Lately I have been on a quest to get better group discussion and participation from my students. Tonight I am trying out a new game that I thought I would share. It is called Discussion Question Paper Wads. It is basically just a different take on the classic idea of reading questions from a “would you rather” book. But instead of just reading questions I printed them out on individual sheets of paper and wadded them into paper balls.
The students will be seated around the circle and I a plan to have them throw the paper wads at each other for a while until I say stop. Then I will choose one student to open up their wad of paper and answer the question on that piece of paper. I may ask a few more people the same question or just go back to the game.
Then we will start throwing paper again until I stop and repeat the process again. I hope that it will be a nice combination of action and discussion, but who knows, it may just be chaos. If you want to play too you can click the link above for the pdf of my discussion questions. I think there are 22 of them. I just printed out multiple copies so that I would be sure to have enough paper wads to make a fun game.
After my disappointing lesson last week, during which no one seemed to want to answer even the simplest of questions I am still wrestling with how best to approach tomorrow night. A large part of me wants to just go back to large group sermon style teaching with an occasional game or group activity thrown in. I will feel good about myself and I can justify it by saying that I am speaking in a language that the students understand.
But that really isn’t the case. I can put on a good show, but that doesn’t mean that the students really interact with the text. I can preach and hold their attention, but that doesn’t mean that they are wrestling with the truths presented, or really seeing them as truths at all.
Part of my role as a minister to these students is to not only teach them the Bible, but also teach them how to interact with the stories and principles they find there. We live in a world of information, the “facts” are always available on devices that we carry around in our pockets. These students don’t need more facts, they need to know how to take these facts and chew on them and digest them into their lives.
Of course, part of the issue is that we have a very young group of students right now and that group of students really isn’t used to thinking about the Bible in anything other than concrete terms. So instead of getting frustrated with them because they can’t seem to engage in a discussion of the truth I am on a mission to try to teach them how to engage.
That means that instead of retreating back to what I feel is a safe, easy, feel good for me type of sermon-lesson I have to get back into what these students really need and that is a deep internal understanding of the truths of God. And while I know that they won’t achieve that while they are in my ministry (I don’t even think I have achieved that yet), I know that part of what I can do is give them the tools to begin ingesting the word of God.
Of course, I’m not exactly sure what that looks like. It is going to take some trial and error on my part, but I know I want to try.
This week my big focus is going to be just on getting people talking, whether it be about the Bible or anything else. Our group size is such that I should be able to do much of this in our large group setting. I am going to play a few games, work on a few case studies, and do some old improve type thinking exercises to try to get people at least used to looking for new truths. I am praying that this will at least get things started down the right path.
After last week’s blank stares when it came to answering questions I went back to the drawing board this week to try to come up with ways to get the group engaged in the story. Everything wasn’t perfect, but it was a good start. Here are some ideas that I used:
1) I prayed and prayed and prayed specifically for better group participation. I have a deep desire for the students to do more than just sit, I want them to engage with the truth so I spent a great deal of time praying about just that.
2) After the singing time we all sat in a circle. 26 people made for a big circle, but it is much better way to facilitate discussion.
3) We played 2 truths and a lie before the story so that the students would get used to talking in front of people
4) I told the story instead of reading the story.
These things helped the night to be one of the more encouraging youth meetings I have had in a while. I have other ideas that I will be adding next week to try to get the students to go even deeper into the text.