One of the worst things I ever hear out of my teens mouths is when they, speaking about a teacher, class, event, etc. say, “It was sooooo boring.” It sends shudders down my spine, gets me sweating and thinking, “Ohmigosh, was Sunday’s Life Night boring?? Is that what they told their friends on Monday at school?”
Having a “boring” youth group is the fear of every youth minister who is planning and making decisions about youth group for the teens and not for themselves (Let’s be honest – what adult REALLY loves the messy, wet game night? We do that for THEM!). The question, then, is how do we keep our youth ministry fun and alive even on Sundays that are not a Minute-to-Win-It night? Below are just a few Aces up my sleeve that I’ve tossed at the kids to catch them off guard:
- Change the layout of the room – Believe it or not, just moving the chairs, tables, couches, projector, etc. around the room can get the kids pumped about the night.
- Different meal each week – It may sound silly, but I actually have teens who ask me every week which family is providing the meal and what they’ll be making. Generally, I don’t even know until I walk into the youth room after Mass. But, the idea of something OTHER than pizza each week keeps some of them coming back for more!
- Keep it a secret – My bulletin submissions are purposefully vague. I try to entice my readers without giving away too much specific information about the evening. And, when the teens ask me during the week “What are we doing Sunday?” I just tell them they have to come and find out for themselves. But, I am sure to always tell them how good or how much fun it will be.
- Unexpected, tangible items – For one Life Night, I mailed all the kids a mysterious postcard the week before. It had almost no information on it and a very unspecific graphic. They were instructed to bring it with them on Sunday. It definitely piqued their interest and Facebook conversations. I’ve also told them they will receive a mystery gift when they get to Life Teen on Sunday. Sometimes it’s an item related to the night, other times it’s a random dollar store item. Regardless, they love to get free, very random things!
- Mix-Up Small Groups – While many parishes keep the same small group throughout a semester, variety can be very good as well. Instead of the standard “count-off” to sort the kids, I use a deck of cards. The first time a teen comes, they are given a playing card to write their name on and decorate. I keep the cards and each week the “cards decide” the small groups. Sometimes I just shuffle and sort. Sometimes I’ll let a teen pull cards for a group. Sometimes I sort via numbers or suit. With other sorting methods, the teens can figure out how to sit so they end up with their friends, but not with the cards. I leave it to Lady Luck!
There are a million and one ways to keep youth group fun and interesting. These are just a few ideas that have worked for me. So, no matter what you try, be creative and keep the teens guessing by thinking outside the Life Support box. With school, sports, practices, etc. being so predictable every day and week of their lives, the teens really appreciate a youth group that brings a little spice into their lives!