Tag Archives: middle school ministry

What Youth Want

T8HeartMy eldest son is months away from being an adult.  I recently logged my 9,400th hour volunteering with youth through Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and our church youth groups.  So, one might think I have some idea what youth want these days.  However, the last few weeks have proved that wrong, as some youth, including my own children, surprised me a little.  Here is what they reminded me:

Youth want a deep experience.  You might think they come to church just to hang out with their friends.  Or, you might think they want to read the Bible quickly to check it off and move on.  I asked my children what they would like to see in our youth group and Bible studies at home.  They said they would like to us to go deeper!  They’ve read and heard the same stories over and over.  They want to know more, learn something different.  Our church is already working on things in this area.  Now, as the spiritual leader of our family, I need to figure out how to do this at home.

Youth want to be productive.  Our Boy Scout troop developed a pattern for meetings.  We spend the first and third week working on advancement.  We spend the second week practicing basic Scout skills.  We spend the fourth week having pure fun, playing games.  The boy leaders in the troop just held their annual planning meeting to decide what to do different next year.  Top on the list was to replace the pure fun meeting with something more productive!  They still want to have fun, but they want it to have a purpose.  So, our fourth week will now be competitions to reinforce what they practiced in the second week.

Youth want to serve their community.  Our family waited too long to sign up for Metropolitan Ministries this year.  So, the only opportunity left was to hang out for an hour, just kind of guiding people around.  All three of my children were bummed, asking, “Why can’t we go for half the day and really do something, like we did last year?”  I didn’t realize they were so dedicated to serving.  We’ll have to remember to sign up earlier next year.

Youth want to help other youth.  Our Girl Scout troop had to pick a service project for their Journey program.  They could have picked anything.  They could have made it easy.  However, they chose to put something together to really make a difference and help other youth transition into middle school!  They originally challenged themselves to develop an elaborate program in our public schools.  We had to scale that down a bit and change to more of a seminar setting.  Nonetheless, they’re really onto something, as the girls they spoke to said it was quite helpful.

Youth want to be sincere and reverent.  For Christmas, our family had to choose between a high-energy, contemporary worship service and a calmer, more traditional communion service.  We chose the first, thinking our children would enjoy it more.  The service opened with music that felt like our own Tran-Siberian Orchestra and just got better from there.  My eldest and I thought it might be the best service we have ever seen.  My two middle schoolers agreed that they “liked” it, but they quickly followed up by saying it didn’t feel right.  They thought it would be more appropriate to celebrate the birth of our Savior with more sincerity and reverence.  So, it sounds like we’ll be attending the traditional communion service next year.

Youth want to give.  Early in the shopping season, my wife and I pondered giving each of our children a donation to a global charity.  However, funds were tight this year, and we decided to move forward with the usual gifts.  On Christmas day, long after the presents were open, I half-joked with them, “Yeah, we almost got you each a donation to a global charity instead of one of your regular gifts.  What would you have thought of that?”  I expected them to half-heartedly say that could be nice.  But, all three of them, in unison, said, “Now, that would have been awesome!”  Rest assured we noted that for next year.

Of course, I actually knew some of these things to some degree, just not to the extent that I have seen over the last few weeks.  Even then, if I looked beyond my children and scout troops, maybe I could have seen these points.  Many youth at our church sign up for service retreats, probably for these same reasons.  So, I suppose these are just a few more examples that help me, and maybe a few others, keep in mind what youth want.


What would you say?

WhatWouldYouSayWe discussed something interesting in youth group this morning.  Based on The Listserve, our youth pastor asked, “If you had the chance to speak to one million people, what would you say?”  It could be one word or a entire essay.  It could be funny or serious.  Students provided plenty of variety, including, “Live life to the fullest,” and, “Balance the important things in your life,” and “Take advantage of alternative energy sources.”  As usual, I have my own answer.  For those that don’t care, feel free to move on.  For everyone else, here you go…



  1. You are handcrafted for an amazing purpose.  That is both a great gift and a great responsibility.  You should determine your purpose and fulfill it as awesomely as possible.
  2. You are continually filled with amazing love.  That is both a great gift and a great responsibility.  You should share that love with family, friends, and other people you meet.
  3. You may occasionally find yourself sitting around wondering what you should do.  When that happens, review the previous two points.


Fun with Duct Tape

ductroseEveryone likes duct tape, especially to use for just about anything except its original purpose.  Students, in particular, like to make things out of duct tape.  You might surpised by just how many things you can make out of duct tape and a few other supplies.



Some of the smaller, simpler things I found are:

  • Book cover (just need a book to cover)
  • Bookmark
  • Bracelet – regular, braid or chain
  • Drink koozie (see instructions, need a drink can)
  • Flower (see instructions, good to have a pencil or pen as a base)
  • Hair bow (see instructions, need a hair band or clip)
  • Lanyard
  • Megaphone
  • Necktie
  • Picture frame
  • Placemat
  • Sandals or Slippers (need cardboard)
  • Wallet (see instructions)

You can find instructions for these and many more things at Duck Tape Club Ducktivities (Duck Tape is a brand of duct tape).

Be sure to get your duct tape in a few different bright colors to make things more fun and interesting!


Fun with Magnets

magnetMy youth group students said they wanted to experiment with magnets, so I wondered what to do and came up with this plan:






  • Magnets (1-2 per student)
  • Paper mazes (1 per student)
  • Paper clips (3 per student)
  • Miscellaneous coins
  • Cereal high in iron
  • Needles (1 per student)
  • Corks or fishing bobbers (1 per student)
  • Plastic cups (1 per student)

Steps – have each student:

  • Navigate the maze with a paperclip using a magnet on the other side of the paper
  • Use the magnet to pick up a paperclip, and have that paperclip pick up another, and so on, to make a chain of paperclips
  • Try to use the magnet to pick up the coins – this should not work
    • This may surprise them, as most people think all magnets pick up all metal objects
  • Try to use the magnet to pick up crushed piles of the cereal high in iron – this should work
    • This may surprise them, as most people don’t think a magnet would pick up cereal
  • Make a compass
    • Stroke a needle with a magnet about 100 times
    • Stick the needle in the cork or fishing bobber
    • You may need to stick a paperclip into the bottom of the cork or fishing bobber to weight it down
    • Put the needle contraption into a cup of water and watch it point north!


Popsicle Stick Bridge Building Contest

PopsicleBridgeAre you looking for a fun, competitive activity for a youth group or Scout meeting?  At today’s middle school youth group, we had a popsicle stick bridge building contest!  Students paired up and received popsicle sticks, clay, clothespins, and rubber bands.  They had about 15 minutes to build their bridges.  When done, the students had to be able to put at least one book underneath each of their bridges.  Then, we tested each bridge to see which could hold the most books on top.  Of course, you could change many aspects of this activity, like the size of the groups, materials used, time allowed, and so on.  The students that built the strongest bridge won a prize, but they all had a good time!


Fun with Dry Ice

dry-iceAre you looking for an interesting activity to do at your Youth Group or Scout meeting?  One of the best nights we had was with dry ice!  Here’s what we did:


  • A Block of Dry Ice – keep in a cooler!
  • Gloves
  • Old Silverware
  • Balloons
  • Funnel
  • Bowls for water
  • Candles
  • Paper plates for candles
  • Lighter
  • Cups
  • Soap
  • Paper towels
  • Apple juice


Remind the students that dry ice is -109F, so they must wear gloves whenever their hands are even near the dry ice, and they should not touch it!


1)      Rest silverware against the dry ice to make it sing

2)      Balloons and candles

  1. Put dry ice in balloons and set them in warm water to make them blow up.
  2. Hold the balloon up to their ears – do things sound different?
  3. Light a candle on a paper plate and use the balloon to blow out the candle.

3)      Water and soap

  1. Put dry ice in cup of water
  2. Put dry ice in bowl of soapy water

4)      Put dry ice in cups of apple juice to make it bubbly for students to drink, because it’s always great for them to leave with something fun they made!


Youth and T-shirt Sizes

I observed a fascinating phenomenon regarding T-shirt sizes at youth events. Most boys will ask for their actual size, or maybe one size bigger. However, most girls will ask for an Adult Small, no matter what size you might think they are. I won’t pretend to understand this. And, who knows, maybe it’s just the groups I hang out with.  I’d be interested in knowing if other people see the same thing.  In the meantime, if you’re ordering T-Shirts for a youth event, and you haven’t asked what sizes they want in advance, then you may want to order a few extra Adult Small.