group magazine: May-June, 1998
GROUP MAGAZINE - May-June 1998
9 ways to get the most out of your group’s annual theme park migration
By Mike and Amy Nappa
There’s nothing like the thrills and chills of an amusement park—and that’s just the bus ride there! If you want to maximize the fun and impact of a trip to a theme park, try these ideas...
1. Search for God. Before you leave for the theme park, design a simple Search for God work sheet. On the worksheet, list five observational challenges: (1) Notice a random act of kindness, (2) Notice someone who’s doing his or her job "as unto the Lord," (3) Notice someone exhibiting his or her faith in God, (4) Notice someone facing their fears, and (5) Notice someone exhibiting a character trait that describes God. As teenagers enter the park, give them each a worksheet and a pen or pencil. Challenge them to record at least five signs of God’s presence at the park. Have kids report what they saw on the ride home.
2. What’s My Ride?—When you arrive, form "ride groups" of four or five, and have kids in each group write their favorite theme park attraction on a slip of paper. Put the slips in a hat and mix them up. Then have each group draw slips to determine the order in which it will ride the rides. For example, the first slip drawn indicates the first ride, the second slip indicates the second ride, and so on. (If kids are lucky, they'll get to go on their favorite ride four times in a row!)
3. Be a Ride Connoisseur—Encourage kids to rate the rides and attractions, much as a food critic rates a restaurant meal. Have them give letter grades for things such as speed, length of ride, thrill factor, worth-the-wait, ride attendant, service, cleanliness, and more. Afterward, average the grades and use them for reference on future trips.
4. Play "Biography"—This is great for passing the time in line and for helping group members get to know each other. While waiting, have kids take turns telling about something that might eventually go into their biography. For example, their earliest memory, how they became a Christian, their most exciting life experience, and so on.
5. Give "Employee Bonuses"—Truth is, most amusement park employees are paid minimum wage to perform thankless tasks. Have kids brainstorm a dozen simple ways to thank these employees, then look for opportunities to put those ideas into action.
6. Be Story Keepers—Challenge kids to come back with The Best Story of the Day. Have them keep an eye out for interesting circumstances or events that happen while they’re at the park. Afterward, have volunteers take turns telling their stories (embellishment optional) and vote on the very best!
7. Bring a Pal—Equip a stuffed animal or other youth group mascot with a backpack, and put a camera, notepad, and pen inside. Then have kids take turns showing the mascot around the park. Encourage teenagers to photograph the mascot in unusual locations and to write "journal entries" on the notepad along the way, describing the day from the mascot’s perspective! Then, once you’re back at your church, display the mascot along with the notepad so kids who couldn’t make the trip get a "first-person" account.
8. Come on, Get Happy!—At lunchtime, ask kids to each come up with a quarter and randomly insert their quarters into arcade games. Then have them sit back and watch the happy reactions when people discover free games on the machines! During lunch, ask kids to discuss how this experience is like or unlike how God relates to us.
9. Ask, "What Would Jesus Do?"—Before you arrive at the park, ask kids to guess what Jesus would do if he visited an amusement park. Would he applaud the loudest at all the shows? Would he go on the fast rides six times, just for fun? Would he stop to help a harried mom or refuse to cut in line?
Mike and Amy Nappa are veteran youth leaders, free-lance authors, and editors in Colorado. They’ve also "taste-tested" their share of amusement parks.