Jeremy Steele


Smaller Church Youth Ministry by Brad Fiscus with Stephanie Caro is a must-read for every youth worker.  When a close friend first recommended I read this book I had two thoughts simultaneously:

  1. I am so glad that someone wrote this book.  Small churches are a specific context, and we needed this addressed specifically.
  2. I’ll read it later because I don’t work at a small church.

When I got around to reading it I immediately regretted that second thought.  This book is one of those rare pieces of writing where a veteran in a field distills all their best discoveries into a single, brilliant volume full of things that work in the real world.

Though it is specifically designed to help people in a small(er) church (you’ll find out that the -er is important), the big ideas are things that apply everywhere regardless of the membership numbers reported on your year end report.

So, what do you get in the 160 pages? You get a simple structure for youth leadership teams, how to deal with your senior pastor, how to develop leaders, dealing with abuse and safe sanctuaries, designing for discipleship, and tons more!  And, its only 160 pages.  It’s not filled with fluff.  It’s just what works!

For those of you who haven’t stopped reading and ordered it yet, you’re probably asking what’s the negative?  My only negative is that its title makes friends of mine feel like they shouldn’t read it, but they should.  So what are you waiting for?  Go order it now.

Sometimes you just need the beginning of a story to get you started.  This fun game takes an online trend and uses it to help students open up and get to know each other.  Here’s the instructions for the game.  We’ll have a list of statements at the bottom of this article:

You know the sentence fragments we like to post on facebook and twitter.  “That moment when my girlfriend find out I love one direction…” “That moment when a text makes you laugh in the middle of class” “That moment when someone calls your best friend their best friend.”  We are going to use these kinds of statements to tell funny stories about our lives.

  1. Take the “that moment when” envelope and pull out a piece of paper.
  2. Read it to the group
  3. Tell a story from your life that matches the statement on the paper.
  4. Pass the envelope to the person on your right.

Here’s a list of statements to get you started:

  • That moment when you trip in front of a bunch of people
  • That moment when you laugh at something that was supposed to be serious
  • That moment when you overslept
  • That moment when you have a crazy dream
  • That moment when your phone goes off when you thought it was silent
  • That moment when you eat the grossest thing ever
  • That moment when your relative does something hilarious
  • That moment when you go to a movie you thought you were going to love and hate it
  • That moment when you are surpassed at how cool someone younger than you is
  • That moment when one of your posts on facebook, instagram, etc blows up
  • That moment when you get a WAY better grade than you were expecting
  • That moment when you find out something cool about your parents
  • That moment when you go to your first concert
  • That moment when you watch a youtube video 5 times in a row (and keep going)

Best friends are so many fun stories, and getting students talking about their best friends is a great way to break the ice.  Ask each person to answer two of these.  If you’re in a larger group, pair up and have them answer all of them to each other.

  1. What is the funniest thing your best friend has ever said?
  2. What is the funniest thing your best friend and you have ever done together?
  3. What is the best advice your best friend has ever given you? Did you take it?  What happened?
  4. What is the worst advice your best friend has ever given you? Did you take it?  What happened?
  5. What is the most food you and your best friend has ever eaten together?

This simple game helps get students physically active while engaging the creative side of their mind.

Stand in a circle and choose a person to begin. Instruct each person to think of anything to do that does not involve moving more than a couple of feet away (jump, high-five, pretend to sleep, stand still, etc). The first person will do their action. The second person will do the action of the first and add their action. The third will do the first action, the second action, and conclude with their own. On and on until someone messes up. When they mess up, they are out (they sit down) and the series of actions go to the next person until only one remains.

This hilarious icebreaker combines paper ball fights with all the basics you need to get to know a new group.  Get into pairs and ask each person to find out these things about their partner:

  1. Name
  2. Grade
  3. School
  4. Favorite something
  5. Most interesting place they have ever been/lived
  6. Least favorite something

Pass out paper and let students turn it into something able to be thrown (ball, airplane, etc) When they are done, ask each person to introduce their partner to the group.  Whenever they forget one of the questions, the group members are to throw paper at them!