Monday, August 31, 2009

    THE END OF YOUTH MINISTRY? A Message from the Future

    A blog post finds it's way to us all the way from the future - 2059 AD:

    "Who would have thought with all the dire predictions making the rounds during the first decade of the 2000's that youth ministry would still be going strong in the year 2059? Yet here we are -- looking a little different, perhaps -- but still here. What a difference a few decades make. I doubt many of those youth ministers from the early part of this century (remember the short-lived iphone fad of the early 2000's?) would recognize the youth ministry of today. Just think of some of the changes that have taken place:

    We stopped giving youth just what they wanted (pizza! crowds! video games! paintball!) and started giving them more of what they needed (and helped them to see why they needed it.)

    We realized youth didn't need "bigger and better" (mission trips to more and more exotic locations, huge evangelism events in football stadiums, louder and louder rock concerts) -- they needed smaller, more meaningful experiences that allowed them to experience God's love in the midst of daily life.

    We came to understand that our youth didn't need entertainment -- they needed engagement -- engagement in the Church's work of peace and justice.

    It finally dawned on us that they didn't need more pop culture (no more helping the consumer culture in its seduction of our youth) -- they needed timeless truths that help them live the way of Jesus.

    We figured out that they didn't need hype -- they needed sabbath rest.

    We discovered that our teens didn't really just need charming, young, good-looking, sporty, charismatic leaders -- they need caring, mature, companions in faith. Today that still includes seminary-educated pastors (though not as many as 50 years ago and most of them are now bivocational and have a lot more training in educational theory and adolescent development), as well as lay leaders who bring a whole host of life and career experiences to the ministry.

    Perhaps most surprisingly, our churches figured out that "giving youth their own space/place in the Church" didn't need to mean "separate spaces and places" but just room to grow and learn and minister alongside of everyone else in the Church. In fact, now we hardly spend anytime at all in the church building itself. Our youth ministry is happening out in the world, in the neighborhoods, at school, in the homeless shelters, the nursing homes, the community gardens, the protest rallies, and wherever there is need to hear the transforming message of the gospel."

    Great Youth Ministry Ideas: Twitter-Themed Newsletter

    Looking for away to update your tired old youth ministry newsletter? Adam over at the excellent Pomomusings blog has come up with a great idea. Or rather, his youth have come up with a great idea: a Twitter-themed newsletter. Adam provides the genesis of the idea, a nice discussion of remembering to tap the gifts of the youth in your group, and even the templates so that you can try this idea on your own. Thanks Adam!

    Saturday, August 29, 2009

    BACK-TO-SCHOOL: Helium Stick Community Builder

    The Helium stick is a deceptively simple team-building activity that is fun while encouraging your group to problem-solve and work together in community.

    All you need is a long, thin dowel rod. Line the group up in two facing rows, each person holding out their arms with their index fingers extended. Lay the "helium stick" across their fingers and have the group adjust their arms until the stick is completely horizontal. The task: to lower the helium stick to the ground while keeping every team member's finger in contact with the stick at all times. Grabbing the stick in any way is not allowed. It must simply rest on the tops of their fingers. You act as judge. If at any time the stick ceases to be in contact with any person's finger, the challenge starts over.

    Strangely, as the group works to lower the stick, one end or the other will have a tendency to start rising, hence the name of this game. If the group seems to be achieving their goal too quickly, make sure they are following the "all fingers in contact with the stick" rule strictly, challenge them to do it with each person holding out just one arm, and make certain they actually get the stick all the way to the ground. If the group is getting frustrated with a lack of success, encourage them to take a breather and work out a plan of attack.

    For more back-to-school ideas see here and here.

    Thursday, August 27, 2009

    Rethinking Youth Ministry is Twittering

    In the earlier days of this blog, we usually had a weekly post of all sorts of cool links to youth ministry-related resources around the web (which you can still check out in our archives under the "ideas/resources" tag). But, no longer must you wait for that weekly post. We are now on Twitter, and our Twitter feed is strictly links to youth ministry stuff -- no updates on what we are having for breakfast or how many birds are perched on our windowsill at any given moment. So why not follow us on Twitter and let us keep you linked in to what's happening on the web in the world of youth ministry.

    Wednesday, August 26, 2009

    COMMUNITY BUILDER: Affirmation Shower

    I recently attended a writers conference and one of the participants shared a community builder he called an affirmation shower.

    This works best with only 5 or so people, so if your youth ministry is big you might want to divide into smaller groups. One person from each group should sit in a chair or on the floor as the rest of the group stands or sits in a circle around them. When the group is ready, they begin to "shower" the middle person with affirmations such as naming their gifts ("You are a good singer" or "You a great listener") or naming what you appreciate about the person ("You always smile" or "You are a great friend" or "You are really good at tee-peeing people's houses!") This goes on for a minute or so, or until the group runs out of things to share. I know -- it sounds kind of corny, but it can be fun and quite meaningful for both the "it" person and the group. Perhaps you'd do two or three people per group -- whoever is willing to be "it," and then repeat this activity occasionally giving everyone a chance sometime in the year to receive an affirmation shower. -- Brian

    Thursday, August 20, 2009

    8 Back-to-School Ideas NOT Spelled P-A-R-T-Y

    I've written in the past that I'm not a big fan of big back-to-school bashes. They are sort of the bait-and-switch of the youth ministry world: we bring them in with noise, activity and entertainment, then when they come back the next week we roll out the Bible study. Even so, it's hard to resist the temptation to open the youth year with a bang. So, maybe you've already had your big kick-off event or at least its in the works for an upcoming weekend. Lots of activity, entertainment, food, music, games. Once that is out of our systems, how about trying one of these smaller, quieter ideas for setting a faithful tone for the start of your school year together.

    Plan/do a Mission project - put the focus on serving others with a group project in your neighborhood or town.

    Cook a Meal - Join together for a pizza-making night or some other meal that will give your group a chance to develop community, talk, laugh, cooperate, and break bread together. Turn the meal into a sacred love feast celebration of communion.

    Create Group Art - Creative art projects, if done as a group, can be fun for artists and non-artists alike since the focus is more on the collaborative process and the final product is the work of everyone mixed together. Paint a mural together, build a sculpture, craft prayer flags, make masks or a group portrait.

    Make Tye Dye T-shirts - Here's a fun, messy project that anyone can do and you end up with cool, hand-designed shirts. Check here for an extension of this idea that translates this project into an opportunity for worship.

    Build Community - Lead some non-competitive team-building activities (like a Zen Scavenger Hunt) to illustrate the working together of the Body of Christ. These sorts of games take the focus off "winning and losing" and on the oneness of the group. Poke around here for some good ideas, check out the list of links on our free resources page, or see some of the creative group simulation activities at the Insight blog.

    Practice Sabbath - Unless you want to send the message that every gathering will be high octane activity, why not plan an afternoon or evening of rest, silence, and creative contemplation?

    Plan a Worship - Divide into teams and plan a collaborative worship, ending the evening by bringing together all the gifts of the group.

    Walk a Labyrinth - Take a road trip to a local labyrinth or create your own and introduce this ancient spiritual practice both as a metaphor for the journey of faith and as a way to get teens talking about the journey you will take together this school year. See here or here for complete instructions on creating your own.

    See other back-to-school ideas

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Facing Facebook

    Usually, even though we have mission trips and camps, I don’t stay as connected with my youth over summer. But this year it has really changed. Facebook has totally reinvented the ways in which I maintain my relationships with youth. It seems like everyone, all day long, constantly gives updates on what they are doing. It really is amazing. But, my question is this: Can you maintain a sense of community over status updates? The answer: I’m not sure.

    As we begin planning for our community building activities this fall, I wonder what the role of technology will be? Sometimes it seems that youth share more openly on Facebook than they do in person. What does this say about our level of comfort with one another? Can we only say what we really think when in the comfort of cyber world?

    What is the balance between Facebook and youth group? Facebook and church?


    Tuesday, August 11, 2009

    Video: Youth miniStarZ

    A rap about life as a youth minister. Anyone relate? I do. HT: churchkreatives

    Youth Ministry Alert: Teens Don't Tweet

    Anyone surprised by these findings suggesting that most teens just aren't interested in Twitter? Anyone using Twitter effectively in your ministry?

    BACK-TO-SCHOOL: Icebreaker

    As you, our youth ministry colleagues, gear up for another fall season of activity, we thought we'd offer a few ways to ease into another year together. Since every new school year brings a new group (some have graduated, some have joined, others have moved up a grade), it's always a good idea to get to know one another all over again. Here is an icebreaker that does more than just create commotion. It helps youth get to know each other better, learning both what they have in common and what makes each of them unique.

    Divide up into partners or small groups and provide each team with the list of items below. Their challenge is to learn about each other and to keep a running score to report at the end of the activity (which should only take 5-10 minutes). Invite groups at the end to share the most interesting, surprising, or funny things they discovered about one another. You can download a pdf of the activity here.

    Work together as a team, awarding yourself points in each of the categories below based on your responses.

    ____1 point for each different birthday month represented by your group members. 5 point bonus for anyone born on a holiday.

    ____1 point for each different birth state represented. List them:
    5 point bonus for anyone born in another country.

    ____1 point for each person who has visited one or more of the following: Grand Canyon, Disneyland, Lincoln Memorial, Hawaii. 4 point bonus for anyone who has visited all four

    ____1 point for each person who has ever been a member of a denomination other than that of your church. List them:
    1 bonus point for each person who has belonged to more than two denominations

    ____ 1 point for each sibling, living or deceased of each group member (includes adopted, step, and half-siblings). 5 point bonus for anyone with twins in their immediate family (living or deceased)

    ____ 1 point for each continent visited by members of your group. 10 point bonus for each person visiting 3 or more.

    ____ 1 point for each person who has ever used Twitter, 1 point for each person who has a Facebook or MySpace page, 1 point for each person who owns some form of an Ipod or MP3 player. 10 point bonus for each person who still uses a watch.

    ____ 1 point for each vegetarian. 1 point for each person who doesn’t like chocolate.

    ____ 1 point for each person who has performed on a stage anywhere, has been in a parade, or has sung in public.

    ____ 1 point for each person who can play a musical instrument. List them:
    5 point bonus for each group member who has ever played the instrument in church.

    ____1 point for each group member who can tell the meaning or origin of their first name. 10 point bonus if a group member's parents named them after someone famous.