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Youth Group woes. Would you say something?


fairfarmhand
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I'm in a quandary. I don't know whether to say something or not.

 

To start with, we are in a really good church. Everyone in the family loves the leadership, the teaching, and the preaching. There's not another church in our area that offers what our church does as far as good preaching/leadership.

 

However, over the years, a slight problem has developed as my girls have gotten older.

 

We're the only homeschooling family in our church. It isn't a problem in the elementary years. And it isn't a problem to any of the adults in the church. I've never gotten pressure about homeschooling or felt that my family was weird or anything for it. Most of the other parents are of the "Wow that's great! Good for you" variety.

 

When my kids have made it to the teen years, it's like a giant gap opens between them and the other kids in the youth group. My oldest dd has cried on the way home from youth group too many times. She loves the teaching, and our youth pastor. But she aches to connect with the other teens and it doesn't seem that they are interested. There are 2-3 high schools represented in the youth group and the teens tend to stick to their own established little groups.

 

These are good kids from good families. They likely would feel very bad if they knew that their lack of inclusiveness is extremely hurtful. Because you know, if you aren't including someone the net result is that they will feel that they are excluded.

 

My dds are very social and friendly. No awkwardness. They get along well with other kids their own ages. They just can't connect with the other kids. Some of them are friendly to my girls and will hang out with them at other times. Unless a group of their own friends from school are there in youth group.

 

It's frustrating to me that some of these kids are lauded for going on missions trips to foreign countries to tell others about Jesus, but they can't talk to an unfamiliar face or just someone from outside their clique in their own home church.

 

Would you say something to the youth pastor? I don't know if there's anything to be done about it. I don't believe it's his fault, although it wouldn't surprise me if he hasn't noticed it.

 

My oldest is thinking about attending the adult ladies' Bible study with me. Oddly, with the group of ladies that we have, she's more likely to have people talking to her in that group than in the youth group.

 

My girls are good girls and want to be involved in our church. They love it there. The adults are warm and friendly and kind. Like I said, it's just teens that are frustrating.

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I think I would mention it to the youth pastor and try to brainstorm ideas for fixing the problem. Your girls are the ones who are hurting right now from this problem, but cliques in the youth group aren't really good for any of the kids. Of course it would be important to approach the youth leader with a cooperative attitude ("this is an issue that you may not have noticed, but I'd really like it if we could work together to fix it") rather than just complaining. It could help if you had potential solutions to offer.

 

Maybe he could deliberately break the cliques up for long-term or recurring group work. Maybe he could have a social "event" (during regular meeting time) where the rules are that you can't speak to anyone who attends your school. Maybe it would help if he just stood up and said, "Hey, gang, I've noticed that you all tend to hang out only--or almost only--with others from your own school. That creates cliques in this group, and that prevents the Christian unity that we want here. This year, we're going to make a focused effort to break up those cliques and get you all socializing with ALL of each other. Let's take some time right now to brainstorm together how we're going to accomplish that."

 

Maybe your girls could invite some of the other youth over for a small gathering at your house ... no more than one from each school ... rinse and repeat as desired to help them form better inter-school bonds. (I wouldn't be surprised, though, if you've tried something similar to this, since you said that the others are happy to hang out with your girls when others from their own schools aren't around.)

 

If you girls think they'd be more comfortable in the adult ladies' group, I would not prevent them from trying it. However, if the youth pastor is receptive and seems willing to be pro-active to fix the problem without making it clear that you or your girls prompted it, then I'd encourage them to stay in the youth group for a few more months and see if things improve.

 

 

Edited to Add:  If the youth pastor addressed the issue head on, it would be the perfect illustration if he started it out, while everyone was seated wherever they wanted to be seated, saying something along the lines of: "Let's take a poll. Everyone from X School, raise your hand." (They'll all be seated together.) "Now everyone from Y School ... now from Z School ... You see how almost all of you are sitting in groups with others from your own school? I've noticed you all tend to hang out ..." and then continue with what I wrote above.

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I think this is something the youth leader could speak about (as an option).

 

Another option would be for the youth leader to try to plan ways to have small break-out groups, where the youth leader assigns groups in some way, to help kids have a chance to meet different people.  Maybe not all the time -- but it sounds like maybe it is not happening at all.

 

I think this is something that would already be noticed and on the radar of some people working with this age group, to be honest.  I think there are a lot of structural changes that could help a lot, that would be things the youth leader could try.  I think if you had specific situations that would be good.

 

I don't have them for that age group like I do for younger kids.

 

Also -- I do not have teens.  This is more -- what I would say if it was younger kids, to be honest.  I don't know if that changes drastically with teens.  

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(Hugs)

 

I wouldn't say anything because ime youth group leaders don't want any input and see parents as the enemy.

 

I feel like youth group ruined our lives. I know this sounds overly dramatic but we are still recovering from youth group carp years later.

 

If your yg leader is an actual grownup with qualifications beyond being 18+ and "cool"...it could be worth asking...maybe.

 

Wow, I really am still angry...

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Are there any homeschooled teen groups in your area?  Perhaps homeschooled teens doing some group community work or volunteer work?  If so, I would try to plug her in there.  The youth pastor, while he will likely agree that that is a problem, probably can't force the girls to change. 

 

I agree, those kids have common experiences which your daughter doesn't share. At their ages, the teens may not do the work to dig a little deeper to find commonalities with your daughter.  Sad.

 

I hope you find something that works.  It must be very hard on her not to be included! 

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(Hugs)

 

I wouldn't say anything because ime youth group leaders don't want any input and see parents as the enemy.

 

I feel like youth group ruined our lives. I know this sounds overly dramatic but we are still recovering from youth group carp years later.

 

If your yg leader is an actual grownup with qualifications beyond being 18+ and "cool"...it could be worth asking...maybe.

 

Wow, I really am still angry...

 

No our youth pastor is a great guy who really cares and wants parents along for the ride. He realizes and tells parents that HE CAN'T ENSURE THAT THEIR KIDS DO RIGHT. It's the parent's job to raise the kids. He;s not obsessed with being cool or anything like that.

 

I'm sorry for your hurt.

 

You know, church shouldn't be like this.

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Are there any homeschooled teen groups in your area?  Perhaps homeschooled teens doing some group community work or volunteer work?  If so, I would try to plug her in there.  The youth pastor, while he will likely agree that that is a problem, probably can't force the girls to change. 

 

I hope you find something that works.  It must be very hard on her not to be included! 

 

Yes, we are very involved in our homeschool group. They have lots of friends there. My kids just wish they could connect with their church friends in the same way.

 

I hate to tell them this, but I almost want to say "Don't expect the church kids to understand right now. Enjoy your homeschooling friends and enjoy the teaching at church. In a few years, the church kids may outgrow this and be normal people."

 

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They might be 'normal people' who do this as adults.

 

I will never forget sitting next to the new pastor's wife at a home Bible study and hearing the woman who wanted to be her BFF say to her, "Hey, why are you sitting there all by yourself?  Come and sit here, next to me!"  Uh yeah.  Because the entire world revolves around you, and hence anyone else that someone may be sitting near is nonexistent.  

 

I think that this is something that can be helpfully addressed as younger kids, and that that would make adulthood better as well.

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My DH is a YP, and he would want to hear about this or any issues within his YG. He is a pastor first and foremost, and his desire (and it sounds like the same for your YP) is for people to have authentic relationships with God and others. 

 

So, I would call your YP and explain the issue and even offer a couple of possible solutions. I would also do as PP said and have your girls try and be more proactive, maybe inviting other kids over or out for some fun and or a service idea. 

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I think this is pretty typical behavior for people in general in my experience, not just teens. When we have company-wide events, people tend to sit by and mingle with coworkers from their own departments rather than people who work elsewhere in the company because it's more comfortable. At county 4-H events, people from the same club tend to congregate. I'd probably just encourage the girls to keep doing what they're doing and initiate conversations. I doubt anyone is purposely excluding them, but maybe I'm missing what's going on. Do they try to join one of the groups and get ignored?

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Is there any way to invite some of the kids from the youth group on an outing with your kids?  Give them a chance to get to know each other better?  Maybe even a party at your house?  

 

We've done it. do it every now and then.

 

But it's like a mob mentality takes over when a whole group of kids get in the youth area.

 

It makes me dd feel used that people will come over to her house for a good time and she's persona non grata when their schoolmates are around.

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They might be 'normal people' who do this as adults.

 

I will never forget sitting next to the new pastor's wife at a home Bible study and hearing the woman who wanted to be her BFF say to her, "Hey, why are you sitting there all by yourself?  Come and sit here, next to me!"  Uh yeah.  Because the entire world revolves around you, and hence anyone else that someone may be sitting near is nonexistent.  

 

I think that this is something that can be helpfully addressed as younger kids, and that that would make adulthood better as well.

 

Yeah, people do this as adults too. It's equally annoying and hurtful. I think because of this, in our homeschool groups and activities, my girls are super conscious of the "loners" and try to befriend and draw them in.  I think they just feel invisible at church with kids their own ages.

 

Sad.

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Our experience has been like yours, that the gulf between homeschool and high school is huge. For my older dd, she has managed it okay, because her closest friends actually don't like school much and prefer for it not to be the center of their life.

 

But my dd2 has had a really, really rough fall when half of her friends headed to high school. Even though the group had different high schools represented, it suddenly was about school all the time. Social life is now football games, high school swimming over club, homework before practice....all the ways you can be excluded have happened to dd2.

 

I think that a heart to heart with the youth pastor might help, but in some ways, it will just be hard. I am sorry.

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:grouphug:  :grouphug:  :grouphug:

 

DD have very little contact with her friends who still attend public school so I understand completely where you are coming from.  If she runs into an individual person they are friendly and they visit with her.  If they are with school chums, they just aren't the same.  We invite them over and it is fine, again as individuals.  Group mentality is so different.  

 

Maybe talking to the pastor will help.  I am so sorry.  

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:grouphug:

 

I don't know if it can be fixed or not. But if your dd wants to join the adult women's Bible study, I say go for it. There will be more long-term spiritual growth there.

 

That's what I am going to encourage her to do.

 

She says It feels like being a quitter.

 

I'm not sure how to respond to that. I told her that the good kids need to see what happens when they are thoughtless. And she needs to find other ways to be fed at church. I think she will leave church feeling good again.

 

It has to be her decision though.

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:grouphug: :grouphug:  We've encountered the same thing.

 

I did approach the youth leader (female co-leader, actually), but I started by asking if my daughter was the problem - if asked if she was sending out unfriendly vibes toward the other girls.  I didn't think she was, but I wanted to open the conversation in the least confrontational way possible.   The leader assured me that my girl was not the problem but that she and her male co-leader did recognize the problem.  They tried to get more unity in the group but it has never worked out.  Over time one girl became her friend and she is equally shunned by the others.  (She is not homeschooled but goes to a different private school than most of the others.)

 

It's the same though at non-church groups.  My daughter volunteers at the public library on a teen committee.  She is largely ignored there by the other kids. The adult leaders try to help, but there is really nothing they can do.

 

I would approach the idea of taking a teen to a women's Bible study carefully. We had some problems one year when someone brought a  teen to ours.  Many of the women felt stifled in their ability to discuss certain topics with the young woman there.  For example, a woman with a troubled child felt like she couldn't talk about his issues or ask for prayer for him in front of a girl about his age.  It really depends on the atmosphere of the group and their focus.  So, take my comment with a grain of salt; if it doesn't apply to your study, then ignore me.  :-)

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I think it is pretty normal. My daughter is experiencing the same thing, but it's with her homeschool group. Cliques form, and it isn't about verbally excluding, but it certainly isn't including either.

 

I would say something to the pastor only because it opens up the opportunity for something great to happen. Sometimes the kids get the message, especially if presented not as shaming but as an opportunity, and do try to reach out to others. When that happens, it's an amazing thing for everyone. Usually nothing much changes, and that's okay too. I wouldn't approach it as "these kids are terrible and must include everyone" (and I doubt you'd do that anyway), but more as "this is what's going on, and is there a way to maybe create the opportunity for them to change" knowing that they might not and then you'll have to decide what to do from there.

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Typing on my phone so this won't be literary:

-tell YP (because he's a good one, may have ideas, can support

-there's a certain extent to which connecting with people is a numbers game. Keep inviting, and don't take it personally when you don't click.

-meet the school high schoolers where they are. What does their life revolve around? Show interest in them. The "good" ones will eventually return it.

-accept that a huge part of high school relationships revolve around the minutiae of daily interactions and events at school. That's likely impenetrable. Don't try to have them explain each little imbroglio (they won't want to do this all the time. Be content to go along for the ride.

-especially for girls, deep connection with school friends may be a trade off for homeschooling (always exceptions) but that doesn't mean there can't be more connection/inclusion

Hugs for your mama heart

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You know, church shouldn't be like this.

 

You are right.  I have spent the last 5 years dealing with a similar situation that has hurt DD very deeply.  For five years we have reached out, hosted events, invited people over, etc.  It has not made a lick of difference.

 

And similarly, some of these girls behaving the worst in this way are the most "exemplary" in the church, and are often put up on a pedestal for their evangelizing activities.  In our case, we have talked to the church elders who really didn't respond past "so sorry, just try to make some new friends".  It is sad, because in our case, our church does not hesitate to give counsel about living a Christian life.  But in this area, it's "oh well".

 

I have watched sadly this group and situation push my daughter away from God and from the congregation. 

 

If you think there is any chance for your pastor to respond, then take action.

 

:grouphug:

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I also think cliques are normal at that age, and they also aren't necessarily meant to be nasty.  Kids just tend to fall into the pattern of talking to those they already know better - a lot of adults tend to do it too.  Kids are maybe less aware of it though, or are less confident or practiced in how to overcome it.

 

I think that the leader could probably do some things to help it.  One might be breaking the kids up into different groups, even pairs, for activities or projects.  Not just for a short while, but long enough to create a new set of substantial relationships.  Not every set of kids will click, but over time I think it would have a good effect for everyone.

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That's what I am going to encourage her to do.

 

She says It feels like being a quitter.

 

I'm not sure how to respond to that. I told her that the good kids need to see what happens when they are thoughtless. And she needs to find other ways to be fed at church. I think she will leave church feeling good again.

 

It has to be her decision though.

 

What on earth is she "quitting"?

 

Her life does not depend on a single group of people. She didn't sign up to be with those people. She didn't fill out an application of some sort. She's there because her parents decided to attend that particular church and that's the group of people to which she has been assigned purely because of her age. If she were an adult, she'd join one of the multiple adult groups available based on her interests, and if at some point her interests didn't match those of the group, she'd go to a different group.

 

As an adult, if she signed up for a Bible Study Fellowship group or a Precept Bible Study and it wasn't what she had thought it would be, she'd stop going. If she signed up for a yoga class and it wasn't what she thought it would be, she'd quit going. Why should youth group be any different? Is she in charge? Is she a leader of some kind? No? Then what is she "quitting"?

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What outcome do they envision? Do they want to join the casual friends+others from same high school group, or do they want the casual friends to ignore the others? 

I'm still wondering the same thing. Is the problem that the kids naturally divide into groups by high school and ignore other people who try to join them, or is there an expectation that the kids should mingle equally with everyone? 

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I've seen this happen before. In one case, the homeschooled teen started helping in the younger children's Sunday School and was much happier. In another case, the kids attended adult Sunday School instead.

 

Kids can be so cruel (whether intentionally or not).  Maybe I'm a cynic, but these things usually don't change.

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This happens in our church too, though not only with homeschoolers. Sometimes there are other kids who just don't fit in with the group. Ours sometimes join in an adult Sunday school class, but more often find another niche in the church.

Music ministry, teaching younger kids, world or home missions. They find a way to serve and learn with another group within the church. Often they still connect with the youth group one day a week or for mission trips, retreats etc.

 

I would speak to the YP, but not expect a huge change.

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Our youth group is going through a series of lessons on love on Wednesday nights. One main topic has been cliques. It's been my experience that cliques happen throughout different age groups and activities. I think it is human nature to stick with the familiar. Not saying it is right, or kind, but I do think it's the norm. 

 

We have 5-10 homeschoolers in our YG. They actually don't all hang out together. They are all in cliques, just different ones from each other. 

 

During YG, our YP is teaching about how we shouldn't be in cliques, look for ways to include others and stepping out of your comfort zone. He also randomly divides the kids up each session to do activities, both at the beginning and during the lesson.

 

The next week, everyone is back in their different groups again. The kids are all willing to go talk to others, but they don't think about it on their own. If you remind them though, they go do it willingly. 

 

I would definitely talk to the YP about it. No matter what, there probably isn't a quick fix, but maybe y'all can brainstorm some ideas to help with the problem. 

 

ETA: I'm with the youth both during their hangout/game time before lessons and during the lesson. I've also been with the randomly assigned break out groups, so I know what's being said and done. I've seen it. 

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How many of us take the time to actually friend someone we don't have a lot in common with? Who do we talk to at church social events? Who do we invite to do something with? Who comes to our parties? Do we have friends we see once in a while and have a great time with but don't make the effort to call again for months? Do our friends change as we have children? Retire? Move? This is not just a teen issue. We all do this, all the time. And don't even stop to think about it. 

 

I read these threads and it makes me look at myself and how I'm interacting with others. 

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This kind of thing happens all the time in groups of youth, including youth groups. I see it as a developmental thing, like teaching preschoolers to take turns or share. So yes, I would tell the youth group leader so that he could maybe help things along. 

 

I think it's most helpful to think of it in terms of the developmental stage of teens rather than character, though I totally get the impulse when it's your kiddo who is being left out. For instance, through that lens "some of these kids are lauded for going on missions trips to foreign countries to tell others about Jesus, but they can't talk to an unfamiliar face or just someone from outside their clique in their own home church"  is pretty understandable. (Not best practice, just understandable.)  When I think about which is riskier socially: to talk to a stranger in a foreign country when you are wearing the "hat" of "missionary" (and do not have to encounter the person on a regular basis)  or to talk with an unfamiliar person on your home turf instead of securing your position in your own social group--- the second is riskier hands down.  It's not about their character, it's not about your dd's social attractiveness; it's about that kind of social insecurity and blindness that drives teens to glom up into groups. 

 

And though it is developmentally intense during the teen years, many adults are the same way: they talk to the people they know . 

 

 

 

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Thank you all for your thoughts.

 

Y'all have helped me straighten out my own mind that was more like "You bunch of jerky teens can't you see how miserable and hateful you punks are! " :)

 

I think my dd and I need to dialog about this more. I don;t believe it is realistic for her to expect that her church friends will click with her like her homeschool friends. And it's not because of our preconceived notions about "those worldly school kids" because we've been so intentional about not stereotyping based upon school, appearance, or whatever. It's just that there's not as much in common in her life as is with the "typical" teen experience. and that's ok.

 

She needs to feel that it's ok if everyone's not her "good buddy" I mean it would be great if she found good friends at church but if it doesn't happen then she can still enjoy the good parts that she does like. My best friends are not from church. But I still do have friends. The difference I think is that all the church people don't only come from two or three workplaces!

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I just read your last comment, and think you have already have developed some good insights.

 

The middle school and high school transition can be a tough one.  The teens do tend to seek safety and comfort in their familiar groups.  Another thing that happens, especially for girls, is the "boy" thing.  Some girls are more interested in romance than others at that developmental stage, and I've noticed they tend to seek out other friends that are at a similar place developmentally. It can even impact homeschool friendships.  Very tough to watch as the mother of one who is 'left behind", though I do think it all works itself out later (unfortunately, it's often after high school.)

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My youth group was very small (like maybe 7 or 8 of us). A large majority of us were military and used being the new kid as well as welcoming other new kids. A family joined our church and their daughter started attending activities with us. She was more reserved than we were, but we didn't think much of it. One day an adult sat us down and let us know that this girl felt left out and excluded. We were all surprised. After that we went out of our way to include her, not in an over-compensating sort of way, we just made more of a conscious effort. I think she started having more fun.

I'm not saying your daughter is reserved or anything like that. My point is that the other youth might not be aware that they're excluding anyone. If the youth pastor brought it to their attention (perhaps not specifying with names) they might think about it more and get away from being clicky.

But, if she wants to attend ladies' study I'd let her. My 7 year old does not have friends her age, but has several adults that she enjoys talking with. She's very happy like that.

I hope you get it all worked out!

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I'm a volunteer youth leader at our church, and our youth pastor would definitely want to know if a student was experiencing this in our group. We have a large youth group, though, and sometimes it's hard for the leaders to catch everything that happens during the 1 1/2 we have the students together.

 

We're actually trying to address cliques right now in our group. This year, the focus of our Bible studies will be on unity in Christ. At the beginning of the semester, our youth pastor assigned everyone to a Unity Group (U-Group), and students will keep the same U-group for the entire semester. He purposefully broke up the cliques for these groups. We spend about 20 minutes every night playing games or doing activities to help the students connect to the members of their groups, because we realize that they need some help in this area. Later in the semester U-groups may gather to do service projects. So far, I think it's going well, but I haven't heard any feedback from the parents. My girls seem to enjoy the groups, though. (I have one in high school youth and another in middle school youth. My high schooler also volunteers with the middle schoolers as a student leader, so she really has a good idea of what is happening with the cliques. She thinks the U-Groups are helping push people out of their comfort zones a bit--and that's what these kids need.)

 

 

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I think they just feel invisible at church with kids their own ages.

I've seen this happen before. In one case, the homeschooled teen started helping in the younger children's Sunday School and was much happier. In another case, the kids attended adult Sunday School instead.

It's just that there's not as much in common in her life as is with the "typical" teen experience. and that's ok.

I wasn't hs'ed - ps all the way through - but this was my experience in church youth groups, too. Unintentionally ignored most of the time by the other kids, always the outsider looking in. (Even though I knew most of the kids because I'd grown up in the church and my parents were super-active - everyone knew who they were - and I did get on much better with adults or younger kids.). I was too shy and generally socially awkward to do anything but sit on the sidelines wishing someone would magically realize I wanted company and come talk to me (but doing my best to look like I was just where I wanted to be, so as not to look like the loser I felt like). At the time I thought everyone else had it all together (versus me, the wallflower loser), but now I realize that all the other kids were probably just as worried about fitting in and being rejected as I was. (And I learned that I come off as aloof and unapproachable on my best days; as an awkward lonely teen desperately trying to look as if I *liked* being alone...I bet I looked like a full-on ice queen who was ready to jump on anyone who disturbed me.)

 

Anyway, I guess this is just to say your dds aren't alone, and that it gets better :grouphug:. I volunteered as a Sunday school helper my senior year, and that was *loads* better than sitting lonely through yet another high school class. Also, I got to know some of the other "social rejects" and was friendly with them - we kept each other company at events. She's a bright spot in my teen memories, and I'd never have gotten to know her if I hadn't been an outsider, too.

 

Eta: as far as I knew, my youth pastor didn't notice. I was actually part of the youth leadership for 18 months, if you can believe it. The other leaders and I got on great at leader stuff, but that never carried over into regular events - then it was back to the sidelines. They never thought to include me and I was too shy and scared of rejection to "push" my way in. In retrospect, I think there were far more kids feeling left out than I realized at the time. But most of them could make friends in general (unlike me), so they still seemed way more confident than I was. The girl I made friends with was like me, different and awkward in every setting she was in.

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Our youth group kids (and really, even the younger ages) tend to hang out with their friends from their own schools.  I think some of it is natural.....you see those people 5 days a week all day long and you are friends, so in youth group, you gravitate towards each other.

 

However, when it becomes exclusive, it is hurtful.  

 

Our youth pastor (the one who just left to go to another church and we are very upset about) put kids in small groups that were NOT already friends.  It helped some.  He talked about it to the kids.  It helped some.  

 

I am just not sure what else can be done.  

 

My oldest hates youth group.  I don't make him go.

 

My middle son loves it and he goes, and he tries hard to fit in.

 

 

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This issue is not exclusive to homeschoolers... 

 

My youngest has always attended PS.

In our last church (town A) the MAJORITY of the active youth were homeschooled.  They tended to 'clique' and dd was often left out...dd was active in a worship/dance group for many years...well in 6th grade, she was the only PS girl in the group.  The leader and parents decided that 2pm practices worked the best for their schedules so dd was naturally excluded as PS was not out until 3:15!  

 

10 years ago oldest dd had similar issues at the church in town A-- she was one of the only students homeschooled...couple this with the fact that she is an aspie and an introvert!

 

We live between towns and were asked to be a part of a new church plant a few years ago in town B.  The youth group in town B tended to be polite to dd but never really engaged her in conversation beyond 'hi'.  It was funny/sad when one of the parent helpers commented on how shy dd was...when they noticed her sitting alone at most of the meetings (I was a parent helper too).  They were pretty surprised when I said that dd was actually an out-going popular student at her school--and that she was experiencing 'rejection' from the town B students (her word-- more like non-engagement in reality as they other kids were 'polite' but would not make an effort to let her in their circle).

 

Anywhoo-- dd and I had a long talk--lots of talks actually.  She came to the conclusion that youth group was NOT ABOUT HER SOCIAL LIFE.  Youth group was one tool available for her to use as she grows in her faith.  It was not mandatory.  DD took a long look at the programs available to her-- town A and town B.  She decided that SHE was getting more out of the lessons and support in town A's group.  This and the fact that she sees many of those students during the week at school--AND the majority of the leaders are actually teachers at her school--AND youth group meets after school at her school (they rent the facility).  The group dynamics of town A's church has shifted-- still quite a few homeschoolers--but more PS students are now attending (probably due to location!).

 

My dd's best friend is a homeschooler (she attends a different church in town C...).  

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I haven't read other replies.

 

In a situation like this, I think there are two options.

 

#1: The girls could keep going.  Perhaps over time, as they become regular/core members of the youth group, they will form strong friendships with other regular/core members that crosses school boundaries.  Do the extras - missions trips, fund raisers, etc.  Be there (them, not you) all the time.  Lots of times teens (heck, people in general, not just teens) need really concentrated time to really open up and get to know one another.  

The above is how my youth group was as a teen.  Where we lived there were multiple school districts in the county (4 that I can think of) and our church had people - and therefore teenagers - from all four.  When I started youth group, I didn't know them all very well - just their school districts lol, and the reputations that the school districts had (not even reputations - just, you know, whatever you want to call them... rivalry things or innocuous 'stereotyping' things that schools do) - mine was, obviously, the best ;), one was snobby and our biggest rival (when I went to a dance there I didn't dare say I was from my school district because of what could happen; at our home football game against them my senior year, the school officials decided it would be safer for us - the marching band, that is - not to walk around the track to their side of the field, etc), one was tiny and barely had anything to offer, and one was the hoodlums.  Idk where these things came from but whatever.  :)  Anyway, through middle school I still sort of stuck to what I knew and was most familiar with, but I was sort of shy and awkward, too, I liked the other girls but they weren't my closest friends.  

Somewhere around the end of middle - beginning of high school, I started becoming closer to the other girls at church.  My best friend was from the tiny school with nothing to offer lol... ;)  I went to the graduation of all the schools the year before I graduated, because I had very close friends graduating from each one.  (They all graduated a year before me.)  We all ended up close because of just being together so much, and being that 'core' group that spanned school districts and ages/grades.

 

#2: The girls could stop going.  They could go elsewhere - another group, club, etc - to get to know like-minded teens and/or receive their spiritual 'food'.  This could be the youth group at another church, possibly where they already know someone.  They could forego youth groups altogether in favor of other activities that could bring them closer to their peers and form friendships, choosing to go to women's Bible study or whatever.  

I also attended a youth group at another church.  I still had great friends at my home church, but when I was around 15 and a junior in high school my youth pastor basically 'kicked me out'... he decided that 15+ was 'too old' for youth group.  I could still go, but I didn't feel particularly welcome.  There were still people my age there, but a few of us decided to go to another youth group.  One of my closest friends from school invited us, and we went several times.  It was on a different night than the youth group at our church, which allowed a church friend or two to come with me until our church switched nights.  

I stayed at that youth group for a little while - I went off and on for the rest of my high school years (about 1.5 years), and I visited the one at my home church a handful of times.  But I started attending the regular weekly Bible studies (as well as Sunday services) for my main 'Bible teaching' (for lack of a better word lol).  I made close friends also through my school, in band and choir.

 

 

Those are the two things that stand out to me as possibilities.  I don't really think it's necessary for the youth pastor to be talked to about any of it, because it's not that there is a problem with the youth group.  And there's nothing wrong with attending a youth group at another church if it suits your daughters better.  

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They might be 'normal people' who do this as adults.

 

I will never forget sitting next to the new pastor's wife at a home Bible study and hearing the woman who wanted to be her BFF say to her, "Hey, why are you sitting there all by yourself? Come and sit here, next to me!" Uh yeah. Because the entire world revolves around you, and hence anyone else that someone may be sitting near is nonexistent.

 

I think that this is something that can be helpfully addressed as younger kids, and that that would make adulthood better as well.

Wow. What an unpleasant woman!

 

(Though I have known someone like this, too...)

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Welcome to my world, sort of.  My daughter is only 8th grade, but basically she hangs around the juniors, seniors and college helpers.  She cannot connect with the middle school girls that are her age.  They are so incredibly silly.  Plus, how can you join in a conversation that centers around drill team, chearleaders, the horrible teacher at school that everyone has, etc.  They just do not have that much in common.  It isn't that they don't like her.  They do.  But as she said, she is different.

 

This has been our experience.   About half of the kids at our church, maybe 3/4, go to the same small school.  They wind up talking about whatever happened Thursday in math class, and the others just look on.  The leaders have tried to do something about it, and I'm sure the kids don't mean to be exclusive.  It just happens.  But it is painful for the kids who are going through it.     My dds have had their best friends through our homeschool co-op and Awana at a different church, where the kids are from more spread out areas.

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I think this is pretty typical behavior for people in general in my experience, not just teens. When we have company-wide events, people tend to sit by and mingle with coworkers from their own departments rather than people who work elsewhere in the company because it's more comfortable. At county 4-H events, people from the same club tend to congregate. I'd probably just encourage the girls to keep doing what they're doing and initiate conversations. I doubt anyone is purposely excluding them, but maybe I'm missing what's going on. Do they try to join one of the groups and get ignored?

 

I agree this is true.  I don't think kids exclude intentionally, but they just gravitate to what feels comfortable and that might be those who they see every day in school.  Understandable.

 

That said, I think it is part of the job of a youth group leader to work hard to break down those barriers and be inclusive to all.  I would absolutely talk to that person.  And if it's not working, I'd leave and make sure someone knew why my child was leaving.

 

My kid is at a youth retreat this weekend with a bunch of 9th graders from our UU church.  I am unhappy with many aspects of it, this being one of them.  Someone is going to get an earful about it at some point this year.

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We have had a similar problem at our youth group only a bit of the opposite.  We have mostly homeschool kids and the public school kids felt left out.  Some of the youth leaders noticed it happening and quietly approached some of the more mature and outgoing teens and mentioned what they were noticing.  These teen took it upon themselves to work on including the ones looking left out.  It helped somewhat.  Our teens also break out by age into smaller groups which helps them make more connections through group discussion. It is still not perfect but it has become better.

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Could have written this post myself!! Kid #3 and #4 are in this situation now. Kids #1-3 have all had identical experiences.  Cliques in youth group, shunning, etc. My kids figured out that they had to dumb down their vocabulary and appear very uninterested in the Bible study to fit in just a bit.

 

And they decided it wasn't worth the effort. They moved to adult Bible study and found friends elsewhere. One child identified one person at church that they really liked and we host that child often and cheerfully. That child is now rather shunned but she wasn't popular before either.

 

Kid #4.....she just has the ability to fit in better. She has had a bit of an easier time, but often comments on how strong the cliques are. I've mopped tears more than once over youth groups at church.

 

We finally decided that youth group is a time-limited part of life, thankfully, and to treat my kids like adults. The adults at church love my kids!!

 

Hugs to your daughter! She's not alone.

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I'm sorry.

 

We've been through this several times over the years.  12-15 year old girls are the worst about doing this to one another.  We've left a church because of it.  (and also because the youth director was doing nothing to encourage growth and fellowship among his group)

 

We go to a church with a great youth director, and this still happened.  Our church is fairly large.  Because they didn't go to school with these kids it was very hard to get "noticed".  Age has helped some, but my girls have also learned to be very proactive.  They had to make a point to walk up to people and talk.  They got involved in as many of the youth activities as they could so that they became a familiar face.  They took leadership positions when they could, and they talked to the youth leaders about how to keep it from happening to other kids.  Their youth group is working on mentoring this year to combat it.  They've assigned each junior and senior 2-3 younger girls to get to know.  They are supposed to engage with these girls regularly, and help them navigate the group.  This is a new thing, but already it seems like the girls know a lot more people.  

They have found, as they've become friends with the teens at church, that most of the kids there really did not mean to be exclusive.  It is just VERY easy in larger groups to go unnoticed if you are shy and/or quiet.  

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We simply gave up on youth group.  This has happened everywhere that we've gone to church.  A good part of it IS that our kids are not super assertive about forcing themselves into groups and trying to assimilate.  But you know what? I'm pretty OK with that.  It's ALWAYS up to the new people to make themselves palatable to the group that's already entrenched, it seems.  It can be hard when our kids mainly have online friends, but our entire family seems to have a problem with being worth other people's time, so it just is what it is.  Maybe one day it will change.

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