Effective Youth Ministry Press Blog
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This blog is designed for anyone who wants to think seriously about youth ministry. It is for: fulltime youth leaders, part time youth leaders, volunteers in youth ministry and those who are thinking about youth ministry in the future. The goal is for us to think practically and strategically, with our Bibles wide open. Remember, it is crucial that the word of God shapes our methods and not only our message in youth ministry. Read on…
Mixers. Ice-breakers. Get to know you games—that is our topic for today. Now you need to know that I’m a big advocate of the list above. Being an extrovert who does not have many shy bones in his body, I’m all for smashing through ice and mixing with someone that I have not gotten to know yet. With this in mind, we really must spend a moment or two and make sure our mixers mix, the ice gets broken and we do, in fact, get to know each other.
It has been my experience, through reading countless games books and traveling online (or “on the line” as Vince Vaughan would say) that many of our mixers are simply games with the added result of a factoid being passed from one person to the next. Or, they are competitions disguised as a get to know you game. I want to stir things up a bit by suggesting that many of our mixers simply do not mix. And, while our ice-breakers may appear to be a cool activity, they are not ice-olated in the area of not being all that effective. Ok, sorry about that …
When it comes down to it, our strongest selling point in youth ministry is relationships—our relationship with God, our relationships with each other and with the world at large. We must ensure that our youth meetings are filled with activities that truly help us to get to know each other, and get to know each other deeply. Mixers can help do this but only if they really do help us to get to know each other. With this in mind, ask your mixers these questions:
•Do I have time to talk about something with the person I am mixing with or am I simply trying to ‘be the fastest to finish’ or ‘win some prize through this activity’?
•Is there some aspect of this mixer that will give me something that I can grab a hold of so that I can talk to this person later on?
•Is this activity a healthy mix of being enjoyable and profitable at the same time?
•Should I think about slowing this mixer down just a bit so that the youth can mix with each a bit better? Similarly, should I remove any rewards or prizes from a mixer to help make it a bit less rushed?
So, do you want to start your meeting well? Start with a good welcome (our last post) and follow it with a mixer that … really mixes. This is one way to reach your goal for a youth night that is both enjoyable and profitable.
For more on this see Creative Christian Ideas and the free mixers section of www.effectiveyouthministry.com
We also have some free online mixers at: http://www.effectiveyouthministry.com/mixers-and-icebreakers.html?searched=mixer&advsearch=oneword&highlight=ajaxSearch_highlight+ajaxSearch_highlight1
By the way, did you hear the one about the alien who landed at a soft drink company and said 'take me to your liter'???
Welcome back … or should I welcome myself back? It has been a while but I’m back and ready to rumble.
When I was a kid I had the pleasure of growing up in Phoenix Arizona. Now you probably know that Phoenix is hot …. as in HOT! So, we tended to spend a great deal of time indoors in front of the TV. It was here, and only here (in Phoenix) that you could delight in one of the greatest show of all time: The Wallace and Ladmo show. I could wax on and on about this life-changing event but I won’t. Rather, I will tell you about one regularly occurring visitor—Boffo the clown. Boffo was unhappy, unfunny, unpleasant and always there to bring the show down to his joyless level.
A few months back I began to draw our thoughts to “how to make youth group enjoyable.” As I have stated before we must strive to make the Christian stuff fun and the fun stuff Christian and I wrote about the need to begin your weekly gathering well. Today I want to give you a guideline to help make the meeting more enjoyable for all involved—no Boffo the Clowns. What I mean is, make sure the person leading the youth meeting (or a segment of it) can stand in front of your group and bring it ‘up’ rather than ‘down’.
I say this because it has been my experience that many groups operate on the “let’s give everyone a try” mentality when it comes to leading the youth gathering. There is some wisdom in this as you never know what a person will be like unless you give them a chance. And, many times somebody that you suspect may not be all that good in front of a crowd actually surprises you and brings the house down (I think many of the modern ‘talent’ TV shows operate on that principle). However, a bit of godly wisdom must be used here as the goal is to provide the most productive gathering possible. With this in mind, here are a few tips to help develop volunteers who can lift a meeting rather than take it down to Boffo’s level:
Run some training. Have an experienced or professional leader come in to provide some teaching on how to stand in front of a crowd. Someone with acting experience or a school teacher will be of great benefit here.
Practice Practice Practice. It goes without saying but practice can really be a help here. Spend some time with your team running through some program segments (Welcoming the group, running a mixer etc.) and critique each other.
Learn to smile. This may the most difficult one, however, it is also one of the most effective ways to communicate positively. Good leaders tend to smile a lot. Again, get lots of practice here. And, you may want someone in the group constantly reminding the person upfront to smile (have them point to their teeth as a reminder).
Be brief. Again, one of the easiest ways to lead things well. Don’t over explain or drone on and on. Get to the point!
Preparation (prevents poor performance). One thing I tell my communication class is to always spend a minute or two at the podium, pulpit, place on the stage where you will be speaking. Get comfy, give it a run through and learn to note any issues that could bring you down.
Finally, running youth group activities is not merely the domain of the extrovert. Youth ministry has long been the domain of the extrovert. This is fortunately changing and we need to realize that introverts can be good in front of a crowd as well. The issues isn’t “extroverts are good in front of people and introverts are good in a small group,” far from it. The issue is simply who is best for the job. (I think back to my early youth group days when we had two people who often ran our youth nights, one was Bruce who was an introvert who loved being alone fixing his truck. The other was Mike, great in a large group. Both did fantastic jobs upfront, each with their own style and manner.)
So, it is the start of the year. Get crackin’ on developing a group of people who can lead your youth group activities in a way that maximises your time together! [By the way, you can learn more about Boffo here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iC-j0SFRBoE ]
I want to begin a series that seeks to help answer the question, “what should we do each week in youth group?” As many of you know, it is my aim that we strive to have solid content in an enjoyable atmosphere. Or, let me put it another way: Let’s make the fun stuff Christian and the Christian stuff fun! The goal must be to run a weekly program filled with Christian content such as Bible study, prayer and activities that promote Christian things such as fellowship and love. With this in mind lets talk about how to start your weekly youth gathering with a rousing welcome.
The welcome is crucial. It must send out the signal that says “we are a Christian group, tonight is going to be worth your while, and we are going to enjoy being together as we get to know Jesus and each other better.” To do this, don’t start your time together by simple forming teams and playing a mindless game. Similarly don’t bore them with a long prayer or theological treatise on why we are meeting together. Here’s what you do:
1. Either have them sit in the normal fashion (I’m assuming chairs or couches in rows or a semicircle). Or, have them stand in one large circle.
2. Say “Welcome”! You could even have them say a brief welcome to the person(s) next to them.
3. Proceed to your “welcome activity”
You will then move on to an activity designed to help the group to catch up and get to know each other a bit better. Here are some great welcomes that should be sure fire ways to start the gathering well.
1. 1-2-3 You start by saying “in a second I’m going to say “Welcome to youth group. You respond by shouting back “Welcome to youth group” and then you must: 1. Give one person a handshake, two people a fist bump and three people a high five.” You then shout “Welcome to youth group.”
2. 10 x High 10s Start in a similar fashion to #1. However, instead of doing 1-2-3, they simply give 10 people high tens and then sit down.
3. Make a noise. Stand in a circle and have each person make a ‘note or noise’ that describes their week. (High = good, low= not so good.) Go around the circle and have each person make their note. At the end, have everyone make the sound together. If the group is comfortable with each other, go around the circle one at a time and listen to each other’s note. If the group is not so comfortable, you can have everybody make the note at the same time. You could then ask particular people why they made the note they did. (If you want the group to do it one at a time, you could give each person the option to pass if they felt uncomfortable.)
4. How’s your week- get high, get low! Ask the group to rate their week by height—a great week means getting as high up as possible (like standing on a chair) a bad week = lying on the ground. You can then ask certain individuals to explain their “height.”
After the welcome, say a prayer committing the night to God and then move on to your next activity. Hopefully the goal is clear—start well, reinforce the fact that this is a group wants to get to know each other and God better.
Next, we will look at mixers that really mix!
It is September and that means three things: 1 Back to school and youth group. 2 Time to start writing more thoughts about youth and youth group things. And, 3 McDonalds Canada has handed out their biannual “Two for one coupons!” I am not ashamed to admit it … but I love the 2 for 1 deal, it makes choosing what to have so simple.
Now let me make a parallel with youth ministry. It is my contention that we have made youth ministry just a bit more difficult than really needed. Attractional v. Missional? Lots of games v. no games? Is the group for Christians or for non-Christians? Etc.
I want to say that there are some things that we can do to make things just a bit easier, sort of like that handy coupon that comes in the mail twice a year. With this in mind, here is Ken’s list of “things you must do to make your year of youth group a bit easier:”
Work with those kids onside; these are probably the “church kids.” They are your base.
As I have said many times in the past, your greatest strength (next to our Lord), is those youth who love the program and give it a high priority. I am still amazed to see the number of groups who neglect these youth in their efforts to reach the unchurched. Big mistake.
Run a weekly meeting that is high on relationships, high on spiritual input done in an enjoyable way.
This probably goes without saying but run every aspect of your weekly meeting through the filter of “does this activity promote good relationships between all involved? If it doesn’t, drop it!
Run a good network of small groups.
Again, a given for must of us. However, many of us still run small groups that are squeezed in at the end of the program giving them too little time and too little importance. We also chop and change these groups in the name of “meeting more people.” To be effective you need the same amount of time, same group of youth with the same leader.
Adult mentoring in a consistent considerate fashion.
Intergeneration mixing is key. One component of this is having parents and older leaders around—regularly and often. This generation of youth love oldies so run with it! Kenda Dean makes a persuasive case in Practicing Passion when she says, “The presence of an adult guarantor in faith is cited repeatedly as the most important factor in a young person’s decision to claim faith as her own” (Practicing Passion, 243).
Work at making youth gatherings a place where friends are welcomed and desired.
Again, this is more of a reminder than anything new. However, far too many groups are simply … not all that welcoming. Are newcomers welcome, met with smiles and the invitation to come and join our circle (or any other activity that the particular group is doing at any given time)?
Listen to the youth and show interest in them. Speak to them and with them, not down to them.
When you are talking to a young person, look them in the eye, listen to what they say, show interest in their world. You don’t need to be an expert on youth culture or youth issues—you simply need to be an expert in “being interested in them!”
Finally, be patient with the youth and with the program. Build for the future, think long-term.
Remember what I have written long ago: you are not building a speedboat, you are building an aircraft carrier. You want this group to get better and better, but that will take some time, some prayer and a good deal of effort. You also want this group to be around for a long time. This means you must always work with the future in mind asking questions such as, “How do I build these youth to be strong disciples when they are young adults and older?”, and “How can I develop youth to be well-trained, productive leaders for the future?”
God bless as you start this new term and I leave you with this question: is it wrong to eat 2 for 1 Big Macs two days in a row?
Today we are going to talk about icebergs even though I don’t know a lot about polar exploration. I’d love to give it a shot but I just don’t think this Arizona boy will ever have the chance. I guess winter in Saskatchewan can at least count for a distant second.
I want to continue to focus our thoughts on starting out—what do we do to get our youth group going in a way that is profitable for long-term discipleship and ministry.
If you’ve read my earlier posts you may remember that I’ve encouraged you to do some things that will help your time in your new youth group to be more profitable. I want to now focus on a question that is basic and yet foundational to your work: Who will this group be for? Most youth leaders begin with dreams of reaching out to the lost and so they aim for a group filled with nonChristian youth. While this is understandable, be very careful. A group that is predominantly nonChristian will lead you to, what I have described in Changing the World, the upside down iceberg.
As you know, icebergs have all the weight at the bottom. This base supports the top, which, while visible, is the minority of this great structure. The principle is the same for any effective youth ministry. If you want to see a group that reaches out to those who don’t know Jesus, you must have the strongest base possible. This base must be made up of two key groups: Christian youth from the church/local area, and youth who, while they may not yet be strong Christians (or even Christians at all), are willing to wholeheartedly participate in every spiritual activity that you run.
I think about many of youth groups that I have either heard about or participated in the past few years. They are designed to attract the lost. When the lost do come, there must be activities that will be enjoyable and will keep them coming. This becomes a tremendous burden to the volunteers and to the leader themselves. This is an example of an iceberg that is wrongside up. The leadership team must then prop up this iceberg to keep it from crashing down. In my experience, gravity always wins and inevitably, the group crashes.
The better way
Your goal must be to build a strong base of Christian youth. These youth can then minister to nonChristians youth. As the base grows, so does the top—the whole thing gets bigger and bigger!
So, one of your first steps is to begin your youth group with the above two groups (Christians and any youth who willingly participate in Christian activities) as your base. Find out exactly how many Christian youth are in the church or have gone to the previous group. Meet with these youth and explain to them your desire to run a group that will be built on getting to know Jesus each week and encouraging each other to follow him. If there was a youth group before you moved into the leadership role, find the next group; those youth who came to the youth group and were willing to participate in the spiritual activities. These two groups are your core, your bread and butter, your pizza base and every other metaphor that you can insert here.
A word to youth ministry vets
I’m not talking about those of you who look after animals but anyone who has been in youth ministry for a while. We all need to be careful of the upside down iceberg—even seasoned specialists with the best of intentions can be sucked in to running a group that is upside down. This will make things so much harder in the long run.