It’s a simple sentence fragment. It’s up to you to finish it. If you lead a small group or you’re a parent, it has the potential to take your group or relationship with your kids to a whole other level.
Monday, our high school ministry staff volunteered as small group facilitators for Challenge Day at Menlo-Atherton High School. If you’re unfamiliar with this incredible organization, check them out HERE.
Challenge Day is best known for their hallmark statement,”If you really knew me…” They even have their own SHOW on MTV.
Here’s the way this segment of the day works: after a series of icebreakers, students and adult leaders break up into small groups. Sitting knee to knee in chairs, leaders and facilitators set a tone of openness and vulnerability by revealing to the group a truth about themselves. Students then respond with a statement of their own. Safety guidelines and confidentiality are in place (i.e., facilitators and students are aware that all statements are confidential unless an issue like abuse is revealed and must be reported. Counselors are on site to handle these situations). The group’s response is vital to the success of the exercise:
- Don’t give advice.
- Don’t view the statement as a problem to be solved.
- Simply provide space for each student to share and LISTEN.
Statements usually start out on the surface level but quickly move deeper.
Here’s what I mean (from 2 real statements I shared about myself):”If you really knew me then you would know that I love to break up pop-tarts in a bowl, add milk, and eat it like cereal.” Pretty weird (and awesome) but unique to me. After one round and funny, unique revelations from students, I went deeper:”If you really knew me then you would know that even after all these years I mourn the loss of my youngest brother daily and most mornings I wake up thinking of him.”
See what I mean? Students responded. I was overwhelmed with the courage and authenticity of students as they opened up in ways many expressed they never had before. EVERY student has a story. It’s not surprising that many stories often include not only great victories and blessings but also hurt, pain, and brokenness. An overwhelming number of students have dealt with loss, pain, prejudice, racism, alienation, victimization, violence, depression, bullying, disease, on and on. Many suffer in silence, unaware that anyone cares or too afraid to share what’s really going on inside.
The vision of Challenge Day is that every child lives in a world where they feel safe, loved, and celebrated. I found an old truth at play in the gymnasium on Monday: by knowing and being known in a place that values authenticity and safety, students are dying to talk about more than just sports, Xbox, shopping, and The Office with caring, non-judgmental adults and peers. And when they do, safety, love, and celebration are a natural result.
“If you really knew me…” It’s a simple, fun, and thought provoking exercise. Katie and I have been using it around the dinner table. If you’re a small group leader, parent, spouse, or friend, try it this week.
P.S. There are suggested ways to bring Challenge Day to your local high school HERE.