I have been struggling for a while with our youth group on Sunday night. We are bringing in a whole new crowd of kid and they are a bit rough around the edges. I have enlisted some adult help* and switched to a more experiential model of teaching and that has helped some, but what probably made the most difference was has been the time I have spent outside of church with students.
I have been making an effort to meet with kids outside of church whenever I could. I had supper with one of my high school kids this week and found out that he had gone through a pretty rough time as a kid. I also found out that another younger kid was going through the same thing.
So tonight I connected those two people. It was amazing to see this guy who many people feel is trouble talk to another kid who constantly gives me grief and see them for at least a moment bounding.
It wasn’t earth shattering. The older guy didn’t know what to say and the younger kid was a little worried about the whole thing, but the concept was dare I say it holy. It was a chance for the older kid to practice being the church and the younger kid to feel that he is heard and loved.
It wasn’t much. There is still a whole lot to do, but for a moment there was a glimmer of hope.
When I came to my current church the youth pastor before me was very big on events. The group had a tradition of several big events a year. One of these was a winter retreat that would be during the Christmas break where students would spend 2 nights somewhere off campus.
When I started 7 years ago I did a these for a while, and then got the idea of taking all of that stuff from the weekend and condensing it into one nigh where everyone stays up and we have like 4 sermons and go out to fun places. I was all excited because I had come up with a new thing. And then it dawned on me. That event already has a name.
It’s called a Lock-in.
I guess technically ours is a Lock-out, but the idea is the same. This is the third year we have done this and the second during which we have partnered with another local church. The event was last night and it was pretty amazing. Students are so much fun to be around and they were generally willing to engage and seek after God. We did a time where we used prayer stations and it was neat to see lots of people who had never worshiped in that way before connecting with God in a new way. That was also cool because we had 75 or so kids so we set up multiple spaces that kids could wander through. Maybe it was because it was after 2 in the morning, but the students just quietly moved from space to space praying and interacting with the stations. It was pretty cool.
Of course the biggest thing about this event is the tired factor. By the time we walk back into the sanctuary at 5:00 AM after bowling and try to have another lesson it really is just pointless. I think the whole thing should end at like 4:00 AM, but I can’t convince parents to come and get their kids that early. Next year we are going to have to figure out a better way of handling that last bit of teaching time.
Our theme this year was Peter: Rock Legend and the small groups were all 80s hair band names. The trailer is included below:
One of the most fun things that has happened for me in ministry happened a couple of weeks ago. It was the triumphant return of Wildlife our once a month middle school only gathering. Now if you are a big group and you have middle school and high school separate already you know how great this is. But if you have a small youth group like mine it is really hard to split middle school and high school on a regular basis. 1) because you don’t have enough staff and volunteers 2) you don’t have the space and 3) if you split your youth group you would have even fewer people in each group and things would get weird.
That is where Wildlife comes in.
Once a month we have a worship time that is only for middle school students. I would like to do it on Mondays and call it “Middle School Mondays” but I have other Monday obligations so we do it on the First Friday of every month. You may think that Friday is not a good night, but honestly middle schoolers aren’t out on Friday nights too often (their ball games are normally during the week, too).
Benefits of having a separate middle school worship service
Let’s you have fun in goofy ways that some senior high kids might not enjoy.
Allows deeper lessons and more serious tones at your regular meeting because your younger students have a time of their own.
Offers great opportunity for seniors and college students to get some leadership training.
Gives middle school students a fun “event” that they can invite their friends too.
Let’s middle school students cut loose without trying to look cool for the high school kids.
Is just generally fun!
Here is our basic structure:
We have a theme and teams get points for everyone who dresses according to the them.
There is always food!
We play 3 messy games. These are all up on the stage and all of our games are boys vs girls.
We spin the wheel of messes (just a fun game where someone can either get $5 or an egg on the head or other weird things like that (This lets me get more people messy without taking up as much time)
We have a little clean up time
We sing 2 or 3 songs. Normally we don’t have full band for this, just me doing some hand motion type songs.
We have a short (read under 15 minute) lesson about the theme.
We have small group time where our college students lead in discussion.
That simple structure of messy games (that look great on social media) and a short lesson creates an environment where students want to invite their friends. Creating Wildlife really helps me as I minister to both middle school and senior high students. If you would like to know more or have any specific questions just drop me a comment.