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Jeremy Steele

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Having “mountain top” experiences with God are incredible gifts, but if they never change our daily lives, they are wasted.  This activity will help students process those experiences and use their creativity to explore how what they discover on the mountain nation top can be brought into their world like Jesus did with the disciples in Luke 9:28-43.

Before you meet, gather a bunch of art supplies.  Markers, paint, blank paper, clay, etc.  Try to get as many different kinds of art supples including blank lined paper and pens for writing.

Begin by explaining to your students that when we have deep spiritual experiences like often happens at camp or in mission, they are meant to help us lean things about ourselves or about God that we live out in the real world.  Each student is going to use the supplies to create some piece of art that depicts the mountain top experience and how that experience can be expressed in their world.  

Begin by giving students time to think about what they have experiences and discovered in their own spiritual life.  Then invite them to create.

Finish the time sharing the creations asking students to share what they discovered on the mountain top and how they want to live it out in their everyday life.

Love is the opposite of hate.  Often the seeds of how we love our enemies can be discovered by thinking about the things we don’t like [hate] about them.  This activity asks students to think about how they can flip those hateful statements into loving one.  This is an exploration of Luke 6:27-38.

Begin by placing a mirror in the center of the group.  Explain that the mirror shows the opposite image, flipping right to left and left to right.  That is what you are going to be doing as you think about how you can love your enemies.  Students are going to begin by writing a hateful statement you or someone else has said about another person or group in large letters that cover an entire sheet of paper.  Then after some reflecting time, they will flip the paper and write the opposite, loving statement on the other side flipping their hate to love like a mirror flips what is in it.

Pass out paper and have students think about which person or group they or their friends hate.  Then, find one statement they have heard or have said about the group on the piece of papers in letters so large it fills the entire paper. The statements might be like these:

  • I hate how superficial they are.
  • I hate their music.
  • I hate how they exclude people.

Now, set a timer for five minutes.  ask students to think about that statement for five minutes trying to imagine a way they can turn it around.  It may help for them to trace it or continue doodling around it to help them focus.  If they need to get up and walk around while holding it they can do that too.  Once the timer is up, ask them to flip the paper over and write the other statement on the other side.  It might be a statement like this:

  • I love how they care for their own appearance
  • I love how different their music is from mine.
  • I love how closely knit their group of friends are.

Once students have finished, ask them to go around the room sharing both sides of the paper and how they came to the loving statement on the other side.

Our expectations drastically shape our experiences of life.  They often define what we focus on and what we ignore. Taking time to explore our expectations can reshape our experience of faith.  This activity will help students see how their expectations are shaping their experience of Church and help them refocus on what they desire by redefining their expectations.

Begin by asking students to list various ways they experience God (church worship, youth group, bible study, walks in nature, etc.). Once they have a good list, ask them to chose their favorite, their least favorite and one other.

Give each student three pieces of paper (one for each experience) and ask them to write five words that describe how they experience those practices.  Once they have the words at the top, ask them to draw something that symbolizes or illustrates those words.

Ask them to turn the page over and draw a line down the middle.  On the left side ask them to write what they expect to experience before they begin the practice.  On the right side ask them to list what they wish they would experience through the practice.

Once you have completed the papers discuss these questions:

  • How do your expectations match with your experience?  Why is this?
  • Knowing that our expectations cause us to not notice the things that we aren’t expecting, what are your expectations causing you to miss?
  • How could adjusting your expectations change or improve these practices for you?

Though it is rare that our least favorite practice will become our most, focusing our expectations on what we desire will help us pay attention to and focus on when that happens rather than when the things that bother us happen. 

 God is always speaking to us if we will be still and listen, but we rarely carve out the space to do that.  This activity will help students listen to what God might be revealing to them about who they are by meditating on their favorite verse(s) through a specific lens.  This is part of our Epiphany Lessons for youth this year, but can be used on its own as well!

Talk to students about the fact that God sees things in us that we cannot see it ourselves, and can reveal to us as we listen to the voice of God. Talk to students about the fact that God sees things in us that we cannot see it ourselves, and can reveal to us as we listen to the voice of God. One of the easiest ways is to spend time meditating on Scripture. 

Begin this activity by asking students to share their favorite Bible verses. If they aren’t sure where the verses are located in the Bible use a smart phone to google and find the location in the Scriptures. If students do not have a favorite verse, offer several popular verses, and have the students choose  a couple that they like or resonates with them in some way.

Then pass out a sheet of paper that has the following questions printed on it with plenty of lines in between for students to write their answers:

  • What does this say about who I am? 
  • What is the say about what I might be able to see or notice? 
  • What is the say about what I am able to do? 
  • What does this say about the people I love?

Explain to the students that their selection of the verses reveals things about them. The verse can be a guide to helping hear what God is trying to say to them. The questions  on the paper are prompt that will help them listen to the voice of God. Once they have finished the meditation time they should talk about what they wrote down with someone else to help them understand what God might have been saying to them. As they meditate on the question invite them to read the verse over and over.

Begin the meditation time letting students know that you will tell them when to move from one question to another. They should spend all of the given amount of time on a single question before moving to the next question.

The first impression we get of the character of God is in the creation passages in Genesis.  God is a brilliant creator! One way we experience this creator God is by trying to become more like Him.  

If one of God’s main roles is as Creator, then when we create, especially when our focus or intent is growing in Him, we experience God.  After teaching on this, you can release the youth to spend the rest of the time being creative. Use your imagination! Here’s what came out of our imagination:

Then we dismissed the teens to spend the rest of the evening creating at these stations:

  1. Snow Sculpting:  Using the snowy blend of “Yuck” from Buckets-O-Fun, we made it in three colors and allowed students to create on pieces of tin foil.
  2. Finger Painting:  By far the most popular (go figure).  Fingerpaints, paper, done.
  3. Cookie Decorating:  Cheap walmart cookies, cheap tub or two of icing, leftover sprinkles from giant sundae.
  4. Flower Arranging:  Donated flowers from florist or cheap grab bag of flowers, scissors and vases or bottles.
  5. Writing/Drawing:  Inspirational photographs, Bibles, paper, pens, pencils.
  6. Garage Band Loops: Get people who have Apple computers to bring them.  They come with a program called Garage Band that students can use to create music from existing loops.
  7. Event Soundtrack.  Had one computer plugged into the sound system with the web browser open to“In Bb.”  Students simultaneously play youtube videos in the same key creating a live soundtrack for the event.

 

Paper airplanes are universal fun, and can be a great metaphor when talking about how our appearances don’t always reflect our abilities and how small changes can make a big difference.  Before you meet, take a moment to Check out Fold ‘N Fly for instructions on several different design options you can share with your class.  You can even print out some templates.

Begin by pairing students up.  Ask them to design and fold a couple of plan prototypes that they think will fly the fastest, highest, straightest or farthest.

After they are all folded, as a group talk about which ones youthink will go fastest, highest, fly straigtest and farthest. Then test your predictions. 

After the first flight, bring your pairs together and make modifications to the airplane to make it faster, higher, straighter.  

Debrief:

Could you tell how the plan was going to fly based on its design?

How did your modifications affect the outcomes?

Think about your life.  How does this activity describe you right now?  

A year’s worth of free lessons, how to talk about school shootings, and Ice breakers of course!  This year has been filled with some incredible resources we have offered to you for free!  Every one of these is a can’t miss article, make sure you’ve read them all!

8. The Spring Break Problem:  2 Simple Solutions (Meredith Garreau): It happens to all of us- as we get closer and closer to Spring Break, we’re debating how to adapt our lessons and games for a smaller crowd. It can be a little stressful also when you have a church and youth group on the smaller side already, let alone when kids get a week off from school. Meredith’s article will be just what you need when it’s spring break or, maybe, the week after New Year’s

7. From Safe Spaces to Brave Spaces: A Tool to Process with Youth (Andy Millman): This year has been full of hot-button issues in our culture.  Choosing to ignore those divisive, heated issues doesn’t help students learn how to process, but just offering a cable news-style free-for-all will end up with a lot of unnecessary pain.  This tool by Andy is an incredibly helpful in addressing any heated issue that your youth are dealing with.

6.  Seven Months of Quality, Methodist Youth Lessons FREE:  Make that 12 months now! We have been releasing weekly youth ministry lessons you can use in your church for free. This article announced our seven month milestone, and blew up when it released. Oh, yeah, and you’re welcome.  With a whole year available, you don’t need to worry about writing (or buying) Sunday School material!

5. My Mom Was a Lunch Lady Whose Sloppy Joes Taught me About Grace (Marc Baugh): Seriously. Sloppy Joes and grace, what could be more methodist and youth ministry?  This devotion will challenge you, and give you a great metaphor for your next lesson on grace!

4. 15 Killer Questions to Break the Ice in Sunday School (Jeremy Steele): Sometimes the youth aren’t talking and you need to toss a conversation grenade into the room.  This handy list of questions will get their mouths moving, and is a perfect tool to keep bookmarked for those desperate moments!

3.  19 Years After Columbine, No Longer a Unique Story: Supporting Youth Who Have Experienced Trauma (Amy McMullen):  20 years after this tragedy, we reflected on the lessons learned and where we have gone since.  Amy was 10 when this happened in her hometown and lost a close family friend.  Her words are a powerful tool to help us consider how we are responding today.

2. Methodist History in a Bag: Amazing Teaching Tool for Confirmation (Sharon Cook): History can be boring, but this tool will help get students eyes and hands involved as you pull different items out of a bag to share different stories from Methodist History, but why keep it to Confirmation?  This would be great in any gathering of Methodist Youth!

1. Responding to a School Shooting: Three Approaches for Youth Workers (Paulo Lopes): This year (as too many others) has been rattled over and over again by the horror of school shootings all over America.  Dealing with this complicated, issue can be incredibly difficult as your own personal feelings and perspectives can make it difficult to think through what is best for your students. Paulo walks us through three approaches to help us map out what our students need in these situations so that we can meet them where they are and help them move forward.  We also discussed the issue on our Podcast. it was one of the best of the year.

Is your church having a difficult time growing in the younger generations?  Are you frustrated at how youth and young adults are experiencing church but not sure where to start to fix it?  Are you uncertain as to how you can asses whether or not your church is doing effective ministry with younger people that will help the church continue to equip the next generation of disciples after they finish youth ministry?

The beginning to finding answers to all of that is found in the 2016 resource Growing Young from the Fuller Youth Institute. This books is based on solid, scientific research into what is working in churches that are succeeding at growing in the younger demographics.  As  Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin dug into the ministries of those churches, they uncovered six essential strategies that  helped young people discover and love church.  

Let me give you an example.  One of the strategies is something they call “Unlocking Keychain Leadership.”  In decades past, younger people were given both literal and figurative keys to the church.  They were entrusted with real responsibility and allowed to take on significant areas of ministry. In general, that is not the case today.  Far too often church leaders are holding onto the keys of leadership as they age and refusing to pass that keychain down to the younger generation.  

However, churches that are succeeding at growing young are reclaiming that old tradition of passing the keys down to younger generations.  As they do that, they see ministry transformed and young people stepping up to the plate.  If your church wants to grow young, they are going to need to take hold of this practice and celebrate the leadership of younger generations.

This is an essential book for every church leader to read at this point as all the membership research shows a general downward trend in membership among younger generations.  To help you get a better overview before diving into the book check out this six-part blog series Young People Ministries produced to introduce you to this groundbreaking work.  Then, make sure you buy a copy for all your church staff to read together… this is the Christmas gift that could change your church and seriously impact the next generation.

IT’s getting close to turkey day, and that means you might need a thanksgiving-themes icebreaker or two.  Never fear!  We have your back!

Steal the Turkey Leg

First, buy a 24″ inflatable turkey leg.  Then, use this turkey take on the classic youth group game “Steal the Bacon.”

  • Split your group in half and have them stand in two straight lines facing each other.  
  • Give students in each line a number starting with 1.  (That means there will be two people with “1” two people with “2” and so on.)
  • Put the Turkey Leg in between the lines.  
  • Call out one of the numbers.
  • Each person with the number attempts to grab the turkey leg and return to their spot without being tagged.  If they accomplish this feat, their team (line) gets a point.  If they get tagged, the other team gets a point.

Thankful Bible Searching:

Make sure you have several students with access to a searchable Bible app, and break them into teams to answer these questions.  Once everyone is done, have each team report back and vote as a group on which team’s answer was best.

  • What is the strangest thing that someone gave thanks for in the Bible?
  • What is the most loving thank-you offered in the Bible?
  • What is something that someone has given thanks for in the Bible that you would not be thankful for?

You Ate What?  A Thanksgiving Feast Questionnaire

Pair students up and ask them to answer these questions. Once they are finished interviewing each other, ask them to share the highlights with the group.

  • What is the strangest casserole you’ve ever eaten?
  • What is the most unique thing you’ve ever added to a turkey sandwich?
  • What is your lest favorite type of pie?
  • What is a family tradition around thanksgiving you wish wasn’t a tradition?
  • What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever had to eat on thanksgiving?
  • Do you keep everything separate on your plate, allow it to touch, or stir it al together?
  • What is the strangest thanksgiving tradition you have ever heard of from your friends or family?
  • How long do you consider leftover turkey ok to eat?
  • What is your favorite way to consume leftover turkey?
  • Gravy or no gravy?  If gravy, what kind?
  • Cranberry sauce  should: be sliced from the can, mashed up in a bowl, cooked with real cranberries.

 

We have your lessons covered.  You don’t have to download random lessons online that have weird theology.  You don’t have to write them yourself.  You don’t even have to pay a lot of money for something from a traditional publisher.  If you are looking for solid United Methodist youth ministry lessons, we have seven months already written for you (and more on the way).  

And they’re free!  How does that work?  When your churches pay their apportionments, some of that money goes to produce these lessons for you to use for free!  Each week’s lesson is written by a seasoned United Methodist youth worker and contains an icebreaker, a discussion based on scripture, and an active element designed to help the teacher engage the imaginations of the students.  

But it gets better.  These series also serve as companions to the adult worship resources (which are found at https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/worship/worship-planning) so by getting your pastors involved as well, you will be following what your pastor is preaching.

Just head over to https://umcyoungpeople.org/about/worship-theme-lessons-for-youth and you’ll find seven complete series waiting for you, and more on the way!