Archive for August, 2015

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As I mentioned in Part 1, movement and activity has countless benefits to your ministry and lessons but can be hard to work in, whether it’s because of space issues, scheduling problems or a particularly inactive, uncoordinated or game-resistant group of teens. I get it. We don’t all have gyms, fields, great weather, unimpeded time to the gyms and fields, and a group of teen warrior poets that want nothing more than to play ultimate frisbee before sitting down and reflecting on the sermon on the mount. So, in case you fall into the majority that has at least one of these shortages, here are 3 ways I’ve used to incorporate movement into my youth ministry time.

Too Few Seats. This is exactly what it sounds like; I like to find a space or create a space with too few chairs in it, which often causes teens to sit on the ground, lean on the walls and otherwise get creative about sitting. Then, I work different group activities into the lesson in which the teens break out into different groups in different spaces, changing how they were seated, where they were seated and with whom they were seated. It may seem manipulate, strange or in some cases cruel, but I am not saying deprive your youth, simply give them options and opportunities to sit, stand and lean differently.

Move Right Along. Plan a progressive lesson that has several deliberate sections. When you arrive at a new section, move to a new room or space. Go outside. Visit the playground. Change the surroundings often so, even though you are doing a lesson the whole time, you are moving. This is a great opportunity to teach about different spaces in your church, too, and discuss their purposes and unique qualities, like the sanctuary or chapel having pews, a chancel and/or an altar and why.

Stand Up, Sit Down. If you are going to ask questions in your group, especially yes/no or polling questions, instead of having them raise their hands, have them stand up or to go to one side of the room or another. This works well and is a very easy addition to your lesson, as you will likely ask the questions in your lesson already. In fact, take the time to build a few more questions or polling into your lesson for this very reason. The movement will keep the brain awake and likely help the youth remember the question in the future.

Movement can be effective even if it’s simple, so there’s no reason you can’t get your teens to be active. It’s ultimately to their benefit as a learner and yours as a teacher. Whether you are teaching them about Jesus, the Bible or how to play Gaga Ball, the activity and movement will help give them the best chance to retain the information and to use it more effectively to bridge concepts later. Get creative and create opportunities to get the blood flowing, and you will definitely see results.

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Part 1: Don’t Skip The Game

Posted: August 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

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Many youth groups have a simple formula for their ministry meetings: game + lesson, with the occasional pizza order or lock-in. It’s a centuries old formula dating back to youth ministries out of Mesopotamia in the time before Christ (not even a little bit true). Really, it’s just a formula we use because it’s easy, or it’s what others do, or it’s what we grew up doing. Sometimes, the occasional rogue leader decides to buck the system and drop recreation from the schedule for loftier pursuits – don’t think I am condescending, I had a period that I tried this very thing – but I am here to explain why from an educational standpoint why skipping games at youth group can work against your teaching.

First, the human brain, especially during the developmental years, functions differently when the body has been active. Sitting for longer than 20 minutes causes the brain to change it’s physiology; the glucose and oxygen levels drop, both of which fuel the brain’s ability to function. It’s like the brain begins to fall asleep. This will dramatically effect youth’s language development, problem solving, bridging complex concepts and has been linked to decline in independent learning skills and behavioral issues. So all work and no play actually do make Jack a dull boy.

Second, studies show that upwards of 5% of all learners fall into the kinesthetic learning style as their primary type of learning. A larger percent of youth identify as a kinesthetic secondary learning style learner, which means odds are that 1) math is hard and 2) you probably have at least one student who needs movement to learn properly. These students learn best by moving around and through activity. Simply telling them something or writing it on the white board isn’t enough for them, movement is crucial. These are the students you would identify as fidgety or likely your youth with minor behavioral problems. Playing games before or during a lesson helps them to focus and learn.

Third, breaking up your routine from one long activity to, at the very least, two activities like games and a lesson helps developing brains learn to transition and focus. This has less to do with the spiritual development of your youth and more to do with the physical development of your youth’s brains. By causing the brain to have to shift gears from games with a set of rules and parameters, or perhaps a leadership or team-building exercise that forces creative problem solving, to engaging in a lesson and discussion on a topic, verse or video actually teaches the brain to be quicker in transition. I know that your job description probably doesn’t mention helping your youth build super-brains, but think of it as a perk.

Fourth, especially for your younger teens, it will burn off access energy that would otherwise inhibit their ability to engage fully in a lesson or discussion. I’ve found that with my Jr. High ministries, I HAVE to start with a game if I want focus during my lesson time. Otherwise I find students distracted, fidgeting, talking and throwing/tapping/sliding/kicking things in some sort of instinctual need to be playing a game. So, I begin all of those meetings with a game or activity that can be highly active for the ones who crave the activity, but also less active for those who are less inclined.

Activity has become a staple in youth ministry, and know we know how it important it is – so even when you feel like you should cut it for music time, longer discussions or nap time (all positive things, too, by the way), consider all the benefits of activity to the health of your teens’ brains, the success of your teachings and the overall energy of your youth ministry!

Check back (next post time) for my post about some new and unique ways of incorporating activity into your groups without sacrificing lesson time.