Friday, January 31, 2014

Seven Quick Takes- The Youth Group Edition

What does it take to survive have a successful youth group at your church?  Well, I am still working on that, but here are some stories of my joys and failures in the past six years of being a youth group leader.  Maybe you are a veteran youth group leader, or maybe you are a newbie, but here are seven things that I think are critical in youth ministry.
--- 1 --- 
Concerts Are Critical, and Music Matters.
We hit A LOT of Christian concerts as a Youth Group.  The free outdoor ones are our favorite.  Between the (usually) good music, uplifting message, and the roadtrip to get there, concerts are crowd pleasers in our YG world.
Two van loads of my youth group kids and I saw Tenth Avenue North at Winter Jam 2014 last Sunday Night.  They were one of ten bands, and one of the few that I could actually hear and understand all of their lyrics (there's my I'm-too-old-to-be-at-a-rock-concert self showing).   This was the "favorite" song of the evening for the girls that I was sitting near, and I am not sure if it is because they really liked it or because they decided that they all should marry the bad members and become roadie-wives.  I'm game to join them.  However, now that I have seen this video, I can't stop picturing the lead singer as a hobbit- watch the video and tell me you don't think the same thing...(the hair?  the tree?)
--- 2 ---
Don't Let Silly Weather Stop Your Ministry.

Rain, snow, ice, cold, wind, blazing heat...I've seen them all at the concerts we have attended.

Winter Jam is one of my favorite events because it doesn't require purchasing tickets ahead of time.  Procrastinating-Non-Committal Teenagers + Advanced-Ticket-Purchases = Headaches for Katie.
Ten bands, ten bucks at the door, full arena rock concert experience: it is win-win.
However, the WINTER always seems to be trouble for our Winter Jam experiences.  Last year, we had to cancel because of a last minute ice storm.  This year we were going no matter what according to the kids.  We left from the church in balmy 30 degree temps (a veritable heat wave), made our way into the concert, and proceeded to rock out.  However, while in the arena, the temperature plummeted almost 30 degrees and in our neck of the woods a couple of inches of snow combined with major wind to create white out conditions.  
Much to the kids delight, we all got notifications (from four different schools among the kids with us) that no one was going to have school the next day! 

Much to the kids groaning, Katie still made them leave when the show was about half over so that we could get home and not spend the night in a ditch.  Or worse, together in a hotel.  You just can't win. 

--- 3 ---
Build Relationships and Make Memories.
Don't get me wrong, I love my Youth Group kids.  And they love me, too, I think.  Sometimes that love just comes in the form of making Katie the object of so many inside jokes that never go away.  They will never let me forget about the ONE time SIX years ago that I told one of them to shut up.  Or the time that I stood in the middle of the street to get the best possible angle for a group picture.  And they love to do things like run away from me in Walmart and then text that they are getting into a white paneled van with a nice mustached man and that they will see me later.

Darn kids.

It isn't just me, though. We have a "Quote Wall" to preserve all of the funny things that are said or done which shall live in infamy for years to come.  It is all in good fun.  But I do seem to make the board a lot...

--- 4 ---
Group Games Grow Camaraderie.
We do have some favorite games in our Youth Group.

Sardines is by far the most requested game, but I have put the kibosh on that one lately.  Somehow an unlit room filled with 15 teen boys and girls wandering around no longer seems like a good idea...

The latest and greatest game we have discovered is Human Battleship.  People lying on the floor are the ships, there is a tarp in between them, and we throw a volleyball over the tarp as a missile.  Lots of fun.

Actually, any game where they can throw things seems to be a hit.

This site has some great ideas for different games and icebreakers.

--- 5 ---
Develop an Environment of Emotional, Mental, and Physical Safety.
Speaking of games, most of the time the kids are able to make their own fun.  It is important to plan downtime into any youth group meeting or event to allow for fellowship and relationship building.  Make sure that downtime takes place in a way that makes the kids feel emotionally, mentally, and physically safe.

However, be aware that downtime can sometimes lead to some...umm...interesting creative thought in a teenager's brain.

You may find yourself saying something like:
"No, you may not put him on your shoulders to see if you can touch the ceiling."
"Fire is not an appropriate source of inside entertainment."
"No, we may not do a Chinese Fire Drill in downtown Peoria."
"Please throw the ball AWAY from the church's stained glass windows."
"If you mix that food together, you are eating it."
"Do not climb that."
"Do not jump off of that."
"I mean it- DO NOT jump off of that."

It is no wonder my face sometimes looks like this at Youth Group events.
This is a real photo from a YG retreat.  Eeek.

--- 6 ---
And Food.  No Matter What, Don't Forget the Food.
Like an army, a Youth Group marches on its stomach.  Have food.  Have lots of food.
And you will never get used to the kinds, combinations, amounts, or utensils used.  For example, take this shot of pizza on a flip flop.  When I need a safe spot to place my pizza in between bites, I do not generally think of footwear.

--- 7 ---
But Really, It Is All About Christ.
All the stuff above is fluff.  Encouraging unique encounters with the Person of Christ, increasing understanding of Scripture and Church Doctrine, growing prayer lives and reception of the Sacraments, and creating a connection to the Body of Christ is really what Youth Group is all about.

Some of the ways that we do that are through the lessons, talks, and studies that we work through.  Unfortunately, the Youth Group Lessons tab above is probably the most neglected on this little blog, but there are some ideas there that you are welcome to use. 

However, be aware that the best laid plans may still give you some unexpected results.

Icebreaker questions might lead to self created memes about the Mother of God.
Talk about how the world was a different place 2000 years ago, and you might get some interesting social media updates.
Teach them about being pro-life and that may grow into a conversation about how it would be cool if pregnant ladies were more like kangaroos.
You never know what you are going to get.

Happy Friday!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!


  1. So many of these stories take me back to similar Federation stories and happenings. Oh the joys! :)

    1. I feel that my learning experiences now may be payback for years past? :)