year, he did something I could have never imagined. He recited “The Lord is my Shepherd…” I was in complete shock along with the rest of the group.

The problem for JB is that even though he knows the 23rd Psalm, he doesn’t appear to know the Shepherd. He knows the words but doesn’t seem to know the person. JB is like many of our students who are not foreign to church. They have memorized a verse or two from the Bible. Yet, there’s no clear understanding of what it really means to have a relationship with the God of the Bible. The more we talked in our small group, the more questions they asked. It’s as if JB’s willingness to show us a side of himself that few people had ever seen made our small group a safe space for all of those “problem” students to open up. In one small group, JB moved from being the known negative influence to being a positive one.

I wish I could tell you that our conversation led to JB and his friends beginning a relationship with “The Shepherd.” Unfortunately, that was not the case. What it did lead to was one of the greatest rides home. I took that entire small group home in one minivan load, Before we could even pull out of the parking lot of our teen center, JB started sharing parts of his story that I hadn’t heard in the four years I’d known him. That alone was a win in my book. The most positive takeaway of the night was that JB and his friends asked if we could regularly meet over the summer. With their limited transportation, regular summer meetings won’t be easy. It’s another challenge I accept though.