What will others say about you when you are gone? Invite students in your youth ministry to look into the future and consider how they want to be remembered.
This idea, inspired by the parish nurse at my church, could provide a window not only into what values the teens in your group already carry with them, but what values you might help them explore in the coming year. Share with your teens the story of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. This story, perhaps apocryphal, encourages each of us to consider what, in the end, we want our life to be about. Nobel awoke one morning to find that a French paper had erroneously published his obituary, which condemned him for his destructive invention. This was a literal wake-up call for the inventor. Intent on leaving behind a more positive legacy, he determined then and there to create and fund the Nobel Peace Prize.
After sharing the story, invite your youth to project their imaginations far, far into the future and consider what they would want people to say about them at the end of their lives. What would friends and family share about them? What will have been their accomplishments? What will have been most important to them in life? Relationships? Money? Faith? Family? Career? You could invite them to explore these questions in a variety of ways: 1) Write a "In Memory of..." newspaper article about themselves, 2) Create graffiti about themselves on paper hung on the walls, 3) Develop their own epitaph and write it on an image of a gravestone (an interesting alternative if you are doing this activity close to Halloween or All Saints Day), 4) Team with a friend and act out a mock talk-show where they banter about the many amazing things each of them did in their lifetimes. 5) Simply go around the room and invite each person to share their thoughts verbally (allowing individuals to "pass" if they don't want to speak). Follow-up by asking youth to note what sorts of personal values their ideas about the future seem to suggest about their lives now and in the days to come.
Note: I can imagine some might find this a morbid or a touchy subject to discuss with teens. I'm reminded of a church member who told me recently that we really can't start living until we acknowledge or own finitude. Our teens do think about death and the end of life, whether we talk about it with them or not. If we choose never to deal with the issue, we still teach them something by our silence. If the church can't talk with youth about the end of life, who should?