We asked two youth leaders, one in Winnipeg and one in Ottawa, to give us a sketch of their best and favourite practices in youth ministry. Here’s what the people on the ground are saying.
Spontaneous Relationship: Zack’s favourites
- It’s all about relationship – This is why many teens go to youth group in the first place. They desire relationship: real, tangible friendships with people who care deeply about them. Community is at the heart of Christianity and helps create an atmosphere where it’s okay to talk about tough questions, share personal stories, and support one another in their day to day lives.
- Plan your gatherings “loosely” – For detail-oriented people, this is a tough one. We care so much about having meaningful get-togethers that we will often plan out everything perfectly, but forget to leave space to breathe, for spontaneity to arise, and alternative paths to take shape. Don’t be afraid of the unplanned. I find that some of the most meaningful conversations our group has are ones I had no hand in creating.
- Youth ministry is youth doing ministry! – Allow the youth in your church to take ownership of their ministry. Strive to be a leader who helps develop and strengthen ideas that come from the youth that you minister to. Be the support system that can make their ideas come alive. Give your youth opportunities to help plan and lead parts of your regular gatherings and activities. Encourage the natural leaders in your group to take initiative in leading their friends. An example of how to do this is simply breaking off into small groups to talk and pray with one another. Do all that you can to make ittheir group.
Top 3 Games My Youth Group Loves
- Ultimate Ice Breaker – Get some T-Shirts that you don’t mind getting ruined. Fill ice-cream buckets (same amount as the number of T-shirts you have) with water and put one T-shirt in each bucket. Put the buckets in the freezer and let them freeze solid. The goal of the game is simple: First team to put on their shirt wins. Add in other elements like tools to break the ice as desired.
- Fruit Puzzles – Most fruit works with this. Before you begin, cut up your fruit into medium size pieces that are not symmetrical. Present each team with their fruit in pieces on a plate, a handful of toothpicks, and some scotch tape. Set a time limit and appoint some judges (leaders are usually best for this). Have fun!
- Human Knot – Split up into groups of 3 or more. Stand in a circle with your team. Reach across the circle and grab the hand of two other teammates. The first team to fully untangle themselves without letting go of each other wins.
Zack Ingles is the Youth & Young Adult Minister at St. Alban’s Church (Anglican Church of Canada) in Ottawa, ON.
Skatelife: Caleb Serves Unchurched Youth
Relationships before programs – Youth ministry happens when relationships are prioritized over programs. When relationships are the focus you can connect with young people over common interests and activities. To serve teenagers we must go to them as Christ came to us. This looks like meeting them in their world, and committing to becoming friends, no strings attached. I love meeting young people at skateboard parks or in the streets and connecting by skateboarding together, quite simply because I am a skateboarder myself. This sets you up to care for a kid until he asks “why?”
Invite kids into community – What follows is to invite youth into a caring community that meets together regularly. With the youth we develop events, clubs, trips and camps specifically with skaters in mind. This is one way that the kids we have met feel known. We build a program together. When meeting regularly I have found that if you want to care for a young person you need to make space for them to think and discuss life and faith in a non-threatening way. Giving youth a place to speak their mind gives them a sense of ownership and creates genuine relationships.
Making space to talk about life and God – One great way to make space is to prepare and eat food together as a “family”. Sharing a meal is natural but also allows for deeper conversations to be fostered. Another way to create meaningful space for conversation is to create a trip that you can take together. There is nothing better than being stuck in a vehicle with someone you are trying to get to know. Some of the best trips I have done are serving trips to other skateboard communities as well as skateboard road trips and camps. All these ideas are based on developing relationships with young people and creating a space for a young person to be heard as well as to hear from us.
Caleb Elias has worked in youth ministry for eight years, including serving as a youth pastor at St. Margaret’s, Winnipeg. He spent three years working in outreach youth ministry with Skatelife in Ontario and is currently at The Edge Skatepark in Winnipeg. Both ministries focus primarily on reaching out to adolescents in skateboard culture. The majority of the young people involved in these ministries have no church background. You will find Caleb at his local skatepark at The Forks.