Hands On Help: Youth
group magazine: July-August, 2007
Our teenagers seem to open up more if the discussion moves fast. So when we break into smaller discussion groups, we often start out with a rapid-fire round of warm-up questions.
I have the youth line up in two parallel lines facing each other. Then the leader yells out a question that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. The teenagers then have 30 seconds to discuss that question with the person across from them. At the end of 30 seconds the leader yells “Switch!” Then each line shifts down one person in opposite directions, and the person left alone on the end of each line has to run to the opposite end where a person will be waiting.
We keep asking questions for a few minutes, then break into small groups for more in-depth discussion.
sarai case / Tuscon, Arizona
cereal with Christ
Q. What do a toothbrush, a bowl of cereal, and a Bible have in common?
A. A quick and easy morning Bible study for your teenagers.
One morning a week I invite the kids to bring their favorite cereal to share. When they arrive we visit a bit, then spend 30 minutes eating cereal, completing a quick devotion, and praying.
On the first day teenagers show up for this, we give them their very own toothbrushes to keep at the church so they can brush after breakfast. You’d be surprised how excited they get over something so simple. Afterward we give them rides to school—we have a team of volunteer adults who serve as taxi drivers. Almost three-quarters of our high schoolers have participated in this Bible study time.
adam drummond / Huntington, Indiana
To subtly gather “insider” knowledge about my teenagers, I pass around a clipboard with a sign-in sheet at Bible studies and other events.
The sheet has a column for the teenagers’ names so I can track attendance, but it also has a wide column titled “Other stuff you want me to know.” It started slowly, but has now grown into one of my best communication tools. I get email addresses and phone numbers, a heads-up on who’s dating and who’s fighting, prayer requests, and questions. I created a policy that forbids insults or unkind remarks, and they’ve followed that well.
I’ve also received responses that prompt me to pursue issues more deeply with some teenagers. One girl wrote “I hate myself” in the column. It’s amazing how uninhibited some teenagers will be when they know someone is paying attention.
mary paynter / Homestead, Florida
I’ve been troubled by my kids’ quickly forgotten emotional commitments. So I created a process to challenge them.
1. Before every trip or retreat I challenge them to think hard about the commitments they make. I point out that anyone can get excited in the moment but it takes character to make a commitment and stick to it. I also discuss how we can’t let emotions alone govern us—they can be misleading.
2. When we’re done with the event I have a debriefing time with the kids before we leave. In front of their peers I ask each of them what they learned. I also ask them how they’re going to incorporate what they’ve learned into their lives.
3. During the Sunday evening service after the event we ask kids to tell their stories. We advertise the service as a time for them to share what they’ve learned, including a slide show set to music and personal testimonies.
4. I follow up with one-on-one time with each teenager, asking about life changes and struggles.
jon goodwin / Candor, New York
mug your teenagers
During a time of rapid growth, we discovered our teenagers were having a hard time learning each other’s names.
So we bought a bunch of plastic coffee mugs that are designed so we can slip papers and decorations into them (you can find these mugs at www.orientaltrading.com.) We give each teenager a mug, and we insert a piece of paper with his or her name on it. Now when we have coffee and snacks on Sunday mornings, or during any youth ministry event involving drinks, our kids can catch names at a glance.
paul brashaw / New Lothrop, Michigan