Hands-on Help: Youth
group magazine: January-February, 2006
More than Music
The temporary lack of a praise band opened our youth group to a much more personal form of worship—quiet worship stations where kids spend time worshipping God in their own way.
We set up a number of small card tables throughout the room, as far apart from each other as possible. Each table has one or two chairs, a candle, paper, and pens or pencils. We also provide handouts with lyrics of the worship song.
Every week before the closing message, we spend about 10 minutes worshipping. After dimming the lights, we play a worship song, and students move quietly to the tables. They can choose to draw pictures or write a letter to God, sing along with the song that’s playing, or silently pray and meditate on God. Afterward one of the adult leaders closes this time with a prayer of praise.
Our students are learning how to worship God in their own style and are also coming to the realization that worship is more than music and singing.
Having trouble getting senior highers excited about upcoming events? Don’t let kids see them coming!
As teenagers get older they seem to enjoy filling their calendars in a sporadic way, rather than planning weeks ahead—so I still plan events, but I don’t promote them. At the last minute, I call students and invite them to a “spur-of-the-moment” activity. The simple fact that it’s spontaneous, as far as they’re concerned, makes them more likely to not only show up but also to bring their friends along.
I’ve learned that planning and promoting don’t work nearly as well as planning and “promoting” at the last minute.
High Springs, Florida
“It’s just more attractive, so kids want to stay for lunch.”
—Jerry Binder, principal of Sterling High School in Sterling, Illinois, on the school’s new U.B.U. lounge (launched by food service provider Aramark) that transformed its cafeteria into a hot hangout with cool food, designer furniture, and pop music piped in, quoted in Newsweek
Our youth group wanted to come up with attention-grabbing T-shirts to wear to school every week on the
day we have our youth meeting—bright-colored, cool T-shirts that would be natural conversation starters, creating awareness of our youth group and giving our students an opening to invite their friends.
To achieve this, we needed nearly 100 cleverly designed and attractive T-shirts. Hesitant about shelling out more than my car is worth, we came up with the idea of selling advertising space on the T-shirts’ sleeves ($225). We sent letters to local businesses that included information about the number of students in our school and the fact that this was a tax-deductible donation. (Be sure your corporate sponsors reflect your church’s values.)
We created two designs with catchy slogans on the front and our youth group logo and information on the back. Our guys wear bright orange T-shirts and the girls wear bright pink, so we’re definitely a noticeable presence in the hallways!
In an effort to engage our older high school guys, I dared them to meet me once a week for breakfast and a short Bible study. They did a lot more than just show up.
What I expected were a few sleepy-eyed students arriving 10 minutes late for a gathering that might have a three-week life span. But our weekly breakfast soon emerged as the key connecting point for students who weren’t being challenged by our regular programs, which involve a broader spectrum of ages and maturity levels.
After targeting the specific needs of my high school guys who were struggling with college decisions, part-time jobs, and more serious young-adult issues, they not only kept showing up for our breakfast Bible study, but they also started to help shepherd the younger members of our youth ministry.
The key takeaway is that our older teenagers are often the least connected because they’re the least challenged. For us, personalized mentoring and raising the bar on kids’ commitment levels resulted in spiritual development and stronger youth leadership.
Would you like to help your students celebrate Valentine’s Day in a way that downplays the romantic boyfriend/girlfriend aspect? Our youth group hosted a party for the people who’ve impacted their lives in a special way.
Our teenagers worked in committees to plan this event—decorations, entertainment, food, and video production. Each committee was given a budget and worked on obvious tasks. The video production committee made a video that explained what we did every week at our meetings, with fun twists. The entertainment committee planned icebreakers and games for the evening.
Students each received two invitations that they could give to whomever they chose, any age or relationship. The invitations read:
“Your presence in my life has impacted me in so many ways. I would like to say ‘thank you’ by sharing a special evening with you.”
It was a wonderful way to say “I love you” to important people in their lives.
Daytona Beach, Florida
"I spent so much time conditioning myself not to cry when bad things happen in my life that I kind of suppress my feelings.”
—Rapper 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson), on being pushed to express emotional vulnerability during the filming of Get Rich or Die Tryin’, quoted in Entertainment Weekly
After being constantly frustrated about trying to communicate with teenagers between meetings, I decided to take a different route—one that helps me meet kids where they are.
Mailings get expensive and individual phone calls take forever. Email mailing lists have about a 15 percent success rate in our group because most kids have abandoned that technology for a newer, hipper, faster one—instant messaging.
So I registered a screen name specifically for our youth ministry on AOL’s instant messenger, AIM. It’s the most common and popular one among our teenagers—and it’s free. Then I announced the screen name and posted it everywhere, including our youth ministry’s Web site, and told kids to add it to their buddy lists.
Now I simply keep all my news up to date within the “profile” of that screen name and keep it logged on all day while I’m in the office (which might be hard if your office still has dial-up). Whenever a teenager checks the “buddy info” for that screen name, he or she gets all the latest need-to-know info.
This has worked great—no cost, easily accessible, and the content can be changed at any moment.
“The old days when the Bible was only available within a somber black cover with a cross on it are long gone.”
—Michael Chant, spokesman for the Bible Society in Australia, on the launch of its new SMS (text-messaging language) paraphrase of the Bible—example: “In da Bginnin God cre8d da heavens & da earth,” quoted from an AP report on CNN.com