Our youth group meets for two hours on Sunday evenings. Our first night of the new school year is planned around the Four “Fs” – Faith, Fellowship, Food and Fun, and not necessarily in that order.
You might find it beneficial to have a meeting with any Juniors and Seniors that you previously identified as leaders 30 minutes before your actual meeting. At this meeting explain your plan for the evening and solicit their help. Ask them to take a role as host or hostess for the evening, making all feel welcome; encouraging and reaching out to the shy, the wall flowers, and the too cool for school kid – Peer Ministry.
On this first night begin with the “F’ for FUN.
Begin with some non-threatening ice breakers. I find that a few ice breakers, where the youth participate as an individuals, works well. Some old favorites that our youth really enjoy are Rock, Paper, Scissors Train, Ships and Sailors, and Balloon Stomp. Balloon Stomp is the only ice breaker that requires supplies (balloons and string/yarn/ribbon.) These are high energy ice breakers. You might make the last of the individual ice breakers a name game, (i.e. Hello. My name is Sharon and I love succotash. Your name is Edna and you love eggplant. Your name is…)
This will transition into the second “F” – FELLOWSHIP.
Here is where you include a few ice breakers that will break your large group into teams or small groups. Plan a few ice breakers that require team work/small group work – relays that are still non-threatening for the introverts in your group.
There are a million different resources for ice breakers and games. You’ll find hundreds of suggestions just by googling Ice Breakers. Some of my favorites come from “MINUTE TO WIN IT.” A couple other ideas of places to look for games are:
- Pinterest – Countless game ideas
- ProjectYM – awesome site for youth ministry resources
- Youth ministry access from CMD
- St. Mary’s Press
- Creative Resources for Youth Ministry – Wayne Rice and Mike Yaconelli
- Youth Specialities
Once you have completed three to four group games, have the group gather round, and explain the components of the Bishops document on Youth Ministry, “Renewing the Vision.” Explain that everything you do has its base in that document. After discussion, ask everyone to re-gather in their “game/relay” small group. Give each small group a sheet of newsprint and some markers. Instruct them to brainstorm and come up with a list of activities, events, service projects, prayer experiences, etc., that they would like to do/learn/accomplish as a Youth Group this school year. Have each group report on their list. Then, on sheets of newsprint, break down the year by month, i.e. September, October… And plan your year using the lists developed by the youth. This becomes your “TO DO LIST.”
Keep the list on display in your youth room and cross off each item as you accomplish it. You may only be able to incorporate one activity a month as it will depend on your group, parish, calendar, or schedule. The main thing to remember is to be flexible. This makes the youth feel included. It gives them a stake in their ministry.
And now for the last two “Fs – FOOD and FAITH.”
And the order is totally up to you. I usually do food for the body first so that I send them off with food for the soul. Faith is food for the journey. As this is basically a social and a get-to-know-Youth-Ministry evening, the food can be more than chips and dip. How about toaster waffle ice cream sandwiches? Or build your own Tacos? We always enjoy Root Beer Floats.
Whatever you decide on as FOOD, allow enough time for the youth to finish eating before you move into prayer. Don’t rush your prayer.
You might want to plan the prayer experience before you plan the rest of your session so you know how much time you will need to allot for the ice breakers, the brainstorming and the food.
Remember that all prayer styles do not speak to everyone. Your prayer needs to be as non-threatening as your ice breakers. Prayer can become more intense as the year progresses and you and your group comes to know each better.
Whatever you plan for your first gathering, remember your goal was to make all feel welcomed. You were establishing relationships. Whether your first night is a movie night with popcorn, a pool party, cook out, or just a night of ice breakers and refreshments, plan it so that those who come are excited and raring to come the next Sunday evening.
Let me know if you give this a whirl and how it works out for you.