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10 Simple Ways to Use Artificial Intelligence in Youth and Student Ministry


I led a seminar recently on Artificial Intelligence to train our youth and children's leaders. That was a considerable problem, because I'm certainly no expert. By the grace of God, I was leading with a couple of people who knew more than me, but I wanted to put in practical ideas for how to use it in youth ministry. That's when I asked a large youth leader group on Facebook for help and they gave me a load of ideas. If you're ever out of your depth as a youth worker - remember to ask for help. Whatever people say, we don't need to be scared of AI. Jesus is still Lord and God has gifted people to invent AI. It is really clever and it can be harnessed for God's kingdom, but do leave your brain switched on when you're using it. If the thoughts and ideas it comes up with aren't appropriate for your setting or even at all, then don't use them! The best known is ChatGPT and I use the free version. I have no links to ChatGPT.

Here are some ideas to use AI:


  • Creative ideas. Type in: What are 10 great icebreakers for teenagers? AI scans thousands of websites to find answers. I put in that search and found seven ideas I'd done before, but some I hadn't done for ages, and three brand new ideas. Let AI take the legwork out of creative thinking. Type in: Give me ten ideas for a cowboy party for teenagers. And the ten ideas it came up with were all usable.

  • Correcting mistakes! Look at the example above. Type in: Is there a better word to use for cowboy? It gives me four ideas that are more inclusive and I'm set to avoid an unhelpful mistake: cowhand it is.

  • Filling in your skill gaps. Think of AI as an assistant not a crutch.

    1. Pastoral. Say someone in your group has a parent die. You're a young youth leader, you've never had to deal with anything like that before. Type in: What are five important things as a Christian to say to someone whose parent has died? Or, What Bible verses can I use to give hope after bereavement? That search brings up Revelation 21.4; Psalm 34.18; 1 Thess. 4.13-14; John 14.1-3 and Isa. 41.10. All of those are brilliant verses for that context. Traditionally, you’ve probably looked up 'hope' or 'loss' in the Bible which may have nothing to do with bereavement. 

    2. Tech skills. You have no idea how to use social media? Type in: Give me five reel ideas from this talk: [then upload your talk] Or five captions.

    3. Admin. You want a better starting point than zero for a consent form or a risk assessment? Type in: Write me a consent form for a youth group taking teenagers ten pin bowling. If it's not good enough, add more detail to your request. Type in: Write me a consent form for a youth group taking teenagers ten pin bowling on a coach. If you’re not great at spelling or grammar, have AI proof read it. As I said at the top, do leave your brain switched on when you use it. Reread what is produced and adapt it for your context, but it will give you a better starting point. 

  • Use it to narrow the tone. Copy and paste a talk and say: ‘Can you make this talk more engaging for a 10-year-old?’ You don't have to accept everything it says. You may check it and think, 'No, I don't think that's right for me' and that's OK. But maybe it spots some things about your vocabulary or ideas that could be better phrased a different way.

  • Writing in themes. Who doesn't love a good pun? Type in: Write an invitation to a pancake party for teenagers using as many pancake puns as possible then rejoice in the results. Or type in: Give me ten ideas for titles for a pancake party for teenagers

  • Writing a sermon? Personally, I would never do it on AI, regardless of what had happened that week that cut my prep time. I think it lacks integrity. It takes away the relationship between me and the young people. It removes the training I've had. And I don't think AI has the Holy Spirit... But, do use it to add creativity to a sermon:


I was speaking on the Emmaus Road and created this photo on https://huggingface.co/spaces/AP123/IllusionDiffusion. I put in something like 'Path in Israel with three people walking along in robes in the first century' and included a JPEG of the message using white on black. The more specific you are, the better the finished product. If you can't see what this picture says, start from a distance and squint. If you're looking for it, it's easier on a big screen, but the people I've tried it with can't see the words until I tell them to squint... I created puzzle pieces with some of the evidence from Luke 24, eventually making up the whole picture.

  • Gathering information. Type in: How do people understand John 3.16 You can use AI to gather together lots of different ideas from commentaries and websites, but - and here's one of the big AI problems - it's not discerning. It's only collating ideas, so you may not be sure how trustworthy it is. Is it John Stott’s answer? Is it Nicky Gumbel’s answer? If you want it to be specific, be specific in your input e.g. ‘What’s the conservative understanding of penal substitution?’.  To give you an idea of how it works, Type in: What is Jon Tyson's view of the cross of Jesus? Type in: What is John Stott's view of the cross of Jesus? Type in: What is Nicky Gumbel's view of the cross of Jesus? Type in: How do different Christian theologians view the cross of Jesus? The last question doesn't provide any specific theologian's view when I asked, and AI was much clearer on John Stott's views on the cross than Jon Tyson's or Nicky Gumbel's. So use it, but be careful. Type in: What was it like to live in first century Jerusalem?

  • Illustrations? You really think it ought to be able to do this, but it can't come up with recent illustrations. Type in: Who is a celebrity who has got into trouble recently? Chat GPT 3.5 (the free one) will come up with, 'look on the internet'. Its most recent update was January 2022.  Having said this, Type in: What is an illustration for the mercy of Jesus? For me it came up with the woman caught in adultery, Type in: What is an illustration for a talk on mercy. For me, it came up with a reasonable illustration. Here's one of the golden rules of using AI - be as specific as you can be.

  • Engaging your youth. Have young people engage with AI, then bring their answers back and have a conversation about them. If people have their phones with them, have an AI moment in small group. Have them type in: Ask me five questions to find out if I'm selfish  or go big with: Type in: Ask me five questions for each of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 to find out if I show those fruit in my life. When I asked this, it gave up after kindness, so maybe I was asking too much of it, but it asked some really interesting questions. Will young people answer more honestly if it's AI asking them the question and then we're just discussing their answers together? If you want to be challenged yourself, Type in: Ask me five questions to discover if I really trust God.

Remember that AI is just a tool. So use it if its helpful, and don't use it if it's not. The best way to avoid being caught out by AI is to know God's word, ask wise Christians around you and listen to the prompting of God's Holy Spirit in you. If AI is taking you off track, you'll know.


Images at beginning and end of blog by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.


For more thinking on Christianity and AI, check out The Faraday Institute website.

 

If you want to gain experience and ideas for your first 30 years of youth ministry, get hold of my book, 'Raising the Bar: Nearly Everything You Need to Know about Christian Youth Ministry' which you can buy here. This book will help you grow and flourish as a youth leader. Not sure? Read what a load of other youth leaders think about the book here.


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