Youth Group is an interesting thing to handle. In some ways it is like a mini-church service except let’s be honest, we don’t play games at church. There aren’t any church services I have been to that has said before the message we are going to play tag or dodgeball. Yet for most youth groups games are a part of the rotation. Is this because the youth leaders are trying to fill time or perhaps there is something more intentional behind the fun that happens in the youth group.
For December’s blog on Youth Ministry, I want to talk about the power of fun. Fun is, in my opinion, a really crucial part to youth ministry. The fun does a couple of things for a youth ministry. It creates community, builds lasting memories, and helps harbour safe environments.
Let’s start with how fun builds community. Community is a word used often in Christian circles. Community is crucial to having a youth group. Students won’t show up if there isn’t a community there for them. My desire in running a youth group is that students would look forward to Tuesday nights because they get to be together with people who love and care about them. That in and of itself is not easy. You can’t force others to care about people it doesn’t work that way. Fun helps with this. We intentionally play games during our youth nights to help create that. Games especially the silly ones help us shrug off the day, temporarily forgetting the pile of homework awaiting our students or whatever their week has thrown at them so far. We laugh together and it brightens our days. It also helps those who are competitive because it gives them an outlet to be competitive. That is one way we have fun in our evenings together. Another way is how we end each youth night. We do weekly snack, we eat together, chat, play the Nintendo switch or pool. This is a less structured time that allows conversations to flow. This helps to deepen the relationships with students to students and students to leaders. Both the structured game time and the hangout time help deepen our community.
Second, fun helps build lasting memories. The older I get the more I realize I don’t remember everything. When I think back on being in youth group I can’t recall a single youth lesson, what I do remember are the fun experiences we had. These moments of fun create memories. One of the funny ones I remember was when I was in grade 12 we went to Elora Gorge for some white water tubing. It was our second run down the water and most of it is like a lazy river. There I was relaxing enjoying the nice relaxing river and the warm sun on my skin. However, I was not paying attention to where I was floating. There was a shallow part in the water and I had floated straight into it. Naturally, I stopped moving and felt like a turtle flipped over on his back I started wiggling to get myself loose. Unfortunately, I was stuck. At the same moment, my youth pastor was floating by. He called out to me as I was wiggling with reckless abandon asking if I was ok. I yelled back “I’m in a predicament”. He laughed, I laughed and we still talk about this moment 9 years later. When we take intentional time to just have fun it helps build lasting memories.
Lastly, fun helps create a safe environment. When students feel comfortable to let loose and be themselves that is where ministering really takes place. When we can see the students for who they are and where they are at we can engage them in real ways. Growing our community and building those lasting memories help create trust and respect. As a youth leader, these are two things I have to work for so I am able to minister to your students. The hard part with trust and respect is they take forever to earn but can be lost in a second. This is why I take fun super seriously and as a leadership team, we try our best to make sure that everything is safe and secure for your students. When we get to the point where youth is a safe place that is when friends start showing up, and the small group times get really good.
Fun plays such an important part in our youth ministry, it takes a lot of thought and care into making it right for the students we have. However fun is a tool that we use. We use fun to help point students to Jesus it is not our end goal. In any youth ministry, it can easily become all about the fun. That is not our hope for our students. We hope that the students at Village Green Church grow to have real and personal relationships with Jesus Christ our saviour in a fun and safe way!