We have a lot of simple traditions in our youth group. We open with a short welcome prayer, then a reminder that what is said in here stays in here, followed by a check-in from each kid. You are not allowed to pass; you must say something.
We try hard to make this conversation a continuation of our prayer. It is not a dialogue. If they want to chat with some one about something they said, they may doing during snack time.
Specifically, I ask the kids what was the best and worst of the week: what was their rose and thorn this week.
But I then ask them another question and go around the circle again.
I’ve found that breaking this check-in into two questions and separate times, I get more honest answers.
I know these kids have stressful, complicated lives. Many are dealing with depression, eating disorders, parent issues, cutting, drugs and alcohol, or failing in school, to name a few. So Youth Group is often a time to relax and be in a safe fun spot.
My second questions are to try to get them to open up about silly and real issues. This sharing helps the group bond for that night and into the future. I never have the same make-up of kids each week, so I ask them to share their name too.
Often I think my main topic needs more time, so I cut the check in short. Each time I do that, I find it’s a big mistake. They need the time to settle in, get comfy and feel safe with each other. So do I.
It seems like such a simple start to each meeting, but it’s so important.
Here a few samples of second questions:
- If you could be a candy bar, which one would you be and why?
- What is your first memory of the Tooth Fairy?
- What made you laugh this week? or today?
- What is a new "word" that everyone is using at your school?
- How did anyone help you out this week? How did you help anyone out?
- When was the last time you were bored? What did you do about it? Or did you?
- What is your favorite food to take to lunch?
- What is your favorite food to cook?
- If you could have a superpower, what would it be? What is your superhero name?
- Do you recycle?
- If you could be the teacher in one of your classes this week, which one would it be and why?
- Do you have favorite TV show now? As a kid?
- What was your favorite halloween costume as a kid?
- Name one thing you wish your parents would not do.
- What is the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you?
- Do you have a favorite person in the Bible?
- What did you love/hate about our church service today?
- If I walked in to your bedroom now what would I see?
- Who is the oldest living person in your extended family?
- Where would you travel for one month if you could?
- What will you be doing at age 25? At 45?
As you can see the questions are all over the map. I know you can add your own.
But the relationship building that occurs during this prayer/sharing is HUGE. It allows us to move forward into larger life questions and discussion that night and in the future.
I am all about planting seeds of trust and that God is with each of them all the time. Then when they need to talk about the really tough things going on in their lives, hopefully they will share at Youth Group and find out they are not alone...