Every few months there seems like there is a new method of how to do a youth meeting. New styles. New methods. It’s trendy, no doubt…but there are a few elements that will never change in any particular youth group setting. Here are a few…
1. The Holy Spirit
This should be a given but it rarely is. I’m guilty of it. You set up your calendar of what you’re going to teach on for the next quarter and when the week comes around you prepare you lesson and teach it! Lather, rinse, repeat. We leave the Holy Spirit out of the process. We forget to ask God to grant us sensitivity to what the Holy Spirit is leading us to do.
I am one that likes to plan out what I’m teaching for the next quarter. That way I can keep a handle on what’s coming up and look for things that might go along with a lesson. The problem with that, is that sometimes (probably a lot more than I know) God has other plans. I’ve been 5 minutes before a youth group starting and completely scrapped a whole lesson because I felt the Holy Spirit leading me to talk about something else…completely unprepared! The couple of times that that has happened, God showed me why. Sometimes, I never see the reason why. So take the time to pray. Pray for your students to have an open heart and mind and Spirit. Pray for your leaders. And pray for yourself to be sensitive to what God may want you to do and teach from where God wants you to teach.
2. Hang Out Time
Some studies have shown that teenagers tend to not be social. Make sure you read that with sarcasm. Of course teenagers are social! All it takes is putting them in a room and watching them take off in all directions of conversation. I believe that it is absolutely essential to plan for hang out time in your program. You don’t have to devote part of your 60 minutes to it, but allow them some time to visit together and hang out.
For example: You have a 60 minute Bible study on Wednesday nights that starts at 6:00pm. Why not open the youth room up at 5:00pm and have music videos playing on the tv and a Wii out for them to play. Provide some snacks and soda (or pop…depending upon where you’re from). Allow them time to just be social teenagers.
3. Talk Time
Sure, you have all the education…all the knowledge and experience to share the most amazing and profound insights into scripture. Don’t. Let them talk. Let them have the opportunity to discover God’s Truth by themselves. There will be times for you to talk and share your insights…but the last thing teenagers need is another lecture.
Let them become self-learners. Ask questions–hard questions to get them thinking! But don’t ask them questions where they can answer “yes” or “no”. Open ended questions are great because it forces them to articulate their own thoughts and ideas. For example:
“Should we pray?” – The obvious answer is yes. If we ask this question, we probably won’t even get a verbal answer…just a head nod.
“How do you pray?”
“Is there a certain way to pray?
These questions allow them to think and discover the answer on their own and hopefully discover a few new questions of their own.
Accessibility is related to the Talk Time. Your students need to feel like they are in an environment where they openly discuss their opinions and views on things. This may not be achievable with a large group, but students need to feel safe no matter how big or small a group is.
This also means having the ability to take all answers and turn them into something positive. Every opinion matters no matter whether it was the right answer or not. It takes guts for students to say something and give an answer. They are revealing part of themselves. Putting their self-image on the line. If you say “No, that’s wrong and you’re an idiot…” you’ve just lost that student from ever participating in a real way for a long time. Maybe it’s not the right answer, but find a right way to address it and turn it into something positive.
Also allow questions to be asked. Hard questions. Allow doubt to creep in once in a while. Before you declare me a heretic, consider how much we grow through times and questions of doubt. In my personal life, when I have doubted, I found the answers. Not only did I find the answers, but my faith was strengthened because I asked those questions.
“How can God be 3 people at once?”
“How do we know the Bible is true?”
“How can we trust that Jesus really was God?”
Great questions! It means they’re going deeper and are thirsting for more of God’s Word!
I’m sure other, more experienced youth workers can come up with way more elements than me, so if you have a good element leave a comment and share it with the rest of us!