Hug Pins were a favorite when I was a youth in my youth group. Each year we go on a mission trip and every three years we participate in the Presbyterian Youth Triennium and I honestly cannot remember when Hug Pins got started but before we go on our trip we gather in our youth room with lots of Sharpies and wooden clothes pins on hand. Each person going on the trip can decorate 2-3 clothes pins each and all we require is that one side of the pin have the words “Hug Pin” on them. Then when we get to a huge gathering like our Group Workcamps we try to meet as many new people as possible and give our pins away by hugging. It awesome to see how our pins get around to so many different people at camp. Some kids like to put our church initials and their name on the pins that way they can try to track them. Whenever we give away a pin we remind the person to “pin” it on themselves until they give it away and not to keep it too long!
*** Good for an evening at winter retreats or camps when the weather won’t allow outdoor events. Gather popular games such as Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Scattergories, and Taboo. Set up game stations around the room with a game and necessary items (such as paper and pencils) at each station. Have kids form pairs and joining pairs at each station. Allow 5 mins for setting up and going over the rules. For team games such as Pictionary have the 2 person team play together. If it’s an individual game such as Monopoly, have kids play for themselves – but keep in mind that they’ll be adding their scores to their partners’ at the end of the game to determine the winning pair. When teams are ready, allow them to play the game for 15-30 mins. Kids should complete as much of the game as possible in this time. When time is up everyone stops and determine who wins. Record scores and go on to the next station.
Hold a deck of cards face down and have each person take a card without peeking at it. As soon as everyone has a card have them hold their cards up so everybody can see it (including them). Explain that they must tell the group something about themselves (that nobody would know). If there number is 2, they must say two things about themselves (if 3, three things, and so on). Face cards are counted as Eleven and Aces are worth Twelve! This is a great Ice-breaker!
This activity is done to help build unity and to let each youth know that they are appreciated and why.
A couple of weeks leading up to the actual meeting, have someone take individual pictures of each member of your group (leaders included). Have that person print the picture in the corner of an 8.5 by 11 sheet of paper giving ample room for people to write on it.
On the night of the meeting, post each person’s picture on the wall all around the perimiter of the room. Give lots of space between each picture. After your talk on unity and lifting one another up, have everyone take a pen and go right around the room and write an “I like you because…” statement on each person’s picture. They never sign their names.
It is a great morale booster for the group when each person gets to see what all the others think of them.
Of course you have to make the rule, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” There is always one goofball in every group that will write something stupid.
Each person can then take the paper home and any time they are feeling a bit low they can pull it out and be reminded that they are worth something to someone.
Each spring I have a special fellowship/informational dinner for 6th graders who are about to become 7th graders. I invited the 6th graders and their parents to come to a dinner where I share with them what to expect from our Youth Ministry.
I give them the following items:
– “Who Am I?” handout (for the kids to fill out)
– A Super Summer Calendar “Light Reading” (announcement sheets that we give youth on Sundays)which has the latest on the cool things we do
– an index card with a key taped to it that reads, “Our house is always open to you”
– Medical Release forms (for the parents to fill out)
– a calling card with my phone numbers and email address
– a handout of “Youth Ministry Terminology” (many parents wouldn’t know what Prime Time is or T.N.T. for example)
I also have 4-5 youth to share what the Youth Ministry has meant to them. I answer any questions they might have at this time as well. I also decorate the tables with items that have 7UP on them as well as appropriate colors (green, white, red)!
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.