The First Night

I will never forget December of my freshmen year of high school. I grew up in a Christian home and attended church every weekend and midweek every Wednesday night. However, as a teen I never enjoyed it. This is the story of the night that changed, and I changed, for good.

On a Wednesday night I walked into a new friend’s home. What I experienced next was radical to me; something that all of our students should feel. I was in the youth group of my friend’s church, but we were in her house. I was greeted with kind words, open arms, and leaders who intentionally got to know me that night.

Within twenty minutes I was braiding some girl’s hair while talking about Manchester United with the guys. I don’t know how it happened as I was an extremely shy introvert growing up, but it did. Now as I adult I look back and know what I experienced that night was the love of Jesus flowing out of his people.

That’s how our youth groups/small groups should look and feel. What if every group was a place where students felt so loved that they couldn’t help but bring their friends to group? And then what if those friends felt the love of Jesus so they became committed to followers and invited their friends?

The ripple effect of having a welcoming, friendly, family-like youth group is astonishing. It doesn’t require money or flashy programs. It just requires the love of Jesus being rooted in the hearts of students. It’s been sixteen years since that night. The small group leader  I was assigned to that night is still involved in my life! She’s one of my best friends, as is that friend who invited me to group the first night.

This leads me to two questions I hope readers will reflect on:
1. Is your youth group a place where visitors see and experience Jesus through your students?
2. If not, what needs to change?

Let’s have a conversation about this. Please leave your thoughts in the comments section. What works for you? Do you have questions about how we do Life Groups at Saddleback Church? I’d love to chat back and forth about this.

Print Your Own T-shirt Night

For my day job, I own a company that prints T-shirts, signs and stickers. Something that gives me a lot of joy in youth ministry is getting to use my vocation to benefit my students. I keep a T-shirt printing press in my garage so once a year I can let my Bible study students print life group shirts. The shirt always has four elements:

  1. A cool design
  2. Every student and leaders’ name
  3. Our Bible verse for the year
  4. The year we printed the shirts

Here’s a picture of this year’s shirt design

You don’t need a printing press to do this project. You could easily do this with great results using iron-on paper to transfer the design onto the shirts. The fun is in your students doing the shirts themselves and having matching shirts unique to your group.

If you would like to customize this design for your own ministry, it’s available for download from the vym store (linked below).