Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    Pentecost Ideas for Youth Ministry

    Help your students experience the unpredictability of the movement of the Spirit with these hands-on ideas.

    The beginning of the church season of Pentecost offers an opportunity to invite youth to think about their understanding of how God's spirit is at work in the world and in their lives.  Pentecost has its origins in an ancient Jewish observance (also known as the "festival of weeks") which traditionally took place 50 days after Passover.  The festival marked the end of the spring harvest and was time when the Jewish people renewed their commitment to the covenant with God and offered up the first fruits of their harvest and the first-born of their flocks as sacrifice.  

    It is during this celebration that the author of Acts places a group of disciples, women and men, in an upper room in Jerusalem, waiting for the arrival of the Holy Spirit. And then it comes, and it is as if the room is filled with the roar of rushing wind. This metaphor of rushing wind is no random choice on the part of the writer of Acts.  Throughout scripture, wind is synonymous with Spirit. In fact, the Hebrew word for "spirit" ("ruach") also means "wind."  And the Greek word for "wind" ("penuma") also means "spirit."  And of course, in Genesis, God breathes life/spirit into the nostrils of the first human.  Wind and spirit are of the same nature:  unpredictable, powerful, often unexpected and sometimes nothing more than a gentle whisper. Both can gather or scatter. Perhaps most importantly, neither can be contained. 

    So how might you help your youth explore the themes of Pentecost and metaphors for the movement of the Spirit?  Here are a few simple ideas to get you thinking:

    • Balloons - Invite youth to blow up red balloons, but don't tie them. Use sharpies to write prayers on the balloons or perhaps gifts of the Spirit that they possess or that they see in the group.  On cue, have everyone release their balloons and enjoy the moment of mayhem as they fly all over the room.  Invite them to reflect on how this might be like the movement of God's Spirit.
    • Kites - Make or purchase paper kites. Use markers to decorate them much as in the balloon activity above and then head outdoors and have fun flying the kites.  Afterwards, brainstorm how the movement of the kites (and their attempts to control that movement) is like our experience of the Spirit.
    • Paper airplanes - Invite youth to make their favorite paper airplanes and then go outdoors and let them fly!  Reflect on how the different styles and flight paths of the airplanes can be like the diversity of gifts we possess and the way the Spirit works through them.
    • Video - Share this video clip and discuss.
    • Bubble - Create an inflatable bubble room using plastic sheeting and duct tape. (See pages 7-9 of this pdf doc for detailed instructions). This bubble room is kept inflated by an ordinary house fan. Climb inside and use it for a worship space, inviting youth to reflect on how the wind of the Spirit moves through their lives. For added effect, project Pentecost imagery onto the outside of the bubble while the youth watch from the inside.
    • Music - Invite youth into a moment of unplanned and unpredictable spontaneous music-making.  If you have handbells or chimes, give each person one and have them begin to ring, working together  until the  sounds blend into something harmonious.  Reflect on how this is like allowing the Spirit to work through the diversity of the gifts we have to share. (If you don't have bells on hand, get really creative and head to the church kitchen and grab pots, pans, wooden spoons, etc.).
    • Art - Create a completely unplanned piece of community art.  Pass out a variety of materials: markers, crayons, acrylic paint, watercolors, ink pads and stamps, finger paint, and so on. Lay out a large sheet of paper or  piece of canvas and challenge the group to work together to create a mural depicting the movement of God's Spirit without any pre-planning.  Just jump in and do it! You could try to play different styles of music as they work and encourage them to let the music influence their art. For added impact, do this in silence (no talking) and then reflect on the experience of what was created without the need for planning and verbal communication.  How is the final product different than it might have been if you'd started with a sketch or everyone had the same design in mind?
    • Wind - Cut strips of fabric and invite youth to use markers to decorate them with words and images representing the gifts that help them participate in Gods' mission of love and peace.  Next, tie the strips of cloth to the grill on the front of a box fan and turn it on. As your new kinetic sculpture flutters away, reflect on how it represents the themes of Pentecost.
    • Trust walk - Try an old fashioned trust walk by pairing up youth.  One is blindfolded and leads the other on a random walk and then they switch places and walk back.  Reflect on the experience and what it would mean for us to just trust the movement of God's Spirit in the work of the Church.
    • Random Acts of Mission - Put your gifts to use by going out into a public area to perform random acts of mission such as giving away free hugs, pumping peoples' gas, passing out flowers, praying for strangers, protesting a local injustice, passing out sack lunches to persons who are homeless, performing a skit or song about God's amazing love on a busy street corner, and so on.  Afterward, reflect on the experience and what is was like to take a risk, not knowing how the acts of mission might be received.  Consider how this can be what it means to let go and trust rather than try to control the movement of the Spirit.

    I have not doubt that some of us serve in churches where, if the Pentecost moment came during a worship gathering, there would be ushers ready with water bottles to spritz out the flames over our heads and elders rushing to close the windows in order to stop the roaring wind of the Spirit! The challenge then perhaps is to look for ways in our ministry to take what could be perfectly-controlled socially-acceptable situations (like many of our youth ministry gatherings?), and throw caution to the wind, introduce an element of the unexpected, maybe a hint of danger, and see if those experiences can make us more susceptible to the uncontrollable movement of God's Spirit. 



    Joshua M Walters said...

    thanks, Brian. I have youth Bible study tomorrow night and was wanting to do something with music and focus on Pentecost. After reading this I think I'm going to have them share their favorite music and while it is playing have us make a big piece of community art.

    I'll be working from 1 Cor. 12 probably.

    Much peace!

    Marv Nelson said...

    Thanks for taking the time to put this together! The Holy Spirit seems to be a much forgotten piece of Youth Ministry so thanks for giving helps on how to teach about how he lives, breathes and moves in our lives! I am going to do a whole Holy Spirit series next school year and will definitely be using some of these ideas! Thanks again!

    Brian said...

    Joshua and Marv-glad these ideas may be of some use. I was just trying to decide what I might do with the youth this Sunday evening and these were the result of my brainstorm and investigations. I may combine several and see what happens. Peace,
    Brian said...

    love it! really engaging!

    Rev. Natalie said...

    These exercises are right on point. Thank you so much for sharing. -- Natalie

    Callie said...

    Thank you!! I know I'm a week late for Pentecost, but we're going to be looking at the Book of Acts all summer in our youth group. These are a great place to start!