Hands On Help: Youth
group magazine: March-April, 2003
“It’s no longer satisfactory to just be ironic about life.”
—Donald Braxton, chair of the religious department at Juniata College in Pennsylvania, on the difference in outlook between Gen Xers and Millennials, quoted in Christian Science Monitor
“The problem is the couch, not the can.”
—Indra K. Nooyi, PepsiCo’s president and chief financial officer, dispelling the notion that soft drinks are conributing to kids’ obesity, quoted in Forbes magazine
“I’m starting to fall in love with this girl.”
—Steven Tyler, lead singer for Aerosmith, on his enthusiasm for the teen-themed TV
show Lizzie McGuire, which his young daughters love, quoted in The New York Times
“Everybody wants to be big now. The majority now are guys that don’t do it for sports. They do it for girls. For the look.”
—Zeb Nava, a senior in high school, on the growing popularity of steroids among teenage guys, quoted in The New York Times
Jr. High Leaders: Game Plan
Games are a staple of youth ministry, but any game can be risky—so ask these questions at the planning stage.
• Is this game likely to harm or damage the self-confidence of any particular individual? Avoid any game that singles out one person for embarrassment.
• Can this game be played without compromising biblical standards? For example, throw out any game with the potential for immodesty or inappropriate physical contact.
• Does this game have a high likelihood of unifying students through laughter and fun? If so, it’s worth considering.
• If it’s a gross game, can it be played by volunteers only? For these types of games, always give students the choice to watch rather than participate.
Spiritual Discipline: Fast Company
Introduce the spiritual discipline of fasting into your youth ministry by challenging adult leaders and students to a once-a-month fast.
Invite participants to skip breakfast, lunch, and snacks throughout the day. That evening, have everyone gather for a Prayer, Praise, and Pizza event.
The small sacrifice of giving up food, even briefly, will add greatly to this time of worship and prayer. Be sure to pray specifically for God’s blessing and direction for the youth ministry. Afterward have everyone stay for conversation and pizza.
Hot Games: Tape Head
There are two versions of this game, which is fun to play and fun to watch.
Have your group form a number of small teams, then have each team choose one person to be the Tape Head. Have the Tape Heads put nylon stockings over their heads. Then wrap their heads with masking tape, sticky side out—but make sure they can breathe! (A variation would be to wrap the students’ heads only to their eyebrows and over their ears.) The nylon stockings protect the students’ hair and skin from the masking tape.
One way to play the game is to have the Tape Heads crawl to an area where an assortment of small, light objects is spread out. Possible objects include small marshmallows, rubber bands, Styrofoam cups, small pencils, or inflated balloons. Tape Heads must lower their heads onto the objects so they stick. Each Tape Head then crawls back to teammates, who remove the objects. This process is repeated for a set period of time, and the team that collects the most objects wins.
The other way to play this game is to have each team stand around its Tape Head, who is seated. On a given signal, team members stick as many of one kind of item as they can on their Tape Head, in a designated amount of time. For example, the items might include shoelaces in 15 seconds, loose change in 12 seconds, foam peanuts in 20 seconds, or cotton balls or swabs in seven seconds. The winning team is the one with the most items on its Tape Head.
As a rule of thumb for many games, you’ll need about one referee for every 20 students.
• Pick referees who are fun—referees who’ll enhance the game and who understand that rules are only guidelines to make the game more enjoyable. Don’t select referees who view themselves as authority figures whose main function is to enforce the rules to the letter of the law. Referees like this will find every type of minuscule mistake—they belong in the National Football League, not in your youth group.
• Select referees who can help equalize the game, so that if one team is desperately behind, the referees can become more observant of the winning team or award “spirit points” for the losing team’s enthusiasm.
• Have the referees wear striped jerseys or fluorescent jackets. And make sure they’re familiar with the game so they don’t have to keep referring to the game description.
Got a Gaming Question? If you need advice or ideas on the role or practice of play in your ministry, send your question to Les...and he’ll answer it!
Send your questions to email@example.com—put “Gaming Question” in the subject line.
Les Christie is chair of the youth ministry department at San Jose Christian College and an international speaker, author, and game guru.
Copyright © 2003 group Magazine, P.O. Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539-0481
Jr. High Ministry: The Parent Trap
by Kurt Johnston
Early in my ministry career, I was younger, cooler...and a lot more arrogant. I didn’t think that I needed kids’ parents. After all, they were too old, too conservative, and too, well, too parental! A few harsh lessons and several years later, I’ve discovered that parents’ involvement, influence, and support are crucial.
In our ministry, about one-third of our adult volunteers are parents of junior highers. Parents lead small groups, go to camp with us, help us build houses in Mexico, lend us their Suburbans and summer homes, and so much more. In fact, as I write this column, Karen Spain, a parent of one of our eighth-grade girls, is spending her afternoon shopping for our weekend program. We have an unusually high amount of parent support and involvement in our ministry because we’ve earned their trust.
Here’s how you can do the same.
Stick around awhile—Trust is earned over time.
Talk it up—Keep parents informed.
Welcome their input—They’re gonna share their opinions with someone; it might as well be you!
Act like an adult—Ouch, that one hurts a little.
Work with them, not against them—Don’t undermine their authority with their children.
Be mindful of the “little things”—Return from trips on time, have plenty of release forms, return phone calls, and so on.
When parents trust you, there’s almost no limit to the amount of support they’ll give your leadership and ministry. At this stage in my ministry, I could tell our parents that I was going to use their children to smuggle cigars from Cuba, and most of them would say, “Wow, Pastor Kurt, that’s a great idea; do you need me to help fund that?” An exaggeration, but you get the point!
Let me encourage you to view parents as your allies, not your enemies. As long as you minister to junior highers, you’ll also be ministering to their parents. I hope you’ll begin to treasure that opportunity instead of feeling trapped by it.
Kurt Johnston is a junior high minister at Saddleback Community Church in California.
Affirmation: Affirmation Night
Build a tradition of affirmation into your schedule by holding encouragement events at the end of each semester. The words spoken during these meeting times will ring in teenagers’ ears for weeks and months to come.
Use the following suggestions for all the group members to affirm each other, for small groups to affirm members, or for your own affirmations to young people.
• Buy crayons and choose a color that represents each person. Present the crayons and explain what the colors represent. For example, yellow might mean someone who’s joyful and full of God’s love.
• Choose a worship song that reminds you of each person. Write a few lines of the lyrics on note cards and present them individually.
• Choose an image or photo out of a magazine that makes you think of each person. Glue it to construction paper and add a Scripture verse.
• Write a short prayer for each person and present it.
• Choose and buy a candy that represents each person. Explain your selections as you pass them out. For example, LifeSavers candy might signify someone you can really count on.
Jesus-Style Youth Ministry: What If?
by Sonlife's Steve Argue and Dave Livermore
What if we reclaimed the “ministry” in “youth ministry” by...
• Refusing to see youth ministry as a vocational option and pursuing it only as a response to a calling?
• Drawing people close rather than pushing them away with a holier-than-thou persona?
• Being more concerned about individuals than crowds?
• Being more moved by God’s words than George Barna’s words?
• Serving without wearing a Christian T-shirt that labeled the service as Christian?
• Treating theology as something that’s as practical as God is relevant?
• Demonstrating that working solo is a poor replacement for relying on a believing community?
• Shepherding worship bands through an understanding of what it means to draw people to the glory of God?
• Describing salvation as being rescued by God, not a way to be fulfilled?
• Holding on to the truth that following Jesus is more about dying than having fun?
• Proving we’re more than specialists, leaders, administrators, or activity directors—but at our core we’re ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
What if we ministered like Jesus by...
• Making our purpose the same as Jesus’ purpose—to glorify the Father?
• Making our mission the same as Jesus’ mission—to make disciples of all nations through his church?
• Following Jesus rather than trying to copy him?
• Creating environments weighted toward spiritual transformation—where we foster true adoration, genuine community, the proclaimed truth, and sacrificial service?
• Identifying students who long for something more and equipping them to experience deep relationships with each other?
• Empowering teenagers to embody the gospel as part of God’s redeeming plan?
• Prioritizing our time with a few young people so we can perpetuate the movement of God in the lives of many more students?
Whether we like it or not, we’re multiplying something. Our young people are being discipled—in ways that look like us. Maybe there’s a reason the Scriptures warn us about the great responsibility of ministry. Maybe that’s what it means to reclaim it.
Editor’s Note: If this column resonates with you, explore its themes more deeply at one of Sonlife’s Strategy/Encounter seminars, coming soon to a city near you. For more information, call Sonlife at 800-770-4769.
Steve Argue and Dave Livermore lead the Youth Ministry Division at Sonlife Ministries in Illinois.
Leadership: Eating the Scroll
eating the scroll
“And he said to me, ‘Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel’ “ (Ezekiel 3:1).
Use this concept of eating the scroll as inspiration for teenagers to share the Word of God with each other. For each meeting, have one of the young people choose a Scripture verse and come prepared to talk briefly about it, either explaining the personal meaning the verse holds or perhaps how God spoke to him or her through this verse.
Teenagers will be more deeply affected by hearing how their peers apply Scripture to their lives than by hearing what you, as a leader, have to say.
Jr. Highers: 5^2 prayer
If your junior highers are new to personal devotion, give them this easy five-step template for spending time in prayer each day.
1. Thank God for five things he’s done for you.
2. Ask God to bless five Christian friends or family members.
3. Ask God to bless five non-Christians you know.
4. Ask God to show you five ways you can be a light to the world. (For example, “Lord, let my words build and benefit all who hear them today” or “Let everyone I meet today see a little bit of Christ in me.”)
5. Read five Scriptures of praise to God. (For example, Psalm 8:1-5; Psalm 40:1-5; Philippians 2:6-11.)
Good News About Kids
Twenty-two teenagers from the One Way youth group at Coopersville Reformed Church in Coopersville, Michigan, are serving children in a local elementary school as members of the Kids Hope USA ministry.
Fourteen of these teenagers are mentors. They each provide one-on-one mentoring and affirmation for one at-risk child, one hour every week for at least one year. Eight teenagers are behind-the-scenes prayer partners. They each commit to pray for one child and the child’s mentor.
“This large number of committed teens is a huge asset to our church—and community,” says youth worker Cookie Speet. “Their influence on this younger, needier group of kids is powerful...One of our teens mentored a little girl for four years, and now as she begins the process of mentoring a new little girl, the first child has offered to become her prayer partner.”
For more information on Kids Hope USA, go to www.kidshopeusa.org.
Tell us about your kids!
We want to know what phenomenal things your young people are doing. And if we use your story, we’ll send your youth group $40. Send your reports to “Good News,” group Magazine, P.O. Box 481, Loveland, CO 80539-0481, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.