“But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother.” (Ps. 131:2)
With Advent beginning this Sunday, Jacob and I have been brainstorming on ways to encourage our youth to focus on this season of waiting. The challenge, I think, is to help youth experience Advent in a way that counters the secular- consumerist approach to this time of year so prevalent within our culture. In past years, we have offered ideas on this blog for creating an interactive worship experience to help youth explore Advent themes, and ideas for offering youth a more radical image of a counter-cultural Jesus through the use of art and music. You also might want to kick things off with this fun Christmas Quiz which highlights the gap between our knowledge of pop culture Christmas and the biblical story of Christmas.
But when all was said and done, I think we both agreed that the simple approach might be the best approach. Perhaps what our youth really need is help in celebrating Advent as a season of quiet waiting and contemplation. So a great option for this week might be a mini-silent retreat. Here are some ideas you might find useful:
- Play some quiet instrumental music and allow time for silent meditation and prayer.
- Show a PowerPoint presentation of images of the nativity story from around the world and allow youth time to sit in silence and just soak it all in.
- Set up areas for youth to draw or paint on themes related to Advent.
- Show the NOOMA "Noise" DVD and help students reflect on the "noise" in their own lives and suggest practices that might help them hear God's voice above the din.
- Designate your youth room or chapel as a "talk free zone." With quiet music or nature sounds playing in the background, invite youth to find someplace to sit where they will be comfortable. Give each participant an envelope. As the Spirit moves them, they are to take one card at a time from the envelope and follow its suggestion. Cards might say such things as "Meditate on the word 'silence'", "Go to the table and make a list of your hopes for the world," "Sit in a different place in the room for awhile," "Lay on the floor and rest," "Silently affirm others in the room with a touch on the shoulder," "Go to the easel and add your image of God's peace to those drawn by others," "Take a walk around the outside of the church in silence, listening for God's presence in the world around you."
- Project or post Advent related scripture passages (or passages depicting Jesus praying in silence) in the retreat space and encourage youth to reflect on the passages through the use of clay or Play-do or finger paints.
- As Advent is also a time of making a pathway for God into our lives, consider providing teens with a handout with an image of a road map or path. Invite them to make notes or images that depict the important moments, experiences, and people they have encountered along their journey of faith.
- Make an indoor labyrinth with masking tape and use ideas from here to create stations for meditations.
Finish your time together by allowing youth to share about their experience of silent waiting. Brainstorm ways they might continue this practice on a daily basis throughout Advent.