My friend Bridget is a special ed. teacher. When we were all in college and RA's together she used to remind us, sagely, to "model the behavior you desire". I think it's how the heathens interpret Bosco's, "get your students to love you and they'll fallow you anywhere". (For the record, Bridget is not a heathen. But I think she had to read a few for her major).
This came to mind this week. Between my homeschooled background and FUS, there's rarely a moment when I don't know what to do in Church. Genuflecting, sign of the cross, the reverent bob of the head for the mention of the Lord's name-- I got it covered. However, I take for granted and sometimes forget to impart this on the kiddos. Walking by the adoration chapel Wednesday, I suggested we duck in to say a quick prayer. When they walked into the chapel and were totally at a loss I realized that I hadn't given them any instruction on how to act, assuming they knew. Whoops.
I could have whispered hushed, forceful instructions in the tone I typically reserve for repossessing cell phones on high school retreats. "Genuflect! Pray! Focus!". Instead, in a moment of laziness which could maybe now be seen as the Holy Spirit, I realized that as little 7th grade bunchkins, they do everything I do. So I just knelt and prayed. And wouldn't you know it... They did too.
I had a similar revelation this summer when I realized if I spent less time eyeballing the teens for bad behavior during mass and spent more time just praying I would stop making myself mental, stop driving them crazy, and actually pray during Mass like I was supposed to. Win all around. It sounds so simple, but it changed my whole summer, when I realized the best thing I could do for the kids was just pray during Mass.
We still have to intervene when kids are setting fires or busting out their horoscope in Church, but I think Bridget was really onto something. I've seen youth ministry turn into an observation role-- of giving instructions from a distance. But when we model the behavior we desire we not only instruct those around us, but we stand to get holier too.