Friday, May 30, 2008


    What are you doing keeping all those great church camp traditions, games, crafts, projects, theme nights, and creative activities to yourself? Why not share them with the rest of us who are preparing to spend one or more fun-filled weeks at camp this summer? We'd like to hear from you, dear readers, and in return we'd like to put some great youth ministry resources into your hands. To enter our "Rethinking Youth Ministry Summer Camp Contest" simply post a comment to this blog entry sharing your creative church camp idea. Have more than one idea? Great! Each idea you share will be treated as a separate entry in the contest drawing. Provide a link back to this contest on your blog and we'll count that as another chance in the drawing for one of these prize packages:

    Prize Package #1:

    Spontaneous Melodramas 2 by Doug Fields, Laurie Polich, Duffy Robbins

    Branded: Adolescents converting from Consumer Faith by Katherince Turpin

    Prize Package #2:
    Hurt: Inside the World of Today's Teenagers by Chap Clark

    Meeting Space ideas for Youth Ministry by Todd Outcalt

    Prize Package 3:
    Presence-Centered Youth Ministry: Guiding Students into Spiritual Formation by Mike King

    Enjoy the Silence: A 30 Day Experiment in Listening by Maggie & Duffy Robbins

    Contest ends midnight Saturday June 7 so post your ideas before then and good luck! Winners (selected randomly using will be announced here on Sunday June 8. Of course, the prizes are nice, but the real goal here is to share the wealth of our creativity with others who are out there in the trenches of youth ministry!

    COMMUNITY BUILDER: Sundae in the Gutter

    Here's an idea I haven't tried in awhile but it was always a hit. As a special dessert at a youth group gathering, purchase one or more sections of plastic rain guttering at a hardware or home improvement store. Line the gutter with tinfoil or plastic. Then, provide youth with ice cream, toppings, bananas, etc. and challenge them to create together a sundae in the actual gutter. This can be done like civilized human beings with each person creating and eating from their own space along the length of the gutter, or youth may decide to work together and sample from all along the length of the dessert. Of course, this may not be the most hygienic activity -- I remember at least one teen who would always refuse to take part and just ate his ice cream from a bowl -- but it can be a fun community builder with everyone eating together. Anyone try this lately?

    Thursday, May 29, 2008

    Youth Ministry Game: Clump

    Here's a pretty self-explanatory video of a game called "Clump" which could be a lot of fun for your group as long as everyone is comfortable with up-close contact. I would make one change however: this version of the game eliminates players one-at-a-time. Imagine being the first person who gets eliminated and having to just sit and wait out the rest of the game. I'd suggest a variation: as more people get "out," have them form a new group off to the side and continue the game. Eventually you'll have the whole group of eliminated people playing on one side of the room and the last two or three folks competing on the other. The game is over when everybody joins the "eliminated" team. This is an example of how I get around the "I win-you lose" mentality that seems inherent in so many games.

    Tuesday, May 27, 2008

    Youth Ministry Links-O-Rama

    Ever experience Lock-in Mania? Clearly, I haven't been taking my "lock-in prep" seriously enough. Check out this comprehensive checklist for planning your next overnighter.
    Are your youth too focused on living in a material world? Talk to them about it using this study crafted by Grahame at the Insight blog.
    Indiana Jones or the Bible? Stuart offers a chance to test your knowledge of both.
    Do mission trips do more harm than good? Jason at the Theolog (the blog of the Christian Century) certainly has people talking about the merits and dangers of summer mission trips.
    Still need money for that mission trip? Well, it may be too late for this summer, but Steve at Youth Ministry Ideas offers up two good ideas for raising funds and creating community in your church.
    What's with the bunny ears? If you need a fast way to edit that youth group photo before you put it in the church newsletter or post it on your blog or website, check out the free site Snipshot.
    Still talking to yourself? Jott is a online service that allows you to send yourself a message, reminder or brainstorm right over your cellphone. The message shows up in your inbox as both a recorded message and transcribed into text. You can even send messages to others this way.

    COMMUNITY BUILDER: Breaking the Cliques in Youth Ministry

    "Why use icebreakers?" you may be thinking. "All my youth know each other already." Yet you might be surprised to discover that, even in small youth ministry groups, there are often youth who don't know each other's names or have any idea where the others go to school or whose parents are divorced, and on and on. Not unlike many adults at church, youth tend to gravitate to a few friends they know well and often don't take time to really get to know the others in the group. These cliques can serve their purpose -- they provide young people with a core circle of friends and a "place" to belong in the group -- but they can also limit the relationships within your group if you don't create intentional ways to build community. This is where icebreakers can be a big help, particularly if they are of the "low threat" variety (no one is asked to reveal deep dark secrets or get out of their physical "comfort zone") and if they invite the participants to share a little about themselves. Listed below are just a few examples of the type of icebreakers that I use on a weekly basis to open our youth group meetings:

    Circle Sharing Time - This one is as simple as they get yet so effective. Choose a question and open each youth group meeting by inviting each person in the circle to share their name and their answer to the question. Sometimes I pick the question and sometimes we invite a youth to come up with the question. It could be something as simple as "What is your favorite food to eat?" or something wacky like, "If you could take a bath in any substance besides water, what would you choose?" Other great sources for questions include books like What if...? and Unfinished Sentences.

    Magic Box - Pass a small decorated box around the circle. Invite each person to, symbolically, contribute something to the box they have a lot of, and to take out something they need. For example "I am putting in homework, and I'm taking out rest" or "I'm putting in humor and I'm taking out patience with my parents."

    Back to the Future - Invite each person to write a brief statement on an index card describing what they want to be or what they will be doing 5 or 10 years from now. Collect the cards and read them aloud and challenge the group to guess the author of each card.

    Four Corners - Designate each corner of the room to represent one of four answers to a question. For example, "If you had to choose one class at school and you had to attend it for an entire day, which would it be?" You then designate the four corners of the room to represent the various choices: gym, science, history, study hall. Each person then goes and stands in the corner of the room that best fits their personal choice. Repeat this over and over with different questions and choices. Occasionally invite a student to explain his or her choice.

    Prized Possession - Prior to the meeting, ask each participant to bring one object from home that represents themselves uniquely. This object might be a favorite book, a toy, shirt, CD of a favorite band -- you get the idea. Just caution them not to bring an item that would easily give away their identity (such as a photo). As youth arrive, sneakily gather all the items ina bag. When you are ready to start, spread the items in the middle of the group. Select one item at a time and give the group three guesses to figure out who brought the item and then give the owner a chance to explain why that item represents who they are. (If you have visitors or others in attendance who did not bring an object, invite them to write on an index card a description of the object they would have brought and include it with the pile of items).

    I Want to Meet
    - Here is an icebreaker with a higher energy quotient. Sit in a circle of chairs with one "it" person in the middle who says "I want to meet..." and then describes some quality or descriptor such as "...all the people who have been to another country" or ". . .everyone who likes Star Trek." Anyone fitting the description must jump up and race to find a different chair in the circle (but not the chair to their immediate left or right) while the "it" person also scrambles to find an empty seat. The one person left without a seat gets to be "it" and the game starts over. Take time between each round to let some participants share details about themselves (e.g. "What country have you visited?" or "What is your favorite Star Trek series?")

    Need more? Check out our other Community Builders ideas here. And see more great icebreaker ideas at the Insight Blog.

    Tuesday, May 20, 2008

    Youth Minstry Resources

    Thought you'd like to know that we've done a little updating to the site. In particular, the RESOURCES tab above now offers a comprehensive list of places on the web that offer free youth ministry resources, ideas for creative worship, and lots of cool tech sites and creative applications to use in youth ministry. The LINKS tab above will still primarily feature youth ministry and general ministry blogs. We'll add new resources as we discover them and welcome your suggestions.


    Monday, May 19, 2008

    Mark Yaconelli: "Don't Kill Anybody & Take a Day Off!"

    Saturday, May 17, 2008


    This summer, for the first time at my church, instead of taking a "youth mission trip," we are taking an "all-church mission trip." This means that adults other than those who regularly work with our youth will be along for the journey. It ocurred to me recently that if we are going to travel, live, and work together for a week, it might be helpful to give these other adults some pointers on hanging out with teens. What follows, in no particular order, is the top ten tips I will share with those adults Sunday night. If you'd add any others to the list, please share.

    1) Teens are people, too. Resist calling them "kids" (unless you mean it as a term of endearment) or speaking about them as if they aren't in the room.

    2) Teens need time. Particularly during discussions, teens need a little time to think about what they want to say. Resist the temptation to jump in with "the right answer" and don't feel you have to fill in every moment of silence with talking.

    3) Teens like adults. Despite what you may remember from your younger days, teens do enjoy the companionship of adults. They just aren't always sure that we like them so the can seem stand-offish at times. In fact, many are at a point in their lives when they are trying to put a little independent distance between themselves and their parents, so they are seeking other caring adults to serve as mentors and role models.

    4) Teens have a lot to teach us. In many ways, "The Breakfast Club" got it right. Young people are unique individuals with unique talents, gifts, attitudes, and perspectives. It would be a mistake to lump them all together as one homogenous group.

    5) Teens' body clocks are different from ours.
    Most teens need 8-10 hours of sleep a night and get much less. Additionally, most teens are not at their peak until late morning and many are "night owls."

    6)Teens are passionate. The first part of the teenage brain to fully develop is the emotions center. This means that teens can have high-highs and low-lows all in one day, they really connect with the hurt of others, and can be very passionate about the things they believe in.

    7) Teens want to "own" their experiences. We have a temptation as adults, when teens talk about their struggles, to say things like "Oh, I went through the same thing at your age," or "I had the same problems and I survived it," or "Here's how I handled that problem." In many ways, the experiences of teens today are quite different from when we were young. Their struggles are real and they want them taken seriously, not dismissed with "I survived that and you will, too." The best approach often with young people isn't to offer advice, but just to listen.

    8) Teens are fun to be around. You might think hanging with adolescents would make you feel old, but it's just the opposite. They often offer a perspective on life and the world that is refreshingly honest, hopeful, and new. And that sense of hope and possibility can be contagious.

    9) Teens can be a great source of frustration. Ok, Ok. Teens are great, but let's be realistic about this, too. They can be incredibly frustrating to work with. . .unless you are willing to be flexible, can take a little good natured ribbing and criticism (Have I mentioned the girl at church who always tells me when my tie doesn't match my suit?), and remember that they still have a lot of growing up to do. Which leads to the final item on this list...

    10) Teen are not adults. No matter how much they might look or act like adults, teens are still children, in the best sense of the word. For every moment of maturity, they have other moments where they grumble about taking out the trash, neglect their responsibilities, fight with their best friends and then make up an hour later, and choose goofing off over doing their work. Don't expect them to act like adults. Expect them to act like young people who are still growing, adjusting, stumbling, and trying to figure it all out.


    Friday, May 16, 2008

    Something Old...Something New

    This is another entry in our weekly posts highlighting one of our favorite blogs or websites we've been following for awhile and a blog or site we've just stumbled upon that we think you might want to check out.

    Something Old:
    Passionately Pensive is authored by Alaina, a fellow St. Louis youthworker who shares thoughtful posts on youth ministry, church life, and life in general, always with a great sense of humor and irony. I particularly appreciate her recent post on why we need to rethink all those "food games" we so dearly love to play in youth ministry.

    Something New: is the work of Shane Yancey who describes himself as "an average youth pastor. I don't have all of the answers and some weeks it feels like I don't have any of the answers. I forget students names sometimes and say stupid things that hurt their feelings. I often find a good word picture or object lesson and build the lesson off of that instead of the other way around. I have put the finishing touches on a Wednesday night Bible study on Wednesday more times than I can count. I don't always pray as much as I should and I never study as much as I should. I try every new youth ministry model that comes from the "experts" and I have had at least 3 mission statements over the past 5 years."
    Shane's website is truly an impressive offering of creative worship ideas, stories, dramas, poems, and resources that would be great for youth ministry or ministry in general.

    Whack-a-Hat Game...

    Oh, if only I could have found this video when I was posting about violence in youth ministry! At least the kid who gets whacked in the face 20 times still has the hope of winning prizes! (Given that they are using somberos, and knowing that the "whacking" won't be limited to the hats, perhaps a better name for this game is "Human Pinata!")--Brian

    Thursday, May 15, 2008

    Journeys of the Season

    Spring is finally here! It was an unusually tough winter, but the green leaves and warm thunderstorms are making up for all of the ice and snow.

    Each morning, I walk my dog along a lake next to my house. Sometimes, we walk two or three times a day. And, as I think about it, my dog (Bingo) and I really live out the seasons. The weather, in a sense, dictates how we think, act, and behave.

    In the same way, this past year I’ve tried to be more intentional with my youth about how we live out the seasons of the church. The liturgical year is meant to be lived with sensitivity and imagination. But how do we respond to the spiritual seasons? The word season, in Latin, means “to sow.” Living the church year is, no doubt, a process of growth—an experience that is deeply related to youth ministry. As my youth leaders and I begin to plan for the next school year, I hope our teachings and activities reflect more deeply the seasons of the church. It’s easy to celebrate Advent and Easter. But what about the rest of the year?


    Monday, May 12, 2008

    Conversations with God

    Ever have the Monday blues? Ever want to speak directly to God through the internet?

    Check out this humorous website. You're supposed to be able to communicate with God, ask questions, and seek answers...

    This website could possibly be used as a creative way to introduce the concept of communicating with God. After beginning youth group with an "online" conversation with God, you could ask the following questions: What kind of answers, if any, do you expect from God? Does God hear each specific prayer? How do you communicate with God? How do we use technology to seek God? What are the different ways of talking with God? How do you talk to God?


    Friday, May 09, 2008

    Schools vs. Youth Ministry

    Over my 20 or so years in youth ministry, I've noticed a trend of the public schools taking up more and more of our young people's time. In the past, you could at least count on Wednesday nights and Sunday morning being free of school activities. This is no longer true. In the past, you could count on summers being free except for the kids who needed remedial summer school. This is no longer true. We have to struggle like crazy at my church every spring just to find one week in the summer for a mission trip when most of our youth aren't at band camp or cheerleader camp or sports camp or taking extra summer school classes so they can get into a better university. And forget about getting most of them to church camp. If they aren't doing camps related to school, they are working. So, I really resonated when I came across this youth minister's open letter (courtesy of the Youth Ministry Hilarity blog) to the local school district. He said everything I've been thinking for years:

    My youth ministry is trying to affect the same kind of results as you are. I would LOVE to work in conjunction with the schools, but the schools want ALL the time. While YOU are working on increasing the knowledge and athleticism of these kids, I would like to help work on their character, but my time to do so is increasingly taken away. It is very frustrating when schools tell kids (or give them the impression) that their GRADES depend on attendance of all ballgames, shows,etc. Even during the summer! I agree with the old saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." I certainly do not wish to do away with schooling, but I wish kids could experience more help from church, work, and non-profit organizations.
    Read the rest here. Wonder what would happen if we all wrote a letter like this and sent it to our local newspaper.

    Thursday, May 08, 2008

    Youth Stewardship

    Each spring, the church I serve has its annual stewardship campaign. I just finished sending the pledge cards (and letter explaining the basic tenets and concepts of stewardship) to our youth. I’m a little late sending the letter this year; and I was pleased to hear several youth asking when their pledge cards would arrive. I don’t know if other churches have their youth pledge as well? We encourage youth to make a pledge to the church once they have been baptized and become members (this usually begins in fifth grade).

    Writing the letter, encouraged me to think about how we discuss the issue of money, tithing, and stewardship with our youth. We try to convey the idea that everything we have (money, homes, family, the earth) belongs to God. We are caretakers of everything that God has created.

    While the youth I serve have always more or less agreed with this concept, it seems extremely difficult to put such actions into praxis. The idea of sharing our wealth and possessions is definitely a counter-culture idea. So, how can we help our youth follow the teachings of Jesus and learn to share all that they have? Looking back, I wish I had learned the idea of stewardship a long time ago. I truly believe it changes the ways in which you understand life.

    Anyone else doing something similar with their youth?


    CANDLEFUSE - "Hungry"

    I saw these guys in concert recently at a local church. They are really good. In fact, I bought their cd...and I don't even like Christian music! After the concert, they took time to hang out with the youth and talk with them about their music. Now if someone could just find the lead singer a comb...


    Rethinking The Lord's Prayer

    One way to really find out how youth interpret scripture is to ask them to rewrite it in their own words. This process often yields surprising and sometimes humorous results, but it also helps to get to the heart of how youth are internalizing texts. We recently invited our youth to break into groups and write their own version of the Lord's Prayer in language that speaks to them. Here are a few of the results:

    Our Brah, who art in Paradise,
    'Halo" be thy game,
    Your hometown come,
    Your shopping list be fulfilled,
    Mi Casa es Su casa.
    Please end all this hunger,
    And sorry we messed up. My bad!
    Don't be too hard on those who mess up,
    And don't let us go down bad paths,
    But guide us in the other direction.
    This is yo' crib,
    These yo' skills,
    And your creation for ever and ever.
    Right on!

    O Sacred Divinity,
    When you arrive here
    It's all gravy.

    Help us through today.
    Forgive us and help us forgive others.
    Help us to avoid temptation
    by taking us away from it.
    Your crib's rockin' for
    all eternity.


    You can find this and other great ideas for studying the bible creatively with youth in the free Ebook available at Grahame Knox's Insight blog.

    Violence in Youth Ministry Revisted

    I recently wrote about my thoughts on the use of violence as a way to entice youth into youth ministry programs. Darren at Digital Orthodoxy contacted me to share his essay on the same topic. It's an excellent read:
    Jesus lead a life of peaceful activism, a life of freeing slaves (of the culture and religion and politics around them) and who preached a time where there would be no violence, where the poor would be blessed, the deaf hear, the blind see, the grieving celebrate. And when we compare the two, the violent games with the peaceful life and discipleship of Jesus we find a huge discrepancy.
    Check out the full text here.

    Wednesday, May 07, 2008

    And The Winner Is...

    Our fellow youth ministry blogger Jeremy has switched his great blog ("Crazy Contemplations) to Wordpress and is giving out his first ever batch of blog Dundies. We couldn't be prouder that Rethinking Youth Ministry is one of the recipients, but of course there are many other winners worth checking out, including "Most Ultra Conservative-White-Male Blog," "Most Inspiring Blog," and "Rookie of the Year." On a personal note, we here at Rethinking Youth Ministry would like to thank our parents, our spouses, our agents, and all the youth who ever cursed our names when we forced them to finally go to sleep at a lock-in.

    Thursday, May 01, 2008


    For awhile now, my youth have been asking to talk about the issue of gay rights and gay marriage. For some, the interest is very personal as they have members of their family or close friends who are gay. For others it is an issue of justice. And for some, it is simply a matter of curiousity: What does the Bible really say about all this? This Sunday we'll finally tackle the topic, partly by reflecting on The National Day of Silence.

    Last Friday was the National Day of Silence which invites students to remain silent for an entire day as a sign of solidarity with those youth who must remain silent in the face of intolerance and bullying, particularly GLBT teens. I actually participated in The Day of Silence several years ago at my seminary. GLSEN, the organizers of the observance, emphasize that:

    1) The Day of Silence’s purpose is to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment and effective

    2) Hundreds of thousands of students of all beliefs, backgrounds and sexual orientations participate in the Day of Silence.

    3) Day of Silence participants encourage schools to implement proven solutions to address anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment.

    4) The day is a positive educational experience.
    Unfortunately, an event designed to promote understanding, justice, and mutual care for all students has often stirred up protest from certain Christian groups who can't seem to separate advocating respect for GLBT teens from their own issues about sex. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that students in my old high school in Jefferson City, Missouri actually participated in the observance this year and the school allowed it. But of course the local paper saw plenty of dissent from some Christians in the community who couldn't help but raise the spectre of the "homosexual agenda." Still, it's good to know that even in my conservative hometown in Mid-Missouri, the tide is changing and perhaps life for ALL students in my ala mater will be just a little bit better in years to come. Here is an excellent reflection on The National Day of Silence by Melissa, a youth pastor who serves a baptist congregation in my hometown.

    The bottom line here is, the Day of Silence and its supporters are asking us to consider whether or not our schools are safe space for all youth, including GLBT teens. The question I will pose to my youth this Sunday: Is our youth group a safe space for all youth, including GLBT teens?
    How would your group answer that question?

    IMAGE OF THE DAY: Sit...Enjoy

    Take a sabbath moment. Image by Ron Lindsey. Check out his excellent photo blog.