cherishing your youth
I once led a youth group where the guys in the group decided to show how much they cared for the girls. They hand wrote scrolls, tying them up with ribbon, inviting the girls to a smart dress code dinner. They decorated the hall, cooked a three-course meal, served the girls dressed in black and white waiters' outfits, cleared the tables and washed up.
As the girls sat chatting and the washing up was finished, one of the girls asked the boys to sit down. They said no, because they were there to serve the girls that night.
Life can often be hard for young people. Like those boys did, seek out ways to practically care for the young people whom you serve.
Do your youth often hang around with people in the same year group? Ours do too, but you can gently mix people up. We do this particularly on residentials, but why wait for the next one? Organise a team challenge, splitting people in the same year groups between different teams.
The possibilities are endless.
classical painting challenge
Here's one we did recently. Have each team choose:
1. A leader (you can choose a famous person if you prefer)
2. The style of a famous artist
3. Doing an activity
We chose Jackson Pollock, Van Gogh, Salvador Dali, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol.
Activities were: starring in the ballet, as part of a circus act, as a Morris dancer (it's a UK thing, please don't hold it against us!), winning an Olympic competition, being crowned a monarch and as a farmer.
The artists in the group stepped up, but everyone loved it.
This is me (surely you recognise that), winning an Olympic competition (think 2 Timothy 4.7), in the style of Van Gogh.
My good friend Thea, as a Morris Dancer, in the style of Pablo Picasso.
Teams were given about 40 minutes to create their masterpieces. New skills were discovered, conversations started and there was a lot of mess.
Mix it up by getting teams to pain a leader (again, or famous person) just using their fingers. 15-20 minutes should be enough to get some fairly awful paintings...
Put each team around a table and give each team all six puzzles to work on at the same time. This is one we did:
Solve a Rubik's Cube
Complete a wordsearch
Untangle a mass of rope
Use the entire lip balm on one person's lips
Answer a year 6 (10-year-old) SATS maths paper
Solve ball puzzle (one of those square plastic maze puzzles with a ball bearing inside that you need to get a ball from the start to the end of)
Our learning was to have tissue available for the lip balm people. They were covered!
Having six challenges allows each team member to focus on one, rather than one super-keen person doing the challenge while everyone else watches.
Set up in a room a spider's web of wool. Make holes of different sizes. Teams have to get from one side of the web to the other. You can award points for teamwork.
Make it more difficult by saying that two young people can't go through the same hole.
SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
Hannah and Jack, show off their First Move
We've done this a few times now - partner dancing with our older youth and they have absolutely loved it. One teenage boy said the first time we did it, 'I thought I would hate it, but... I didn't!' We use modern jive, which is taught under a range of names, including Ceroc, Leroc and Lindy Hop.
Why do I think it's worth doing if you can find a good teacher? People rotate round so everyone gets to meet and dance with everyone else. It is very structured - all the moves are explained carefully. It's a very level playing field - everyone starts not being able to do it, and everyone ends up being able to do it. It's also physical - girls and boys hold hands, but it's not at all sexual. I think that's really significant in the 21st century. And the music is all upbeat chart music that they know, from Barbie to Taylor.
The most recent time we did it was on our Week Away this year. It was part of our last night celebrations. It had been a few years since we had tried it with our youth, so we prepared the boys beforehand, taking them aside and explaining what was going to happen, how they could cherish the girls in throwing themselves into it, and agreeing that nobody would think they fancied someone if they asked someone to dance. The boys and girls really stepped up. Most people said it was the highlight of the week. Two even said they needed to remember the moves for their weddings!?!?
Why not give it a go?
I've talked to a few leaders who have said that the Covid pandemic has meant that young people have lost some of their social skills. Structuring relationship building might be a good thing.
We've been experimenting with speed chatting. Looks a bit like speed dating! We set up small tables in a circle with two chairs at each, opposite each other. If you can, go for table cloths, candles and flowers, but two chairs facing each other will work. Then we ask the young people to sit down on any chair, and we put up on a screen three questions to ask the person opposite them. We always start with, 'What's your name?' Then an interesting question like, 'If you have an hour free at home, what will you do?' Then a deeper question like, 'Who do you trust?' Fusion's DMC decks are great if you can't think of questions.
They stay with that partner for about 100 seconds, then one of the pair rotate round the circle. Repeat so that people talk to five to 10 people.
When we've run this, we've found that young people, even newcomers, loved it. Scott Rushby, Youth Pastor at Testwood Baptist Church, who did speed chatting with his young people, said his young people commented afterwards:
they spoke to someone new
they learnt a new name
they learnt something new about an already established friend
they surprised themselves with how much they enjoyed it
they learnt some questions to ask to enable them to have good conversations with people they don’t know
You can download the PowerPoint of Scott's questions here:
'thinking of you' cards
Maybe you haven't seen a young person for a while, perhaps they've lost interest, they're ill or are feeling rubbish.
Why not send a card to them to encourage them to remember God's faithfulness?
Simply download the card, print it on A4 card and send it.
Drawn by Jack Percey.
If you have the finances to do it, why not send out parcels to members of the group with some sweets or chocolate? Write a letter, making it personal if you can. Make it a card and they can stand it up in their room and look at it again and again. Put in some Bible verses (try ones on anxiety like Phil. 4.6-7, 1 Peter 5.7, Prov. 12.25, Ps. 94.19). Send them some fun treats, like a sachet of hot chocolate and small packet of marshmallows.
Put in things that remind them of the group. Include a programme for the term. Could you put in an activity book, Bible study notes or ideas for quiet times?
These will encourage people and remind them you are thinking of them, even if you are not seeing them as often. And it's personal which is vitally important. Think too, if you can afford it, of allowing two siblings to get a parcel each, not to share one. It shows, you're cherishing them as individuals.
You can buy boxes which are 'large letter' size. Be creative in filling these, but go for flat lollies rather than round ones! If you are posting them, this is one time that you can say to concerned parents, 'I'm really sorry. I couldn't give them fruit,' although boxes of raisins, might just make it!!
You can save your budget (if you have one!) by hand-delivering them.
There's a whole chapter called 'Cherish' with great ideas for caring for your youth in my book: RAISING THE BAR.
“Comprehensive, practical and soundly theological. My go-to resource for all of my questions... This book is a must-have for any newbies especially and I still dip into it often.”
Becky Hepworth, Youth Worker