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youth group

Crazy Volleyball: Youth Group game with lesson ideas

If you have the ability to play volley ball in your space, then I hope you play it frequently. Its a great game and is awesome for team building. However, unless you have some seriously competitive volleyball players in your group, then they may struggle to just get it over the net, in which case, maybe crazy volleyball is for you! Continue reading “Crazy Volleyball: Youth Group game with lesson ideas”

Sweet Summertime… in Youth Ministry

Mission trips, church camp, national conferences, and retreats. Water gun fights, trips to Sonic, Monday afternoon Mexican food, and laser tag outings. All of these add up to summertime in youth ministry, for some the favorite time of the year, and for others the most exhausting. So far this summer I have done the following.

Continue reading “Sweet Summertime… in Youth Ministry”

I didn’t sign on for this

When you work with youth, you receive the privilege of experiencing a full range of emotions. You get the giggles and hushed whispers for hopes of a new relationship, and the utter heartbreak when the relationship dies off. You rejoice over touchdowns scored, awards won, and valedictorian honors received. You counsel and mend broken friendships, crises of faith, and doubts about calling and vocation. All of these life events are part of the day to day of youth  ministry, and it makes us feel pretty wanted and a vital adult in the life of an adolescent.

Continue reading “I didn’t sign on for this”

The Day Starbucks was Closed

So my driving foot is in a boot right now, for reasons that don’t pertain to this post but the short version is I didn’t listen to my fiance when he said “you should really have that checked out” and now three months later here I am. I say that so you’ll know that my driving is limited because its a pain to take the boot off. So yesterday my lovely partner in ministry Lauren from the church down the road came and rescued me for a quick trip down to Starbucks.

For reference purposes, we live in the boonies, so the closest Starbucks is 25 minutes away, and we spend a lot of our meeting times to discuss ministry and tend souls in the car to and from our chosen provider of all things caffeinated. So yesterday we made our trip down and back like any other day, and it was glorious.

So this morning I’m sitting in my chair with my giant boot, my own coffee, and beginning my Monday morning emails and I get a phone call from Lauren. She informs me that she was heading down to Starbucks (not even going to focus on the without me part) to finish her seminary work and the Starbucks was…

So she calls me, in an obvious panic, to tell me of this development. Apparently there were construction vans and the inside appears to be in the process of renovation. So this lead to an insane round of questioning on both sides of the phone call. “Why didn’t they tell us yesterday?” “Is it closed closed, like forever?” “Is it just renovation, and why it was fine inside?” “Seriously what are we going to do?” “The next closest Starbucks is like an hour away from town.”

At the end of our freakishly long conversation about the possible loss of our favorite latte location she decided to drive to the next closest Starbucks to finish her work and I went back to my work and at home coffee, life as usual.

But then I started thinking about the whole situation. In our churches, do we feel this way when someone doesn’t come to church? Or when a youth stops coming to youth group? Do we worry about what has happened or what we will do without them, or do we simply move on and figure they are probably fine? After all is it really our problem if they don’t come, its a free country, they don’t have to come if they don’t want to… right?

Or what about that kid that drives us nuts? The one who won’t stop interrupting, or getting in fights, or being generally defiant and argumentative, do we we silently rejoice when they don’t come on a Sunday night? Do we worry when we can’t find out why, or do we decide the break was great and surely he/she’ll be back next week?

People are messy. They don’t always make us feel warm and wonderfully perky like our morning (afternoon, evening) coffee. We can’t send them back when they aren’t made to our liking. But the wonderful thing is, we are all made to God’s liking, even when we are too bitter, sickeningly sweet, or even after we’ve gone bad. We aren’t perfect, but we keep working on it, and that kid, the one you just cringe at the thought of, he’s working on it it too. So maybe we start to care about each other as much as our macchiatos, and we can worry more about the ride, and less about the Starbucks at the end of the drive.

Reasons why we do the Famine

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I have been working in youth ministry for about 5 years now (where that time has gone I’ll never know) and this year was my fourth 30 Hour Famine. If you are unfamiliar with World Vision or the 30 Hour Famine process I highly suggest you visit their website.

For my first two 30HF’s I did a traditional lock in style event with a service project. We would stop eating around 1pm Friday and then break the fast with communion and then a meal together. For the past two years I’ve been blessed to live in the Memphis Conference of the United Methodist Church where we have an amazing camp called Lakeshore where we hold a famine retreat every year. This experience is an unforgettable one every year, and every year we inevitably get the same question “Why would you not eat for 30 hours?”

I’ve given lots of answers, some really in depth and some really superficial. I have decided to give it some real thought and offer some of the top reasons why we continue to do the 30 Hour Famine year after year.

1. Fundraising for a Cause I Believe In
Part of the effort behind 30 Hour Famine is fundraising for the work World Vision does. One in eight people in the world are hungry and World Vision works to combat hunger and poverty related issues around the world. $35 feeds and cares for a child for a month, we are able to make a tremendous impact in a child’s life through fundraising for World Vision. Over the past 5 years and 4 famines my small groups of students (anywhere from 4 to 20 per year) have raised around $7,000 to combat world hunger. Its just a piece of the greater puzzle, but its our piece, and I’m proud of my students for making it a priority.

2. Fasting is Becoming Uncommon
Fasting, as a spiritual practice, has become less and less common. Fasting at its root is about self denial for the purpose of bringing us closer to God. Much of our life is all consuming, even the food and drink of which we partake. I for one am a wee bit obsessed with coffee and Diet Coke. And by a wee bit, I mean of course a lot. My friends are constantly posting pictures on my Facebook wall like this one.

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And while this is all in good fun, its kind of true too. I can be a really hard person to deal with if I don’t have my coffee. So some self denial of what I consider to be a “necessity” for my life, is always a good thing. It reminds me of what I take for granted, not just caffeine, but food as well. When we participate in the famine we have to face the fact that we take our readily available abundance of food for granted, and that our neighbors, not just people in some far away country, experience real hunger every day. This may be the only form of self denial my students experience, but for once a year they get to practice fasting, and its well worth it.

#3 Developing Empathy
Lets be real, not all of our students are incredibly empathetic, and I’m not here to say that every child will end up with this overwhelming understanding of what it means to go hungry by participating in the famine, but it does open the eyes (or stomachs ) of some. Here are some quotes from students over the past five years.

“I never really thought about the fact that if you were on free lunch, and your family was struggling, you might go from Friday afternoon until Monday morning without eating. I can’t imagine doing that every week, I’m having trouble doing it for 30 Hours” – Girl, 8th Grade

“I have a headache, I’m sleepy and I don’t want to do anything. I wouldn’t be able to even get up and go to school like this, I sure wouldn’t learn anything” Boy 9th Grade

“Did you know Ethiopians live on like a $1.50 a day? Who can live on that? How is anyone supposed to live like that” Girl 11th grade.

Now, will every student go on a crusade to change the world after experiencing the famine? Probably not, but in the middle of being forced to realize what other people go through, maybe an activist will be born.

#4 Youth Group is more than silly games and pizza
One of the main reasons I love the 30 hour famine experience is it takes students out of the fellowship mode youth group can turn into. There is a time for fellowship, and as I’ve said before games teach great lessons, and pizza is an easy food to fill the masses, but at times it can seem like we get in a rut of pizza games and fellowship. But the famine forces us out of our normal routine, both physically and spiritually. We have to gather together without the focal point of food, forcing us to focus on each other. We also are forced to take a look at the justice issue around hunger, which can be an uncomfortable task for middle to upper class churches. But Jesus did not call us to be comfortable, and at least once a year the famine gives us the chance to step way out of our comfort zones and participate in the living work of the gospel.

I hope if you’ve never done the 30 Hour Famine that you will seriously consider participating, either this  year or in the future. This can be a life changing event for you and your students, or at least an eye opener to the world of hunger. I pray you have an experience like this with your students, and that you allow yourself to be changed.
Peace be with you.

Games for Youth Ministry

I love games. Card games, sports, board games, silly messy games, love all of them. Growing up we played mother may I, red rover, freeze tag, and anything with a jump rope. As I grew older I can still remember late nights with my youth group friends playing card games, trivial pursuit, and even a crazy round of hide and go seek when we were snowed in Sophomores in college!

Games are sort of a universal language. I used to teach children who spoke languages other than English, and one of our favorite games was silent ball. There was not one kid, from those who were born in America, to those who were just of the plane from Iraq that didn’t love playing silent ball. Games transcend language and cultural barriers and create atmospheres of cooperation and joviality. I’ve watched students become best friends, with no common language, over a game of checkers.

Games are a huge part of what I do in ministry. Some people probably see my job as only games, especially the people who see the broken doors and muddy footprints that occasionally follow some of our more rowdy escapades. But games are important for ministry, not because we see our jobs as youth ministers as only ensuring our students are being entertained, but because games are a way in which we learn. Games can illustrate a theme for a lesson, set a mood for an event, or change a person’s perspective on a topic. They can also serve the purpose of creating community where we least expect it.

Recently, at an all church inter-generational event, I was asked to come up with a game for all of the attendees, which can be hard with limited space and a crowd of people all sitting at dinner tables, so I decided we would play a quick game of heads or tails. For those unfamiliar with the game it is about the easiest thing ever. Everyone in the room stands up at their seats, and one person is designated as the coin tosser. Before the coin is tossed, everyone in the room either puts their hands on their heads, or on their rear ends, signifying on which side the coin will land. All those who were correct keep standing, and the rounds continue until there is but one person still standing.

For my group of youth and their younger siblings, who don’t always interact with the adults of the church, it was great for them to see adults laugh and just enjoy playing a game. It created an atmosphere where everyone was in something together, breaking down some of that youth vs adults mentality.

I can thank my mother for my love of games as part of education. She was a public elementary school teacher for 25 years, and taught middle school math for the following five. She has always valued games, both for recreation (she was the kickball pitcher at recess my whole third grade year) and for retaining information. Her students played the games the children in early America played to learn about life in the colonies. They played around the world to practice math facts, and played set or 24 challenge to work on other math skills.

I am forever grateful to the people who taught me how to play, and I hope to be a youth minister  who allows space for play. Below are instructions to some of our favorite games we play in our youth group. I hope you find a new favorite, or if you have a different favorite, I’d love to hear about it. We are always on the lookout for new games!

 

Eye Tag

Ninja

The Question Game

Psychiatrist

King of the Lily Pad

Human Bowling

Four on a Couch

Duct Tape Hockey Mask

Scatter Ball

Family

SPUD

Crazy Kick Ball (messy game)

Paint Twister

 

 

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