How to Measure Ministry Growth

I love it when people ask me how our youth ministry is going, and although I usually give them some numbers to demonstrate that we’re growing numerically, it just doesn’t seem to capture what we’re really most concerned about. I don’t what to get caught in the numbers game (and the bragging!), I want to be able to say that there is significant spiritual growth in our ministry, that people are trusting the Lord Jesus more and more, but how do you measure spiritual growth? Or perhaps measure is not the right word (that sounds little scientific and mathematical) perhaps the question is better phrased: how do you get an indication of spiritual growth?

Well, we used this survey (below) at our youth ministry recently and the results were revealing! I almost can’t believe that it has taken me this long to ask this question, and it was so successful in revealing the spiritual state of the young people in our ministry that this survey is going to be a biannual feature from now on.

It’s a simple survey with only 2 sections (and really only 2 questions).

The first and primary question is “Why are you a Christian?” (or not a Christian as the case may be for some). Please note that is it’s NOT “How did you become…” or “What do you believe…” as fascinating as those questions are, I want to know why you are following Christ today (or not).

The second question is about Bible reading. The logic is that to grow in relationship with God (grow spiritually) then you need to be spending time in His Word, hearing Him, knowing His character and values etc. In the attached survey that we used I was also trying to gather some extra specific data on their preference for reading the Bible alone or with others, but  you may still find the info relevant and helpful for measuring the spiritual growth in your young people.

I knocked up this survey using Apple Mac Pages program (which I can send you if you like) but would only take you a minute to do it in Word and tailor it for your specific context (you’ll notice it’s not fancy!).

Salt youth survey

How to start a youth ministry from scratch! (Part 3)

If you chose the “Bible Focus” youth ministry model based on your theology, values and principles (part 1), and you’ve recruited the right leaders and have the systems in place to look after them (part 2), then here is step 3: look after your families!

If you’re wondering why this is the next step, it’s because this type of ministry (in fact all youth ministry) is based on these 3 foundations:

Firstly, young people are people. You don’t do youth ministry because you have a passion (“a heart for”) young people but because you have a passion for people. Youth is a temporary phase of life, and we must love people regardless of age, as children, adolescents, and adults. Youth ministry begins much earlier than adolescence and endures far beyond the teenage years.

Secondly, young people come attached with families. To think that youth ministry is just about teaching and engaging with young people is a focus too narrow. Ministry to young people must include ministry to their parents and the family unit as a whole in whatever form it comes (eg. As a single parent family, foster family, adopted family etc).

Thirdly, the youth minister/leader does not replace the role of the parents in raising their children in the Christian faith, as if the teaching and instruction of children is sub-contracted to the youth minister/leader. The role of the youth minister/leader is to partner with parents and aid them in their responsibility by modelling godly living, teaching the Bible, and training young people to act rightly. This even applies to young people with non-christian parents, who even though they’re obviously not raising their children in the Christian faith are still responsible for it, something that by the grace of God they will come to understand as they hear the gospel (ironically, probably through their children).

This is why looking after the families of your young people is the next step before anything else.
(for a well argued view of families and youth ministry read “Perspectives on Family Ministry” by Timothy Paul Jones)

So how do you care for the families of your young people?

  • Each term, give the parents a version of your term program that outlines the basics: what you’re teaching, what you’re doing, where you’re doing it and when. They should know what they’re sending their kids to.
    • If the group is small enough and you’ve got the time, hand deliver the programs each term and visit the parents for a chat.
    • Communication with parents is paramount!
    • A tip I learnt early on is to address anything sent by mail to the parents and not the young person. Young people sometimes forget to pass on things to their parents (ever seen  teenager leave a note from school in their bag? Ah ha). Send it to the parents and they can pass on the info to the kids.
    • If you’re doing a Facebook group for your youth ministry then add the parents into that group as well.
  • Don’t over-program events. 2 extra social activities a term is plenty on top of your regular main youth group gathering each week of term.
  • Work out a system to keep track of your young people. Make a database and implement a system like ‘If they miss 2 weeks send them a “we missed you” postcard’ etc…

Stay tuned for “How to start a youth ministry from scratch! (Part 4a): Structuring the regular Youth Group Gathering

How to start a youth ministry from scratch! (Part 2)

OK, given that this website is all about resourcing a “Bible Focus” type of youth ministry (from these 3 choices), we’re going to follow the process for starting up a model for this type of youth ministry from scratch. (Haven’t yet thought about what type of youth ministry you want to start? click here)

The aims of a “Bible Focus” type of youth ministry are:

  • To teach & study the Bible
  • Be a Christian community
  • Live out the values of Jesus
  • Engage real life with real Jesus
  • Be a counter cultural experience (a glimpse of heaven even!)

You do this type of youth ministry because you want kids to know and trust Jesus & adopt his values; you believe this can only happen by God’s Word; because you want kids to “do life” with Jesus.

Your first step then is to recruit some leaders who can commit to sharing the Bible with passion and creativity and who are not skeptical that the word of God is powerful to change lives. You really need to start with a good group of commited leaders – this is crucial! When choosing leaders remember that “Youth leader” does NOT mean “Young Leader”. In fact, the Christian people in your church who are post-kids (probably in their 40’s + ) are possibly your best leaders. They don’t need to be “young and hip” (their out-of-touch character probably makes them cooler). Your older leaders will provide stability, experience, Christian maturity and a wealth of perspective on young people – especially if they’ve already raised their own!

Make sure you give your prospective leaders clear expectations of what being a youth leader involves. Here is an example.

Priority #1: Once you have recruited your leaders and got together a team, your first priority is to make sure you look after them.

Youth leaders are the engine room of any youth ministry large or small, be it of 6 young people or 600. The value of unity and sustainability in your youth leadership team cannot be underestimated. You want a team of leaders that works together, loves each other, is committed to each other, and can sustain an enjoyment of youth ministry that will last the next 20 years. The average turnover for a youth minister or leader is something like 2 years (someone have the exact stats?) and you wonder at the damage inconsistency like that causes… A lesson worth knowing is that even the most average youth minister/leader can do extraordinary things over enough time (or extraordinary damage with the wrong foundations!), so choose the right leaders and hang on to them for the long haul. A stint of 6 years, seeing a group of new high schoolers (year 7) through to the end (year 12), should be the bare minimum.

How do you look after your youth leaders?

  • Design a “good enough” year program so your leaders know what’s happening and when. (Year program is not just about what’s on & when, but more about planning what you’ll be teaching throughout the year. Think strategically about your teaching series for the year. Here are some ones I’ve used.
  • Keep their role clear (ie. keep to the “leaders expectations” document).
  • Each term, give them a current term program that is more specific than the year program. Here are some examples. If you use the resources on this site, then putting together the term program doesn’t have to be a committee process (tedious!), because each week you do at least the same 5 things: (More on this in Part 4: Structuring the main Youth Group Gathering)
    1. Interactive Bible teaching
    2. Prayer time
    3. Sharing time
    4. An activity that helps them know God or their peers better (or both!)
    5. And Supper
      You just do these same things in different ways each week. In that way the program has the safety of familiarity and the excitement of the unknown by being predictably unpredictable for your young people. So just do the term program yourself or nominate 1 person on your team to do the term program for everyone.
  • Schedule leader’s meetings often enough that you are able to keep good communication, but not so often they become meaningless and burdensome.
  • Plan the agenda of your meetings so they don’t go overtime and they stay on track.
  • Train them and/or be trained together.
  • As far as you are able, don’t schedule things in holidays. Give your leaders 2 weeks rest each term.
  • Do some social things together. Have dinner, watch a movie, a live-in for a week (!), a retreat, whatever…

Next step: “How to start a youth ministry from scratch! (Part 3): looking after your families

How to start a youth ministry from scratch! (Part 1)

You want to start a youth ministry at your church (or perhaps you’ve been kindly asked by your minister)? That’s great! Youth ministry is an important ministry but where do you start?

There are probably a thousand different starting points for a youth ministry, many of which probably generate out of circumstance and a pressing need or demand (“ahh! what do we do with our young people?”). I don’t propose to have all the answers for your situation but I do intend to equip you with some essential questions to help you get off on the right foot.

The first thing you need to do is work out what type of youth ministry you want to run based on your theological principles. This is where so many youth ministries come unstuck. There can often be such immediate pressure to get something up and running that your youth ministry is formed mostly around practical issues rather than thinking how your model of youth ministry might cultivate and grow young people into being more like Jesus.

Below is a table of 3 common types of youth ministry, the first 2 types are not exclusive to Christian youth ministry and can be found in secular youth work organisations as well (like the Police & Community Youth Clubs etc). The last column shows a type of youth ministry that is exclusive to Christian organisations (typically the church) and the model of youth ministry that you find resourced on this site fits into the “Bible Focus” type of youth ministry in this column. I’ve formed a model of youth ministry shaped on this third column and have been using it since 2005 starting with a new youth group of 6 young people and up to (currently) 40. That’s not to say that it’s the best or only faithful model of a “Bible Focus” youth ministry, but I’m satisfied that it faithfully puts our theological principles into practice and is a consistent outworking of biblical values and evangelical beliefs.

As a side note: To be fair, there are many people who run the “let me entertain you” type youth ministry as a culturally comfortable way-in for non-Christian young people to hear the gospel. This type of youth ministry often looks like the way it’s described in column 2 but with the introduction of a short gospel talk/explanation as part of the youth gathering and the further aim of moving young people on to a more Bible focussed youth group or Bible study group after they’ve heard the gospel. For a full assessment of this type of youth ministry strategy read “Changing the World Through Effective Youth Ministry” By Ken Moser.

Suffice it to say, the real draw backs of having this youth ministry strategy is that (1) it’s incredibly resource heavy, taxing on both financial and human resources; (2) you often lose people with every transition; (3) people rarely “graduate” or “move on” from the  “let me entertain you” type youth ministry into the Bible focussed youth group/small groups; (4) the maturing of faith in your Christian young people is often stunted. It’s a model of ministry akin to that championed by Willow Creek, which after 3 decades, has now abandoned as “a mistake” (read about it here).

Have you worked out which model you want to run?

Ask: Why do I want to start a youth ministry? What’s the aim?

Just to give you an idea of how your choice of youth ministry type affects your next step, if you chose:

  1. “the drop in centre” type of YM, then your first step will be to secure a large space (eg. a hall), some community funding for equipment (eg. gym/sports equipment, pool tables etc), and link in with your local social services. Once that is set up, recruiting and training volunteers is next.
  2. “let me entertain you” type of YM, then your first step is to secure an adequate budget (from your church or elsewhere) that will support the financial burden of creating and running new and exciting activities on a weekly basis. This model of youth ministry is quite resource heavy on youth leaders and so you will need to recruit quite a few very energetic and creative leaders to spread the load and keep things fresh.
  3. “Bible Focus” type of YM, then your first step is to recruit some leaders who can commit to sharing the Bible with passion and creativity and who are not skeptical that the word of God is powerful to change lives.

This is just a taste of how the foundation of your type of youth ministry will affect the process in starting a youth ministry from scratch. Check out “How to start a youth ministry from scratch! (Part 2)” for more detail on beginning a Bible Focus youth ministry.

How to break-up well

My particular stance on teenagers and dating is that they shouldn’t until they at least finish high school (You can read more here if you want to know why exactly). This is really a matter of wisdom and prudence rather than a law, and therefore if the teens I minister to want to date in high school they are free to do so, but what I have realised is that pretty much ever significant pastoral issue that I’ve had to deal with in youth group is related to dating relationships that have formed between teens while they’re in high school, or more specifically, dating relationships that have formed and broken up…

So, seeing as I’m not going to enforce ‘no dating in high school‘ as a rule (because it’s not), and because I want to look after my young people and preserve our group unity, my plan is to sit down with any of my teens that are dating and make sure they know how to break-up well. Certainly I hope they won’t have to break up and experience that, but in the event that they do, I want them to know how to handle themselves in a godly way.

So far I have a couple of things I want to say, but what I’d really love to do is pool the experience and wisdom from other youth ministers or people who have received good advice about how to break-up well. Please note: this is not advice about how to date well but how to break-up well, though I recognise how a couple dates will affect how a couple breaks-up so there will be some cross over…

Here’s what I have so far:

  1. When you break up, do it in person. Not by text, not by Facebook, not by email, not over the phone, in PERSON.
  2. Make sure you are honest about why you are breaking up. Avoid accusations.
  3. Make sure both parties are aware that you have broken up.
  4. While you’re going out, don’t do anything that will inhibit a continuing friendship after your break up.
  5. In fact, while you’re going out, don’t do anything that will inhibit the community of friendships you have after your break up.

This is all I have so far and it needs to be fleshed out.

I would love it if you would leave your feedback and suggestions as a comment below. Their maybe helpful ideas to add or unhelpful ones above to remove.

Eventually I’ll repost all the collective wisdom as a resource article.

Thanks!

Bible Blunder!

(this game comes courtesy of the great Daniel Higgins!)

This game is designed to help young people to be discerning in regards to what they might hear in bible talks or what they overhear about the bible. It will encourage young people to really learn the Bible for themselves, as well as teaching them some stories from the bible. This game requires you to go through and change or add to a Bible story before hand.

For example:

DAVID & GOLIATH (Edited Version!) 1 Samuel 16 & 17

David was the youngest of twelve son’s and was by far the most popular. (False! 1 Samuel 16:10-11) He worked as a shepherd, and often had to kill Lions and Bears. He was also glowing with health and had a fine appearance. Because of his health and fine appearance he was appointed King. (False! 1 Samuel 16:7) Now, the Babylonians were invading Judah (False! 1 Samuel 17:1) They had a champion by the name of Goliath, who was about 9 ½ feet tall! He Defied the people of Israel, and challenged them to send him a person to fight. Lots of men volunteered, but David was chosen because of his practice fighting wild animals.(False! 1 Samuel 17:11) David was a little nervous, but took courage when the King lent him his personal set of armour. (False! 1 Samuel 17:38) He went down to the water and picked out five smooth stones, and with his sling in hand approached Goliath. Goliath taunted him, so david started shooting his stones at him, Goliath charged and with his last stone David knocked out Goliath. (False! 1 Samuel 17:49) David then chopped Goliath’s head off. When the enemy saw what had happened they dropped there weapons and bowed down in reverence and respect of the Lord, becoming Israelites. (False! 1 Samuel 17:51-53) From that point on, David became very popular and went to live with the King and his Son.

Instructions: This game is played in teams and will require a sheet of paper and a pen for each team. Put the edited story on big screen (if you are able) and read the edited story out loud telling them to look out for ‘bible blunders’ which are places where the story has been changed or added to. Afterwards, give the teams 2 minutes or so to list all the mistakes by writing them on a sheet of paper.

Once the time is completed, ask the teams to mark their list as you read out the list of the mistakes (honesty system!). A correct guess gets you one point, but an incorrect guess means you lose two points. After each mistake is announced, say how it really happened, so everyone knows how the story should actually go. At the end, ask people how many mistakes they got (Did they miss some? Did they think there was extra?) then tally up the scores. The team with the most points wins.

Bible or what?

This game helps people become familiar with the Bible and recognise concepts and phrases that are not in the Bible. This game is adapted from a “Spicks & Specks” game where contestants are shown a photo and have to decide if the photo is of a famous composer or serial killer (very entertaining and unfortunately often quite hard to tell…). Obviously “Bible or What?” doesn’t use photos but text. Participants need to decide if the text they are shown is from the Bible or elsewhere.

Some examples of topics are: Bible or Poetry? Bible or Pop Song? Bible or Philosophy? Bible or Buddhism? Bible or Islam? Bible or Shakespeare? Etc. (Poetry & Philosophy obviously refer to non-biblical examples of those topics).

Choose some texts for your topics that are hard to distinguish between and others that are obvious. Here are 2 example questions for Bible or Shakespeare just so you get the idea:

1. “Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast”

Answer: Shakespeare! (Romeo & Juliet).

2. “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.”

Answer: Bible! (Proverbs 14:17 – KJV)

And 2 example questions from Bible or Pop Song:

1.     “Throw your soul through every open door, count your blessings to find what you look for, turn my sorrow into treasured gold, you pay me back in kind and reap just what you sow.”

Answer: Pop Song! (Adele – Rolling in the deep)

2.     “For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.”

Answer: Bible! (Psalm 57:10 – TNIV)

Instructions: You can play this game in 3 rounds where you choose 3 topics and have a multiple questions in each; or you can play the game with multiple topics that have one question for each, it’s up to you but the latter will be more work.

Once you have chosen your topics and worked out your questions, form the group into teams to play. Give each team a game card that says “Bible” written on one side and “Other” written on the reverse side. After displaying and reading out the text, each team is given a minute to decide their answer before showing if they think the text is from the Bible or from the other topic you have chosen. Tally points as you go and declare the winner when you’ve completed the rounds. More importantly use the game as an opportunity to help people understand what is in the bible and what isn’t.

Download the pre-prepared presentation slides:

Group vs Guru

A version of the TV game show “One verses 100”. Call in a “guru” (minister, student minister, youth minister, youth leader, etc) to youth group have them compete against the whole youth group in Bible (or other) trivia. The game should work like the game show where the aim is for the “guru” to outlast the group by getting all the questions right. The youth group and the “guru” are given a multiple choice question. The group is given 30 seconds for every person to decide their answer and record it on a piece of paper (this works on trust). Anyone in the group with the wrong answer is out for the rest of the game. The “guru” is also given 30 seconds to decide their answer and lock it in. If the “guru” gets the answer wrong, then the “guru” is out and the group wins.

35+ Note: For groups 35+, make A5 size answer cards that are folded into 4 quarters with one letter (A,B,C,D) written respectively in each quarter. People then lock in their answer for the question by holding the letter above their head. Make sure you ask the Guru to lock in his answer secretly before the group answers, otherwise the Guru gets an unfair advantage.

Download the powerpoint template here with 15 ready made questions.

Download the keynote  template file here (this is the original file & exported as a .ppt)

Bible Balderdash

The aim of the game is ultimately to learn the definition of biblical & theological terms and words (eg. iniquity, statute, precept, justification, sanctification, propitiation etc) to build vocabulary and help with personal Bible reading and understanding.

The Balderdash game is a classic bluffing game. Players make up definitions for a chosen word. They earn points for bluffing the other players with their made-up definition. They also earn points for guessing the correct definition.

The game is played in groups, with 8 groups being the maximum otherwise there will be too many definitions to read out and remember.

The Dasher introduces a word to all the groups playing the game (display it on a projector screen if you have one). Each group then has 3 minutes to discuss what they think the correct definition of the word is, and then create a definition for the word that sounds believable and could be mistaken as the correct definition by the other groups.

They write the definition on their answer sheet (with group name on top) and hand it to the “Dasher” up the front.

Once the answer sheets are collected, the “Dasher” reads all the definitions aloud including the correct definition of the word.

Each group then votes for the definition which they believe is the correct definition. The Dasher takes note of which definition each group chooses. After all the groups have guessed, the “Dasher” reads the correct definition (display on projector screen if you have one).

Scores are awarded:

  • A group is awarded 1 point for each vote their made-up definition received.
  • Each group who chose the correct definition is awarded 2 points.
  • Those groups that didn’t receive any votes or choose the correct definition are awarded no points.

Play more rounds as time allows.

 

Youth Group Movies

It’s easy to do the youth group movie night with the availability of data projectors and all the home theatre stuff that’s around these days, and it’s a good fun night! But you know it’s always hard to pick a movie that everyone wants to see… No matter what movie you choose there’s always someone who’s seen the movie a thousand times or half the group thinks it’s lame, and then you have the ratings issue about whether it’s appropriate… As a general rule we usually only show PG (Australia) rated movies to young people of high school age (12-18 years old) but we have done a Lord of the Rings movie marathon which is M rated and we did watch Avatar also M rated.

So how do you pick a movie they haven’t all seen, is PG or appropriate, and will be enjoyable to watch?

Solution: Go back to the 80’s & 90’s!

Most young people haven’t seen anything that’s more than 10-12 years old and there are plenty of classic (and a bit cheesy) films which are fun to watch and at the very least funny to laugh at! So even if the movie isn’t brilliant the young people have a good laugh at early attempts at special effects, and you as a leader get to reminisce about your own adolescence!

So here’s some ideas for youth group movie nights. Of course, there’s been a couple of times I shown movies that I remember as being fun and innocent as a kid and when I’ve watched as an adult I’ve realised there’s a few awkward scenes or a bit a swearing… so be cautious with the movies below! I’ll put a note next to it if I remember anything special to consider.

I’d really love it if you could let me know about other movies you’ve watched with your youth group or ideas for movies not mentioned here. Just put it in a comment.

Here goes:

  • Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
  • Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
  • The Goonies (has some awkward kissy scenes and they say sh*t a lot)
  • The Princess Bride (this has been shown at every youth group since time began…)
  • Rebel without a cause (classic!)
  • Original Star Wars trilogy
  • Young Einstein
  • Wayne’s World 1 (a bit of sexual innuendo)
  • Wayne’s World 2 (a bit of sexual innuendo)
  • Karate kid 1 & 2 (the originals, not the reboot)
  • B.R.A.T. Patrol
  • The boy who could fly
  • Never ending story
  • Gremlins 1
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Paul Newman and Robert Redford)
  • The Sting (Paul Newman and Robert Redford)

these following movies are absolute B-grade… they’re so bad that suffering through them together is kind of fun… in a sadistic kind of way I guess…

  • The Super Mario Brothers movie (really bad)
  • Batman and Robin (with Arnie!)
  • Karate kid 3 & 4
  • Reckless Kelly
  • Gremlins 2

Guess Who? Bible Characters

guess_who_bible_characters_sampleThis game is based on the board game “Guess Who?”. Split into teams (you will need a complete set of cards for each team, so only have as many teams as you have sets of cards), the smaller the teams the better. Each team starts the game with a set of 50 Bible character cards (download cards here) that they arrange face up in front of them. The game starts with the game organiser selecting a card of their choice from a separate complete pile of cards. The object of the game is to be the first to determine which card the game organiser has selected. Teams take turns asking a yes or no question to eliminate candidates, such as “Is this person in the OT?”. Well-crafted questions allow players to eliminate one or more possible cards. Teams should just turn over the cards which are eliminated. Questions need to be asked to the game organiser without the other groups hearing their question (otherwise they would gain an unfair advantage). Each team is only allowed one guess, which is an incentive to play the game the game through without just making random guesses each round… When the character has been guessed, give a short description of who this person was, what they did, and how they are significant in the salvation story of the bible. Here is a good website to get factual biblical information: http://www.teachit.co.uk/armoore/bible/biblepeople.htm

Engrish Memory Verse

« Engrish Memory Verse [works with any number of people]

Type the memory verse into an online translator and translate the verse from English into another language (Chinese works best). Then take the foreign language translation and translate it back again into English. You will notice that it doesn’t come back out the way it went in! You might want to repeat the process a few times if you really want to mess it up, however, it does need to be vaguely recognisable…

Show this mistranslation to the group and then give them a limited amount of time to work out what the memory verse actually is.

Example:

John 3:16 [English TNIV] “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Translate into Chinese (Han): “對於上帝如此被愛世界他產生他僅有的兒子,誰相信他的那不會消滅,然而有來世。”

Translated back into English: “So is liked the world he producing his only son regarding God, who believes that his will not eliminate, however has next life.

If you repeat the process one more time you get: “Therefore is liked producing only then his about God’s his son, believes world he will not eliminate, has the life.

One Point Prayer Tree

This is a simple one point prayer segment that helps people think deeply about what they are actually praying for.

Ask the group to suggest one specific point to pray for (eg. war in Iraq, etc…). Write the prayer point at the top of a white board and then ask the question “What do we actually want to pray for (eg. the war in Iraq)?”. Then begin to write on the board the sub-points that people suggest we should pray for (ie. we want peace) and link the sub-point to the heading by drawing a line. Further still, ask a question about the sub-point (eg. “What do we want peace to look like?”) and then write those sub-points under the previous sub-point.

In the end you should have a kind of diagram that looks something like a tree with many specific sub-points to pray about the original prayer point.

This activity should help people really think about what they want to ask God for. It’s all very well to say “dear God I pray for the war in Iraq.” But are you praying for the war in Iraq to get worse, get better, or what? This prayer segment will help us to pray even more thoughtful prayers.

Quotable Quotes

This game should help people get to know characters from the Bible, from Christian history and to know each other.

Compile a range of quotes (can be bible quotes, Christian quotes or quotes from someone in your group). Split the group into teams and then read out the quotes in character. Teams buzz in to have a guess when they think they know who said it. Award points for each correct guess.

You may need to give clues if quotes are hard to guess.

Alternative: No teams needed. Compile a range of quotes and write them on separate pieces of paper with the answer included (can be bible quotes, Christian quotes or quotes from someone in your group). Place the pieces into a container and select one at random. Read the quote in character. Whoever guesses the quote correctly come to the front and draws another quote from the container at random and reads it out in character. Continue this cycle until all the quotes are finished.

Who am I?

Very similar game to “Who’s bin?” but without the props…

Choose names from the bible (be sure to use the more well known names). Prepare 12 clues for each of the Bible characters. Start with harder clues and then get easier until you finally reveal the Bible character. Play this game in rounds, with one bible character per round. Split everybody into groups and read out the clues pausing after each clue in order to give the groups a chance to guess. Once a group has made their guess, that’s it for the round. Have a range of prizes to give out depending on how many clues were read out before the character was guessed.

A Christian Response to Tragedy

This life is full of tragedy. In fact if Genesis 3 tells us anything, it tells us that we can expect our world to be full of tragedy and suffering because this world is not as it should be… this is a broken world and tragedy is part of life.

But what is a Christian response to tragedy and suffering?

Currently we are surrounded by stories of personal loss and suffering caused by the earthquake in Haiti. Last year it was the tragedy of bush-fire in Victoria, before that it was the Indian Ocean Tsunami… There are countless tragedies caused by cyclones, or drought, or flooding, or disease… So what does the Bible have to say on suffering?

Well the Bible has a lot to say to us in the midst of our suffering, more than we can cover here. So I just want to point out  4 key responses to personal suffering that the Bible offers. These 4 responses come from the examples of Job (pronounced “Jobe“), the psalm writers, and Jesus himself.

TRUST:

Firstly, Job’s response to suffering teaches us to respond with trust.

More specifically, our response is to trust that God knows more about our suffering than we do. After Job is hit with tragedy after tragedy within the first 2 chapters of the book, the next 36 chapters are spent trying to work out Why Job is suffering… but Job never finds out Why… Instead God speaks from a whirlwind and delivers a powerful speech that leaves Job (and us) awestruck. God’s great speech from chapters 38-41 is there to remind us that God knows more about what’s going on than we do. God can see the bigger picture that we can’t see. And in the middle of our suffering we need to trust that God is taking care of us even though we can’t see everything that’s going on or even Why we’re suffering. It’s a hard lesson. But even though Job never finds out the cause of his suffering (Satan was testing him), throughout the ordeal God was looking after Job.

BE HONEST WITH GOD:

Secondly, the psalm writers’ response to suffering teaches us to share all our troubles with God himself.

There are many different types of psalms, but it’s fair to say that most of them are psalms of lament (that means “complaint“). So often the psalm writers bring their personal anguish, and hurt, and suffering before God because this is the wonderful privilege that God gives to his creation. In fact, God invites us to come before him with our troubles and our despair. Psalm 88 and 22 are classic examples. The invitation is for us to be like the psalm writers. To share all the raw personal anguish and suffering with the God who cares and is mighty to save.

GOD FULLY IDENTIFIES WITH OUR SUFFERING:

Thirdly, Jesus’ response to suffering teaches us that God knows our suffering first-hand.

This is the most astounding thing about the incarnation: that God takes on our flesh in Jesus to totally and completely identify with our suffering. And just as the earthquake  victims have lost everything in the devastation (friends, homes, family), and the flood victims have been left stranded and alone feeling abandoned by God… Jesus too lost everything on the cross, deserted by his friends, without home, or possessions, and utterly abandoned by God he suffers alone on the cross. It’s no coincidence that Jesus quotes Psalm 22:1 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (compare Mark 15:34). In Jesus, God can FULLY identify with our suffering because he himself suffered.

SUFFERING WILL BE BROUGHT TO AN END:

Lastly, God has dealt with suffering once and for all through Jesus.

In his suffering Jesus also has dealt with our pain because on that cross he defeated death. He really did suffer and die, but 3 days later was raised to new life never to die or suffer again.
And this is the promise that comes all who trust in him: In Jesus there is new life without suffering. You may be suffering now, but Jesus has prepared a place for you where you will never suffer again, a place where “We will be his people, and God himself will be with us and be our God. ‘He will wipe every tear from our eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4). God has dealt with suffering once and for all.

  • Are you suffering?

Trust that God can see a bigger picture than what you can. He knows the things we don’t and he has everything under control. Hold firmly to your trust in him and be faithful.

  • Are you suffering?

Bring all your feelings of anguish, and your troubles, and your sadness, and your pain before the God who cares and is mighty to save.

  • Are you suffering?

Look to Jesus. Jesus knows your suffering intimately and he has done something about it… he gives you new life with him and has prepared a place for you where suffering is a thing of the past.

The Swedish Method…

I have no idea why it’s called the Swedish Method… but this is a really simple and helpful tool for reading the bible with others (or by yourself).

There’s not much to it really.

  1. You pick a bible passage (preferably about 10 verses or so…)
  2. You draw 3 icons on a piece of paper (or download a pre-made sheet here): A light bulb, a question mark, and an arrow.
  3. You read the bible passage (out loud if you’re in a group)
  4. Spend 10 minutes reading the passage again by yourself in silence, and this time taking the time to write things next to your icons.
  • The light bulb: Write down something from the passage that stands out to you. This could be recurring words, ideas, or whatever! There can be no wrong answer here.
  • The question mark: Write down any questions you have about the passage (like what does this word mean? Who is this person? etc). Or write down a question you’d like to ask the original author.
  • The arrow: Write down a personal application of the passage, ie. what are you going to do or change now you have read this passage?

5. Lastly, go around the group and share what you’ve written next to your icons.

The genius of this method is that it’s simple. It’s easy to do with someone who has never read the bible before, and valuable enough to help even the most seasoned Christian look at the bible with fresh eyes. I’m finding it a great resource for doing my quiet times!

You can download a more full explanation of the Swedish Method bible study here. Or go to the Matthias Media website for more info.

Jesus Tweet!

This is a sharing time that would work well with reflection section.

The idea is simple: Get the young people to create a one line summary of the bible teaching and/or a personal application from the bible teaching and tweet it on twitter or facebook. Now all their friends can read how the gospel is impacting them. Easy!

Psalms

Praying through the Psalms. Using the psalms to teach us how to express ourselves to God in prayer. Pick a Psalm (or a few of different types) and in small groups use the parts of the Psalm to create your own prayer to God.

Here is a useful psalm chart which is a guide for the different types of psalms:

Book of Psalms