If you have ever worked alongside a student, you know what a milestone achievement graduation is for the student. Graduation represents a time of celebration as well as a time of change, as the student will most likely continue to pursue new ventures in their life such as further education, professions, traveling, and marriage just to name a few. As a youth worker I want to make sure the students I work with have a solid foundation to stand on during these pursuits. As a person of faith in Jesus, I teach Christ and Christ alone to my students, as all pursuits built on Him and Him alone will stand.
So during this time I try to give gifts that share these truths and ideas, but at the same time can be used by the student during the good times as well as the times of doubt and hardship (as the world can be a very lonely place for a follower of Christ without community) as they continue to pursue and experience God in their life. As graduation season approaches and you look around for the right graduation gift for your student(s), here are a few ideas I have found handy in years past…
During my first year of college I asked one of the guys in my hall what day it was, he looked at his calendar on his desk and told me the date. I said thanks and noticed that it wasn’t an ordinary calendar, but each month page had a calendar, a collage of pictures of his youth group, and quote or word of encouragement. Though there wasn’t a lot to read on this practical gift from his youth pastor and youth group, he remembered that there was a group of people who loved him and were praying for him on his spiritual life journey.
WRITING SOMETHING FOR YOUR STUDENTS
A passionate colleague of mine for both the gospel and students, Jon Morrison, could not find a gift for his students that he felt prepared them for life as a Christian after High School, so he wrote a book for his graduating students. The book tackles and answers such questions as, “what are you going to do after high school? What is the purpose of my existence on earth? How come people never achieve their dreams? Does God have anything to say about my life?” Here is the book if you want to check it out… ‘There’s Something I Think You Should Know.’ A shameless plug I know, but that is what you get for being friends with me.
The truth is there are so many questions that a young graduate must answer and they could use a little help figuring it out. So if you pick up the pen, let us know and post it on the site.
BOOKS THAT YOU WILL WANT TO READ
Getting a gift for your students during this special time needs to be more than just a fancy something or other, because these teens are now going into work spaces, universities, and other places of different thoughts that may challenge their beliefs, and if they do not have a foundation they can stand on, there is a good chance they may fall for anything or just fall away. A few suggestions of gifts that may help your student is a book of prayers, daily devotionals, discipleship and apologetic books, etc. Basically, books that will encourage them while at the same time deepen their understanding of their faith.
Book Examples: Valley of Vision, My Utmost for His Highest (student edition), Do Hard Things
As you can tell this is not an extensive suggestion list, but I hope it gets the ideas rolling and gets your attention focused on the importance of this time. If you have any insight or thoughts from your own experience, please send it to the site and we will post it right away.
Matt Johnson is the high school youth pastor at Coquitlam Alliance Church. He is saved by grace and loves the opportunity of serving youth ministry with his wife Kat.
I love entertainment, especially in the forms of movies and music, but unfortunately I am either left disturbed or disappointed in some of the messages that get produced rather than entertained. You cannot always avoid what is popular by ignoring it, media is all around us and continues to influence but there are ways to redeem it for good. This type of redemption that I am talking about is simply not just changing the name of what is popular, give it a holy title, and then use it the exact same way it is currently functioning in, such as changing ‘myspace’ to ‘mypraise’ or ‘youtube to ‘Godtube’…which I still use youtube to find most video clips that deal with spirituality. Here are a few examples that just scratch the surface of what I am talking about…
Facebook – If it were not for facebook I would not be as updated with people as I am and vice versa. Though it is not my only means of communication with a student, facebook event pages help everyone know what is going on and then by simply changing your profile picture to a picture or logo of the upcoming event, it promotes itself.
Warning: though it is easy to stay in touch with others on facebook, it is also easy for others to be more honest and open about deeper issues that would be better discussed in person. Encourage your students to be careful what they share to others as it is hard to get something off the internet, help them by giving them a phone call sometime rather than just chatting.
Music – Though certain sounds and genres of music can be influencing, lyrics have an unbelievable power over listeners. One of the biggest examples of this is that lyrics have the power to create false realities and create a poor sense of character through shallow descriptions of the meaning of life, possession over people, sex being the main part of relationships, and derogatory comments that make us look down on others and place us higher. There is enough sad material out there to support my statement, yet our students continue to bop their heads to the beat and accept the message in some way.
One way to expose these lies is to share some of the lyrics during your program or even share it with your student on facebook and ask them what they think of the message. I would by no means make this activity a standard part of your program but expose these falsities once in a while to generate a discussion. Here is a fun example of what we did with one song…hopefully we didn’t go too far.
Movies – Movie clips have been used to support main for a while now, as a culture of entertainment, we speak in movie quotes, so why not redeem this to make relate-able points of needful information. A few clips I have used…
Discipleship – Karate Kid
Identity – Toy Story
Redemption from wrongs – The Mission
Generosity – Pay it Forward
Be nice to others or you will be hit by a bus – Mean Girls
We owe it to those we teach and mentor to be conscious of what is going on in society and in their lives and make appropriate examples of what is right and what is wrong. Don’t be afraid to chime in some helpful wisdom, because being a friend who is acceptable of everything is not always being a true friend.
Matt Johnson is the high school youth pastor at Coquitlam Alliance Church. He is saved by grace and loves the opportunity of serving youth ministry with his wife Kat.
Image: “Media” by *om3r
Here’s another fill in the blank word game that you could use for Valentine’s. It is a little tricky so you might need to give some witty clues.
First, I want you to know that my heart beets only for you. If you carrot all for me, then why not ask your parents if they will lettuce get married. Since we cantaloupe I suppose you will want a BIG CHURCH WEDDING.
Everyone know I am plum daffy about you. I am sure we would make a happy pear. Please do not squash my hopes, because it is love, like I have for you, that makes a mango crazy. You have been the apple of my eye so long, and my love for you is as strong as an onion.
I trust you will turnip your nose at me. If you do so there is only one thing that I could do. I would go to the nearest river endive in!!
All my love…
Image: Veggie Love by Charlatan999
This is a great way to mix up your regular scheduled program.
– At the beginning of the meeting ask the students to get into groups and make sure each group has an adult leader (if available). Challenge each group to call a pizza place and order a pizza.
– Make each group tell you what place they are ordering from before they order because each team is racing against each other to see which company will arrive first.
– After the students order carry on with whatever your program usually entails but keep in mind that you will be interrupted by pizza delivery people and your students eating.
– When each delivery person arrives stop what you are doing and have your students cheer for them as they come through the doors.
For extra fun interview the delivery person, give them a certificate of excellence, or challenge them to a quick game verses one of the students or leaders.
Warning: Depending on the size of your group this can get a bit pricey. If there are cheaper delivery places around your area maybe incorporate them instead. Bon appetite!
This game has been called many things but it is fast, easy, and is great for any size crowd (the more the merrier).
Start: Ask two people to bring you a coin with a face on one side and picture that is not a face on the other.
Instructions: Tell the crowd to predict what the two people’s coins will read after they have been flipped by doing the following…
Two hands on your head = heads/heads
Two hand on your bum = tails/tails
One hand on your head and one hand on your bottom = heads/tails
Before each flip of the coin have the crowd make their predictions, and after each flip of the coin have those who predicted incorrectly sit down. The one left standing will be the winner. There is a 50/50 chance that your group will ask to play another round 🙂
This activity is perfect for any size group. If it is a larger group just have people bring their own TV and gaming system…no system is too old. Set up the TVs and systems in sections (preferably in the same area for community sake) and you can have tournaments, challenges, and other activities go on through the night. We had Chuck Norris movies playing in the background for our activity.
Good young men are becoming a rare commodity these days and anything to bring them together in community and conversation is worth the investment. You could ask questions about the games they are playing, why they like it, and other inquiries that relate. Depending on the location of the event such as a church or a place with small children, some video games and loud activities may not be suitable so definitely lay down your ground rules with your first general announcement.
In help with preparation for the event, here are some good tips:
1. Make sure you have a suitable place for the event (you won’t disturb anyone with noise and running around)
2. Make sure you prepare how you are going to get food, energy drinks, snacks etc, before hand.
3. Have a time where the guys can meet each other while they are not playing video game. No matter how short the time it is this time is crucial.
4. Have a few activities planned just in case boredom sets in. Wrestling, board games, basketball, floor hockey, etc.
5. Do a little research on the video games beforehand to know what you are allowing in the activity and so you can prepare a relative discussion. Ask students for help on this if needed.
In our youth group, we have quite a number of students going to different schools and it’s hard for them to connect with each other even during youth nights. They are usually sitting with the people they know, and quite often don’t get to connect with new friends. As I am sure with most youth groups, the issue of boys & girls and sexuality comes up. So we felt that it was important for the girls in the group know each other a bit more – so at least if they see each other at school, they know each others name, and can have a friendship and encourage each other (same goes for boys knowing boys).
This year, we have tried to set up girls only and boys only activities once every couple of months. The boys had a Video Game Sleepover at the church (details to be posted soon) and the girls had a Girl’s Pajama Movie Night. Here’s was the plan for the night.
Everyone was encouraged to come in their pajamas. The first hour was spent on ice breaker games. While we were waiting for everyone to arrive we played a couple rounds of Ninja and ate some snacks that everyone had brought to share. Since we were having a movie night, I tried to make most the games relation to movies. Here is the line up of games we played:
After the games, we headed down to the church basement and I put out several different facemasks for the girls. During this time we ate snacks and others played board games – Apples to Apples, cards… etc.
Then we put on a chick flick until parents came to pick them up. We had also encouraged some of the small groups to organize a sleepover with their girls after the event – some planned it in one of the classrooms while others planned for it in their homes.
Feel free to use this idea, to change it according to your group and have fun. It is so important for a youth group to build community and to develop strong lasting relationships with one another.
Here’s a simple game we played at our Christmas party last December. Except we got all the students to line up according to their grade and the wreath had to be passed down through their line and whichever grade passed it down the fastest won. It was a bit tricky finding a wreath big enough to pass down without using your hands. We found a medium sized one as a large wreath was quite heavy – it was a bit challenging, but it’s all part of the fun.
– Designated transfer zones
– Something to hang the wreath on
1) Prior to game start, one player places the wreath around their neck.
2) When the clock starts, the players alternate transferring the wreath to each other using only their bodies from the shoulders up.
3) Players must stay in the transfer zones when passing the wreath.
4) If either player touches the wreath with their hands, or the wreath touches the ground, players return to the start zones and begin again.
5) To complete the game, the contestants must pass the wreath five times using their bodies from the shoulders up through the five designated zones then hang the wreath within the 60-second time limit.
This is a great tool to use in your small groups to get some conversation started. Just toss the ball around with your students and when you call “time”, the student holding the ball reads aloud what is written under their left/right thumb and then that person answers. You can change the rules to however you like. But this is a great way to get a conversation started – get people talking who normally wouldn’t and to focus the group. This ball is available on the Group Publishing website for about $10.
You could even make your own question ball (a soccer ball has the squares portioned off already, but you could use any ball from a Dollar Store) and write down a series of questions – some silly, some a bit more serious – but always open ended. This tool also helps students know each other a bit more and connect with potential similar interests.
A couple of week ago we did a Worship Night for our youth group. On this night we wanted to change the ambiance a bit by littering the room/sanctuary with candles and dim lamps. The darker more solemn atmosphere helped out with the extended time of worship – people either chose to sing or to pray and reflect on the words being sung.
There was also a time of sharing testimonies. As the first semester was coming to an end – several people came onto the platform and shared what God had been doing in their lives throughout that semester. Some were encouraging and some very raw and honest. We had both students and youth leaders come up to share.
During worship nights, it is always good to have your leaders ready to pray for a student should a need arise. We also gave a short talk and challenge on worship and what it means to worship daily and in private, not only when you come to youth group every week or every Sunday – but the need for that personal relationship and daily communication with God.
We tried to end the program a little early so that the students could go into small group time in which they could discuss something that God laid on their heart during the worship, where each student was at in their spiritual life, testimonies, praise and prayer requests.
– “Pom Pom” style ball
1) Prior to game start, place Vaseline on player’s nose. Place string with ball attached in mouth.
2) When the clock starts, contestant may begin moving their head in an attempt to get the ball to stay on their nose.
3) Contestant may not use their hands in any way.
4) Contestant may not choke up the string up in their mouth.
5) If the string falls out of their mouth, contestant may pick it up and place it back in their mouth.
6) To complete the game, contestant must move their so that the ball rests on their nose for 3 seconds within the 60-second time limit.
Here’s another good game from the game show “Minute to Win It“. Best part? All you need are three inflated balloons!
1) When the clock starts, player releases all 3 balloons into the air.
2) Player may not hold balloons, allow them to rest on the body, or hit the ground, or the game is over.
3) To complete the game, player must keep all balloons off the ground for 60 seconds.
Here is something that we did for our Girl’s Pajama Movie Night. I am calling this an ice breaker because it is a great activity if there are a lot of guests during that night or if people in your group don’t know each other that well. You can also use this with small groups if there are 8 people or more.
– Make a list of open ended questions. Because our event was a movie night, I chose questions about movies and celebrities. For example – “If your life were a movie – would it be a drama, action, comedy or musical? Why?” etc…
– Divide your group into two and ask them to make two rows and face each other.
– Have a leader stand on a chair or an a higher platform at one end to read out the questions. The leader should warn the participants that they will be quizzed afterward.
– When the question is read out, each person introduces themselves to the person in front of them and answers the question.
– Each question should have at leas 30 seconds to 1 minute of discussion time before you call out “time!” and ask everyone to take one step to the right to switch partners.
– At the end of the list of questions, have everyone sit down. The questions will be read out again – this time, the first person to run up to the leader and can recall another person’s name and their answer to that question wins a prize.
I had a prize bag for the night full of $1-$2 gifts for the winners to pick out of.
The objective of this ice breaker is to teach everyone to listen to each other. It also means a lot to some people when they know what have been heard – and their answer was called out by someone else. Hopefully it will also create connections and relationships within your group.
One activity coming up for our youth is “Oscar Night”. This is a great event if you have a larger group with several small groups or if your youth are very creative, can work well individually or in a smaller group and love making short films.
Here’s the gist of Oscar Night:
– Each group creates a short video about 3-5 minutes long. You can add certain criteria such as an object that needs to be in the film or a line that has to be said – it’s fun to see how creative they can get with including these requirements in their short film. You will also have to set up some guidelines of do’s and don’ts – for example – no swearing, alcohol, violence… etc.
– Once all the videos have been submitted to you you can evaluate and come up with awards such as – best actor, best actress… etc. Some of these awards could be silly… have fun with it.
– Encourage your students to invite friends to attend Oscar Night! Everyone dresses up in their best formal attire. Having a red carpet and decorating your space as formal as you can (within budget of course) will add to this event. Have volunteers with cameras designated at the front doors on the red carpet as “paparazzi”.
– During the event, have a host or two for the evening, as well as your award presenters planned ahead of time. Show the films with skits or jokes or live entertainment in between each film along with presenting the awards. It would also be beneficial to have a short message during the night, especially if you have visitors. There are so many topics you can use that could link to the night.
Again, just have fun! You know your group best – what will work and what won’t. This is a great opportunity for your students to invite their friends and hopefully they will come back! Also a great event for each small group to get to know each other a bit more and make memories with each other.
To see a copy of the guidelines that we used for our Oscar Night, click HERE.