This activity is intended to encourage students, primarily from the lips of their peers. Hearing affirmation spoken aloud in the presence of an audience is a powerful thing, and I think teenagers gobble this up because they are starving for it, though they rarely show it. I highly recommend setting an appropriate mood for this activity, as it is meant to have a lasting emotional impact, and cannot afford to be derailed by silliness or selfish humor. This is meant for retreats or camps where a group has been together for at least a day.
With the audience seated, place one chair, the Hot Seat, in front of the group, or on the stage. Then simply explain the concept of the Hot Seat in a similar way to this:
“This is the Hot Seat. Tonight you will all get a chance to sit in this seat. It is the Hot Seat. When one person is in this chair, I want the rest of you to take the opportunity that you have to speak words of kindness and encouragement to the person up front. You can let them know what your friendship has meant, or just affirm something amazing you have seen them do today, but use your words for good, to build them up. Please respect the person in the chair by having only one person speaking at a time. Once three people have had a chance to encourage you in the Hot Seat, please go back to the audience so that someone gets a chance to be in this chair. Remember, this is someone’s chance to hear encouragement from you, so please don’t waste their opportunity by trying to make yourself look funny or cool by what you say. This is for them, so put the person in the chair first. That said, the Hot Seat is all yours.”
After this it just takes a second for a student to go first. When I led this, I sat down and watched 23 students build up one another for about 45 minutes. I didn’t say a word the whole time. It is amazing how you will see a group come together through this, and it makes students realize how much others really think of them (especially those kids who try to remain aloof from the group–they’re loved!)
I read once that Christmas time is the loneliest time for widows, single moms or anyone who lives alone. This thought prompted a wonderful time of fellowship and a way to reach out and let the lonely know they were loved.
First, we prayed, and the youth leaders made a list of who they wanted to give to, We then put the lists together and discovered that our lists were pretty much the same. 🙂 Some were members of our church and some were some not. Some had just lost a spouse or were going through divorce. We also gave our master list to the associate pastor to look it over and see if he wanted to add anyone.
Then we put a list together of what would go in the basket. pumpkin bread and cranberry bread. cookies (decorated by the youth group) tea, hot cider and coco packets, homemade jelly , popcorn balls, (the elderly will love these its an old favorite) Let your imagination go wild. We chose a night to do all the baking and wrapping the baskets up. We purchased the baskets and decorating things at dollar tree 🙂
The following day we had our personal UPS man make us up a delivery plan and split up into 5 groups to make deliveries. The next Sunday when we all got together we talked about the experience and what a blessing it was for the people who received the baskets. Some of our students who drive made deliveries alone and appreciated the opportunity to see the faces of gratitude.
It will be something we do, God willing, every year. The widows especially appreciated this as well as those living in nursing homes.
Give each youth a wrapped sucker at the start of the game. Tell them they can’t eat them or unwrap them until the game is over, but they will have an opportunity to earn more suckers in this game. They can get another sucker by telling a story to the group. If they talk while someone else is talking (other than for encouragement) or if they repeat a story or idea that someone else had, they have to give the speaker their sucker.
This encourages group sharing and understanding. This can be used to just plain get to know each other, to review ideas (they can try to stump the leader about material covered by asking questions. No one can repeat a question asked already, so they have to listen to each other), to make up stories, to retell Bible stories…. Suckers are very motivating!!
Have teens plan a party for the younger children of the church emphasizing the wonderful variety and beauty of God’s creation. Also, ask several parents to donate treats such as cookies and punch for the celebration. Use tables to create a number of booths where group members present inexpensive, creation-based entertainment for the children to enjoy. I.E.: booth entertainment might include examining an ant farm, petting a snake, or looking at empty birds’ nests and eggs. You might also borrow some makeup and gave a face painting booth where teens paint animals on children’s faces. Have animal-imitation contests to see who can do the best imitation of a cow or chicken, etc. End the party with a time of singing. This party is especially fun during Springtime.
This is a great way for a couple of your youth to get to know each other on a more personal basis, as well as their parents, youth leaders, and other willing members of the congregation. The idea is to get together a relatively small group of youth for one evening of the week. The idea works best with 8 or less youth because of carpooling and available space. This activity usually should not take more than 3 hours. What is needed: Willing chaperones that can drive the youth to the designated areas. Willing adult participants, parents or other, that can cook at their home and then invite the youth to join them.
Have the youth meet at the church around dinner time. Including family or friends would work but the idea is to get to know someone new, so keep that in mind when selecting the groups. Once the group is assembled proceed to your first house. Here the host should have dessert prepared for the group. Enjoy eating dessert first and getting to know the hosts and their family as well as each other. Repeat this at seperate houses for each course. The evening can include as many courses as desired, but keep in mind travel time when planning. At each home you can also play board games or use the handy book of questions, whatever works for getting the youth to learn about their new friends in the church.
A nice touch after the fact is to have the youth write thank-you cards to their hosts from the evening. In the past some youth have invited the hosts to their homes to return the favor and introduce their families. By switching the groups and hosts it is a good way to make connections in a large congregation.
One of the most encouraging things I’ve found for the youth is to do “encouragement plates.” It’s very simple, fun, and has a major impact.
All you need is paper plates, duct tape, and pencils. Each teen gets a plate taped to their back and must go around to other teens and write something they like about him or her. I try to discourage generic comments. Each teen should write something on everyone else’s back. It’s fun because you get in chains and have lots of laughs over the awkwardness of it all. By the end of the night, don’t be surprised if you have tears from people who were moved by what was written about them.
If you like the beach-party-in-the-middle-of-winter idea but don’t have that kind of budget, you can try our version.
Our youth group meets in our home, so we don’t have as much space as a gym, and we only met for our usual 2 hours. We happened to have a sand-coloured carpet, but you could put down beige blankets for sand. We put a tape on with sea sounds and turned up the thermostat. We asked kids to wear (or bring to change into) shorts and t-shirts and bring lawn chairs.
For part of the evening, we put up a net across the livingroom and played beach volleyball with a balloon. They loved it and went back to it after snack time. (We had summer foods like ice cream.) After the sea sounds, we put on the Beach Boys music. It was a lot of fun.
Find a short play on a Christian theme. Prepare a stage in the fellowship area, where people can eat just before the performance. If you can get the food donated, all the better. Your young people are both the cast and the waiters. They should wear their costumes under neat, matching aprons (you may be able to convince some of your parents to make simple chef’s aprons for this purpose). Be sure to prepare them for serving the food as well as presenting the play. Have them work in teams, with the larger, stronger kids carrying trays of plates and the smaller ones serving (with flair and style, from the left) the people of the congregation. As soon as desserts and coffee are served, hang up the aprons and hand towels, and CURTAIN UP! Both the young people and the congregation will appreciate this special chance for the young people to serve.
A.K.A. – Four-by-Four Fellowship. This idea works great for full families (possibly better) as well as the youth. It’s simple. On a designated day each child/family writes their name on a small piece of paper given to them upon arriving. A fishbowl is passed among the congregation, similar to the passing of communion or the offering plates. Each child/family places their paper in the fishbowl, and then it is passed again. This time the papers are drawn out. If the child/family pulls their name they just try again. Then, they have a certain amount of time to arrange an event with the name they drew. This could be as complex as dinner at their home or as simple as getting together at the church to play games. The idea is to promote fellowship, but not embarass anyone about money or the appearance of their home, so it’s up to them. We usually use a time period of about two months just because of how hectic schedules can be. Those families that are not able to attend can pre-arrange to have their names added. Of course, this means that each child/family will be responsible for connecting with someone as well as someone will connect with them. It’s great fun and there are so many possibilities. Then in that two months or so, do it again!!!
This is an idea of a devotional that we used for our group in addition to the backwards dinner post on egadideas.com.
For our backwards dinner, we developed a menu to use as a devotional. each course represents something in the Christian walk. The courses are listed as follows and for each course there are several Scripture verses. At each house we assigned different verses to different kids and they looked them up and read them aloud. As each one was read, the youth tried to guess what each course represented. (on the menu, it was left blank and they could fill it it. ex: 1st course: dessert = ___________ )
1st course: Dessert = Heaven
1 Thessalonians 4:17
2nd course: Side Dish = side blessings from God
1 John 2:15
3rd course: Main Dish = personal walk with God
1 Peter 4:16
2 Tim 4:1-2
4th course: Soup = missions; Salad = growth
Soup: Revelation 14:6-7, Philippians 2:5-11, Acts 14:21-23
Salad: Acts 17:11, Ephesians 6:10-20, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22
5th course: Appetizers = salvation
1 Tim 2:5
The point of this devotional was, 1) to offer them salvation at the end, once they had eaten and were filled, they could learn that they could “never hunger” by giving their lives to the “bread of life” (John 6:35). 2) to share with them that as much as you would probably like, you can’t go from salvation (appetizers) straight to heaven (dessert). You need to run the race as God has planned for you. Many times we fill up on side dishes (side blessings) and forget about our personal relationship with the KING.
We hope that this devotional will bless you and serve you.
To God be the Glory.